Rwanda Part 2: Lake Kivu, Kibuye, & Kigali

(Read Rwanda Part 1 here to catch up!)

June 15 Lake Kivu in Kibuye – The Cormoran Lodge

Waking up under the large mosquito net on our king size bed that Heather and I shared, I rolled over and could see the sun poking through the closed curtains from our balcony. I got up and opened them, letting the full views pour into our room.

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View of the other tree houses from our front balcony 

This spot in the city of Kibuye at The Cormoran Lodge, overlooking Lake Kivu, was one of the most beautiful places ever! We woke up quite early (not by our own decision) because Steve and SueAnne were talking pretty loudly out on their balcony below us around 6 am, but with a view like that I couldn’t really complain.

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The view from our back balcony onto Lake Kivu

After breakfast in the resort restaurant again, our group split up: Steve, SueAnne, and Anne headed into the nearby town to do some shopping. Heather, Poppa, and myself walked down to the dock to catch a boat with Mr. Kirenga.

Our destination was: Napoleon Island, so named because of how it’s shape resembles the hat Napoleon famously wore.

The motor boat was small, with a roof overhead, and could fit about 8 people. Our driver was a cute local triathlete named Ken. Hoping to see him in the Olympics someday!

The ride to the island was so great, stopping first to see some local fisherman unpacking their boats from a long night of fishing on the lake.

Then turning out towards the open water, we passed some other resorts currently under construction on a nearby hill, and a gigantic private home which is apparently owned by a man from Germany, and houses the king when he comes to Lake Kivu. It was pretty impressive.

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The private home where the King stays

We stopped at a small island covered densely in trees, when we saw a cute little furry face pop up from a branch. It was an adorable Vervet Monkey, and as we came closer he also came closer. When we reached the shore he hopped right onto our boat and checked us out.

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Waiting patiently for treats

According to Ken, he is notorious for visiting the tourists on the boats because he is hoping to get some treats. He walked around the boat, looking into all of our eyes hoping we would feed him. He sat patiently for a moment or two, and then when he realized we had nothing for him he left looking very disappointed, and watched us pull away from the trees.

As we got closer to Napoleon Island, Ken told us about a local farmer who brings his cows to the island everyday to graze. The amazing part though, is he ties them to the back of the boat and they swim behind it! I had no idea cows swam!! Plus they were really cute cows ūüôā

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Blurry from the boat.. the farmer and his swimming cows!

Ken led us up the hiking path, which would bring us to the real reason we came to the island: the fruit bats!! The hike was pretty steep and rocky, but it only took us a few minutes to reach the bats.

But don’t worry, you can hear them the minute you get on the island, because there are over 5 million fruit bats living there!

Once we reach a good enough spot, Ken started clapping his hands and ALLLLLL the bats woke up and started screeching and flying around. It was incredible!

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After watching them for awhile we hiked back down to the boat. I ended up slipping once and fell right on the edge of a rock, which bruised my lower back pretty good. Poppa also ended up falling too! Heather and I were pretty sad we couldn’t prevent him from falling, but he assured us that he was just fine!

Going back to the lodge, we ate some lunch and then all went to take some nice long naps. Heather and I then decided to put on our swim suits and go down the the little sandy beach area and enjoy the sunshine. We didn’t dare swim in the lake though, because Poppa scared us pretty good about the parasites in the water that will get into your skin and cause itchy uncomfortable bumps, kind of similar to swimmers itch.

Everyone eventually joined us down by the water, except for SueAnne who went and took a late nap. The others decided to all go kayaking, so Heather and I watched them from the shore on our lounge chairs.

We met a few girls who were also staying there, who all work for the UN and are stationed in the Congo. I was so inspired by them and their work, and their passion to help those in the Congo.

Later after dinner, when everyone else had gone to bed – Heather, Poppa, and me talked for awhile just the three of us. We talked very intimately about our birth mom Sherri (Poppa’s oldest child) and when we were conceived and then put up for adoption. I had never heard the story from Poppa’s point of view, and it was such a tender and wonderful moment to have with him and Heather. I will forever be grateful for Sherri and her ability to make the best decision for us at the time, which was to put us up for adoption. She and her entire family hoped that one day we would return to find them, and when we did 4 years ago it was such a magical moment I will never forget. The Hales are just another extension of my family now, and I feel so blessed to have all of them in my life again.

June 16 Back to Kigali

The next morning we left the beautiful lodge on the lake to head back to Kigali. We stopped first at the local market to SueAnne and Anne could pick up their dresses they had made by one of the seamstresses. Their dresses were cute!

While in that market, a younger boy, in his 20’s I think, tried to pick pocket me. I noticed immediately, and he was not successful. I just smiled at him and walked away. It was so funny because I wasn’t angry at all, I honestly felt sorry for him that he felt the need to steal from me. I wished I could have just given him some money, but I didn’t want to start pandemonium with all the little kids who were following us “mizungus” around (white people).

About an hour into our ride home several of us needed to pee, so we pulled off into a small village. We each took turns running into the awful, dirty toilet room; held our breath and peed as quickly as possible over the open hole on the ground.

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This lady selling mangos right outside the “bathroom” we stopped at

Walking back to our car, a very handsome local man named Iman started talking to Heather and Anne, and offered to show us the market located just above the bathroom on the hill. We said “YOLO” and followed him, because we wanted to experience a local market without any touristy items.

We were definitely the spectacle in that market! Everyone stared at us immediately, and then wanted us to come look at their goods! Iman kept talking to everyone in Kinyarwanda¬†¬†and we were pretty sure several times he was making jokes about us because they kept laughing at us! But it was all in good spirits so we couldn’t help but laugh at ourselves too.

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I bought a few of these African bananas in the market.. they were one of my favorite things to eat in Rwanda! Soooo much better than normal bananas! 

SueAnne ended up buying 2 drums covered in spotted goat skin. When she started drumming on them with her hands an elderly Rwandan lady got quite a kick out of it, and laughed so hard at her! We honestly must have seemed so strange and out of place to them!

The drive back to Kigali was beautiful, passing by many villages, seeing so many hills, and a gorgeous waterfall.

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We also made a brief stop to see the famous Hotel Rwanda once we got back to Kigali. Now,¬†it’s actually called Hotel des Mille Collines¬†¬†and has been renovated since the genocide in the 90s.

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The manager of the hotel during the 90’s,¬†Paul Rusesabagina, helped hide and save over 1000 Tutsi refugee lives. Although now it is just a renovated hotel, it was still important for us to go there and see it.

If you’ve never read or learned about the genocide in Rwanda, do yourself and favor and study it. Just like the holocaust, and any other genocide that has occurred, it is important to educate ourselves about it so that we never forget and change history from ever repeating itself.

I will write more about the genocide in my final post about Rwanda, when we visited The Kigali Genocide Memorial.

We checked back into The Flame Tree Hotel around 2 pm, and decided to go meet by the pool for a swim with Poppa because it was incredibly hot and humid outside.

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However, the pool was ice cold! Poppa was the bravest of us, and went all the way under and swam two laps. I couldn’t bear to go past my waist!

Since Poppa had been the bravest we decided he had earned himself some Fanta Fiestas! He was pretty disappointed when they said they were sold out and only had Fanta Lemon, so he settled for those instead.

We all ordered soup for dinner and called it an early night.

June 17th Kigali

This day was a Sunday, so we decided to go check out the local LDS Church. According to Poppa; the current President of Rwanda, Kagame, had abolished all practicing religions from taking place. This was because there had been many different “pastors” and “bishops” who had come in after the genocide to start new congregations, and took these people’s money and disappeared. As if the Rwandan people hadn’t been through enough! In order to control his people no longer being taken advantage of, Kagame just abolished all publicly practiced religions.

So, in order to continue meeting every church had to abandon their original churches and worship houses, and find other places to do so in secrecy.

For the LDS congregation, they were sharing a space to meet inside a local hotel’s conference room with 2 other Christian churches. However, every month or so they had to change locations so the government wouldn’t shut them down again. These people are faithful to keep moving around just so they can worship together!

The meeting we attended was interesting, but so full of love and kindness. The members of the congregation were welcoming and friendly, and almost all of them made an effort to come say hello to us! I myself was pretty obsessed with this little girl who was sitting on the same row as us, with a matching dress and headscarf just like her mama! She was too shy though and wouldn’t come see me or Heather, much to our dismay.

Leaving church, we went to a few markets. There was not much else to do in Kigali that day, so we thought we might as well shop!

We stopped first at a smaller market, but it was where we ended up all buying things. Each little “store” basically had the same items, but with small variations. I was very picky with what I wanted to buy and lug all the way back on the long flights, so eventually I decided on a cute basket that I would hang over my bed at home.

We went to another market, this one specializing in fabrics and seamstresses. It was an absolute MADHOUSE. It was inside a giant warehouse, and literally from the floor to the ceiling, each small “store” was covered with all different bright patterns and colors. The vendors were almost ravenous to have you come buy from them, pulling you in all directions to come see their stuff.

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It’s super blurry but gives you the idea! Those rows of fabrics go back further than the eye can see! It was insanity!¬†

Immediately I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, feeling so closed in on all sides. While SueAnne became engulfed in a sea of vendors, Heather and I broke off from the crowd and went into a less enclosed aisle. I ended up buying a cute head band from a local vendor named Tom, who Poppa also bought a cute pair of pants from for Dianne back home.

Figuring the Alders would take awhile, Heather Poppa and I went back to the hotel since Poppa needed to connect with one of the local residents at the Kigali Hospital where he would be working the next week. We ordered some grilled cheeses and Poppa shared some fun medical stories from all of his career in the international  infectious disease medical world, while we waited for the resident to show up. Unfortunately for us, it is normal for Rwandans to add mayonnaise to grilled cheese, so I was worried we would become sick from it. (Spoiler Alert: none of us did!)

Leonardo the resident finally showed up, and Poppa gave him the laptop and cords he had brought for him from Utah. He seemed in awe of Poppa, and was so honored to be working with him. Poppa is just amazing!

Then we helped Poppa pack his things into a taxi, and headed down the street to the MTM building to get some money from an ATM machine, and get some ice cream. Because if there’s one thing you need to know about my Poppa, it’s that he loooooves his ice cream!

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It was delicious! We all chose chocolate.

Dropping us back off at Flame Tree, we said our goodbyes to Poppa. He would be heading to his fancy hotel by the hospital, where he would be working with the residents for the next week.

I knew I would miss him on our next adventures heading to Akagera National Park, and then to the volcanoes to see the gorillas, but I was so excited for what lay ahead for us!

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Finding My Passion

I still feel like I am recovering from the jet-lag from Rwanda, and I’ve been home for over 10 days now! I’ll start going through my journal and pictures to do a break down of my trip soon, so I can share all of my tips and adventures for you from such a magical and wonderful trip!

While reaclimating back to normal life and my routine here has been something of a challenge, the real struggle has been trying to readjust my focus in life to something with more purpose.

I don’t mean that to sound to vague, so I’ll explain what I mean below.

Poppa, the Rockstar Doctor

One of the coolest parts of this whole trip was getting to experience it not only with my twin sister, but also with our biological grandfather “Poppa”- who we have only known for 4 years (* I’ll have to post about the whole story sometime, but we were adopted and only met our birth mom and her family 4 years ago*)

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Heather Poppa and me outside our hotel in Kigali, Rwanda

He has lived his entire professional career working in the field that he has such a passion for – Infectious Disease. Traveling and living all over the world, he has made incredible impacts in the medical field of infectious disease and has touched so many lives in the process. Poppa and our grandma lived in Butare, Rwanda for a year in as he helped with the local hospital and medical program there as well as in the capitol Kigali.

To sum it up, it was amazing to see him return to the place where he lives his passion. He LOVES working in the infectious disease field, and meeting one of the local medical residents who admired him and looked up to him was so inspiring.

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Christoph our guide, Heather, and Poppa admiring a Colobus Monkey in the trees

Also getting to spend so much time with him in a place he loves so much, was such an amazing experience. This was his last trip to Africa, since he is geting up there in age, but this was his 37th trip over there! This trip literally exhausted me, I can’t believe he’s done this 37 times!

And some of the hikes we did were very difficult, and he handled them like a champ! Running through the jungle chasing a family of chimps in the Nyungwe Forest is no easy task, and when we finally found them he had the biggest smile on his face as we watched them up in the trees!

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Our group with our wonderful porters and trackers after the hike in Nyungwe Forest to follow the chimpanzees (Poppa is all the way on the right)

Not to mention, on top of a very funny sense of humor (with one of the best laughs on the planet), Poppa is one of the most patient and kind people I have ever met. He loves and accepts anyone and everyone, and I wish I could exude even a fraction of this type of love too.

Seriously, Poppa is a true rockstar!¬†I look up to him and admire him in so many ways.¬†Seeing just a small glimpse into Poppa’s life and experience in Rwanda, truly inspired me in my own.

How Can I Live My Own Passion?

This has been the question that has haunted and plagued me for the last 2 years. Figuring out what I really want to do in life.

But really though… how the hell do people figure this stuff out?!

I feel the way I did when I started college and was deciding on what to pick as a major. How was I supposed to know what I would want to study for the next 4 or so years, let alone do the rest of my life? It always boggled my mid that people knew already – some knew since they were little! I didn’t end up officially declaring a major until my junior year, switching from a journalist emphasis to Creative Writing/English. Even then, I still wasn’t 100% sure.

The thing I discovered on this trip, was that something inside me was forever different. Not to sound super cliche, but this trip literally changed my perspective on my life and life in general in the world. I had this growing desire to do something important, to do something that matters and changed the world for the better.

On our way home (an exhausting 41 hour total travel time) during our 13 hour leg from Qatar to New York City, I pulled out my journal and started to write. I was finishing up my entries about our trip and what we had experienced. But, then I started writing something new; the thoughts and feelings that had been stirred up from everything.

This entry became more of a list than anything.

The list was title “Things I am Passionate About”, and as I started to go through the list I circled my #5 item:

Making a Difference/Serving Others

I circled it, and even put a few stars around it. Because that made an impact, an impression inside me. This is what I needed and wanted to feel fulfilled in life, to push me to do more and to focus on.

The Moment It Changed

The funny thing about finding and following your life passions, is that they don’t just suddenly appear in some “ah-ha” moment. Generally, it is something that over time you realize has always been there but you hadn’t recognized it’s importance until the moment your heart realizes how much it means to you.

I’ve always found comfort and peace in serving others. That’s why through all of my own grief and brokenness I have found so much solace and recovery in volunteering and helping with charities and things that are helping humanity thrive.

But this trip, particularly as we drove through a small remote village on the way to Akagera National Park, something inside me changed. I realized how much I want to do to serve the world, to give back and to do more. The moment will forever be etched into my brain; a small clay-brick house we passed on the road with 4 small children outside in tattered rags chasing a black and white spotted goat. I can’t explain why this moment was the one to flip the switch inside me, but it was. And it has. And now I can’t turn it off, because now I know what it is I want to pursue.

Someday, somehow, I want to live my passion of serving others and making a difference. My true dream, is to travel the world doing many different humanitarian services and projects. I will find a way.

I can make a difference here as I can, but eventually – oh yes – I have very big plans!

Here are just a few ways I’ve been researching humanitarian service locally and interntionally:

Help International

Salt Lake Rape Recovery Center

Choice Humanitarian

Do you have any other good ones? Please feel free to share them in the comments!

How You Can Find Your True Life Passion

While I continue on my quest to live my true passions, here are some tips I used to help me figure out what is most important to me, and what I am passionate about.

  1. Make a list with 2 columns. One column is things you dislike doing, and the other is the thing you enjoy doing.
    1. Now, from the column of the things you enjoy, sit and meditate on each one – seriously – and decide if each one is something you could do everyday, for the rest of your life, and never get sick of it.
      1. Is it something you could read an 800-page book about?
      2. Is it something you could do without getting paid?
      3. Is it something you could eat-breathe-sleep-dream about and never get sick of?
  2. Ok, now you should have at least one thing from your original list that you feel is a passion. So what do you do?
    1. Remember that a passion does not necessarily have to be your job – in most cases it is more of a hobby or something you do on the side. But, it’s also Ok if it is something you want to pursue as your career!
    2. If it’s something you’re not particularly good at, or just sort of mediocre in, that’s also Ok! You do not have to be an expert to be passionate about it, you can still successfully reach your passions and your goal!
  3. Do some research, reach books, listen to podcasts, talk to people – who are related to your passion, or can help you towards your intended goals.
    1. Knowldge truly is powerful! The more you can arm your mind with, the better!
  4. Also, remember who you are and the impact you can put on the world.
    1. We can do so many incredible things! Each of us has amazing potential, if we can figure out what our passions truly are. Think of all the good we can put into the world! Even a little goes a long way.

I hope to one day live and follow my passion, just like Poppa. Hoping sooner than later I will be! Cheers to all of us dreamers chasing our passions and dreams!

PS. Stay tuned for my posts detailing all about Rwanda!

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Alone Time

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The Hike

A few years ago¬†I was with a group of friends, and we camped on a plateau outside of Zion National Park, and then the next morning¬†we hiked Angel’s Landing. I became sick overnight with food poisoning and threw up for most of the night, and most of the next day. However, I was determined to do the hike because I had never done it and was looking forward to it.

Despite being desperately dehydrated, and continuing to periodically¬†throw up along the trail (sorry random hikers for having to see that…) I still pushed myself and finished the hike. I had a few pieces of charcoal from our campfire in my pocket that I nibbled on occasionally because the charcoal helps to settle an upset stomach. My friend Kallie who was with us had learned that trick as an outdoor guide a few summers before.

Angel’s Landing is one of the most difficult uphill hikes in Zion, and it is not for the faint of heart. If you are afraid of heights, it will push you to the edge of your comfort zone; quite literally since at the very end you are crossing a slender pathway along the spine of the mountain with over 1000 ft drops on either side of you!

The end is worth the risk and the terrifying drop offs. It is such a gorgeous valley, and you are standing above it all; it really is breath-taking.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, where I decided to hike Angel’s Landing again. This time, though, I would do it alone (and this time I would definitely NOT be sick!)

While I say I hiked alone, there were so many other hikes on the trail that I wasn’t truly alone. This is one of the most popular hikes in Zion, so of course it would be a miracle to actually be the only person there. However, since I was by myself it was quite peaceful. Usually I would be talking the whole time to my hiking buddies, but this time I only had my inner diScreen Shot 2017-05-19 at 10.32.42 AMalogue to listen to.

As I pushed through the first steep switchbacks and up onto the spine of the hike, I never once felt afraid like I had the first time I’d d

one this hike. Holding onto the chains and looking down the 1000 foot drop offs surrounding me, I felt no fear and it was exhilarating.

 

Finally to the top, I found a secluded little section of the mountain, and managed to have about 15 mins by myself. It was so peaceful up there, looking out over the valley. I did some meditation, and some deep thinking. I also made a vow that I would never let fear rule my life again, like it had for the last 4 years. Up there, on top of that mountain I definitely recovered a piece of myself that had been missing and I am glad to have recovered it.

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How To Be Alone

So why is it important to be alone? These days, I feel like no one can stand being by themselves. Everyone feels like they have to constantly have plans, be with groups of friends, and always be busy. While of course it’s important to have people in your life and have plans, I think it has become a lost art of finding peace in alone time.

I’ve always enjoyed alone time, and in the past I have been criticized for it by those who I think were never comfortable with being alone. Alone time means you get to meditate, work through internal deep thoughts, find inner balance, and just unplug from the entire world.

Even if it’s just 30 mins a day, I think it’s important.

After my divorce, I moved in temporarily with my dad and his wife, and then when I was a little more financially on my feet I got a place of my own. I wanted a one bedroom apartment, and I found a great one nearby.

Some people expressed concern about me living alone, especially since I had such an unstable and violent ex-husband lurking about, but I knew I needed to be alone for awhile. For the entirety of my marriage everything I did was controlled down to even what I could buy at the grocery store. I wasn’t even allowed to decorate the house how I wanted to, because everything needed to be ultimately decided by him.

So, I wanted my own place where I was completely free to do what I wanted for a change. It may sound completely irrational, but I wanted to be able to be able to heal that part of myself that had been taken from me. So I had this whole apartment in which I could finally decorate the way I wanted to, watch what I wanted to, listen to loud music and dance if I wanted to, and cook whatever I wanted to without someone else shutting me down and controlling everything.

Alone time can be so healing, and rejuvenating. Think about how you feel when you take a bath. A wonderfully warm bath filled with scented epsom salts to detox your body, and cleansing bubbles to wash away everything from your day. That’s what alone time can be for your heart, and for your soul. And who doesn’t love a good bubble bath, am I right?

Alone Time From Dating

I have also been pretty hesitant about dating since my traumatic last relationship. A lot of opinions have pushed me to just get out there and date again and jump back into it, but really I wasn’t ready.

I think anyone who has been in any sort of abusive relationship needs time to heal, which means time to be alone. Some jump right back into the dating pool, and 9 times out of ten will end up in another failed relationship, or in another abusive one. The real trick is working internally through whatever has been lost from the previous relationship, and fixing and letting those things go so that it never happens again.

For me, I lost myself completely in my former marriage. I was co-dependent on my ex and his issues, and now as I get further and further away from it all I realize more how much I changed; and how much of myself I really lost. Alone time is the major key here. If I jumped into another serious relationship right now, all I would be doing is reverting back to what I had done with my ex; I would melt completely into his life and only be happy through him.

I need to be happy by myself before I can be happy with someone else. So in a sense, I have been dating myself for the past few months. I’ve started to do things I used to love again, going on hikes and adventures, doing yoga twice a week, working on finishing my novel again, having dance parties in my underwear, and just being carefree like I used to be.

Find Joy In Being Alone

The thing is, I am happy. I’m finally feeling like myself again, and it makes me so unbelievably grateful that I’ve had this second chance at my life. I have an incredible network of family and friends who all love and support me, and I could’t have done this without them.

Finding true happiness started back at rock bottom, when I was completely alone. There was one night at my dad’s house I remember just laying in a pathetic ball next to my bed, crying and feeling as if my broken heart would literally kill me. A thought came into my mind, that I was with the one person in the world who would never hurt me, and only wanted for me to be happy and to succeed and reach my biggest dreams and my true potential. That person was me.

Ever since that night, I’ve never looked back. I am happy by myself. I love myself! I love myself so much, in fact, that I was able to finally break away from my abusive marriage. I chose me, and every day I choose for me to be happy. Of course I’m out there dating, trying to make sense of this crazy technology based dating world, and I do hope one day I will find someone that I can be happy to share my life with. It’s my hope for the future ūüôā

But first… you must find the joy in being alone. You’ll never be happy with anyone else until you are happy with yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.

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