A Travellerspoint blog

the land of a thousand hills...

... a thousand smiles, and unfortunately 1 horrible war that killed over 1 million people in 100 days.

my visit to rwanda has been a weird one. I was chilling at a pool one day where, 14 years ago, hundreds of people in hiding were forced to drink from it in order to survive.

for anyone who hasn't seen the film hotel rwanda, i stayed at the hotel des mille collines, where 1 man saved hundreds of lives by hiding people in the hotel and giving everything he could to save them and his family. watch the film if u haven't seen it.

its a beautiful country, lush, green, clean... especially the country side... driving through it was lovely. was refreshing to see so much green and mountains and flowers. a change to the dusty, orange and dry buswelu or mwanza.

its hard to believe that something so awful happened here. its been my favourite place so far in africa... but also the place that's put me through a whole mix of emotions.

we drove to 2 genocide memorial churches, nyamata and ntarama. 10,000 people hid in one of the churches and only a handful survived. the man who was showing us about was 23, he was 9 when he was hiding in this church. he watched his family and everyone around him be killed with machetes, beaten to death, blown up by grenades and woman and children raped. he survived by hiding under the dead bodies for 3 days.
the place hasn't been touched apart from moving the skulls and bones downstairs, some in coffins and some stacked on shelves. their clothes have been left scattered on the church floor. the man showed one corner of the church where you can still see blood on the wall... where a baby was picked up by the ankles and repeatedely smacked on the wall till dead.

100 days this kind of stuff went on for... all because of their ethnic identity.
thousands of refugees are still too frightened to come back home. over 2.5 million people were displaced.

every person you see here (that's old enough) has been affected by it. either a victim or a killer... and everyone has lost someone they know because of it. imagine walking down the street and seeing someone you know who has killed. or passing someone whose relative or friend you were forced to kill. thats what its like for people here.

we also visited the memorial museum where, like the churches, was very disturbing. 28,000 bodies are buried there... still can't get my head around it. and displayed on the walls are photos of people who lost their lives, all ages from 9 months.

its one of the worst genocide in history to ever happen. warnings were raised months before it started but they were ignored. and no help was given. through guilt, rwanda eventually received international help... too much too late.

I'd come back to rwanda, we didn't get to see much of the city thanks to the crap tour office. they messed us about twice... and in the end we got no tour. so we just took a taxi to the memorial museum.
saturday was a public holiday till 1:00 so nothing was opened lol. we were lucky to get a taxi to the churches. and the first one was closed so we had to come back later.

the journey to get here has been an experience. getting there involved a bus, ferry, bus, taxi, walk to border, then mini bus. coming back has been tougher... bus, 2 dala dala's and a bus and taken about 17 hours. ended up staying in one of the towns last night because the dala dala's wasted time and made us miss the last bus to mwanza.

i have today, tomorrow and thursday at the orphanage then its my flight to nairobi on friday. will update more before I leave, travel plans have changed yet again lol... and hopefully upload some photos on friday :)

Posted by mico82 03:00 Archived in Rwanda Comments (1)



to everyone who came to my gig, to the 3 bands that played at the gig, to everyone that helped out at the gig, to the folk that got sponsored for ben nevis and everyone who has made donations... 48 kids on wednesday and thursday were overwhelmed with the amount of stuff they got and wanted me to tell you 'asante sana' (thank you very much).
and what they dont know is... we've only spent half the cash!!!


kids jumping on their new mattresses

the total raised was just under $3.4 million tanzanian shillings, and here's what i bought:

  • 35 mosquito nets (current ones had holes in them... so the wee feckers were biting the kiddies when sleeping and causing malaria) $192,500

  • 10 plastic bed sheets (for kids who pee the bed) $70,000

  • 5 mattresses (to replace ones that were falling apart... some that were in half!) $600,000

  • 50 cups (for water and their porridge in the morning) $25,000

  • 48 sandals (so no more cuts or loosing toe nails when they are playing. they only had school shoes, but they can't be worn at the orphanage as they have to be kept mega clean) $117,50

  • 11 text books (new english books for volunteers to teach with) $38,000

  • 56 counter books (writing books that the children need for school) $225,000

  • 10pks A4 blank paper (so the kids can draw) $52,000

  • 1 world globe (they now know where scotland is) $3,000

  • 12 iron sheets (to build a roof for their chicken run) $130,000

  • 5 chicken drinkers $17,500

  • 5 chicken feeders $45,000

  • 5 sacks of rice $410,000

  • 5 sacks of beans $164,000

  • 2 truck hires (to transport the stuff to the orphanage on wed and thurs) $30,000

  • and $80,000 has been put aside for either tuesday or wednesday's dinner

everyday they have ugali... they have it for lunch and have it for dinner... every single day. either with small fish or cabbage. so i'm heading into town to get them pizza, fruit (i mentioned sweets but they actually prefer fruit) and freshly squeezed fruit juice. they've only ever had pizza once so they'll be delighted when they see it. all they drink is water. and i've seen them eat watermelon once since i've been here... no other fruit.

the rice and beans will last them for just over a month. they LOVE rice but it's too expensive for them. when the rice got unloaded from the truck... one of the girls was poking the sack to see what was in it... she noticed it
was rice and ran screaming to the other kids about it. they were sooo happy. and no wonder. they like ugali but they must get sick of it.


kids with their new sandals

ugali looks like mashed potatoe... so on my first day, stupid me piled the stuff on my plate thinking i'd like it. i hated it. and had to force myself to eat it as you can't waste food as it's just rude. it's the texture of mashed potatoe but more doughy... and to me, just yuk. even the smell turns my stomach lol.

so $1.7 million spent... and $1.7 left. and its all going towards food. once it's all bought they should have rice and beans to last them for 4 months, maybe 5. jaco has kindly offered to sort it all out for me in the next few days... because i only have till thursday and i plan on spending as much time as possible with the kids. i'm staying over at the orphanage 1 night... which involves sharing a bed with 1 or 2 girls... so i need to find out which ones pee the bed!

Posted by mico82 12:03 Archived in Rwanda Comments (1)

my burfday


my 26th birthday will be one that I'll never forget.

i was greeted with kids singing happy birthday to me in the morning. left in the afternoon with ginger and jaco and met other volunteers from watoto for lunch. i then returned to the orphanage to find the living room decorated with coloured sheets on the walls and balloons. i was having a party :)

it must've took them all about 3hrs to finish it. jaco has been here for a while and he's never seen them do so much for someone's birthday. we played games, had loadsa fun then was told to cut my cake?! gloria had made a big cake for me. 3 tier cake and it was yummy. the kids loved it and scoffed it in seconds.


the kids then gave me cards that they had made... "happy birthday michelle, I love u michelle, thank you michelle, how are you, I'm fine" lol. they were so sweet. hannah, a girl that I teach gave me her bracelet (which I'm never taking off) and gloria gave me a 'I love tanzania' bag. i was so overwhelmed with it all.

we played some more games then it was time for me to go. i didn't want to leave... i was having so much fun. but it was nearly dark and we were already running late for dinner.



david, my fave kid, was being funny tho. he looked in a mood the whole time. i was trying to talk to him but he wasn't saying much or smiling like he normally does. turns out that the kids usually have a party when someone is leaving and jaco said that's why he's probably like that :( it's gave me a taste of what's to come and I'm dreading it so much.

we had dinner at the hotel, jo's friend pete was playing there that night... so the whole pub sang happy birthday along with him... then 500 miles followed lol.

we danced the night away and laughed at ginger... this gal needs no alcohol to dance... she was hilarious.

my best birthday ever and it'll probably always be.

Posted by mico82 12:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged volunteer Comments (5)

i heart buswelu

semi-overcast -17 °C

on saturday i experience the most craziest dala dala ride ever. a dala dala is their mode of transport between towns... pretty much a mini van filled with as many people as they can fit in it. people are squished into this thing, kids are shoved on to your lap, and lots of people standing too. there's parts of the van that aren't even seats but ur told to sit there so more can fit in. so there was no room to even stand on saturday so instead of sliding the door shut and telling us it was full, me and ginger were shoved on the dala dala... with the door left opened... standing on the step... and gripping tightly to the roof. a slip of the hand and I would have been rolling about on the road! and with this heat (and fear of dying!) let's just say that my hands weren't exactly dry.
but it was actually comfier than being in the dala dala. got a nice coldbreeze and no sweaty armpits or arses in my face. and the "mzungu... mzungu" shouts were joined with fits of laughter as we were speeding by, hanging on to this dala dala. was so funny.
i'll never complain about our transport back home now.

well that's me finished my second week at hands of mercy. time here is flying by. we can be in the house going about our daily routine and then all of a sudden it's time to sleep. we have no tv, absolutley nothing to do, I've only just picked up my book for the first time yesterday since arriving here... but yet the hours jus seem to disappear. It's a good thing in the sense that seeing paul comes quicker... but then it reminds me of having to say bye to these kids and the thought of it kills me :(

but... i've got just under 3 weeks to go so no point dwelling about my last day. I'm here now and still having an amazing time. oh and since I last wrote... my opinion on the kids has changed. they're even more cute and adorable and funny and sweet than the week before.


i have some favourites... i know i shouldn't... and i try and not make it obvious because it's not fair on the other kids... but these 2 kids are awesome. david and samson. they're complete opposites. david is quiet and soooo shy but coming out of his shell more and more every day now. nwanza had him before i arrived and passed him to me. she warned me it would be along and painful lesson but i honestly could sit with this kid for hours. he's just really shy... i still don't know how great his english is without him reading from a book because he doesn't speak much. but he's so eager to learn and smiles away when he gets his questions right. he smiles a lot cos' he's clever.
i just need to him to speak more in english so i'm practising conversations with him this week. i was teaching him on friday about sentences with small, smaller and smallest.... tall, taller and tallest, etc. i wasn't sure if he was getting it. so class was over... and I was showing him my east africa book... he was looking at all the pictures and as normal, not saying much but was smiling away at some of the photos. then he sees a map of uganda, kenya and tanzania and says: "uganda is big, kenya is bigger... but tanzania is the biggest". aw I could've cried. I was soooo happy... and so was he when he realised he was correct. he looked so chuffed with himself. it was just one of those moments that I'll never forget.



and then there's samson. this boy makes me laugh. confident but not overly and yaps away apart from when concentrating in class. his english is good. i don't work closely with all the kids but from what i've heard so far he seems to be the best at english. the kids have a habit of saying: "me pencil.... me rubber.... me class" when they want something and he corrected one the other day with "please may i have a pencil teacher" and then turned to me saying "karibu" which is 'you're welcome' in swahili lol. he knows my swahili is bad so not only did he correct someones english but was teaching me swahili whilst he was at it. it's his presence... always entertaining... and laughing away. every photo I see of him makes me laugh. he can't just pose normally, he has to do something silly... sound familiar ? ;)



classes are going well. i'm more comfortable with this whole "teacher" role... and getting to know the kids strengths and weaknesses. i want to be able to have a laugh with them whilst teaching... but there's times when i can't. i have a few older kids that just aren't interested at all. part of me thinks i'm just wasting my time with them and it should be spent on the ones who do want to learn. but that's giving up on them. i have the occasional day when it goes well with them. it just depends on their mood. i've managed to incorporate some fun into my lessons so it grabs their attention more. they love looking at my camera and all my photos so I'm going to take pictures of random items and get them to spell it and do sentences with them. it'll either work or they'll just look at me with the most confused look on their face. their english is bad. my swahili is worse. so it's a real struggle to communicate. will let you know how it goes lol.

so i spoke with joel, his wife gloria and jaco about what to do with the funds that you all helped me raise. the orphanage needs so much it's unreal.
the place that they're currently renting needs a lot of improvements (windows, doors, flooring etc) but we feel it would be a waste of money as they're only there for another year. they need $150,000 US dollars to build their own orphanage. some charity has offered to donated the amount... so if all goes well they'll have enough funds to build their own home soon :)


so i have a list of stuff to discuss with jo, decide on what takes priority and hopefully make a start on it all this week. again, will keep you posted.

next weekend myself, ginger, jo and sara are heading to ukerewe island for some peace and tranquility... and a comfy bed, our own room and hot shower. it's a couple of hours away on boat from mwanza... leave on friday, back on sunday.

the following weekend ginger and me are going to rwanda. i'm so looking forward to this visit. the genocide that happened there in 1994 has always interested me so we're going to check out some sights related to it.
jo went a few weeks ago and said it was beautiful, safest country she's been to in africa, really interesting... but found it all very emotional. she encourages everyone to go and check it out... so much that she's giving us 2 days off at the orphanage. we leave on the thursday, back on sunday.

our weekend there was quiet... because the next 2 are so busy. we were at the hotel again on friday night for dinner and drinks which was nice. me and ginger crashed early (well early to them as the norm here is 5am lol) and got a taxi home. i'm only here for a short time and not wanting to waste any days hungover. i'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities with paul and aldo anyhoo... in 3wks time!! eeeeeeeek! :)

Posted by mico82 14:02 Archived in Tanzania Tagged volunteer Comments (8)

mzungu... mzungu!!


it's been a while since my last update so i hope ur sitting relaxed cos' this will probably be a long one!

i'm now in buswelu, tanzania and finished my first week at the orphanage. i still can't believe i'm in africa. it started hitting me at the airport, coming home from peru, that i was actually going... so all the nerves and worry and crazy thoughts started to kick in... and poor margaret had the task of calming me down.

as per usual, it was worry over nothing... i never learn. this place really is something special. i met ana (another volunteer) at my hotel in nairobi and we traveled the following day to mwanza together. from landing in nairobi till now... things just keep getting better.
i wasn't a fan of nairobi at all but i'm not going to ditch the place too much cos' i was only there for 1 night. we landed in mwanza and it was then when it hit me that i was in africa. the stereotypical things that you think of about africa, i saw in mwanza... and even more so in buswelu... where the orphanage is.

joel, the director of hands of mercy, picked us up and took us to the orphanage first for a quick visit and tour of the place before taking us to the volunteer house. i'll never forget driving into the orphanage for the first time. so many of the kids were running up to the car to greet us with huge smiles on their faces... some giving cuddles and some kidding on they were shy... cos' they certainly aren't now lol.


there's 48 kids in total. 3 new arrivals a few weeks before I came. josef is about 8 and was looking after his 2 sisters alone before arriving at hands of mercy. this boy is the happiest kid I have ever met... i'm not exaggerating... he's just so relieved to have adults look after him and his sisters now. u jus have to walk past this kid and his face lights up with the biggest smile. pretty much most of these kids are like that. they're sooooo happy... and so adorable.



friday has been my highlight so far. we finished classes and ginger (my roomy) and i stayed back and played games with them. more kids opened up to us that day and we had such a laugh with them. sooo many fond memories already and i've only been here a week.
there are some that are keeping their distance from us and i can understand why... it tends to be the older ones that are like this... but not all of them, just a few. it must be difficult for them though... having people in and out of their lives all the time. and especially with their background. some of the stuff I've heard has been awful. it makes you realise, even more, just how good we have it back home. it can be quite sad at times... and part of me doesn't want to know about their past. you just need to look at these kids and totally admire them... and know that they have a better future to look forward to now.


so... my main role as a volunteer is to teach them english. each volunteer is given a set of kids to teach for the month. i have 2 classes in the morning and 2 classes in the afternoon. each class is 45 mins... and it's either 2 kids or 1 in a class. after the first 2 classes we can join the kids for lunch or go back to the house. we have about 2 hrs for lunch... then back to the orphanage for the remaining classes. in between classes i usually play and try(!!) to communicate with some of the kids.... but my swahili is bad and some of the kids english isn't too great. but i'm picking up phrases and learning more every day.

i've to talk with the owner and volunteer co-ordinator in a week or so to decide what to do with the money raised. so i will keep you updated on that. i'm going to try and get stuff next weekend for the kids. there's hardly anything on the walls... all grey and boring so hoping to try and brighten the place up for them. a world map poster is definitely needed... some don't know where scotland is... or have even heard of it. i must be the first scot at hands of mercy :)

it's a 20 minute walk from the house to the orphanage. every day all we hear is mzungu (white person) getting shouted from the street kids. they're totally amazed to see us... we're pretty much the only "mzungus" in this town. they see us every day when we walk to the orphanage and back... but they never get fed up with it. they shout it every day, run up to us, give us a knuckle high five... and want to walk with us for a while and hold our hands. they then run back with the biggest smiles on their faces waving bu bi.

the house i'm living in isn't as bad as I thought it would be. luckily i'm sharing a room with ginger, from the states, and we get on great together... will definitely be keeping in touch with her after this. then there's jo, our volunteer co-ordinator, in another room... and the other volunteers... sara, nwanza and jaco in another. joel's brother owns another orphanage called watoto not that far away and ana and 3 other volunteers are there.

emma and mateo are our masaii warriors who guard the house. they work 7 days a week and take turns at night to guard. the porch is basically their home and they sleep there during the day. poor guys!

the water in the house is sparse. theres a tank on the roof that emma and mateo fill by collecting water from a well. it's a tough job for them so we have to very careful with the amount of water we use. we have to use it very sparingly when washing ourselves, clothes and dishes.

a completly different way of living. and i'm really enjoying it. it's going to be some experience. 1 week has passed and i can already see myself getting so attached to these kids. they're amazing. i can't say it enough.

soooo... my last entry was in cusco. from then till the airport it was pretty relaxing. which was in order after the inca trail. the inti raymi festival was on so lots of street performances, dances and locals getting merry and drunk. we met up with melanie and edwina as planned at the tapas restuarant and had yummy food and drinks. 3 drinks and i was tipsy lol. had such a great time with margaret in south america.
then it was the long flight back to london. my weekend there was amazing. soooo good to see paul again... only wish i had longer with him. more emotional this time saying bye but it's for the last time (thank feck!) and soon we'll be in africa together.

this weekend has been pretty chilled out. there's a hotel in mwanza that most "mzungus" go to so we were there yesterday... and just about to head there now after this. it looks on to lake victoria and the view is lovely.

got SO much more to write but i think i'm going to rap this one up. will hopefully be writing more next weekend. few things coming up that i'm really looking forward to :)

Posted by mico82 14:11 Archived in Tanzania Tagged volunteer Comments (7)

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