Face-to-Face | Mountain Gorillas

Our final weekend during my parents’ visit last January/February was the ultimate crescendo to a wonderful 3 weeks together…getting up-close and personal with mountain gorillas!

Crouched down, admiring the large silverback 10-15 feet in front of me, and looking through my camera lens, the 40+ year old got up from his relaxed pose he had been holding for several minutes now.  He came right up to within a foot of my face, while I kept my camera and eyes down so as not to intimidate him. Running through my head were thoughts and visions of him headbutting me or shoving me down the incline I was on. Instead, he stopped to stare me down and then kept moving brushing past me as he made his way between other members of our group standing off to the sides. As strong and ferocious as he seemed to be towering down at me, his brush against my shoulder was deceivingly light and delicate. A fact I was quite thankful for in that moment! In describing what it was like to come face-to-face with this silverback…I can only say that it was equally one of the most incredible experiences and most terrifying moments I have ever had. It is not one I will ever forget. And this was just the start of our hour spent among the Kwitonda family.

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Nyamirambo Women’s Center | Basketweaving

After the fun we had doing pottery in Gatagara, we set up another activity with VAYANDO at the Nyamirambo Women’s Center in Kigali during my parents’ and aunt’s trip to Rwanda last January/February.

My husband and I love Rwandan baskets…the colors and patterns! Anytime we found a new pattern or color scheme, we could not resist getting one or even two. The stacks and stacks of baskets we have around our house is a giveaway that we are obsessed. Having gotten rid of a decent amount of our decorations before moving, I would find festive baskets of all sizes in the colors of the holiday.

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Bats Overhead | Lake Kivu

More adventures during my parents’ three weeks in Rwanda in January and February last year….

Napoleon Island 

From our hotel in Kibuye, we arranged a boat trip for the five of us out to Napoleon Island. All I could find on travel sites and other blogs was limited information about visiting Amahoro (meaning peace) Island, also known as “one bar island,” and Napoleon Island home to a colony of fruit bats. Other than that, I didn’t know how or where to set up the boat ride or what the boat ride entailed. But as our first water weekend stop in Kibuye, we set it up for the morning of our second day and just hoped for a nice boat ride. We had no clue what an experience we would have when we got there.

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Reborn Kyoto | Rwanda

Kyoto Reborn - Women's Dress DisplayedShortly after I arrived in Kigali, I was introduced to a charity organization and social club called Africa International Club (AIC) – Rwanda. Funds raised through outings and events go to support local projects. This organization has afforded me the opportunity to met and connect with a number of other women from the US and other parts of the world through the coffee mornings they host once a month. Last week, I attended an outing that was organized by AIC to a project in Kigali. This was my first outing which left me with a desire to attend more in the future.Kyoto Reborn - Pinning and Sewing Still in its infancy in Rwanda, Reborn Kyoto is a Japanese NGO offering a training program, with funding from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, providing opportunities for young men and women to learn sewing skills and techniques. What is unique about Reborn Kyoto is that the students learn to sew with Kimono silk, a difficult and unforgiving fabric to work with. From there, learning to sew with Kitenge {brightly colored local fabric} will be much easier for them. Kyoto Reborn - Men's ShirtThroughout our visit last week, we learned that Reborn Kyoto’s goal is to provide young Rwandans with an avenue to learn a trade and open the pathway to opportunities in the textile industry that they would not have had on their own. Many students complete the course and go on to enter the labor market producing clothing for companies, while others have hopes of starting their own businesses out of their homes one day.

The passion these students showed was infectious from their warm welcome upon our arrival, throughout their fashion show where they displayed their own work and cheered each other on, and during our Q&A session with them. Their candor about how the program has opened doors for them, brought them together as one team which they see as beneficial not just in the classroom but as a society as well, what their hopes and dreams are for specialties in the future, and what techniques or styles they find most difficult was incredible.Kyoto Reborn - Q&AThis is first time, and probably the only time, I can say that I purchased something I saw on the runway! I look forward to wearing my new, “made in Rwanda” dress, and continue to support these students by showcasing their talents.

When in Africa | Our First Safari

Akagera - Game Tour 23 - JPP

Determined to fully explore our new home, my husband and I decided to spend Friday and Saturday at Akagera National Park to go on our first safari. Only about 2.5 hours from Kigali, Rwanda, Akagera seemed like the perfect first place for us to visit together. We couldn’t have been more impressed by the ambience of the Ruzizi Tented Lodges that we stayed in, the number of animals and birds we were able to see in person, and a very knowledgable and friendly guide who drove us through the park for a night game ride as well as our half day game tour yesterday. We look forward to going back soon to try out their boat rides and fishing trips and {fingers crossed} to see giraffes and leopards which we weren’t able to see on this trip. We are also planning an upcoming road trips to Uganda for rafting on the Nile River and other border countries as well as trekking to see gorillas and hopefully a trip to see the Great Migration which takes place between Tanzania and Kenya. With so many great adventures on the continent, we are surely adding items to our bucket list that we couldn’t have even imagined being able to do before moving here. We can successfully cross off the number of animals we hoped to see in the wild here, including: baboons, vervet monkeys, bush babies, hippos, elephants, topis, zebras, water mongooses, buffalo, scrub hares, oribis, impalas, eland, water bucks, and a number of birds.

Staying at the Ruzizi Tented Lodges was incredible! As part of the price for staying the night, we were given dinner and breakfast. After arriving back from our night ride on Friday at about 10:30pm, the staff had our tables and food waiting for us. As we sat and ate our three course meal including shrimp and corn fritters, Curry Fish and Peanut Chicken with lentils and rice, and chocolate bread pudding {we had very happy stomachs!}, we took in the lapping of water beneath us, birds chirping, and hippos grunting! Then we used the  boardwalk to  sneak away to our tent and settle in for a rest. In the morning, we were woken up to the sound of vervet monkeys jumping through the trees outside of our tent and stopping to tease us on our porch. They then stuck around the patio where we were eating breakfast to see what they could snatch from our plates. In fact, some friends we met during our night ride were also eating breakfast and had a piece of toast stolen off their plate by one of the monkeys! They told us that they later saw the monkey showing off the piece of bread it stole from them.

Although this was a quick trip away, we enjoyed getting away from the hustle and bustle of Kigali and the chance to embrace the beauty and adventure Rwanda has to offer. The travel bug is definitely alive in us right now and we will be sure to share these adventures and sights with you all as we explore Rwanda and surrounding countries.

2015: A New Year | New Places, Cuisines, and Adventures

After a several month hiatus from {A Hint of Ginger} filled with preparing, packing up, and saying goodbye to friends and family, my husband and I are starting off 2015 in Rwanda. His job as a diplomat at the US Embassy in Kigali has brought us here for the next two years. The whirlwind of the last few months have been filled with excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. As we settle in to our new life here, we are already keenly aware of the opportunities that living in Africa will provide us, including a chance to explore East African cuisine. Stay tuned for tales of our foodie and travel adventures and as I learn to adjust to high altitude cooking.

Rwandan Adventure 2 Rwandan Adventure 1 Rwandan Adventure 4