Wednesday, 6 December 2006

First month in Kigali.....

MK: Well, I have survived my first month in Kigali.

For the first few days in Rwanda I stayed at the Hotel Mille Collines (made famous in the movie "Hotel Rwanda"). I am now renting a room for the time being from a nice Rwandan lady named Lilian who works for Rwandair (in Sales and Marketing). She has a charming 13year old daughter named Gloria (and a husband and 2 sons that are currently living in the UK). The house is nice and is located on one of the many hills (Gacuriro) that make up Kigali. I will be looking for a house of my own closer to my office (in Kiyovu) in the new year. The only catch with living with my host family is that I am woken up everyday at 6:00am because the neighbour behind our house has decided to perform a ritual that entails him singing, clapping, and whistling for exactly 15 minutes every morning (except Fridays of course because he is an Adventist!) .

Kigali as a capital city is nice and is relatively safe and lush with green rolling hills. Although Rwanda is the most denseley populated country in Africa, it is not really polluted and is surprisingly clean. It is by far one of the easiest cities in which to live. The downsides are: a high cost of living (rent, taxis, and food are expensive), the food is not all that exciting, and there is not much to do, so boredom comes easily.

I am working on UNDP/Rwanda's Global Environment Facility (GEF) programme. Mainly I am responsible for currently their largest project on "Strengthening Biodiversity Conservation Capacity in the Forest Protected Area System of Rwanda" (GEF resources are $5,450,000 with total allocated resources of USD$13,430,000). The project will be implemented in the Nyungwe Forest/National Park (where the chimpanzees are) and Volcano National Park (where the mountain gorillas are and where Dian Fossey carried out her research). I am organising our big project launch which will be held on Thursday the 14th of December. I have already secured the Minister of Land and Environment to give an opening remark as well as the head of all UN agencies here (UN Resident Co-ordinator/Resident Respresentative). In the new year, we will hold its big launch in one of the two parks.

I am travelling to Nyungwe Forest for an overnight stay in the Guest House on Monday the 11th of December to attend USAID's Eco-tourism project the following day. It is about a four-hour drive one-way. Because it is located near the Congolese border, I had to get UN security clearance to travel.

It is great working in the field as you never stay chained to your desk! I participated in Umuganda Day in which the last Saturday of every month, Rwandans are required to partake in community service (planting trees, cleaning up the garbage, stopping erosion and floods from the rains, etc.). For an interesting article, visit The New Times. I also took part in World AIDS Day (WAD) on Saturday the 2nd of December 2006. I had kids crawling all over me and playing with my hair! Speaking of which, there is a strange thing that happens to me all the time. I will be walking down the street or standing somewhere and someone behind me will pull my hair! If I turn around, they will give me a look like nothing happened but I will proceed to point to the clump of hair that is stuck between their fingers!!

Please check out our photos on Flickr and Picasa Web Albums!

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