May 27, 2018, Bisate, Rwanda
Hi. It’s me Ellen. I haven’t been in Rwanda for long and there are already so many things I want to share about my experience.
First of all, the people here are incredible. They’re welcoming and joyful. If you live in rural Rwanda, you have to grow your own food and haul your own water. It’s challenging, but everyone takes care of each other. I learned about a tradition here called Umuganda, where once a month every Rwandan does service in their community. There’s a very strong sense of community here and it’s so inspiring.
The country of Rwanda is referred to as “the land of a thousand hills.” I took their word for it instead of counting because there were a lot of hills. Like, a lot. Probably about a thousand. And they are steep! They’re green and lush and gorgeous and steep. If I had a say in the matter, and I don’t, I would call it “the land of a thousand steep, hilly hills.”
I really can’t believe that I’m here. When I was 12 I had posters of Dian Fossey in my bedroom, and today I get to literally walk in her footsteps. We climbed those hilly hills in calf-high mud to visit the mountain gorillas.
The gorillas are social and gentle and funny and protective of their family. The babies are so cute and playful it’s like Instagram was created just for them.
I’ve always been so in awe of Dian’s bravery and vision, but now that I’ve actually seen the mountain gorillas in the wild I am even more committed to continuing the work of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. She truly was amazing—to live alone in the forest and to protect animals that people thought were ferocious and aggressive. I am determined to protect their home and to continue Dian’s legacy.
I’ll write more later. Right now I have to figure out how to get down this hill. Did I mention it was steep?