Exploding Lakes and Volcanoes

October 7, 2012

Some of the other Fulbrighters and I felt a little itchy in our respective home bases and ventured out West to Musanze and Gisenyi last weekend. Olivia and I are still waiting to start classes after several postponements and the other two, Bethany and Mike, wanted to get out of congested Kigali for a breather.  We also met one of the other Fulbrighters, Megan, who teaches English at a university near Musanze. She has been in Rwanda since January and has been a godsend.  She hopes to extend her contract here, giving all of us who are still settling some hope for the coming months. We may very well be in danger of falling in love with this mystical country, but who knows what lies ahead exactly?

The Western region is filled with dramatic upheavals of fields, cloud-topped volcanoes, winding roads and very chilly weather. Our only wish was to enjoy a beach party on the sands of Lake Kivu and work on our tans the next day.  We achieved our goals famously (apparently a couple muzungus in swim trunks and bikinis can draw a gawking crowd).

Our Token Male/Big Brother at the Beach with His New Congolese Friend

But echoing the climatic scenery, the area was full of unease. At night and just a couple of kilometers away, the crest of the volcano burned dimly red through its cloud cover. Lake Kivu, itself, is not only famous for its beauty but is infamous a huge asphyxiating Carbon Dioxide bubble that lies in its depths. And not to exclude human disasters, Gisenyi abuts Goma, divided by a turbulent political boundary with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Despite all these anxiety-inducing potential disasters, many NGO’s and visitors continue to feast their eyes on the fantastic terrain. One NGO organizer that I spoke to related the atmosphere of the area as consistently bubbling with political and natural tensions, allowing many people to continue on with their daily work with few disturbances. I was only able to note the superficial tension during my brief weekend there but that distinct feeling just added to the majesty of the place. The feeling reminded me of the cultural personalities of some of the places/people that I’ve already met: an easily observed beautiful or friendly surface with a well-protected and isolated depth, shrouding convictions that sometimes bubble to the surface.

Click to get the full panoramic view!

Mind you, I am not trying to come from a place of criticism, but of misunderstanding. I am constantly reminded in this place of how little I really know. Rwanda has many more lessons to teach me in the coming months.

One Response to “Exploding Lakes and Volcanoes”

  1. Joy Bender Hadley Says:

    Katie, I know I’m a month behind on catching up to your blog. I’m absorbing it all. Such an exciting opportunity for you! Love the photos, your words and your passion.

    BTW yes teaching is tough, no matter where you are. But it sure sounds like you have the heart AND the wisdom to make a difference!

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