Gorillas!

These last few days in Uganda have been quite busy! We had the opportunity to volunteer at a local school for orphans, a project called Little Angels. It was started by a man named Duncan who was sponsored himself as a child. To return the favor, he began the project Little Angels. Little Angels provides orphans with a better way of life including food and education. There are five huts for school in which the children learn from volunteer teachers. We were greeted by lots of singing and as we observed classroom time, we quickly learned that singing was greatly involved in their education. The children often sang their answers or the entire class congratulated another classmate when he or she answered a question correctly. The children were adorable of course as they learned about shapes and the spelling of the different shapes. Once class was done, it was time for some fun! We went outside and all of the children in the entire school (about 125 or so) circled up for singing and dancing. Some of the songs were led by students themselves (ages 4 to 10 or so) and some were led by the teachers. All of the students seemed to really enjoy the singing and everyone was participating. Some of the songs involved bringing people into the center of the circle so of course we were the targeted few to be pulled in as we danced with the children. Once the singing and dancing was through, it was playtime as we ran around with the kids. They loved braiding hair so all of the girls got a free hairdo which consisted of an entire head of braids! we had the chance to meet Duncan and I am extremely impressed with the work that the organization has done. They host volunteers for free (a rare thing for volunteer opportunities abroad) and I would encourage anyone looking into volunteering to check out this organization! After the orphanage, we went canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi, a lake consisting of 29 islands. The canoe trip was beautiful and quite relaxing!! We also had the chance to visit a Pygmy village while in Kisoro. Pygmy people are known for being short, typically under 59 inches. The village we visited consisted of 26 houses with 75 people but the houses were extremely rundown and made of only natural goods. We met the 83-year-old leader of the village along with his wife. He led the village in singing and dancing as they performed and entertained us. I was amazed what an 83 year old was still able to do… Wow! Unfortunately the village is extremely poor so the children only attend school through grade seven which is sponsored by the government. After grade 7, the people of the village typically go into farming to sustain the others in the village. Surprisingly the people in the village looked well-nourished and happy for the most part! Inter-marriage is common within the village however some have had relationships outside the village hence most, but not all, were still small in size. Today we went gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and what an experience it was! There are only approximately 700 wild mountain gorillas left in the world, 340 of which live in Bwindi. The gorilla trekking required booking and a permit many months in advanced as only a limited number of people (about 40) can visit the gorillas each day and although the excursion was extremely expensive, it was definitely worth it! After a two hour drive up the mountain with eight of us crammed into a land rover on the worst and bumpiest road I have ever been on, we were ready for the trek. We were briefed on what we needed to know and given our group of 8 tourists and 3 staff. We had a head leader named Herbert and two people armed with ak-47s just in case! Spotters went our earlier in the morning to spot the gorillas so we knew which direction to head. The hike to the gorillas was anything but easy as we hiked up the steep mountain. Once we got to the forest, we had a bit of shade which helped with the heat but it was still extremely hot as we hiked up. It took about two and a half hours to reach the gorillas and then we had an hour looking at the gorillas. Seeing the massive 400-pound animals feet away from you in the wild was an adrenaline rush to say the least! We saw a family of about 20 as we followed them through the jungle, up and down the mountain. We got just feet away and watched as their human-like features. They were climbing trees, hollering at each other, eating grass, and staring at us as we took in every second of awesomeness! At one point, a gorilla scaled down the tree right in front of us and gave a warning call. Although we were told if this happens to simply avoid eye contact and remain still, we all ran away quickly from the 400 pound silverback! I guess you could say it was a bit different from the Omaha zoo! Luckily the hike back down was way easier but the to hour ride back was just as horrid. It was a great way to end our 11 days in Uganda as we proceeded to Rwanda following the gorillas. Little was going on at the border when we crossed so we were able to get through quickly and easily before continuing to our campsite for the night. The last three nights we have been spoiled as we’ve stayed in dorm rooms rather than our tent… Oh how nice a bed feels, ha! We will be back to the tents tomorrow night however! Sending my best from Rwanda!
~Susan

Ps: Internet problems prevented photos from uploading… I will try to get some up soon!

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