GORILLAS CALLING TO RWANDA
This past April - on Monday, the 24th, 2006 to be exact - I covered, for Orwell Today, the event of the first visit to Canada of Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame. See RWANDA'S LIVING LEGEND IN LONDON.
While there, during table talk at the luncheon, I found myself saying to the people around me that I would be going to Rwanda this summer. Those words just came out of my mouth all on their own without any thought behind them, and I surprised myself by saying them. But, having spoken them, I started totally believing that it would happen.
On Tuesday, the day after the Rwandan event in London, I flew the short distance to Toronto where I would spend a week visiting relatives and friends. On Saturday I borrowed my father's car and drove the arterial road from the suburbs to downtown Toronto looking, all along the way, for second-hand bookstores, which is a habit of mine whenever I travel. Before long, in a strip mall, "BOOKS NEW AND USED" caught my eye and I turned left at the first opportunity, then left, left and finally right into its parking lot. After entering the store I proceeded to the USED BOOK section in the back. I wasn't looking for any book in particular, just doing my usual browsing wherein I wait for books to jump off the shelf at me. And, sure enough, four books jumped into my arms that day, the first one being GORILLAS IN THE MIST, by Dian Fossey:
Until that time I had never given the book any thought, other than to know it was the one on which the movie GORILLAS IN THE MIST, starring Sigourney Weaver and Bryan Brown (my favourite actor) was based. I knew about Dian Fossey and was familiar with the story of the gorilla "Digit" but until I read the back cover of the book I had never realized that the country where Fossey did her research was "my" very own Rwanda!
I immediately took this as an omen that my outburst at lunch, where I told everyone I was going to Rwanda, must have been a true statement.
When I got home to my father's house later that day he agreed that it did seem propitious that I had found the book about Rwanda's gorillas. As soon as everyone went to bed that night I burned the midnight oil and was well into Dian Fossey's descriptions of life on the bamboo slopes of Rwanda's Virunga Volcanoes by morning. It made me more than ever want to go to Rwanda, and while there, visit the gorillas (which I did accomplish and describe in RWANDA'S RARE GORILLAS).
The next morning being a Sunday (and I being a Canadian) I had an irresistable craving for a Timmy Horton's coffee and donut and so while everyone else was still snoozing I slipped out the front door and walked the few blocks to the nearest Timmy Horton's for my usual FRENCH VANILLA coffee with APPLE FRITTER donut. On this venture on previous days I'd passed a little park with benches and I headed in that direction so as to be able to sit and drink the coffee while reading the SUNDAY STAR newspaper which I picked up along the way.
All week, since Monday, I'd been buying the major newspapers - the NATIONAL POST and the GLOBE AND MAIL - in addition to reading the TORONTO STAR which was delivered to my father's door. I had been sorely disappointed in the total lack of coverage of President Kagame's visit to Canada, and had given up hope that there would be anything written at this late date. So you can imagine my surprise when I turned to page twelve and out jumped a HALF-PAGE picture of Kagame:
As I devoured the article - not the donut - I was impressed with its author's reporting on Rwanda and Kagame. She used the term "legend" in describing Rwanda's "saviour" and that's where I got the idea for the title of my description of the London event. Also, it was from this article that I learned of the existence of the book PAUL KAGAME AND RWANDA: POWER, GENOCIDE AND THE RWANDAN PATRIOTIC FRONT, by a Colin M. Waugh which had been published in 2002:
I made a point of ordering that book as soon as I got home as I had been hungry for further reading on Kagame and Rwanda ever since 1998 when I first read Philip Gourevitch's classic WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES from which I had first learned about Kagame's heroic role in saving Rwanda and Rwandans from genocidal maniacs.
That is the book I took to London with me and which President Kagame so graciously signed. Now, if I am ever so blessed as to meet Paul Kagame again, I'll ask him to sign Waugh's book PAUL KAGAME AND RWANDA because, having finished reading it now, I found it to also be a MUST READ classic in the annals of writings about Rwanda and the genocide.
And as if the aforementioned article about Kagame wasn't fortuitous enough, underneath it was an excellent article about the present-day status of Dian Fossey's gorillas. Her book, GORILLAS IN THE MIST, which I was presently reading, was published in 1983, two years before her tragic murder. While reading it I'd been wondering how "her" gorillas were doing these twenty-three years hence. Now here was the answer to my thoughts:
The article describes how, contrary to Fossey's worst nightmare, her Rwandan "gorillas in the mist" are thriving and her torch has been passed to others who are carrying on her work. The article described how people from all over the world travel to Rwanda JUST TO SEE THE GORILLAS and it is a thriving tourist trade now.
In subsequent reading this past couple of months I have learned that those very same volcanoes where the gorillas live was the base for Paul Kagame's Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) and from which they proceeded to fight the civil war for the reclamation of Rwanda for all Rwandans, including Tutsi who had been banished and were then being genocided. I have also learned that Paul Kagame's government actively protects the gorillas and he has personally participated in naming over thirty baby gorillas last year and again this year he and the First Lady attended the ceremony naming twelve more.
So, needless to say, I am very excited about the prospect of climbing the Virunga Mountains in the Volcanoes National Park when I get to Rwanda, and seeing the "gorillas in the mist".
And as if the discovery of Dian Fossey's book and then the discovery of the newspaper article about the gorillas wasn't enough assurance that I had been correct in my statement that I was going to Rwanda, another "coincidence" (god-incident) happened on my last night in Ontario. Due to the fact that my plane for British Columbia was leaving very early Monday morning, and rush-hour traffic would be horrific getting there, I decided to book into a hotel by the airport, and hop a shuttle in the morning. After being dropped off at the hotel and saying my goodbyes that Sunday night, I went up to my spacious Holiday Inn room and upon stretching out on the couch to read some GORILLAS IN THE MIST my eyes glanced toward the television and there, on the top of the cabinet, was the face of a gorilla looking me straight in the eye.
It was coming from a beautiful three-dimensional brochure (partially scanned above) describing how "this hotel cares about the environment and participates in Conserving for Tomorrow, an effort developed to save the world's natural resources and to protect our environment" and inviting guests to "help make a difference".
Well, that was the clincher for me. I then realized for sure that not only was I going to go to Rwanda this summer, but I was going to help "make a difference" by visiting Rwanda's gorillas, not only for the joy of seeing REAL LIVE gorillas, and paying homage to Fossey's legacy, but to also do my part in contributing to the tourist trade that plays such an important role in the costs of keeping the gorillas protected in Rwanda.
I could hardly wait to get home and tell my husband we were going to Rwanda. And I can hardly wait to see the gorillas! ~ Jackie Jura
24. RWANDA'S RARE GORILLAS (twenty-fourth chapter of Rwanda visit)
23. GORILLA MOTEL SOCCER FINAL (twenty-third chapter of Rwanda visit)
Calgary Zoo mourns newborn gorilla (another female took from mother and wouldn't give her back; baby was unable to feed). CBC/CTV, Aug 18, 2006
Baby gorilla born in Calgary Zoo! (to first time mother Zuri; 7th offspring for silverback Kagonga). CBC, Aug 8, 2006
Kagame, the man behind Rwanda toursim progress. New Times, Jun 17, 2006
During the first Gorilla Naming, President Kagame graced the ceremony, and he is also going to lead the second Gorilla Naming, where names will be given to 12 new mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park....President Kagame has always given a leading hand in developing Rwanda’s tourism. Kagame’s significant role is witnessed in his continual support in pushing laws that conserve the environment in the country and his continual advocacy. His role sets back during the 1994 liberation war where he managed to protect animals by forcing a law that protects animals. All the RPA (Rwandese Patriotic Army) fought a battle of protecting the animals as well as liberating the country...During the years of 1994 to 2006 President Kagame pushed many laws of conserving the environment and fortunately they were all passed, and to date Rwanda is ranked amongst the countries with best tourism conservation and attraction policies...
Kagame names baby gorillas. Rwanda Development Gateway, Jun 19, 2005
The Rwanda National Office of Tourism (ORTPN) is to baptise 30 baby mountain gorillas in a public ceremony scheduled for 25th June at the Gorillas Nest Lodge in Ruhengeri province. The function will be followed by a fundraising gala dinner at the Kivu Sun Hotel in Gisenyi province later the same day, and President Paul Kagame is expected to be the guest of honour...Rwanda has about one third of the total 700 mountain gorilla population left in the World and the country receives over 20,000 visitors every year visiting the creatures which share more than 97% genetic material with human beings...
RWANDA'S GOOD MAN KAGAME and HOW KAGAME BECAME LEADER
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