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HomeNewsArchivesRwanda Journal: Another Day, Another Dance

Rwanda Journal: Another Day, Another Dance

And the dance must go on.The disappointment was short lived when we found that the secondary students in Banda Village we had planned a dance exchange with had been called to a village meeting.
Elise, our ever-resourceful social-working Kageno supervisor [See editor’s note at story’s end] quickly arranged for the Intore cultural dance group that provides shows for the rare visitors to this remote village in southeastern Rwanda to substitute.
For more than two hours, the turquoise-beskirted men and women regaled us with drumming and choreographed stories about village life and the forest.
“It’s all about the forest,” Elise tells us. You can catch the words Nyungwe and Banda every so often mixed in with the otherwise completely foreign words we have not learned yet.
What we have learned, however, is the forest that reigns over Banda is a harsh mistress.
Thrice we have trod into her shadowy arms in search of the illusive chimpanzees that roam her twisted paths and nest in her feathery boughs.
We are never fully rewarded for our breathtaking trudges seeking communication with our closest mammalian relatives. But here and there the forest yields to our needs by unveiling a troupe of 30 to 40 Blue Monkeys, or tossing the sweet songs and even a sighting or two of rare birds in our direction.
A blue monkey looks on from the boughs of a tree. (Cheri Ward photo)Here an orchid, there a brilliantly colored insect, butterflies, and gigantic first-growth trees. Our consolation prizes for our Herculean efforts.
After a day that started at 5 a.m. with an hour-long automobile trip up through the hills to Uwinka and the headquarters of the Nyungwe Forest National Park headquarters to meet world-renowned park guide Clavere, and then the long journey in pursuit of one of the chimp families that stubbornly remained shrouded in the dense forest cover, despite a six-hour trek 3,000 feet down the mountain.
After lunch and a lazy recuperation period on our one free afternoon in the village, Clavere, who despite the late hour and his own trip down the hill, rounds us up. He has heard from the trackers that the chimps have been seen near the fig tree, close to the village.
“The fig tree is a mile up the hill,” Cheri notes with sudden awareness , informed by her earlier experience in the day. But “run” is nevertheless the cry.
And run we do, deep again into the forest serenaded by birds and insects positioning themselves for their daily twilight battle for survival.
The word was that someone in our group may have seen a chimp vanishing into the bush, but with the sun low in the sky and the enveloping tree cover, we will probably never be sure. However, what we could be sure of is the sight of a group of monkeys flying from tree to tree. Little screeches and swaying branches were the giveaway.
And that seemed to be more than enough to satisfy our intrepid trackers who happily made their way back to our village home, where once again we feasted on legumes and vegetables with fresh pineapple and finger bananas for desert.
Editor’s Note: Kageno is a New York City-based non-profit community development organization operating projects in both Kenya and Rwanda.

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