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Kisoro

This morning we walked along the main road of Kisoro to look for a church. Within the span of two to three blocks, there were around four churches. We attended All Saints of Bashamba which was to start at nine o'clock. The priest arrived and apologized that this would be a small service. While waiting, they played "Jingle Bells" several times, quite hilarious at this time of the year and in Africa. This was followed eventually by "Yankee Doodles". After waiting for half an hour, the service began with nine of us. It could easily accommodate 200. We sang "What a Friend, I Surrender All and Amazing Grace". Looking at the empty pews, I let my mind wonder and thought about the piles of soiled clothing on the pews of the church at Nyamata Genocide Memorial where some of the atrocities of the Rwanda genocide took place and the thousands of bones and skulls found there and the voices that were forever silenced and innocent lives that were ended prematurely. The Rwanda genocide hauntingly brought me back to the Killing Fields in Cambodia and the Terezin Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic. The same eerie feeling surrounds these places and the inability to comprehend how mankind could inflict such unspeakable horrors on one of their own and the senselessness of it all...


When the service ended, there were more people waiting outside for another service which would be in Bafumira, the local language.



The three mountains overlooking Kisoro are extinct volcanoes. The Muhabura is the tallest, 4127 m and crowned by a crater lake. The Gahinga, the middle one is the lowest at 3474m and has a swamp on the top while the jagged tooth-like Sabyinyo at 3669m looks somewhat menacing and the furthest away. The tallest one is often shrouded in clouds and especially during the rainy season, it struggles to make its peak visible. They could be seen as a backdrop for the transit camp. All of them could be hiked in a day with a guide after paying Mgahinga park fee.



I was tempted to hike the highest one but was unable to contact the park office so instead hiked up a small hill in the local area. Moreover without my hiking boots, my sneakers might not be up for the slippery slopes of the rainy season. I remember quite well what a slog it was to do the nine-day hike up Mt. Margherita of the Rwenzori Mountains in 2006 encountering rain every afternoon and then on summit day a blizzard. The local hike was an easy one but afforded a panoramic view of Kisoro and beautiful views of the mountains. Some of the slopes are cultivated and planted with crops. High above a lone woman tilled the land, boys and young men herded cattle in the distance. The Rwenzori Mountains or the Mountain of the Moon must be way out there in the northerly direction. As I reached the top, Lake Mutanda suddenly loomed into view, peaceful and tranquil. I was glad that no children followed me and I had the peak all to myself with the lake on one side and the mountains on the other. I could indulge in my reverie. A plume of smoke rose from one of the peninsula in the lake, children's cries and cocks' crow seemed to be magnified and rose from the valley. In the distance, cows grazing over the crest of another hill tended by a couple of cow herds who waved at me. The sun was shining and a gentle breeze was blowing from the lake. I was lost in my own thoughts and for a moment forgot where I was. It was not until I descended close to Kisoro that I encountered a few children gathering kindlings, chorus of "Mzungu, how are you?" greeted me. I was able to ask the same of them, "Masutay?"



In the afternoon, I walked to Kisoro District Hospital to pay a short visit. The maternity ward was filled to capacity and some women were lying on mattresses on the floor, there were about four women in labor. The Children's ward needed a sprucing-up, it was strewn with many beds with old mattresses, only a few were occupied. A lone mother nursed her baby on a mattress placed on the floor. In the Women and Men's wards, relatives were bringing lunch for the patients. Many relatives were sitting on the lawn outside the ward socializing. The outpatient department is closed, this being Sunday.



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