Kibeho, Rwanda: The Lourdes of Africa

Choir members pull on their robes before mass at The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. This is the only sanctioned Marian sanctuary in Africa. Kibeho's overseers and the Rwandan government hope this place will become a top tourism site. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Choir members pull on their robes before mass at The Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. This is the only sanctioned Marian site in Africa. The Rwandan government hopes Kibeho will become a top religious tourism site on par with Lourdes in France or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Down a dusty road in southern Rwanda, the pointed blue roof of a large church suddenly pierces the sky. This is the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, the only Catholic Church-sanctioned Marian site in Africa. The Church says the Virgin Mary appeared here from 1981-1983, offering messages of prayer and peace to three young women, but also foretelling the 1994 genocide.

“‘I see a river of blood! What does that mean? No, please! Why did you show me so much blood? Show me a clear stream of water, not this river of blood!” screamed Alphonsine Mumureke, one of the three visionaries, according to a book by genocide survivor Imaculeé Ilibagiza. “Why are those people killing each other? Why do they chop each other?”

The Shrine’s overseers and the Rwandan government hope this place will become a top religious tourism site on par with Lourdes in France or Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. However, there has been some criticism that the government isn’t doing enough to attract tourists and the religious faithful to Kibeho.

You can see more of my Kibeho photos here.

A paper prayer petition lies folded at the foot of this statue of the Virgin Mary in the Apparitions Chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. The chapel is where the three young visionaries slept when the building was a dorm. The Mary statue is where Alphonsine Mumureke's bed was; Alphonsine was the first visionary, back on November 28, 1981. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

A paper prayer petition lies folded at the foot of this statue of the Virgin Mary in the Apparitions Chapel at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. The chapel is where the three young visionaries slept when the building was a dorm. The Mary statue is where Alphonsine Mumureke’s bed was; Alphonsine was the first visionary, back on November 28, 1981. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

 

Pilgrims from Kigali pray the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. The Virgin Mary appeared here in 1981to three young women. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Pilgrims from Kigali pray the rosary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kibeho, Rwanda. © Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Visiting Changdeokkung in Seoul

Changdeokkung: it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the last living quarters for the Joseon Dynasty royal family and my favorite palace in South Korea.

_MG_2555F_840px_lepNew meets old. You can rent hanbok, traditional Korean clothing, near the palace and then run around the grounds taking selfies.

_MG_2570F_840px_lepChangdeokkung was built in the early 15th century, but many buildings were damaged during Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910-1945.

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KingThrone_Changdeokkung_LauraElizabethPohlThis folding screen of five mountain peaks, a sun and a moon — called Irworobongdo — always sat behind kings of the Joseon Dynasty.

Visiting Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa

Cape Agulhas by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Among the many beautiful places you can visit in South Africa, Cape Agulhas isn’t the most exciting. There are no Big Five animals to observe or breathtaking mountains to climb up. What you get for coming here is a fantastic view of two oceans, and bragging rights. “I visited the southernmost point of Africa!” you can tell your friends.

Before visiting South Africa a few years ago, I thought the Cape of Good Hope was the tip of the continent. It turns out that a lot of people think that, maybe because it’s the point where ships traveling from Europe to Asia turn east. Or maybe it’s because the Cape of Good Hope is a quick drive from Cape Town (Cape Agulhas is a 2.5-hour drive from the Mother City).

In any case, Cape Agulhas is worth a visit, but only for a day trip. Activities are limited to walking along the shore, going up the lighthouse (if you’re OK with climbing steep ladders), visiting the lighthouse museum, and looking at a shipwreck. This last one is quite interesting. Much of South Africa’s coast is a ship graveyard and this wreck, the Meisho Maru 38, is one of the few you can see without diving. Everyone aboard survived the accident.

If you do visit Cape Agulhas, my pro tips are 1) bring your own lunch so you can picnic while sitting on the rocks and watching the waves crash and 2) bring a light jacket. It can get quite windy.

Cape Agulhas by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

View from Lighthouse at Cape Agulhas by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Shipwreck at Cape Agulhas by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

 

Photographing when you’re not sure what you’re seeing

Namibia_LakeOanob_LauraElizabethPohl
My husband and I recently went camping in the desert in Namibia. Every night we saw these two bright, beautiful stars near each other.

Me: I think it’s the International Space Station.
Husband: But it’s not moving.
Me: I think it’s moving.
Husband: It’s not.
Me: You’re right.
Husband: It kind of looks like the pole star, but we’re too far south. I don’t think it’s a planet. Planets should flash multicolors.
Me: The sky just looks so different in the Southern Hemisphere.
Husband: The only thing I know down here is the Southern Cross.

I often think my husband should know a lot about night skies because he served in the U.S. Navy. But he took only one class in celestial navigation, which apparently isn’t enough to learn everything about stars and planets.

Anyway, I shot several long-exposure photographs, including the one above. It was so gorgeous. I figured one day I would learn about those two bright objects.

Well, today was the day. While browsing through the news, I found out we were admiring Venus and Jupiter. Thank you, New York Times summer of science!

Gallipoli and Anzac Day

Gallipoli by Laura Elizabeth Pohl
Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Gallipoli Campaign in what was then the Ottoman Empire, now Turkey. Gallipoli was a huge World War I battle between the Allied Powers and the Ottomans, which resulted in one of the Ottoman’s greatest WWI victories. The losing Allies forces included many troops from Australia and New Zealand, and every April 25th is commemorated as Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) Day, a huge national holiday in both countries. I had a chance to visit Gallipoli in January. Like Arlington Cemetery in the United States, I found the place to be tranquil yet infused with sadness.

Gallipoli by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Gallipoli by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Gallipoli by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Gallipoli by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Gallipoli by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Nyungwe Forest Waterfall

Nyungwe_Forest_Rwanda by Laura Elizabeth Pohl
This is one of my favorite non-work photos from last year, taken when my husband and I spent a weekend in Nyungwe Forest. We’d heard from many people about the beauty of the waterfall hike – and the gorgeous reward at the end – and finally we did it on our third visit to the national park. Completely worth it!