Sunday, April 23, 2006
My Last Day in Rwanda. (For Now) As I awoke under my netting this morning, I lie there trying to soak it all in. But of course, that’s not possible. I set my alarm early and woke before it at 5:30. I greeted Francoise, Czeiza, and Ester who were already busy at work. I walked to the front of the home and just stood there looking into the morning sky. Trying to comprehend what I have seen and learned these two weeks. It was the first time I had been alone. Just trying to take it all in. Trying to sear it into the memory of my heart so I could take it all home with me. Somehow bottling it. The dark blue rain clouds in the distance make for a stunning early morning sky. The noise from the crickets (or whatever they have) combined with the birds created my personal African symphony. How do I say good bye? How do I tear myself a way from a home that within two weeks has transitioned from “their” home to “our” home? I am thankful for all the tears of last evening, so today I can try to be happy. The children of course don’t understand what’s behind the tears, but they feel the pain. Today I want them to find happiness with Miss Donna. I brought out the strings that I use to make bracelets at my annual tea party at home with my girlfriends and their children. I began creating one for each of them. They quickly got the idea and began to pull strings of their own. With no scissors to tailor them, they each had a streamer hanging from their wrist…which they used to dance around. Marie Rose’s boney wrist so was the most challenging to make. It was so so small. As each child appeared in the main room lit by the morning sun, they quickly sized up the situation and its source and came to me to make another one. We moved to counting. A count and pose game. Fun. The big plan for the day is to take a group photo of everyone outside of the home. Staff and kids! It’s a big production as Chantal gave direction the night before for everyone to be in their finest. Chantal2 and Sieba are busy digging through the piles of new clothes and brought out a few more of the toys. The bright front end loader is presented to Paul. It eventually becomes his personal distraction. Thank you to the person who provided it. Everyone is getting busy transitioning to a “very smart” look as Sieba would say. More clothes are sorted through. So much to choose from. The staff gets aprons. Crisp and white. Dear Marie Rose, the sweet girl who has been starved. There are no underpants small enough to stay up on her body. So she wears a pair of tight legging shorts, under her new dress. A new dress, think of it. She wore her worldly possessions into the home. A dress with shorts underneath, a pair of pink tattered shoes and a light nylon jacket. Her dad had a small paper bag with him, but it was simply filled with a bit of medicine. That’s it. 4 years old and you can where all that your worldly possessions on your back. When she is dressed, it’s hard to see how thin she really is as her belly protrudes to such an extreme that you might even think she is ok. But when you study it, you realized it is VERY extreme. It looks like she is pregnant. To touch it is to touch a rock. Solid, no give. Not like children’s bellies are supposed to. I got a horrific look at it yesterday as they were dressing her. As she stood in the bedroom naked, you could see the bones of her rib cage sticking through her chest. Each clearly defined. The same went for her back. Then the boney arms and boney legs. Each a stark contrast to the protruding belly. My instincts were to reach for my camera to capture the image so it could be seared into the minds of people from whom I want to share the story about the needs. And to show the before and after sequence of living in the home. But preserving her dignity seemed like a higher priority. So I just stood in the doorway and tried to take it all in. Her body is such a contrast to her spirit which is bright and full of life. She quickly got acclimated to the new surrounding and began to chat with the other kids. She even told stories and gave direction. None of which I understood, but the rest did. She loves to dance and do summersaults. She even sings a little “umph umph” songs as she does her little jig. The spirit of a child. Rarely broken. The games continue with Miss Donna. As always, I sit on the floor to be near to them. They all begin to pile on my lap, each pushing for a snuggle spot close to me. Doughlanay does her usual bit. She walks up to me…gets about a foot away and turns around to back into her favorite spot. It’s the spot she’s had since the moment I met her. Closest to me heart. Wonderful new Giggles fill New Hope Home. It’s as it should be. The group of children is intent on getting Paul to smile today. It’s as if they instinctively know that “their brother” has not yet assimilated. As usual, Fabiola takes that lead. She has the most amazing heart. The others follow suit. The do their best to snap, clap, make cute sounds and move his truck back and forth before him. But no response. At least the tears have long since dried up. The presence of his birth sister appears to be no source of comfort. He is lost and alone. Eventually we move to the tried and true game of tickling. I start with the other kids. At first he just blankly stares at the activity. But then he seems to pay attention to the obvious fun of the girls. Their giggles are infectious. Each cuter than the next. He tries not to really care about the fun happening around him. The sounds are too much for him. He cracks a smile. I take that as my cue to move in him. Success! A small up turned corner of his mouth. Then a bit more. Then a full fledged smile. Ahh, how different a child looks when tears turn to joy. We’ve come such a long way in less than 12 hours. Praise God. We eventually even get to the best part of tickling….the fingers moving in, but not touching the child…then out…then in…each time a giggle comes without the fingers actually touching their sweet soft skin. Then a full fledge tickle fest. It’s all good. Our new game of posing 123 is a hit. I start with my right foot forward. “One”….then move to the left foot “Two” then on one foot “Three”. Each of them following along to 10. Fabiola is sooooooooooo smart, she perfectly mirrors every part of my movement as they become more complex. What a joy this oldest sister is. The rain (en-voo-ra) now ended; Sieba and I take the walk I’ve wanted to do all week. A simple 45 min walk from the home up a back street, to the market and home. One loop on the muddy road. I want to take a video of the experience for others to see…although it is sure to be jittery from the movement; at least a “moving” picture can be created vs. sharing one of my 1000 still photos. We are like the pied piper. People just following us to see what the moozoomgo was up to. The group grows. As we pass people on the street, I turn to say “moo la hoo”…hello. They are delighted and ask how I am. I try my best to say “very good”…”me kneeza.” They laugh and either continue on their journey or decide to turn around and follow our merry little group. I stop at various homes to take photos. Small hole-in-the-wall shops etc. 99% of the people are happy to let me capture the moment. Video in my left hand. Still in my right. They are rewarded a hundred fold (in their minsd) by me showing them their image on my screen. Most give me the universal thumbs up. It’s a universal show and tell that works with young and old alike. Many pose again after they have seen their photo to get is just right. I am more than happy to oblige. Our journey continues. Everyone is so kind to me. I laugh at the thought that there are people in America who are concerned for my safety. I have been surrounded hordes of people and never once did I feel unsafe. Many hands reached out for money, but when told “oi ya” (no)…that is enough to satisfy them and they simply want to study the white woman. Finally we arrive at the market we walked though last week at sunset on our way to church. We have driven by it at least a couple of times a day and I was eager to get in. Yes Max, just like the Amazing Race. I could have stayed there for hours and hours. Rwanda is a photographer’s delight. I think about what it would look like from the lens of Erika and Jeff. The people. The colors. The kindness could keep me intrigued for hours on end. We approach a woman with a huge bucket of beans on her head. Sieba asked her permission for me to try it on. Try as I might (and I tried really hard) to balance it on the top of my heard it was nearly impossible. It sat there just fine with one hand holding it. But when I would try to release the other hand. It would immediately wobble. I tried and tried. Eventually I was able to release a hand for maybe 5 seconds max. I can’t imagine walking with it. I knew it would be hard, but certainly not that hard. The crowds pressed in to see my game. They loved it. They would ooh and ahh as I tried to release my hand. Big cheers when I accomplished it. It reminded me of something Dad would have done. We thanked her and moved on. Fruit. Vegetables. People everywhere. Stuff on the ground. Stuff on heads. Stuff on blankets. A sea of people all trying to make a living. We spotted a stunningly beautiful woman with an open basket on her head. Imagine a brown large plate-like basket with slightly turned up edges. It is what most people use so I wanted to give it a whirl. Sieba asked again and she was a quick yes. Her basket contained a huge amount of fruit. She stood no taller than my shoulder. She gave me a small pad of fabric that she placed between her head and the basket for comfort and I would suppose to help with balance a bit. Most people seem to use this technique. She lifted the basket to my head. I wanted to collapse under its weight. Seriously,I could barely stand it. I wish I could accurately capture the weight and difficulty in words. I tried to balance it. In my effort I nearly spilled the whole darn thing. Eventually I got about 1 second of hands free, but I didn’t want to risk my luck and her precious income source. She gladly posed for a picture. I made the universal “strong “muscle arm show for the crowd and then pointed to her. The crowd greatly appreciated my understanding of their hard work. I think about the things that I have seen on peoples heads: pineapples, bananas, doors, sewing machines…such strength and sense of balance. And most are walking up bumpy roads or hills, perhaps something in one hand and a child on their back. It was time to head back home for the group shot and my goodbye. It was thrilling to actually walk the road, but it was bittersweet as I knew when we got home we would be in overdrive trying to get the group shot, say good bye and get to the airport for the long lonely journey home. We stopped a few more times to chat with the people, but I didn’t what to stress out Chantal prior to my departure. It was really important to her to have some nice photos of the who gang. We walked into the house muddy and enthused. “Miss Donna…you’ll never guess what happened” is how Chantal greeted me. “What?” was my reply. I feared something was really wrong. She looked at me and said “we have two more children coming this afternoon…now the home is full.” She seemed partly overwhelmed and stunned. I had been there for 2 weeks. In the past 2 days we would have added 5 children. We didn’t know much about the two children other than a precious 2 week old baby girl who was found in the bushes and a young boy. The infant was brought to the police station and the mayor’s office phoned if Chantal would take her in. My immediate reaction was to reschedule my flight home. If ever they needed another set of hands it was now. All of us had been kept busy, especially this past week and now there were two more kids in the mix. But alas, this is the life that these amazing people will lead day in and day out, for many years to come. My hands are best served getting back to the states and telling their stories. I took my quick African bath and dressed for the 36 hour travel home. The home was buzzing with life and energy. Each trying to look their finest. Eventually we got everyone to the found of the home. Fabiola took charge of the kids to get them lined up. Everyone looked smashing. Smile. Smile. Smile. The lighting was kinda weird so I suggested we go in and take on in the main room. More smiles. I asked if I could grab individual shots with each child on my lap for my memory book. Then all of them with Miss Donna. Chantal did a great job taking the shots. I steadied myself for the goodbyes. I started to hold each child with tears in my eyes when Chantal looked at me and said “Miss Donna, what you are doing?” “Saying goodbye” was my obvious response. “Oh Miss Donna, you can do that later, we are all coming to the airport with you!” I could hardly believe it. Mbanda had driven home from the office to provide a second vehicle. How generous can people be? Everyone piled into the two SUV’s and off we went. It’s a quick drive (about 15 mins) to the airport so we were there in a flash. The kids looked so darn adorable all dressed up and parading up the steps to the front door. Chantal went inside to get a pass so she could help get me through security. It was finally time for goodbye. How could my heart fall so fully in love with people I had never met until two weeks ago? But it’s true. I am completely in love with all of them…the Mbanda family, Sieba, Chantal, the staff, and of course…the kids. I held each child in my arms and just squeezed. Of course none of them understood what was happening, but I held them just the same. Then Sieba. Then Chantal2. So much was said without saying a word. The eyes told it all. I had practiced being able to say “Miss Donna will cry big tears on Friday” in their language…but the sadness was beyond tears. Have you ever experienced such a feeling? But it was time. I had no choice if I was going to get back to America. I hug and a kiss for Mbanda and Chantal and I were off. After clearing security and getting my bags checked there was nothing more she could do it was time that we said goodbye. She looked at me and said “We love you Miss Donna”. I replied the same. We hugged three more times and had to let go. I began the slow climb up the stairs to wait in secure area. It seemed like a whirlwind and slow motion all at the same time. I sat in the chair and began to journal again. I looked onto the runway and just stared. Had I really just experienced all of this is two weeks? I can never remember experiencing such growth in such a short period of time. Eventually we boarded and headed to Nairobi. I used the 6 hour layover there to begin inputting more blog info. Then off to Amsterdam. A 10 hour layover quickly disappeared as I worked endless to finish up the blog. I caught Erika online just before she turned in for bed at 11 pm. Suddenly with live communication, I was eager to get home. I was sorta thankful for the long layover as I know I needed time to begin to process life in America again. To figure answers to simple questions like “how was your trip?” How can I even begin to answer that question? It’s not a simple answer. I need more time. A special treat for my last leg of the journey home. The plane was packed so they bumped me up to business class. Such a luxury for the end of a long journey. I didn’t really sleep. I didn’t really journal. I didn’t watch any shows. I think I just stared into a vast blank space and tried to hold onto the peace that I had found in Rwanda. I did speak with a woman who has adopted children from various places in the world and she wants to stay in touch as I develop my program to help these kids. As the plane touched down in Minneapolis, I called Mom to tell her I had landed. Then Erika. Recognizing my number, she answered the phone “is it you?” “is it really you?” “Yes it is…moolahoo” I replied. “Are you forever changed? she gentlely asked. “Yes” was my answer. “I knew you would be.” Then we both cried. “I’m here for you, whenever you want to talk.” I gathered my luggage and met Mom, Dad and my cousin Reto from Switzerland who had flown in about 20 mins ahead of me. Dad cried when he say me. Mom held me a long time. We went to my home and enjoyed a great spaghetti dinner and salad. Per my request. As we were getting ready I snuck down to Erika’s home for a quick hello. The doodle came running…”Auntie Donna, Auntie Donna…you’re home!”. Even the Pentster gave me a hug. Erika and I hugged and cried. Of all the people in my life. Erika seemed to know how this trip would affect my heart. Pat knew it was the beginning of a life calling and Denise just said “do it.” I especially thank the three of you for understanding a piece of me. So where do I go from here? I know that I want to tell this story. To create awareness for the absurdity of genocide. To ask for prayers. And, for those who are able to support their tax deductible ministry financially. I am now in search of the following: 50 people who want to donate $50/month to help with basic care of the kids. $15,000 to build a garden to feed the children and excess food will be sold as an income stream to keep the $50/month commitment above possible. More cows at $2000/each. The good cows. The ones that will produce 15 litres of milk a day. Job one is to feed the kids, who currently get only ½ day. Then to sell the rest. Money to build a playground. Money to build the 3rd and 4th homes. That’s more story for now. I am working on getting my photos put together and published into an i-photo book. Then I wan to start booking speaking engagements. Jeanne is working on PR so we can more quickly generate awareness. If you would like to help in anyway, please contact me at email@example.com Most especially, please keep the people of New Hope Homes in your prayers. Donna
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Back to Paul. Paul is the son of the woman dying of Aids. I went to his bed and he reached out to me as we had spent a bit of time together that day. "Mam Mam" were his words his words. I gently sat down on the edge of his bed to pick him up and cuddle him. Slowly his wails moved to tears, then to sobs, then sniffles. Then a big hug around my neck. Even now I cry just thinking about it. I gently leaned back with him in my arms and now on my chest as our head lowered to the bottom of the bunk bed. "Ahh" was his sigh. Eventually asleep. When I slowly moved to put him down, his eyes opened and he reached out to me "mam". "Shhh, boss. boss." "It's ok. it's ok" was my reply. Ok, how could it ever really be ok for him again with his mother? But he trusted my words for them moment, He closed his eyes believing I still be there if he opened them again. He tested it out a few times. Shutting his eyes and the opening them to just be sure. After a long time I slowly got up. He immediately woke up and began to scream, but it was even louder this time. We rocked back and forth as he reached even tighter around my neck to ensure I wasn't going to leave. Then just as his head had fallen asleep and finally had peace....something inside him stirred him awake. I hadn’t moved a muscle, but something is his tiny body knew it just wasn’t ok. He woke himself up from a dead sleep and he pieced again. I wondered where his dying mother was at that moment and if she could feel his pain too. Was she crying just as loud in the silence of her darkness. Thankfully his agony barely stirred the other children sleeping in the room on their sweet new sheets, dreaming happy dreams. I knew eventually he too would share in their peace. Chantal2 came in and sat across from me in the darkness as we both shared one heart for this dear dear boy. With his sleep so dramatically disrupted, my arms and rocking motion were no longer enough to satisfy his broken and scared heart so I walked him back and forth in the darkness of the tiny bedroom filled with room for 2 bunk beds and nothing more. His wails slowed a bit, but not anywhere near calm. Eventually Chantal reached out to me to take him from my arms despite his yearning to stay there. He turned from her shoulder to try to get back to mine desperately reaching out for me. Her decision was the right one, for I won't be here tomorrow night. She knew his bonding needed to be with an on-going "auntie" which would not be me. Without a word, we both knew it was best. I gently placed him in her arms, he twisted and turned to come back to me. She held him tightly in her arms and walked him outside in the moonlight to settle his soul. I'm not sure how long he cried. I went in to check on him this morning. I peeked in at 5:30 to find Francoise curled up with him at the edge of his bed. He was sitting up, just hanging out studying her face. When I peaked 30 minutes later he was snuggled up beside her. After the party last night, I stepped outside to take to say goodnight to some of the staff. I thought they were just hanging out to clean up. But, much to my surprise, they were actually settling in for the night. How could I have missed this important understanding over the course of my 2 weeks? They actually sleep in the and around the small building that adjoins the home. The 2 women sleep on one twin mattress. No sheets, no blankets that I saw. Perhaps they were tucked in a bag. They have a very small room with a door. The wonderful Cyizg sleeps a similar bed outside. They were laughing and carrying on, having great fun. Since both women were new to the home as of the past 2 days, it was great to see them bonding. Yes, I had heard their laugher late at night and just as the sun came up each morning. But I always assumed they went home each night. While this may sound like a horrible environment, based on the standards of the country, they were well provided for and knew it. I have grown accustomed to seeing everyone in the same clothes each day. It really doesn’t matter. It makes me reflect on the insanity of all the options we rotate though on in a regular week or two in the states. Paul’s sister Marie Rose was still pretty distant with everyone, but she was beginning to warm up. Rose Marie struggled to climb to the top bunk at her 1st nap that afternoon, but she had it mastered and was all smiles when it came time for a full nights rest. If the people did not feed her, I can only imagine what her sleeping accommodations were. Along with Paul, these 2 other beautiful additions to the home quickly understand the meaning of love. more to follow...but I need to catch a plane back to the states. thank you for sharing this journey with me.
4.21.06 1:13pm. Sitting in the Kigali airport. Awaiting a flight to Nairobi. Last night we had the celebration of all celebrations. A fest fit for a king...but instead it was in my honor. The food was prepared as it is each day, over a portable steel stove-like- object...it features 3 holes for cooking. The heat is supplied by charcoal. Everything takes so much work. Chantal2, Sieba and Czeiza (sounds like Cheese-ah) worked in a frenzy to get it all prepared in time for the guests. We had a total of 14 adults including both Joseph's, Johnson, friends of Chantals etc. The group sang songs of praise as the food was being prepared. Sweet baby Paul was beginning to warm up to the environment a bit...ever so slowly. He rotated between fascination with the children, and cries for his Ma Ma. Francoise had comforted him a bit by caring him around her back in the traditional Rwandan style that surely he was accustomed to with his mom. She is of similar stature, so I can only assume he felt a bit more at ease. It is unlikely that Jackie would have done this so again, we were thankful for Francoise. She managed this while working hard on preparations for the party! When dinner was proudly presented they insisted that I should be first in line. The room was filled with love. A beautiful cake came out after dinner that said "thank you miss donna, we love you". What followed was something I could never have imagined. Chantal began with a little speech to the group that Mbanda translated for me. She started by telling the group about receiving an email from America that a woman wanted to come to Rwanda to help. Especially in the area of children. "She thought to herself..what will she do, we are so new here, we are just getting started, we aren't ready for people to come. She worried about his woman's expectations. But when she got a reply email that said the woman would do ANYTHING to help she knew that it would be ok and her heart settled down". Then when this "woman offered to stay at the home she got really concerned...no one speaks English, the accommodations are sparse and how will everyone get along. She had hoped in heart that this woman would want to stay at a hotel to be comfortable. But within a day of meeting "miss diana/donna" they all knew it would work. She went on and on about Miss Donna's contributions to the children, the workers, and all of them. I was sobbing like Paul. She thanked everyone who helped bring the supplies. She told the story to the room about the bags Miss Donna brought..."surely she packed all of America in them". She retold the story of looking at everything and how the adults were even more excited than the children. They were discussing each outfit and who would wear what in the days to come. Then Chantal and Sieba told similar stories...one by one. How much Miss Donna had shown them about God's love to come all the way to Rwanda to help them. It was so overwhelming as in my heart I knew all the gifts they had given me. Surely my contributions in returned paled compared to theirs. I then composed myself to try my best to express what this experience has meant to me. I started with "God is good. All the time". Then I decided to read my journal entry from yesterday when we received the 3 children. Chantal stood at my side holding a candle so I could see the words as the power had gone out about 2 hours prior. The kids in the hallway eating their dinner on the floor with one candle to light their way. The adults in the next room with 4 small candles for us. Mbanda translated for me. Everyone cried and blew their noses as I read from the entry. I then gave everyone a card with a personal note that Mbanda translated. Most of the guests then left. We called the complete staff together so I could give them a small token of my appreciation. Cash and for the 3 with phones...a phone card to recharge their cell. They were very grateful. Then I asked Chantal2 to come forward. Chantal translated for me. I thanked her for her story of a few nights ago when she talked about how her prayers had led her to caring for orphans as she too has always felt like one. How she knew the work would be hard, but it is what she is called to do through prayer. And how prayer had helped her forgive White people. I told her about how much I respected her faith and how she has taught me so much. I then reached down and took off a ring that I have worn for many years and presented it to her. It says PRAY HARD. Hugs and kisses followed. Emotionally spent, I was glad our party had come to an end. But wait, Johnson got up to speak. He surprised me by looking me straight in the eyes with Mbanda translating. His eyes locked on mine and never lost focus. It was very powerful. He said that only God knows what is in someone’s heart. But what he could see of mine from the outside looking in it was surely of God. He talked about living with people from all different cultures with many experiences and never before had he seen God's love so clearly as he did in me. How does someone respond to such a thing? It’s too powerful for words. I write these things, not to be self congratulatory...but to simply continue to share my experience. Hugs and kisses and then good night. I didn’t think I had one more ounce of energy in me. Then sweet Paul began to cry. “Mam Mam”. A universal cry understood in any language.
Thursday 4:20 pm. I don't know how to put into words this day. How do you describe what it feels like to add THREE new children to this home in one day? How do you put into words what it feels like to greet a mother who is dying of Aids who brings you her only two children to children to the home knowing this is likely to be the last time she sees them? To see the love in her eyes for them, yet knowing inside that there is no way she can any physically able to care for them? How do you photograph her 1.6 year old son Paul sitting securely in her lap knowing this photo will be the last he has of her. How do you ask her to smile for the photo when you can barely see through your own tears in the lens to find her face and make it a good picture? How then do you describe what it feels like to seat her 3 year old daughter Rose Marie on her lap to take another? How can you even imagine asking her to smile so the photo is a special one? How can anyone find words to express what this feels like? How do you describe what it feels like when you Chantal hands Pauls mother a diaper and all the necessary things to change him into new fresh clothes? The surprise when our eyes see that she has used a t-shirt bunched up into some underwear to serve as a diaper. She had done the best she could. How then do you describe greeting a military father and his daughter. His wife died in November and he left his sweet Marie Rose with people who said they would care for her. He sent them the bulk of the money he earned in the military so she would not be a financial burden on them. When he returned home on leave he found her nearly bone. How do you describe listening to his translated story of horror? How do you describe the gut wrenching agony when she tells stories to the other kids about the value of beans. She tells them about potatoes and beans from the garden so she could eat. Feeding herself since no one else was. It’s just a casual conversation with the other kids like kids in America might talk about trading cards. Just a conversation. But to the adults in the room, it was overwhelming. How does it feel upon when the dad sits her on his lap for a photo, tells her he is leaving her hear and she says "no!" Then photo time. Through the lens, the faces look like those in the old days where people stood expressionless. How do you look into his eyes as he drives away leaving Marie Rose in New Hope's care. Marie Rose, the sweet girl who has already found a happy face with her new brothers and sisters. Of all the homes in all the country, she has been blessed to find this one. How do you describe what it feels like to walk both parents to the car of a friend who who will return them to what will be left of their lives. I walk with the Aid mother and ask Chantal to tell her she is a wonderful mother. She looks at me expressionless. I can only imagine what it feels like to have your heart completely ripped out of you and left behind. There was nothing put pain left in her eyes. Meanwhile her son Paul WAILS for her. It is an endless piercing cry that will never now be "fully" satisfied. His sister Rose Marie (yes, we received a Marie Rose and Rose Marie today) stands dazed by the events. Shy and very unsure. Imagine the blessings these children will receive as a result of being in this amazing environment where they will get all their needs met. Physical, educational, medically and of course spiritually. It's heaven on earth in Rwanda. Then how to do you find words to describe what it feels like to immediately drive the children to a family friend to have them immediately tested for HIV/AIDS. This Doctor is committed to helping Chantal with her ministry. How do you find words to express the horror on Chantal's face when weighing Marie Rose. At 4 years old, she weighs only 22 lbs. The same weight at the one year old. How to find words to describe what it feels like to see Chantal gently put her down and step backwards into the Dr's office and burst into tears for the way this sweet girl has been abused. Then drawing blood. I often hear my friends talk about how hard it is to take their babies to the Doctor for shots and other painful procedures when they are too young to understand. Most recently I remember Patty sharing how she cried when CJ got his shots. And so goes the universal cry of motherhood. But how to you tell children that just met you that this is ok. “Boss. Boss.” which is ok in their language. It's not ok when it takes 4 people to hold Marie Rose long enough to get some blood from her boney frame. Imagine you are one of these children…you have been left with these people and the firs thing they do it to take you to a place that hurts. Frightening doesn’t even come close to describing what they are probably feeling. These sweet tender children each wail to think that they might be with people who are going to now cause them pain vs the love surely awaits them. How do you find words to describe such a day when you wait in the office for the results? Will their lives be bright or cut short? How do you find words to speak of the unspeakable joy when the news is delivered that all 3, while sick, are free of the deadly disease. There are no words. In any language. Just a deep sense of respect, awe and the marvels of seeing God's love made manifest in the amazing people of New Hope Home. It is humbling beyond words. My life and heart will never be the same.
Gorilla's continued. We approached the stone wall. Peering over we find a couple of gorillas. Right there. Right in front of us. Eventually they move on and so we do. The guides pull down a few stones from the wall, we all carefully climb through and the adventure begins. One blissful hour of adventure. At the first slight clearing the gorillas decide to chill for a moment and continue to eat. We stand there. Just watching. Taking our guides directions very seriously. We are within 5 feet of several of them. One is in a tree above our heads. They seem to not mind us. Humans are allowed to be around them for only 1 hour per day. We continue on. It's so hard not to point at one doing a particular thing. Occasionally one will come emerge and walk literally right by us. The gorilla's nose are their fingerprints so the guide knows them each by name. We are allowed to whisper. It’s hard to whisper when you want to yell from the top of your lungs “this is soooooooooooo cool!!!!!” Occasionally we are retreat to retreat. Quickly. Then still. No flashes are allowed for it frightens then. A sweet woman has to ask me each time if her flash is on or off as every time she closes the lens it re-sets to an auto-on flash position. We each try to get in various positions for photos that position the gorillas behind each of us to record our accomplishment. Slowly steadily. The guide tells us how to move, wear to sit and when to immediately get up…but always slowly. I manage to get great individual shots of everyone. Mbanda struggles with my camera. But I "think" we eventually got one. An unexpected benefit of my trip….n early Christmas card photo, could this trip just get any better! I looked ragged in the picture, but who cares, some of these gorillas weigh over 700 pounds, and I’m in the picture with them. This is amazing. The guide grunts and whines to mimetic their sounds. I can only imagine Dian Fossey’s experiences during her years of living among their midsts. The guide frequently couches us “together, together, together”. We are moving like smashed sardines and loving it. Since I was often the person right after the guide I was the one to advance when he slowly motioned us to come forward. One time he told me to come when outta no where a gorilla immerged in my path “back, back, back” was the command. All movements are need to be slow but it’s hard to do that when there is a clear urgency in his voice. I had a few challenges working my way through the bush. A camera in one hand and a sock on the other made climbing in thick bush difficult without taking a nose dive. Those with gloves could easily steady themselves with a branch. Thanks to the guide and his quick hand, I never completed any of the tumbles that were initiated. He had briefed us that at times the babies will come right up to the humans and touch or brush them. We had no such encounters…half of was anxious to experience it. We did get to witness two babies goofing around and wrestling. So cute. Today was a day that I missed mom and dad, for surely this day would have been a day that seems like our traditional trips. Mom would have been a bit frightened but she surely would have done it. Dad would have wanted to go back for more. When I left America I had wondered if I would feel lonely traveling half way around the world alone….as I am usually with family or friends when I travel. I surprised myself by being so focused on the experiences that filled each day that I with the exception of thinking about the pitch team; I never had time to think about life outside of this special country. Except today. Today Mom and Dad would have made this experience even more rich. “They’ll have to come next time” was Chantal’s vote. After an hour in among them we head back for the clearing. I quickly realized that if our guide had left us I would have had no idea of how to find our way out. I supposed down hill would have been a start…but a long way. Once again I was thankful he was with us. The mountains are green and lush. The air is so fresh. Chantal comments on it frequently as it is such a contrast to the dirt and dry air of the city. The area is surrounded by volcanoes so the soil is rich for plentiful harvest. They can produce 3 potato crops per year. As we head back down the mountain with our sticks I stop to photograph the green, the children running to check us out etc. As the group gathers to receive their official paperwork for having completed the trek, I wander off to meet children and some of the teenagers hanging out. They are eager to see their photo in the screen. Hanging with the locals is much more fun for me than celebrating with others. Muddy, dirty and amazed. Our adventure comes to an end. Mbanda offers to drive an hour to the biggest lake in the country for lunch. I thank him for his generous offer but insist that I came to help and I miss the children. It’s time to go home. These two are so generous. Mbanda took a day off work, went through a tank of gas to get us there and now they are offering to drive over two hours (hour each way) to show me the magnificent Lake Kivu. It made me pause to think if I would have made a similar offer in the states? So much to learn from these people. The owner of the hotel takes us to see the new Jack Hanna is building. (Yes, Jack is the guy with the longest-running and most-watched syndicated wildlife show in the world).. We tour and take pics. I head out to chat with the workers who are planting grass. Blade by blade again. They laugh at my sentence structure and words...but hey, at least I am trying. My cough continues to get worse. I consider getting to the internet to ask Linda to set up an appointment for my return. This sill cough has now be with me for nearly 3 months. An urgent care visit a month does not seem to be helping. I had hoped the fresh air of the mountains might have some healing effect. I was thankful that God heard my prayers not to give me a serious coughing fit among the gorillas. Chantal and I nap as Mbanda shepards us back to Kigali. Back in town, we swing by the bookstore to see if they have a book that Mbanda wrote. Hmm, another layer...he is an author too? They just casually mention it. But the small store is out of them. They do however have 55 notebooks and crayons so we are able to get them for Compassion kids. Thank God for Chantal for so many reasons. But on this occasion, I am thankful that she turns into my personal banker. No one takes credit cards here. Dollars are not usually welcome. I give her dollars and she gives me a great exchange rate. Previously we have discussed the wide range of exchange rates available so she knows what is best. We stopped by the new home construction. Some windows went into today. It was exciting for them. Mbanda...I have since learned his first name is Laurent aka Larry with the last name Mbanda noticed I was tired. With no sleep, the incredible gorilla trek and an endless cough, he was right. I was so excited to see the children. They came running to greet us as it was the first time I had not slept there. Sabrina hugged me and was finally comfortable with me. She was sporting a new hairdo and it was a magnificent work of art! Sassy braids all over her head. She was precious beyond words. We all played until bedtime. I felt like I was home. Jackie had quit yesterday saying the work was too hard. She worked nonstop from 6 am until 11ish. Endless cooking, cleaning etc. She had asked for help but they were trying to keep the budget reasonable. I was sad that she was gone, but such are the challenges of a ‘start-up’ operation. The new worker’s name is Francioise. She is very sweet. She has a nice way about her. Immediately I could see the difference. Franciose has a heart eager to be with the children and to help. Chantal tells of how most workers feel like they belong outside. Rarely do they enter the home unless working. Fracoise feels very much at home inside. The other new hire was a no-show today. We learn there are two more children coming from SOS. Plus the two we already know about who are processing paperwork and this home is now full. Chantal2 and I hug to see each other. I am greeted with freshly washed linens. I thank God that for the first time in my life I am actually traveled with my own pillow...it has served me well on planes and here. Although I am quite honored to be the only one in the home with a pillow that was provided by them. 10:51pm ...everyone is now quiet. "Diana" as they often call me....Donna is hard to pronounce needs an African bath. We have an early morning to meet the 2 children. Johnson stops by to say hello. He helped with a bit of translation questions for Chantal2 and me. Life is sweet.
4.19.06 Wednesday Written from my bedroom at New Hope! Ah, it's good to be home. Bonus the lights are on! They were off for quite a bit earlier tonight, but the headlamp is in position ready to get to work at the flick of a switch. What great fun we’ve had today. A vacation day! Time to play! For some bizarre reason I didn't sleep more than 20 minutes all night. Initially I was thinking about the CM pitch team. But then my body just acted like it was wide awake on caffeine. Perhaps it was the red wine I had for dinner… a pretty good merlot from France. I just laid there in my clean bed after taking a hot shower...well not quite a shower as the overhead spiket didn’t work. But it was hot water. They claim 15 litres...but I swear there were only 5. The wake up “knock” on the door came at 5:45am. (Didn’t really matter since I was wide awake). Continental breakfast at 6. In car at 6:30 hoping the impassible road would now be ok, which it was. Breakfast featured about 20 people heading out on various treks. Dian Fossey area, Mountain gorillas, etc. We bounced our way down the road to the meeting site. Our guide was Oliver. Two years out of school. Secondary I think. We headed out to find the oldest and largest set of gorillas, featuring 2 silver backs. Mbanda mentioned that he was a Silver TOP, therefore it would be ok. (He cracks me up…I think Dad and Mbanda were born with the same humor gene. Mbanda can go from serious strategic talk to a punch line that came from outta nowhere. Gotta love him.) Here is a bit of info about the Trek from various info sites on line. Researchers and conservationists believe there are more than 700 mountain gorillas remaining in the World today. About 380 live in Rwanda and across the frontier border in Congo. The remaining mountain gorillas are separated by farmland and live in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. There are some scientists who believe this population represents a different subspecies. The Mountain Gorillas inhabit some of the most spectacular scenery on earth, high on the flanks of the Virunga Volcanoes. The animals were made famous by the movie “Gorillas in the Mist” about Dian Fossey, who studied them in northeastern Rwanda in the 1960s and documented her work in a book. It lies on the Rwandan side of a mountain range that straddles the borders of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda. Adjacent parks in Congo and Uganda are both known as Virunga National Park. The three parks are home to the world’s entire mountain gorilla population. there is no doubt a face-to-face encounter with these gentle creatures is the most sensational wildlife experience of them all. Gorilla trekking is tightly controlled and regulated for the safety of the visitor and importantly for the safety of the Mountain Gorillas. A maximum of 8 visitors may visit a group of habituated Gorillas on any given day, this minimizes behavioral disturbance and the risk of their exposure to human-borne diseases. Gorilla Groups: There are currently FIVE groups habituated to visitors in Rwanda. We visited the Sabinyo group. Amahoro group - 15 individuals located on the Visoke volcano Umubano group - 7 individuals located on the Visoke volcano Sabinyo group - 10 individuals located between the Sabinyo and Visoke volcanoes. Susa group - 35 individuals located high on the Karisimbi volcano (long and strenuous hike) Group 13 - 14 individuals located on the Sabinyo volcano. The trek begins from the Park Headquarters where the guides observed the Gorillas the day before. The trails may be very muddy, slippery and portions are quite steep and strenuous. Gorilla Viewing Rules: Keep a minimum of 21 feet (7 metres) from the Gorillas - this is to protect them from catching diseases. We ended up getting within 5 feet several times. Do NOT remove anything from the park e.g., flowers, fruit, porcupine quills, etc. Keep your voices down at all times. No Flash photography is allowed. Do NOT eat or drink when close to the gorillas - this is a disease risk. Do NOT touch the Gorillas - they are wild animals. The maximum time you can spend with the gorillas is ONE hour, however if the gorillas become agitated or nervous the guide will finish the visit early. If you are feeling ill, or are carrying a contagious disease, please volunteer to stay behind. An alternative visit will be arranged for you, or you will be refunded your viewing permit money. Do NOT spit in the park and go to the bathroom only as instructed by your guide. Do not leave anything in the park, if you pack it in, pack it out! Obey the local guide instructions at all times, for the safety of the Gorillas and visitors. So began our journey. Chantal kept commenting on how fresh the air is to breathe in the country. The density of the green lush surrounding made breathing a joy. Quite the contrast to the dust in the city. I took lots of photos along the way after we had driven about 30 minutes to the edge of the mountain. The climb was to 9000 feet, but it didn't take more than an hour and half..so I think we made it quite a bit of the way by car. We had two military guys with us with machine guns in case the need arouse. The primary concern is guerrillas…i.e. men not animals. The last attack was two years ago. We had 3 trekkers that went ahead of our group of 7 to find the gorillas. They go out early to find them and radioed back. When we began our climb, they were outside of the wall (a loose 4 foot wall of stone) eating, but by the time we go there they were inside. We got our final briefing ....tuck pant legs into socks, put on gloves at the nettles (leaves) are very sharp...having no gloves I brought a extra pair of socks to serve as a place holder. When we enter "stay together, stay together". No pointing. No food or water...everything but our cameras had to be left with another member of the trek team. If you cough (hint hint...me) turn away from them as humans can get them sick. I am thankful that the Abbott packers allowed me to bring my rain pants...although it was not raining (thankfully) they served as protection from the leaves...my sweat pants would have provided very limited protection
Monday continued. Bicycles serve for taxies in the country vs. motorcycles in the city. The homes are much much more sparse. Mud and straw serves as the walls for most. The turn up the final road was beyond bumpy. Thank God for an SUV. The neighbors all waved and smiled we weaved our way through the streets. Poverty is an understatement for the situation in the rural areas. But the people break a smile easily making due with the lot that life had dealt them. A perfect time for my Dad's often heard saying "there, but for the grace of God go I". Mbanda made the point United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan grew up in such a place. He pointed to the clear evidence that education will solve many of the world’s issues. I pondered the thought as we continued our slow, steady and forward moment through a land too forgotten. Just short of our destination, we had to back upon a road to let a larger truck go through. We met a private safari vehicle who told us to turn back as the road ahead was not passable. He led us down an alternate route, one that I don’t think we could have found on our own. Another travel angel. At the end of the journey was a lovely hotel. Hot water, shower...my first in 1.5 weeks...I can hardly wait. Cocktails and dinner was filled with lots of conversation about The Home. I wanted to truly understand the needs. It’s important for you to understand that at no time did they drive any of these conversations. They were simply thrilled that we as a MN team had done what we had for this two week journey. I think my goal will be simple :50 people who want to donate $50/month. Plus some appeals for cows, gardens, two more homes, education etc. This all seems quite do-able to me. When we left the home today Fabiola said "goodbye"...I wish I could have you hear the accent right in writing...but it's soooo cute. “Goooood Bi.” It was the first time she connected the word to it's meaning. You go girl! Oh dear bright child. Then the two other older ones joined in. I can't imagine saying goodbye on friday. My heart aches just with the thought. At dinner we chatted with a woman who works at the US Embassy in Ghana and her friend from Dell computers. I boldly asked about their grants/foundation policies to see if we could get computers for the kids. Hmm, that wasn't too hard. Mbanda and Chantal were surprised, if not secretly delighted with my question. She is going to send me the contact info. Suddenly the woman (that’s me) who is afraid to ask for money has taken another step in faith to help these sweet children. She turned out to be a scuba diver, so we had much to talk about. I head to bed missing the children and our evening lessons. I also have a brain cell or two thinking about the CM team who has just finished rehearsing in KC getting ready for the big meeting.
Tuesday April 8th 4:18pm Gorilla Nest Hotel. The children and I played this morning. I tried to learn the song that Fabiola sings all the time. She just couldn't figure out what I couldn't get it right. I finally convinced her to do pieces of it. Then I would try to get that piece right. She finally put her hand over my mouth and sang it slow and loud. I can still only get the first sentence right. She looked at me so perplexed. But then just laughed, so we decided tickling would be more fun. Chantal, Sieba and I then went to register Fabiola for school. Thank you Lee. How exciting. Fabiola came from a home in the rural area so this will be her fist time to school here. The walk will be about 30-45 minutes each way. The school teaches in French first, English second. The assistant showed me around all the classrooms. A secondary class was in session. They called me into the classroom to say hello. The registration process took quite some time. When we finished, we headed back to New Hope Home to say "goodbye" as we head up north for a one day vacation to track the mountain gorillas!!!!!!! Mbanda has been 3 times prior. It's the first time for Chantal. I spoke with Susan at the office about the safety. She said do it if you can get in...it's a once in a lifetime experience. We thankfully were able to get us all in. They are already fully booked July-Sept this year. I haven’t said much about this in my prior entries because I didn’t want mom to spend timing worrying. She was concerned enough before I left, so this might just be too much. I wasn’t sure how Dad would react other than I know he would have wanted to be there at my side experiencing it. We had lots of errands including stopping by Compassions office to see Mbanda. We eventually got on the road by 3:30...with a noon departure goal. Rwanda time. I enjoy all the adventures, wherever we go. I am just thrilled to be here. There is so much to soak in at every situation. The road up North is terrific. Excellent paved service among the winding hills of the rural area. Quite a contrast to the busy city life to which I have become so accustomed.
monday continued. I am journaling in the main room tonight. I tried to inquire about English school tonight. The answer appears to be no. But then Johnson appeared and asked questions… then Jackie (jack kay) appeared but said no. She sat on the couch across from me and just kept staring. I thought she was just curious so I let her be, looking up with a smile occasionally. Finally she looked at me and said "my name is jackie". She is the primary cleaner in the home and also does the laundry. I don't think she had any handle on English prior to my arrival so I thought it was remarkable that she had remembered this sentence from the last lesson. I immediately put down my book and began the lesson. The children ate dinner late tonight given the guests for the birthday party so they we focused our conversational English class on dinner and getting them dressed for bed. " Baby has white shirt". "Children are eating with spoons." "Children have bowls". Man/Woman. They seem to have a thirst for sentences., so we mix up individual words and sentences. Again they asked me to do my show and tell with my expanding Kenyawranda language skills when the group gathered. They cheered me on and marveled at my success in one week. I think the words are made especially difficult as there is no root in any language that I have heard. The other problem is I am working on so many words that I often forget the basics that I started with. My little notebook is rarely gone from my side. If it is, I run to the other room to get it while they patiently wait. I sure wish we had an English/Kenyawranda dictionary. Tomorrow we are getting an early start to register Fabiola for school. Lee Baker's generous donation will pay for school and a portion of her books for one year. Supplies run about $200. It's sure to be a big day for her. I did a short video clip with her thanking Lee. Chantal decided that the rest our funds will go to start the garden. We need a total of about $10,000 to get the garden going. Our dollars will be a big help in that area. I am not sure where they are going to keep the cows yet. I know there is not space at the current home. They currently pay the guy that sold them the cows to keep them and he gets to sell the milk and keep the profits...seems like a bum deal to me. Such a week. Hope Rwanda kicks off tonight. Now I better understand the t-shirts I saw on the plane on the way down. It is a huge event to kick off 100 days of all sorts of volunteers coming to help in the country. The anniversary of the genocide is honored this entire month. The New Hope Home being open for 2.5 months. Easter. Meeting people who have chosen to really make a difference in countless lives. And the simple beauty of Doughlanay's giggles. Life is good. My timing is perfect. Thanks Norm for doing double duty and supporting this trip. A special thanks to all of the folks at CM who are at this very minute busting butt to get a big pitch out the door. I thank them for their amazing support of this trip and send them good thoughts for tomorrow afternoon.
4.17.06 8:40 pm Light ON. me! A remarkable day today. I don't even know how to put into words all the experiences that blessed this day. As usual, morning was playtime. I wasn't expecting Chantal until around 12:30, but at 9 am Eddie showed up to say goodbye to the kids before heading to Germany. He is so sweet with them. Especially the little one. The size contrast against his 6'5" frame is profound. He is a remarkable 16 year old. He surely blesses all that he meets. Painters came to do a paint a small room which will eventually serve as a supply room. The smell was the most noxious I have ever encountered. The home was filled with it. Like the kerosene, but this one gave me the dry heaves. I think it was my endless coughing for the past 2 months that was really at the root of it. We closed one door but it was only marginally helpful. I told them I was going to bathe so I could to my room and deal with my stomach. I think I was just tired. The experience of yesterday combined with the strong rain storm around 4 am left me restless and thinking of ways to help these wonderful people. They are such a gift to this country. I can't fund them, but I think I can be a vehicle for doing so. We had English class with the adults today. Chantal2 amazed herself by understanding how to count to 100! We counted every precious number from one to the magical 100. Sieba got a handle on how the numbers build...two, twelve, twenty...three, thirteen, thirty. She could manage quite nicely to 20 prior to my arrival, but got hung-up from there. We worked it all out on the floor with a big chart that I had made. It was so cool seeing the lights go on in her eyes. Chantal came by around one to pick me up so we could head to tea. She picked up Mbanda on the way. We returned to the wonderful brunch at the Novotel. We met two more remarkable couples. One is from Madison. He was on his way to senior partner with Anderson Consulting when God called him to a new life. They did some work at sea then headed to Rwanda to work for World Relief. They are simply adorable with two young children. They met at 16 and have been together ever since. The other couple left Uganda just a little bit ago due to the unrest. He is from Prior Lake, MN (I mentioned him in an earlier blog) and preached in Brooklyn Park/Center. They are doing start up churches with their 5 kids. Their lives were very inspiring. I cried when we said goodbye. It’s such an honor to meet people who really know their calling and are living it to the fullest. Their inner joy radiates so beautifully externally. We dropped off Mbanda at the office and ran a few errands. It is Debora's (pronounced deb bore ah) 1st birthday tomorrow, but we decided to celebrate tonight as some friends were coming over. In typical Rwandan time the 4 pm start time shifted to about 6:30. The group sang happy birthday and then a woman preached. A man sat next to me to translate. They talked allot about the calling of Chantal to build the Home. The wisdom. The daily challenges. And the early success. Afterward we took a group photo. It was a blast. I still don't have many photos with me in them Lindsay as no one seems to know how to take a proper photo. Thank God for a self timer tonight. Frankly I only want a couple. One with Chantal and Mbanda, one with the whole group and one with the kids. This story is not about me. It’s about them. So, just 3 photos for me would feel more than perfect. Fabiola did a show and tell before everyone left. She got her colors 100% right! It was the first time she had performed such a feat. She also got from A to M in the alphabet. The crowd of about 10 cheered her as it was the single biggest accomplishment in the world. What privileged children to now grow up in such a joyful home. Just as we thought the event was ending, Chantal2 asked people to sit for a little bit. she told a very very emotional story about her faith journey. The calling on her life to work with Orphans as she feels like she grew up as one. She knew she should work in a home like this despite the difficulty. It is such hard word. I tried to take in the emotion of her word as Mbanda translated them for me. Then she turned to me and asked for forgiveness. From me? I didn't understand. What was there to forgive? Chantal1 told me to just listen and take it in, it would be ok. Chantal2 then she told a long story about the Hutus and Tutsi's. Her belief had always been that the white man was deeply involved with the Hutus. She has hated white people with all her heart since then. She mentioned another piece of news that came later (which I didn't understand) that deepened that hatred. It was a crippling kind of hatred. Imagine how she felt when she found out that a white person from America would soon be living in the home with her. She didn't know what to make of it. How could this be happening? How could a white woman from America be coming to help? She tried to take it all in. At church yesterday, the Minister asked people to ask themselves if there was any forgiveness they were still withholding from someone. She realized that for her it was her hatred of white people. She knew she needed to ask for forgiveness for all that was in her heart. SHE APOLOGIZED TO ME FOR HER HATRED TOWARDS ALL WHITE PEOPLE. IN ESSENCE ASKING ME TO RECEIVE IT ON BEHALF OF ALL WHITE MEN AND WOMEN AROUND THE WORLD. I had no idea of all this as background upon my arrival. As you can imagine I wept again. (Notice a pattern?) I went to her and cried and hugged. Imagine the years of hatred she had built up in the 12 years since the Genocide and I was given the honor of accepting that apology. Humbled doesn’t even begin to describe it. Everyone in the room was crying or shall I say sobbing. I then asked HER forgiveness on behalf of the white people for anything WE had done to contribute to the genocide and for what we didn’t do to stop it. The room wept. Then they laughed and talk it was the French...not the Americans who were the problem. It was there way of lightening up a VERY intense experience.
Easter continued: After the service, many came up to introduce themselves. The choir invited me back next Sunday for a concert. Alas, I told them I'd be in the States. The Director was proud to show off the new choir robes - traditional Rwandan. That means a full length skirt, generally a close fitting top covered by a long piece of matching fabric (to the skirt) that gathers on one shoulder and drapes across the body. It has a lovely majesty and flow to it. Chantal wore that style to church and to several other gatherings. Flat Stanley finally emerged from hiding, so he got his photo taken with some of the kids. The camera was like a magnet. Everyone wanted in. From there we ended up at the Intercontinental Hotel for Easter Dinner. I ordered chicken, rice and orange Fanta...yum. This family has made me feel so welcome. Here I was intruding on their Easter and they tread me like family. Special thanks to Chantal who has continues to teach me each day and to 16 year old Eddie would probably would preferred a solo Easter with mom and dad before he headed back to school. While I know all of this was probably in the back of their minds, I never felt it. They have opened their arms full of love to this woman from America. As each layer comes off, I learn more about this amazing family. July 29,03 Mbanda felt he was called to return to Africa. Eventually his family made the decision that it was best. He gave up a top job as one of 4 VP at Compassion as a step in faith to return to Africa with no job. He got 4 great offers, but none in Africa. Eventually Compassion created a job as the head of East Africa stationed in Nairobi...and then a year later they opened the door to head back to Rwanda where he felt they were supposed to be. The kids pressed for this decision despite the fact that meant they would be split up. Eddie the 16 year old in Germany and Eric and Erika in Colorado. Their step in faith has opened many doors. Chantal felt really called to start a home of Orphans. Seed money quickly came. It turns out these amazing people have multiple ministries...all within under the name CALM. Christian African Leadership Ministry. When I signed up for this trip, I had no idea that I would be a strong faith filled environment...so this is a blessing on top of everything. • Their outreach includes goats for widows. At $35/each, goats provide a great source of help. The children drink the milk and the goats quickly multiply so she can sell them for money. While it is taboo for adults to drink goat’s milk, they often do in private for the health benefits. • They also provide short term seed money...usually about $50 to help people start businesses. • If a church can build the walls, they will find money for a roof. • They also supplement families of 4 for $50/month for 3 years to help "lift them up". Just that small amount of money makes a real difference in their lives. • They buy bicycles for priests and ministers so they can care for multiple churches and their people. Ever felt like a slacker? That’s how I felt today. Clearly I have been called to learn from these people. This afternoon we began to talk about ways to market their wonderful programs. (My insistence, not theirs). My head is filled with a thousand ideas to help them raise money. They aren't asking. I'm offering. To think I left America wondering who I would be helping...would they have dirt floors? Running water? While the life at New Hope Home is simple, it is very good. These two have recently spent 4 hours with the President of Rwanda. The result of this meeting was a decision to build a "new home" that is being co-sponsored by the First Lady of Rwanda and Chantal. It will be for older children. How could I find my way here to these amazing people? They are well connected and are convinced of their calling. They have access to an infrastructure that is in place...or will be shortly. They can turn $1 us dollar into $100 in this country. I know I can help raise funds in my nights and weekends. Mbanda spent time telling me their beautiful story of their calling as we were parked in front of The Home. Chantal and I wept. What an amazing day of growth, understanding and faith. A perfect Easter. This conversation was after I had spent 1.5 hours at their temp home trying to update the blog. I typed like a crazy person trying to update the blog, trying to get the story posted. I want you all to know what is happening here. At a minimum to put aside any fears that you might have about my safety…but more importantly to share all that is happening here so you can come along for the journey. We returned to New Hope to play with the kids. They want English lessons tonight so I am sitting patiently at the table. We will begin as soon as they finish their chores. I yearned to for a Catholic Holy week; especially to be present last night at the Easter Vigil...the hunger grew even deeper after Chantal told me there were thousands of people lining the streets with candles last night. I can only imagine the experience. But I think I am living with the VERY presence of God here at this home...so if this is my only unfulfilled desire in my stay, it will be a small one. I spoke with Mom and Dad for about 5 minutes to wish them a Happy Easter. Cleo and Bud were there. How wonderful! Two Easter miracles for Cleo. I rang Erika but she didn't pick up. Today is the first day I have felt emotionally exhausted. Maybe everything I am seeing is beginning to sink in. Moments after I finished writing, the power went out. Late tonight...9:45 pm. There I was in the main room waiting to teach, but no one came to light my candle or show me the way in the darkness to my room. I was able to find it easily. It felt so natural now. I think our translation just got messed up and they thought I was already tucked into my bed as I had been sitting there so silently. In the constant darkness of blackouts at night...I was thinking about my friend and neighbor Katie who freaks out when it happens home. Katie, I think this would be awesome immersion therapy for you. :)
4.16.06 EASTER!!!!! 9:08pm Sitting at the table. Exhausted. The girls got up to go to Early Easter services with Sieba. They looked smart in their new-from-America Sunday best. Chantal, Mbanda and Eddie came to pick me up. Chantal and Mbanda oohed and ahhed over my fancy Easter dress. Chantal had retained her lesson on the hat. She did an awesome job. Even Mbanda was wowed by her creation on top of my head. We made quite the stir at Church. This was a much fancier church than the others that we had been too. It was the cathedral. It had full size pews and an altar. I loved the cross. It was made of florescent light tubs, like you would find in any office in America. Two were stacked vertically to make the line...and on flanked each side to make the cross...expect one was burned out....but you get the idea. Chantal encouraged me to move upfront and video the singers. Everywhere I moved heads turned. The place was large, perhaps just a bit smaller than St. Olaf. The church was packed. As usual, the kids came to watch the video screen on my tiny camera as the action unfurled. Two choirs sang and there were small kids doing liturgical dance. When the service opened, they asked for visitors to stand. About a 1/2 dozen of us did so. The congregation sang a welcoming song and clapped. Apparently the minister made some comment about my smart dress and hat as many people turned to see Chantal’s creation. The service lasted about 2 hours with lots of singing. I brought my bible along so I was able to follow the readings. Of course, I didn't need my bible to tell me the message...HE IS RISEN! Indeed. Mbanda discretely leaned into my ear and quietly translated the sermon. Kindness is built into the fiber of this family. I later learned that he preached here last week. Will this couple ever cease to surprise me? Of all the people in all of Africa that I could have been connected to, God has surely blessed me beyond measure to be in their care. To think that one email sent into the vast internet would be directed to such people is beyond humbling. I had the pleasure of meeting many more members of their family. Moms, cousins, Aunties…all gathered to celebrate Easter.
saturday continued... I finally broke into the canned Sam’s Club chicken that Chantal had given me. I also peeled two large carrots that we bought at the market a few days ago. Oh my, it's the most I've eaten since I got here. I felt like how the Survivors must feel after a large reward ceremony. Chantal offered to have the people cook for me, but that seems inappropriate. Their hands are full. Of course we all know it’s really about my textural eating issues! I had hoped to get to church last night or this evening, but I certainly can't wander outside along and don't want to impose. Given the road construction, a taxi is not an option. I would certainly be safe, wherever I went, but given the crowds a white person draws it's best to have someone with me. Tony and Eddie were so much fun. Tony helped me dramatically expand my vocabulary. Fabiola came into the room and started counting. If she messes up she had to start all over again. I am not quite sure she realizing that she's counting or it just a memory game. But either way, she loves it. My goal: a solid 1 to 10 before I leave. Four....is the fffffff stream knowing there is something behind it. She looks in my eyes for help. I smile and nod that her instinct are right…and the bravo…FOUR. Oh I wish I could get online to get all of this posted...but as it is, it hasn't been possible yet. I know some of you are diligently checking the blog for an update. I so want to share with you all that I am experiencing. I look forward to talking to Mom and Dad tomorrow for Easter. Blessing abound. 9:30 pm As I am turning in for the evening two ladies came to ask for English lessions, we used the new boards Eddie, Tony and I had made. Alphabet and Colors. Then we spent nearly an hour studying the Thomas the Tank engine plastic table that the kids eat all their meals at. Who knew it could provide such help? We used it for words and concepts like table, colors, number etc. It came to be clear that while the ladies could count in order to 10 and some to 20, they really didn't know which number was which. I didn't learn this until I began to randomly ask them which number was which. Since I knew they liked to sing, the alphabet song was a hit and very helpful. When I pointed out a letter, they would hum the sung until they got to the one I was pointing at…90% accuracy. I was so proud of each of them. They were great students. An hour and half later they said "finish". I was fried and energized all at the same time. How great would a dictionary be? Where is Pat Kubiak when you need him? Here are some of the words as best they sound to me. Hi: bee tay Hello: moo la hoe Txs: moo rah goo zay Adorable: mweza White: voozoomga Friend: en shore tea Good Morning: wa ra moo say Happy Easter pa see ka nze za What is your name: we twan day i am fine: moo may sea mootea my name is donna: knee twa donna God bless you: emanah ee goohay oo moo gesha understand: see beyo water: amazee Some key words for the kids listen: umva Share: goo say gear rah smart: o zee oo gain ya look; lay va nose: ezooroo no: ah ya yes; eggo come: gawe no give me your hand: e ma oo koo bow quo eyes ah ma so misc truck e mo dough ka flower oo rah bow excuse me; nikko hands; ah ma bow koo As so it goes...when it comes down to it...it's quite humorous to see the basic words that are needed to get by.
Friday, April 21, 2006
sorry for the broken entries...I can only access www for 30 min intervals... continuing… Then the kids sang a song that required jumping. I weaved my way into the center of them to join in the fun. They found the moozoomgo to be quite entertaining. We jumped, clapped and had a grand time. As the sea of kids moved with the jumping, I was conscious not to step on any toe but, I eventually took a tumble amidst the kids. I recovered nicely. The adults were concerned as I was buried in the sea of children…eventually I found my feet and rose to start again. They laughed and cheered. We took a group snapshot. It's hard to find anyone who can use my camera...usually I end up out of the photo or things are cut off. But Lindsay, I'm trying !!!. We had a great time. I asked if there was anything I could do to help. They said the 3rd graders were in great need of notebooks and markers. "Consider it done" was my reply. I showed the kids my Christmas collage to explain some of the precious people in my life. We then picked up Mbanda, Chantal's husband who was returning from West Africa. He is quite a handsome man. To me, he looks like a young Nelson Mandela. Mbanda is tall, in great shape and has a little grey on the top. We toured the new home that they are building. It's clear that they are successful people, but work incredibly hard to give back to society. The New Hope homes are just a "part" of their giving. I thought about the responsibility of taking on these kids. Caring for them. They are just working with their own money, some donations and trying to get a handle of costs. Medicines for the kids, as an example are very expensive. Gas is about $100us dollars per tank. They thought they could get by with 4 worker for 10 kids, but they now know it will take a least 5. Cleaning, cooking, gardening, night watchman etc....and remember, everything takes a long time. As an example, all laundry is done in a bucket of water then hung to dry. The love in this home is immense. I just can't believe how fortunate these kids are to be able to be in their care. Imagine one day you are an orphan and the next day you are in a place that, without question, ensures your bright future. As I look at the surrounding homes (or shall I say sheds) these children are blessed beyond measure. Tonight I looked in the eyes of these children and wondered how I could ever imagine leaving them next week. The hugs, the constant pestering for lessons, the giggles and the love make for a very complete and treasured day. While we share no common language, the love is very present. Each child is unique. Dorcas. The 5 week old spends more of the day sleeping, but is full of wonder when she awakes. "Doughlahnay"...as it sounds phonetically. She is 3 years old. I would pack her up with me if it were possible. She just sits in my lap or at my side every minute that I am present. She is my own personal side kick and we both think that it’s just perfect. Her story reflects so much of the genocide ripple effect that still is present today. Her grandparents were killed in the genocide. Her mother was 2 at the time and in all probability, like 90% of the kids that survived, witnessed the killings in person. Some people took her in to care for her. Eventually one of her caretakers began to rape her. Doughlanay is the product of one of the rapings. But this is all in her past now. After a month in the home she is full of life and giggles….the cycle of terror will end here. Sabrina - I'm just learning her story, but she loves to hug the other children. Fabiola - Around 6. She has large bumps all over her face, but they don't seem to be a bother to anyone including her. She constantly wants to learn. ABCs, 123's, kumbiya...she has also learned to throw a mean Viking football. Whatever she puts her mind to learn, she quickly masters. Oh Fabiola, what a wonderful big sister you are. The two boys are expected to return. Two more children are in the process of getting their paperwork settled. The home is luxurious by neighborhood standards. One large room with 2 new tan couches and chairs, a nice floor, a dining room table, a tv and dvd player (most on loan from Chantal and Mbanda's while their home is being built). The toys are sparse. The MN contingents contributions represent about 90% of the total. Oh how I wish I brought more paper and crayons! A rug covers about 1/2 of the floor so the children are safe if they take a tumble. It's a plastic weave of red and brown. Bunk beds fill the 3 bedrooms plus 2 cribs. I have a full size one in my room. There are no dressers, so the clothes we brought here sit on the top bunk of one bed. They are neatly arranged with pride. My bathroom has a functioning toilet and sink that provides a tiny stream of water. The lovely tub, while not functional, holds my "African bath"...a bucket and thermos. All in all, it's a great life. The other bath has a shower floor with running water. It is where all the children bathe each morning. Just an open base with a water spout. The toilet is missing a seat cover, but it meets their needs. The cooking facility is in the adjoining building. It is a sheet metal portable table with 4 slots for cooking. Coal fuels each of the slots. There are no toasters or electrics appliances of any sort so cooking 3 meals and three snacks a day is a full time job. Four big plastic buckets serve as the washing machine. All laundry is hand done outside under the car-port like covering and then hung to dry. After we picked up Mbanda, we went home to pick up Eddie and Tony (a cousin) we purchased the presents he will bring back to Germany with him. Chantal did some strong negotiating on my behalf too. Poor Mbanda - he was just like dad when mom and I shop. Trying to be patient but really bored. Not exactly a great way to spend the afternoon after along trip back to Rwanda. As always, the Mbanda family is gracious beyond measure. Tony, Eddie and I took a taxi back to the home where we made big posters for the wall. ABC's, clocks, colors. Since we didn’t have a hammed we used a rock to pound tacks into the wall. They are hung right next to cards from Pat and the kids which Chantal hung the second day.
Continued... The time at the Compassion International project was really precious. We toured the place were nearly 300 children get an education, some play time and bible studies. They study through grade 6. The classroom are just the basics, but oh how they learn. I think they have some limited books, but the good old chalk board and chalk meet the bulks of their means. The administrators were very proud to show me the computer they had in their offices. It was carefully covered with a sheet to keep out the dust. They also proudly presented their one tv and vcr that they occasionally rollout to show the kids something of value. As ususal, the white woman caused quite a stir. All the kids came running. We played and laughed. I took a ton of photos and toured. I asked if they would sing something for me. They eagerly did so. They immediately broke out into a rousing chorus of "we're going to see the king". John Harvey would have loved it. They did it in English and Kenyrwanda.
Saturday 4.15 6:06 pm Sitting with the girls with power! Ahh, writing early. I awoke without a Tylenol pm hangover today. Nice way to start the day. My mosquito netting was vastly improved from the night before. Hence my dreams were a bit less entangled. My evening ritual is generally the same. I say goodnight to the kids and make my netting stretch over my bed. I take my “African bath”..mind you, all of this in the dark or by Candlelight/headlamp. I then climb into bed, take the headlamp and journel. When I am done writing I read from the book Kim recommended. Love in the driest season…a moving story about adopting in Zimbabwe. It’s quite the ritual. I rather like it. The last two nights some guard dogs get in a fight nearby. Last night it was awful, I only imagine what was happening. The stillness tonight is nice. The nights are quite chilly so I sleep in long pants and a long shirt…occasionally adding the jacket that I wore on the plane. I did expect a slower pace here than in the US. But actually it is equal to if not greater than the US. Since everything takes so much time, from drawing water, boiling water, road construction….patience. This morning we expected to leave early to head to a Compassion International project site. The plan was to be there from 9-12. The man that was supposed to meet Chantal was over an hour late. The kids and I played until he came. This morning 3 of the girls were all dressed alike in their new clothes. Thank you Erika for getting me to head out an buy some more things for the girls after you assessed the inventory. They looked stunning. The dresses along with the socks and tennis shoes from Mpls looked like they were ready for Easter Sunday. One of the workers carefully washed the edges of the tennis shoes to be sure they were spotless. The people here work around the clock ensuring all the beautiful ‘new things’ are well taken care of. The sweep the house endlesslessly. The children immediately sit at the plastic table when they are called for food or beverages. They clear their own plates…even the 2 year old. They take off their shoes before entering the main room of the Home where we spend all of our day. They sit neatly and orderly for the bible lessons. Repeating when asked. Tonight they learned the Our Father. So sweet. Chantal 2 (the Mom of the home…Chantal is the one is the woman who runs it…this is the only way I can blog about each of them for now). Chantal made each of them repeat the line until they had perfected it. 3+kids broke into song on their own. They are working on kumbaya…finally one that I might be able to sing with them . The time at the Compassion Project was really precious. More later…I am typing this at the Nairobi airport and need to head to the gate. To think that Heidi was just here 2 weeks ago is amazing. Hopefully more when I get to Amsterdam for my 10 hour layover.
The beginning of an extensive blog update. Back to Good Friday. Chantal drove me to the Genocide Museum in Kigali. It takes at least 1.5 hours to do a proper tour, but we only had 45. The guide was quite conversant in English so it was great to hear the language flow easily again. (While English is the official language, it only became so after the Genocide, hence the learning curve is still very high.) Chantal could not bare to go thru the museum, for it is just too painful. She has done it once, that that is the most she intends to do. It was important for her to have me spend time beginning to understand, but proceeding beyond the lobby is more than her heart can bare. The experience of the museum is incredible. I am bringing home a small book that tells the story. It explains the foundation that lead to the hatred. It explains the back and forth struggles as well as a very close up look at what genocide really means. Whoever came up with the word Ethnic Cleansing clearly has never see it close up. There is nothing clean about it. Yes the word describes the end goal of wiping people so clearly from the face of the earth that they is no clean trace of them. But there is nothing clean about the process. It is wicked. It is deadly. It is incomprehensible. Who For me, the most moving parts were 14 2 x 3 foot photos of individual children. Under each of the photos was a 5x7 plaque with a bit of each child’s story etched into it. Their name, favorite sports, favorite food, favorite drink, best friend, last words (if someone lived to tell the story) & then how they were killed…machete, head slammed into wall etc. My heart split open at that point. A chill filled my soul. Next was a wall of simple lines of wire (much like the ones they sell at Pottery Barn) There were about 15 wires stacked on top of each other per section. Individual photos were then clipped on each wire. Each line was filled. It reminded me of visiting ground zero just 1.5 months after the attack when all the photos were strung in a row. Each photo here showed a loved one lost. Behind the photo was a real life. They each have a story and are innocent. The senseless violence of the genocide is beyond comprehension. Importantly the museum features a section which contains other genocides around the world over time. I remember reading the sign in a concentration camp that I visited with my parents. A sign read “ Those who chose to ignore the past are destined to repeat it.” Dear God may we never forget. May we stop the killing the is currently under way in various parts of the world. Outside the museum are buried 250,000+ people in mass graves. Some are buried 12 to a coffin. More are added as they are STILL being found throughout the country. The vision of the Hutus was to wipe the Tutsis off the face of the country and remove any trace of them, hence the graves are the still be unearthed. About 1 million people lost their lives. We walked past grieving people who had come to pay respects to someone who was buried there. It was a gathering of about 25 beautifully dressed people. They layed a wreath down before them. I hung my head in shame as I respectfully walked by them. How could the US have said that it wasn’t happening? How could we have stood by and watched while so many people died. How could we have supported the UN decision to withdraw? Sure Clinton says it was one of the biggest mistakes of his presidency….but how does an American express that when walking by these people. I said nothing. Feeling so much shame for this nation. The dark rain clouds seemed fitting for such an experience and for Good Friday. We drove by a catholic Church that is near the Hotel Rwanda hotel….1000 people were killed inside when they ran there for protection. The priest and church offered none. In fact, in many cases, the priests has bought into the propaganda and aided the mass killings in the church. Row by row amidst locked doors. Now my heart broke for my strong roots in Catholicism. I must find a way to make a difference. When I returned to the car where Chantal had sat patiently waiting, she saw the look in my eyes and was glad that I had “begun” to understand. From there were headed over to pick up my Easter dress. I tried my best to brighten my spirit. Chantal One of the ladies at the small shop showed us how to do the headpiece. We all laughed at the experience. There were about 6 sewing machines and tailors in a space about the size of my kitchen. They told Chantal it was sad that I didn’t know any Kenyawranda. She said…”oh, but she does”. “Show them Donna”. Out came my small notebook from Target which contains my ever expanding vocabulary. I started at the top and worked my way through it. Page after page. Each time I struggled to get each word earnestly out of my mouth they cheered me on at the effort! I would take a deep breath, then start to make an oooo or geee sound until I finally got “my version’ of the word out. Hooray/Bravo! They told Chantal they really liked me and thought I was great fun. My tailor George wants to come back to America to make all of my clothes. I had Chantal tell him I would be honored to have such a fine tailor in America. We settled on some photos of our time together. Since there is no address to send the photos in Rwanda, I will send them to Chantal who will deliver them. Chantal laughed until she was in tears at our time at the shop. She told the tailors to stand by the door to listen to the cat calls from the crowds…Moozoomgoo, Moozoomgoo…white person. I was dressed so finely that they insisted that I were my snazzy new dress down the street. It’s a long skirt with a flare at the bottom. The top is short sleeved with a slight v neck. Then comes the huge piece of fabric, triple folded and wrapped into a master piece atop my head. I think I got about 30 dates outta the deal…I’m not sure. But lots and lots of thumbs up and beautiful lady from the crowd. Chantal said “thank you for coming to see us, I am having so much fun with you”. It’s remarkable the range of experiences within a 2 hour window. We made our way up the dirt road to The Home. Unfortunately the rain had made it quite challenging. We were stuck behind a huge truck that was sliding all over the road trying to stay out of the ditch. Eventually we both came to a dead stop for about 30 mins while they tried to get the parked cars moved. Not passable without moving them. The gift of patience. It’s a mandatory here. With nothing better to do, the word has spread that there was a Moozoomgoo in the car all dressed up. Many waved or stopped by the car to say hi as they made their way carrying things to their homes. Walking. The primary mode of transportation here. It’s an endless stream of people walking with everything on their head from lettuce, bananas, sugar cane…you name it. I even saw a women with a sewing machine atop her head. Yesterday a young boy was carrying a HUGE door. He stopped to say hi and chat before continuing his climb up a big hill. There is an endless stream of people carrying yellow plastic buckets or jugs. They make the long journey down the hill to get water and then lug it back up. The water for the most part is VERY dirty. Most people don’t boil it because they can’t afford the charcoal to create the heat. They lucky ones have an OLD bike to which they attached the jugs. The most I have seen is 5. The jugs are left over from when they buy cooking oil. The kids and adults all seem to share the responsibility of this task. It is a struggle to get them up the hills when they have a bunch on a bike. We passed a missionary who had grown up in Prior Lake Minnesota who had just moved to Rwanda with his wife and kids from Uganda after things got rough there. Please could the Minnesota connections be more unreal. I’d say they were staged if I knew it was not true. We returned home to the glee of the workers on the road at home who thought my outfit was wonderful. Quite a sight. At home some people gathered to sing and praise God this Good Friday. We celebrated for about 1:30 hours. The kids sat so well behaved listening to the songs. As another day in paradise comes to an end. I sent a text message to Denise that all is well. I hope to access email tomorrow after I visit a Compassion sight.
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Good Friday 8:25 pm. By candlelight and headlamp. Writing is a bit more challenging as I did a REALLY bad job on the mosquito netting tonight. It basically drapes over my entire body including my face. I know now what a fish must feel like when you pull it out of the water. I played with the kids for hours today. We played, sang koom-bye-ya…finally a song I thought I could teach them. We decided we should get some outside time too…so out to the yard we went. Fabulola insisted that the stomp rocket come along too. Doesn’t take a common language to know when I child really wants something. The workers who are installing some paver stones around the home found great humor in the invention too. Sabrina & Dolenay decided the rockets best served as things to chew one. Try as I may to chase after them and retrieve them…their teeth had an immovably tight grip on them. Fabiola was content with the remaining two rockets to launch. She mastered them as many of the kids from the Abbott hood have. They giggled and giggled with each launching. A young mom with a baby strapped to her back..as they all are, entered thought the open gate. The other child with her was fascinated with it. I encouraged her to give it a whirl. Minimal stomp. Minimal height. Bummer. But with perseverance comes success… eventually she got it launched to the cheers of the crowd. And yes, Viking Football was enjoyed by all again today. Turns out the woman with the two children had come to see if Chantal would take in the older child. She explained the process. Only orphans. No others. The woman quickly changed her story. To orphan...but alas she was sent away. The workers are making great progress on the pathe around the home. Toiling with beautiful precision. Every day their tools and clothes remain the same. But, they advance…slowly and steadily. Eventually Eddy and Chantal arrived, I broke out the PBJ…ahh. Yum. I hadn’t had one in over 10 years…I remember it fondly then and now. Then off for her afternoon errands. She showed me the ground breaking for the next “home” Workers were digging the foundation with simple shovels. Load by load. Some friends in Dallas raised the $50,000 needed for the home. Chantal’s grandmas occupied the lands, so they just carved out a portion for the home. We visited grandma who was in bed returning home from eye surgery. She raised her head from the bed to say hello. The people greet people with a traditional handshake –although much less firm – the other hand reaches across the elbow out of respect. She greeted me this way. I do it to all the people. It’s lovely sign of respect. Her home is simple. A sitting room with one cabinet, some photos hang on the wall above it. There are some perfectly kept hand made doilies that cover the small coffee table in front of the couch. The Grandma’s bedroom also contains another bed for the parents and children I think. That bed had a very pronounced sag in the middle. Did I mention VERY pronounced. My back ached at the thought of sleeping in it. Behind the door hung about 3-4 changes of clothing. All that is needed in this blissfully simple life. I think about the stacks that fill my closets to overflowing and I makes me sick. Some more photos of the excavation and we were off. I told her I would try to find someone to help make a website for the homes. So I am taking a lot of photos. I know what you’re thinking…I’d be taking that many photos anyway...and you’re right. We did a few errands and dropped off Eddie. Chantal then drove me to the Genocide Museum It takes about and 1.5 hours to go through it...we were time pressed… More to come….sorry for the typos…typing as fast a humanly possible.