Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Guest Blogger Harv Posting Today Folks

Thought I’d take a crack at giving you a volunteer’s perspective to this amazing place. For those of you who have been following along, it’s quite obvious that the past few days (my first few days) have been filled to the brim with activity, celebrating Xmas Kigali style, traveling to interesting places, meeting interesting people, and experiencing much of the character and joy that Rwanda and its people have to offer. Today was a ‘stay at home’ day, much more in keeping with the normal activities here, and I was glad for it. After so much excitement and activity the past few days I was looking forward to a more ‘relaxing’ day. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and thankful that I was. It started of course with the rousing of the household. After we got them going, Donna, myself, and three of the boys, Lionel, Innocent, and Nshiyme walked down to the market, which was quite an adventure. On the way down we experienced a taste of local law enforcement, as the police stopped and ticketed a biker who riding on the pedestrian part of the roadway. There are many modes of transportation around Kigali; you can catch a cab or bus, or a Moto (which is basically a ride on the back of a motorcycle), or a slower yet inexpensive way is to rent a ride on the back of a bicycle. Seemingly they take their traffic laws very seriously here (one wouldn’t gather that from the hair raising cab rides by the way). Lionnel explained to us that in addition to the steep fine the biker must now pay, the police also took his bike and hence livelihood from the guilty party. The open-air market is filled with street vendors of all types. Fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, flour, a meat market, and even tailors and clothing. A kaleidoscope of sights, smells, and sounds. Donna is truly amazing. Not only does she know people by sight and name in the market (which helped me from being charged the tourist prices for the fruits and vegetables), but on the way home I hear yet again what has become the familiar excited cry of ‘Donna, Donna, Donna’. Only this time from a whole different batch of kids who live near New Hope Homes. Of course Donna has in her bag the pictures she took of all of them on her last visit, developed and ready to share. Needless to say she appears to make children happy no matter where she goes. Upon our return we first tasted the fruits of journey by devouring a succulent pineapple, but then it was time to get serious with some lessons for the older school kids. It started out with a rigorous game of Hangman entitled ‘Welcome Harvin. We are glad you are here’. The second lesson was a four-parter 1) Listing what they liked best about their family. 2) Listing all the planets in the solar system. 3) Listing in order how the planets orbited the sun. 4) Hugging Harv and thanking him for coming to visit. (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the Harv theme going on here) The third lesson was about Constellations and how if you look at the stars just right you can find animals and figures in the sky, supplemented with the handy Starwalk app on my iPhone. But it was the fourth lesson that really grabbed everyone, typing. I know! Who knew learning about ‘Home Row’ and what fingers to use on what letters could be so riveting. These kids are amazing. By the end of just one typing lesson they were able to slowly, but accurately, type many words and their own names without looking at their hands. 11-year-old Kayatisi especially impressed me. She was so focused on learning she would vigorously call out ‘again’, and then proceed to do just that after we watched her hands and confirmed she had gotten a word correct. To put things (and how amazing these kids are) in perspective, New Hope Homes only has two very old laptops currently in working order, two other non-functioning ones with missing keys on the keyboard, and two random keyboards not actually attached to anything. So basically these kids learned to type in a day on nonworking keyboards and pieces of paper with the QWERTY keyboard written out for them. Just think what they could do with access to the proper equipment. (Open plug for donations from guest blogger Harv here!) Lessons were followed by lunch. I’ve been trying to rotate which table I sit at each meal, and this time it was with the school aged girls, which turned out to be quite fun. I introduced them to Rianna’s ‘Music of the Sun’, which turned into a nice little dance parade on the walk back. The afternoon was spent in a combination writing personal thank you letters to each the sponsors for all the help and contributions this past year, practicing more of their newfound typing skills, Skyping on Donna’s computer with other volunteers or sponsors the kids have met from around the world, and Harv getting taught and then trounced repeatedly by a rotating group of laughing children in a card game they taught me. Oh and a tearful goodbye to Erika Mbanda as she was flying out today. It was great to see the love the kids have for her, but a little unnerving to think about how hard is going to be for me to say goodbye in 10 days. Next we headed down to have dinner and spend time with the young kids. I must say, there is something uniquely rewarding to showing up and having a dozen little smiling kids surrounding you, wanting to hold your hand, hug you, or just sit near you. I have found I basically can’t walk anywhere without at least one child holding my hand or sit anywhere without someone wanting to rub my head. They are all shaved for sanitary reasons until the graduate from school, so they are just fascinated by hair. Between the hugs and attention, Donna and I took some time to measure and record all the young kids’ feet so that she can hopefully find some more shoes to fit each of them. The list is complete and in email form. If anyone wants to grab 29 pairs of shoes on there next Target run just let me know and I’ll forward it your way! Truthfully 12 year old Fabiola was a lifesaver by helping, since both Donna and I were about an 11 on a tired scale of 1 to 10, and we both had no fewer than two squirming little rug rats on our laps most of the time. Again, Donna is amazing. Normally she does all this by herself. I still can’t fathom the energy, love and commitment that must take, even after seeing her in action. The walk back to the upper house with the older boys was delayed by some real time use of the Starwalk app viewing the night sky, but finally we arrived. We got the boys settled down and then Donna and I decided, despite our fatigue, it was time to leave the premises, walk down to the nearby outdoor restaurant/bar, treat ourselves to a glass of wine and a beer respectively, and relive the day’s activities. Of course the cultural experience continued there as well, for no sooner had we sat down and ordered than the place quickly filled up with locals out to see the televised Manchester United futbol game (soccer for all you State side dwellers). A cold beer, a room full of passionate sports fans, and a good friend present to relive and end a wonderful day….Not a relaxing day, but again I couldn’t have imaged a better one.

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