Thursday, April 12, 2012


Hi. Harvin here. I realize it wasn’t actually the weekend, but at one point Thursday afternoon Donna and I both looked at each other and started simultaneously commenting on how it felt like an average Saturday back home. And like any weekend when you were a kid, homework was often not done till the last minute. Hence why Thursday’s post is just showing up today. We had spent the day doing the Rwandan version of normal Saturday activities that you might do with your own families. You know the type of day, when you look back and it seems like such a full day of small special moments and tons of variety. They type that leaves you exhausted and content at the end. Of course as you will see although the activities themselves are very normal, the way they happen is anything but. .


Today it was time to get back to running, and trips to African Bagel Company. The night before the Girls and Boys decided that only Girls run together and Boys run together, so today it was time for the girls. I enjoyed sunrise with a view of the city as I walked down to the lower house to pick them up. (On a side note, one special moment was delivering 12 skeens of quality yarn I had brought over to our wonderful Auntie Jackie who knits hats for the kids. They joy in her face was priceless as she is used to very coarse yarn of low quality. I can’t wait to see the hat she makes me!) .

The run itself was, as always, very fun. Marie Rose, Grace, Esther, Fabiola, Anna and I took off, heading in a new direction this time. The always adventurous Esther saw a trail heading up the hill and suggested we there. It turned into a few of them saying ‘dis way’ and others saying ‘nooo, no that way’. I finally decided it was time for the girls to learn that running is about exploring so we took off on the trail. For you runners and hikers out there, imagine a well-worn dirt path through some short grasses up a gradual incline. This was not a hardcore trail, and yet a few of them, especially Marie Rose were scared to run there. It made me realize once again how limited all of their exposure is to the world outside the walls of New Hope Homes. With Marie Rose and Grace holding my hands and screaming/laughing ‘aahhh’ we ran up the trail we ended up finding a dirt road leading back to the main road, which of course ended at the Café where sugar donuts were waiting for them and a cup of coffee and a bagel for me. .


Upon returning to the home and greeting everyone, we noticed Emmanuel, our 20 year old Uncle/Watchman/Worker at the upper house was doing his work with a limp. I guess he had been away from The Home with an injured foot, but we had been told it was healed. After convincing him we needed to take him to the doctor, and making him realize we were offering to pay, I put the scooter to good use and started a morning adventure in Rwandan Health Care. First it was off to the hospital for a consult. Of course I didn’t know where it was and Emannuel was a little unclear to the location as well, but we finally found it. The way it works is you show up at the front desk, pay in advance for what you need, and then keep coming back and paying in advance for any care that is needed as it goes along. It was crowded with many people sitting around, but I think my Muzungo status (rich white person) may have helped get us closer to the front. The doctor spoke French, and very limited English. Between Emmanuel’s Kinyarwanda, my two years of college French from 20 years ago, and a few hand signals we finally figured out that he was suggesting an X-Ray. Of course that happens across town at a different place. Trying to understand directions between three languages, a very poor hand drawn map, Emmanuel without much knowledge of the city and myself with none was actually quite hilarious. Almost as hilarious as the 30 minute scooter ride to the imaging center across town, weaving through traffic, Motos, and pedestrians, and having to stop twice for directions turning us around twice before arriving at the right place. (By the way, if there are traffic laws here I don't have a clue what they are since people can and often do pass you in your lane on both sides). After we finished getting Emmanuel's X-Ray (again prepaying and a long wait) it was back across town back to the clinic again to see the original doctor. Again a long wait, but the news was good, no broken foot. He wrote a prescription for what I interpreted to be anti-inflamitory medication, which we purchased at the on site Pharmacy. .

The whole trip took about 4 hours and cost me the equivalent of about $42 US. Emmanuel’s relief at not having a broken foot was palpable. On the scooter ride back to The Home he leaned forward, patted me affectionately on the shoulder and shouted into my helmet ‘Harv, you have much love’. ‘You are good person’. Best $40 bucks I’ve spent in a long time if not ever. .


For those parents who have learned to divide and conquer, that whole time Donna was on a shopping adventure of her own. We are going on Sunday to Chantel and Mbanda’s house on Sunday, to take Isaac to school and stay and meet some volunteers coming into town. Sensing an opportunity to make a little money for The Home, Donna was off to the market to buy colorful fabrics that could be made into dresses to be sold to the volunteers. She also had to do a bank run, take the van in to have the tire fixed from Wednesday’s flat, and get some fresh drinking water for us. We definitely felt like harried parents and we were calling each other back and forth on our individual Rwandan cell phone lines checking up on each other’s progress and figuring out when one of us would get back to the rest of the kids. Now I know a trip to Joanne Fabrics, Wells Fargo, and Tires Plus doesn’t take 4+ hours, but obviously the Rwandan equivalents don’t work that quickly. She arrived back almost at the same time I did, and that’s when the day actually got busy. .


Now imagine our afternoon. We spent it at the upper house with the 14 older kids. Activities ranged from Donna and a rotating assortment of kids Skyping with friends and sponsors, Harv’s laundry being hand washed by three enthusiastic little girls and one boy (I was helping, sort of), chicken being grilled over a charcoal fire pit, boys playing soccer and learning to throw a football, baskets being shot on the recently fixed basketball hoop…..


How many of us have had to work on the weekend? Well Donna was no exception. Unfortunately our work back home doesn’t disappear just because we are here, especially for her, and given the time difference usually swings into full gear starting around 5pm. Wednesday it was her on a conference call standing on a dirt road as 25 locals surrounded the van while the tire was being fixed, putting her boss on hold long enough to charm the locals into letting us leave and then resuming her call as if nothing happened. Thursday it was a two-hour global conference call and she really needed a quiet space to do it. So I locked her into the main room (literally locked her in, or more importantly locked the kids out), and gathered them all down in the School Room. .


When I was a kid I hated cleaning, and for those of you who know my mother you know standards were very high back then, and were implemented with a military like zeal. Well those standards have now been implemented at New Hope Homes, at least in the classroom. The place was a mess, so I spent the next hour marshaling the 14 kids into sorting supplies, sweeping floors, organizing all the books and shelves….. Basically cracking the whip like a general over his troops. The classroom was in quite disarray and we needed it clean for the art projects we planned to do there. Truthfully I had assumed it would take much longer, but once you get these kids focused and working together (no small feat) they are a quite a formidable force. .


If you never have something, when you do get it, it seems like such a treat. The kids here live that. They have so little, so the smallest things can make them joyous and Yoga has become a special treat for them. So to celebrate our wonderful day and all the work accomplished cleaning the classroom, we spent the next ½ hour refining our up and down dogs. Donna finally finished her responsibilities back home, and came to join us. In a rare moment of silence, all the kids sat quietly in the dark as she walked towards the classroom, sitting like perfect little angels around the table to surprise her as she walked in. Yes it was staged, and Donna was in on it, but it was still a really fun moment for them thinking they surprised her with such a clean classroom and good behavior. .

Of course the greatest treat for the older kids was the gift of a new watch for school. Did you know these kids get up and start their days at 4am for their first lesson. Thank you so much for those who contributed to help them rise early and make it to classes on time


What weekend is complete without sharing some time at a friend’s house for drinks? Donna and I had been invited to the house of Louise, the assistant to the mayor whom Donna has befriended and it still hoping will help her achieve her goal of becoming a Rwandan citizen. We left the kids eat with the Aunties and Uncles, and took the scooter on our first nighttime adventure, stopping at a gas station to buy Fanta’s and Cokes as a gesture of appreciation. Louise’s house was only about a ten minute ride away and she was gracious enough to walk out to the main road to greet us and show us the winding way back to her house. It is a humble place, with a bean garden out front, a very small living room with three old and well used couches crammed into a sitting area, and what I imagine to be a small bedroom in back. Her husband and two sons joined us, the oldest being 18 and the youngest, Kevin, being 8. There was a moment of humor as we both tried to offer gifts of drinks to each other before Donna and I finally conceded to their role as host and accepted first. Perhaps the most joyous part of the evening was teaching Kevin to hit a whiffle ball with the ball and bat we bought him, or hearing that we were the first white people he had met. As expected there was no food but for a couple of crackers each that they graciously offered, but the hunger for friendship outweighed the hunger for dinner, and we ended up staying well past 10pm feeding our spirits. .


Did I mention we really had not eaten all day? After our rather long goodbye with Louise and her family it was back on the scooter and an agreement to stop at the first place that was still open. Fortunately it was only a few blocks till we saw a sign for 24/7 food. Unfortunately when we got there, sat down, looked at the menu and tried to order we found out that although they had many things listed on the menu, they were out of pretty much everything but fried chicken. And really unfortunately for two very hungry Muzungos, when the chicken did arrive it was one small piece each with more gristle than meat. .

So that was our Saturday, or Thursday, or what day is it? The days do seem to all run together.

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