Friday, April 13, 2012

Lessons in LOVE & PATIENCE

Today was extreme parenting for both Harvin and me.

The day started with goofy fun. It was the boys turn to do the early morning run with Harvin, so why should a little rain stop them? And, by a little…I mean …a lot.

Always the creative soul and with a bit mischievous inner boy – Harvin (aka Tarzan), decided they should put their shirts in a big plastic bag and run bare chested so by the end of their run where they would celebrate their accomplishments with bagel donut they could at least be dry and warm on top. The boys of course think he rules the universe with plans like these.

The run now features running past some farm where they come back and show me their photo by a cow or goat. So sweet.

For me, my morning is then rewarded with a warm toasted bagel delivery service by the sweetest kids and a sweet man called Harvin.

The rain poured and poured so the girls were trapped down at the other homes as the mud road and hill would be a bit challenging to navigate. We then had time to teach the boys scrabble and simply chill. These times are always the best times at New Hope Homes. Just the kids hanging.

So the morning was simply pure LOVE.

Then came the combination for the rest of the day and into the evening. Harvin and I decided that Alice and Grace should be reward for being number one in their class and number one in the semester exams respectively. We agreed to take them to Mr. Chips, our favorite burger joint. Abby was to join the party too.

We clearly explained the kids why they were receiving special treatment so they knew were weren’t picking favorite. The kids understood and patiently accepted the news.

Given the rain, neither of regular drivers could venture out, so we called Chantal to see if we could drive the van. She said “no problem, Miss Donna”. And by the words can “we” drive it…of course I meant Harvin as he is a regular now on the streets of Kigali on the scooter…why not add the van to the mix? Our drive way is super steep and has huge gullys on either side of it, so navigating the exit is a bit challenging..oh and I mention that is an OLD OLD van with a stick and blinkers and turn signals on the opposite side of the transitional US arrangement.

The kids cheered him on their Uncle Harvin as he was now the driver of the van too!

He PATIENTLY navigated the streets with a great finesse.

Arriving at Mr Chips we learned that they were closing in honor of the 1st week of memory of the genocide. This despite the fact that asked them 3 days earlier if they would be open or closed for lunch today. Ahh…another LESSON IN PATIENCE.

We decided to call our friend Abraham who owns a nearby store so the girls could make a little congratulations purchase and we could kill some time until Mr Chips opened at 2. Abraham is a very good man. His English is flawless and he has a great heart for street kids as he and his wife have taken in 5. The girls spent a long time looking at everything in the store to decide what small gift they would like to have in honor of their great accomplishments in school.

We PATIENTLY waited as they assessed everything. Remember, these kids have very simple things like shoes and clothes, so the opportunity to all this time to purchase something is a rare thing. Thus our LOVE for them and our PATIENT hearts.

After their selection Abraham recommended a sweet restaurant right next door. It was an honor for the 3 of us to chat with the girls and talk about their dreams as they have done so well in school. Alice had decided she wants to be a Doctor. She would like to help people with cancer. She even knew the word oncologist. Imagine years from now if she does indeed accomplish this goal and change the face of cancer treatment forever. It could happen! I wouldn’t put anything out of the reach of this tiny fireball. Dream big sweet Alice, dream big. Grace too wants to be a Doctor, but she simply wants to ‘help everyone’. Harvin explained the concept of General Medicine to her.

Abraham joined us for a bit so had the privilege of getting to know him better. We also told the girls that he too was excited about their performance in school he paid for their gifts. Ya, there is endless LOVE in Rwanda.

As Harvin has mentioned, time moves slowly in Rwanda as does lunch so we didn’t get home until after 3 pm.

We were warmly greeted by the kids. They are especially happy when Abby is with us as she is now a good family friend to them. Multiple times this trip the kids run to me and say “abby abby with endless joy…but then say…oh…hi miss donna” …nothing like feeing like chopped liver …whatever that expression is…but it brings me joy as we all LOVE having Abby here with the kids so often.

The afternoon was spent playing with the little kids. A sweet sweet girl named Charlotte in Minnesota heard about the kids of New Hope Homes so she wanted to help. She raised $160 from her friends and sent over all sorts of art supplies. The kids LOVED drawing with them. They spend hours making beautiful pictures.

How’s that for a lotta LOVE and a huge heart. Thanks Charlotte, you have really made these kids fill important. We are so excited to skype with you tomorrow.

Today was also the day that we got to share the LOVE of Aaimee Reker’s family who expressed her LOVE for our kids by sending over over 29 pairs of brand new beautiful dress shoes for each kid. The kids were so excited to have a shiny black pair of new shoes. We took lots of pics with the kids holding or wearing the shoes so she can know how much she is LOVED for her kindness.

Harvin and I then taught a lesson in tough LOVE. Some of the bigger kids were starting to complain about something they had received. It was just kids stuff as kids will be. But, Chantal had encouraged us to really be firm with the kids when needed. While to outside world, they have relatively few possessions, in Rwanda, they have the privilege of getting a new outfit at least once a year, a new pair of tennis shoes and dress shoes once a year AND going to a really good school that is generously paid for by so many of you. Chantal wants to ensure they really appreciate everything they receive whether big or small. So…in this case, the grumbling pushed Harvin’s last patience button. Now embracing his inner ‘bad cop’ he talked to them about how disrespectful they were being and the grumbling continued. This lead to our decision to conduct our first ever group ‘time out’ for all the older girls. 20 minutes to sit in silence and think about their behavior as well as their less than grateful spirit. If there was not complete silence, the violators would not get any of Abby’s homemade pizza that she is preparing tomorrow with them.

Alas we had 3 offenders – or – so we thought. Turns out the 1 girl who was talking was telling the girls who were playing cards to not play them or they would get in trouble. Hence she was trying to do right. Net, we are left with 2 girls who will not be happy at pizza time tomorrow. Harvin and I then spent another hour + PATIENTLY waiting as each shared their apology and desire for better behavior.

Harvin again made it clear to them that while we don’t love their behavior this afternoon, we will both always love them.

Phew…that took a lot of PATIENCE and a lot of LOVE to do it correctly. Thankfully Abby is amazing with the kids and is an expert as a teacher of young kids. She gives us great wisdom.

We both feel like we are trying our best to do the right things by these kids, but clearly we make lots of mistakes…yup, the very definition of parenthood.

I again taught English tonight to the Aunties who want to learn conversational questions like. What is your name? Are these your kids? How many do you have? And things to say when trying to buy something “I want this, how much does it cost? I need a lower price.” Perhaps the last line is not needed for Rwandadese, but highly probable!

The night was to end with peaceful yoga, while it was executed, it was a fairly foiled attempt as I bracely said I would keep 15 of the little kids in a room, nice and calm so they could do a meaningful yoga session in the next room. Big fail!. The kids were so excited that I was with them they went into crazy overdrive mode of running around screaming and dancing nonstop and then of course bumping into each other which of course let to tears. They number one goal was to make the great escape out the door to be with the yoga session. They of course thought they were hysterical as drug them back in 1 by 1. That left me with one choice. Physically block the door so they couldn’t get out but that meant they could all run around and be silly and bounce on beds. Eventually Abby the magician came to my rescue.

It was ‘good night’ time.Harvin then gave Abby a ride to the taxi /moto stand on the scooter and wandered in. I quickly prepared a fest to end our day. I gave Harvin a plate with chicken he grilled for me yesterday along with a yummy apple and our favorite juice combination. As we sat together recapping the day, we both recognized that we are running on reserves and need to find the afterburner to give the kids the attention, LOVE and PATIENCE that we want to do every day. I leave in 2.5 days, so I am beginning to feel the pain of the impending separation, a tinge of jealousy that Harvin again gets two more quality days with them…but of course I am thankful for his LOVE and PATIENCE for these kids. He won’t be on the next trip in August, so it will definitely have a different vibe, but if I have learned anything about my 6 years of traveling to Rwanda, I have learned that EVERY visitor is blessing. So I look forward to who will be next.

It will also be so curious to see where Harvin’s journey will take him with these kids. It’s hard not to get excited that is there someone else who may want to make a longer term commitment to being present to these kids. If he chose to do it, he would bless them in more ways than I can even begin to describe. It however, he, like those before, turns into their skype friend, it too will be fine as he will simply love them from across the internet and they too will know that LOVE is very real.

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