Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Leaving Nairobi. Stepping into the morning water left from the early morning rain. The smell. Clean. Fresh. Pure. Distant dark clouds in the background deciding whether to retreat or advance. The brightly colored Kenya Airlines planes of green and red are a stark contrast to the sky. A bright light. It seems like I just stepped out of my door in Minneapolis but in reality I've been traveling 26 hours. I giggled thinking of Max Johnson words when I left "hey Donna, it's like our amazing race". Yes, Max, You're with me in my heart. I've been such a cry baby the last 3 days as people have powered out their hearts to a people far away. I have no picture in my minds eye of Rwanda. Google it and you really don't find any pics. I have the Rwanda Geo Graphic images from Sara Thompson. Then fresh images from Hotel Rwanda. Everyone tells me it’s beautiful. They talk of the hills and great roads. I wonder how people would describe America in 3 words. They say I will be greatly surprised at how advanced it is. Yet, I know that it is 1 of 5 countries in the world with a life expectancy under 50. With a household income of $210 and only 10% getting to school after 6th grade how does it translate? What does it look like? Smell like? Feel like? 2 hours from now I will know. Or at least I'll have my first glimpse. I may never really know in 2 weeks time. But it’s a start. I'll walk out the door and look for a 6 ft tall woman named Chantal and her 6'5" son. That's all I know. A wing and a prayer 12:25pm. Waiting at the Bur Intl Airport. Two UN Humanitarian Planes boldly claim the airport. Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. The sidewalk is lined with people to greet their guests. The small babies as seat mates next to me have now left me. I met some medical people form the UK who are heading to Rwanda for 100 days. Their shirts say Rwanda 100 days of Hope. That's important as the genocide lasted 100 days in 1994. This month is the anniversary. They seem eager to get to work. As am I. (And yes Mom, I took my malaria pills). Been reading a book that Kim suggested just before I left. Love in the Driest Season. It's a touching story about love in the heart of Africa. 4.11 10pm Written by candlelight as the power has gone out in the children's home. How do I capture my first day in Rwanda? 32 hours after I left Erika and Schmidl's embrace, I am warmly embraced by Chantal and her son Eddy. Chantal runs the home (I later learned to definitely NOT call it an orphanage). Her delightful sone Eddy is visiting for spring break from school in Germany. She is a tall beauty who quickly made me feel very welcome. They drove a large vehicle so all the bags were accomadated in one trip. We headed directly to the home to meet the children. Ages range from 4 weeks to 6 years old. Each of the children has a special story. Two were born of children 14 years old who had parents that were killed in the genocide. Imagine. One trajedy produces another. Apparently after the genocide lots of children were left wandering the streets. The people took them in and just cared for them as their own. In many cases they were loved... I heard of a woman who breast fed 10 infants to just keep them alive. These girls were unfortunately not well taken care of. One was abused by a married man who ultimatetly got her pregnant. Another infant that was brought in was found in the bushes, left for dead. A woman took care of the baby but then decided she couldn't handle it. The child was brought into the home. The rule is that the kids have to be left for 2 months without visiting so they can adjust. Then the parents can come take come visit if they desire. As it turns out the baby could not adjust and the person who brought him in really missed him, so he left before I arrived. Then they called to say they were bringing him back. God knows what will become of him. Eventually we got to the task of opening the 150 lbs of supplies that were so freely given by so many. The children weren't quite sure how, what to make of all the presents. They didn't quite understand that they could be for them. There had been no big Christmas's or birthdays leading up to this moment for them to connect to. Eventually they did get the idea...but even then, 2-3 things seemed more than amazing to them. The 2 workers at the home were delighted beyond words. Cries of joy for the car seats, sheets, bibs, diapers, toothbrushes...the rain slicker when on a sweet girl who ran around in it for a long time. The bumble bee toy that makes noise quickly became the constant posession of one of the girls. The bunny that sings rock-a-bye-baby never left the side of another. As the bags were unpacked, the workers suddenly became quiet. I couldn't understand what was going on. I felt at once awkward...like something was wrong. Finally Chantal looked up at me and said that the woman were telling her that they were overwhelmed with "the generosity of your friends in America who don't even know us". It was then that I understood, how much we had accomplished in in one weeks time. I wish each of you could have been with me to feel the amazing love and gratefulness. They just kept saying thank you. Thank you. Thank you. All afternoon...thank you. The home is just lovely. Simple. Lovely. The children are so loved. As you know, the home as only been open for 2 months, so they are learning as they go. For me, it's become a great game of language barrier. Only Chantal speaks English...the kids can't figure out why I can't talk to them...so we are counting to ten in English. I am learning Keiwanese. The viking football has been a constant source of tossing. The groovy girls get carried around everywhere.. The road leading to the home is under construction. Construction by hand. Hundreds of workers. Most barefoot. The women carry a pail of cement up the road. Dump it and then the guy put it in place. An endless cycle. Everything done by hand with raw tools. We went to a construction site and watched guys hand chissle limestone into perfectly tuned rectangles to be placed into a wall. The work was remarkable...all by hand. Dad would have loved the low-tech approach that yielded such beauty. He would have marveled at the grass that was being hand planted blade by blade. Can you imagine...blade by blade in the hot sun? We had a nice lunch at the Novetal. Stories of the genocide weave in and out of the conversation. 800,000 people killed in 100 days. How does that happen with the world watching? We returned to find the kids all dressed in their new shoes, shocks and dresses. Toys in hand. They were proud to show off their new look. The 4 week old baby was precious and the 12 month old looked sassy in her red dress and white shoes. A treasure to behold. I crashed for 1.5 hour nap. Good to try to adjust to the time change. Rain comes and goes...but the sun does shine. While I napped, Chantal took the kids in for a doctor checkup. They feared that one of them was HIV+ or had aids. Most of the time people don't pay for the test because they don't want to know the results or fear that the child will be left alone if they are found positive. They returned home full of praise for all of the kids were clear! Praise God. Speaking of praise. The guard and a couple of the other people in the home sang beautiful african songs of praise. I joined in to add another layer of harmony to their already lovely sound. I have no idea what the songs were about as Chantal was gone...but it was simply beautiful. I learned during the day that Chantal's husband runs Campassion Intl for all of East Africa. What a family. The children are extemely well behaved. So sweet. The power went out as were sitting around talking. No one screamed...I asked why the kids just sat in silence? They said this is how they were raised. Darkness is part of their everyday life. They brought a couple of candles out and we said good night. They put a taper in turn-up-side down bottle cap in my bedroom and my bathroom. Earlier in the evening we got my mosquito netting installed around my bed. Great REI purchase. Now, the art of an african shower/bath. They brought in a bucket of cold water and then a thermos of hot water and left. Hmm. How best to do this? So I cleansed my body with the cold water..then thought...whoops, I should have done my hair first. ran outta time...more later...probably in 2 days xoxoxox

4 comments:

Cathy S said...

Hi Donna - Bella & I are SOOO glad to hear that you are safe and sound. We're very proud of you. Take Care of yourself.
Cathy & Bella

Sarah Rice said...

Blog on Dear Donna! Your story is causing my heart to grow... can't wait to hear all that God does because of your willingness to follow Him into Africa...

love you TONS... praying for you more!

Sarah Rice

Betsy Wied...Huss said...

WOW!! What a story. I was wondering how and who you were with. We'll be praying for you and those your with.

Betsy Wied... Huss

Gary Schmidt said...

Hi Donna, I am so happy to hear you made it there safely, and all is well. Your journaling left me smiling, crying and humbled. How wonderful the deeds you are doing, the lives you are touching and the difference you are making.

Gary Schmidt