Sunday, April 16, 2006

the top part here might be a repeat...but it quickly becomes new. After nap time the kids emerged in more new clothes from our shipment. Each cuter than the next. As the sunset they put on the sweatshirts with hoods. They are all so well behaved. When its time to each they quickly gather at the plastic tables. One says the prayer with the hands over their eyes and a LOUD AMEN. We played for hours. Doing what? I’m not sure. The footballs are a huge hi1 today we learned the Vikings football says “go Viking!” The 3 year old that I’ve fallen in love with walks around saying “Go Bikins”…Close…but it makes sense to her! Tonight the kids got dressed in their new jimmies. They sang 2 songs. Said prayers and them climbed obediently into their bunk beds. I greatly improved on the bathing routine tonight. I added the REI stnlpen into the water for a go. Mixed the hot water in the thermos to the bigger bucket of cold water. It all came together for a rather nice warm water. I was pretty darn proud. (I must admit that I told Chantal about last night and she spread it around the home for good bit of laughter at my expense). Another improvement was starting with the hair first…best to leave the dirty water for body parts!. All in all another blessed day. 8:15pm Holy Thursday 4.14.06 by candlelight as the power went out early tonight. Each day is a new lesson. Today I awoke to play with the kids. Fabiola really wants to learn her English, colors and numbers. She is such a smart 7 year old. Chantal and Eddie came over to say hi. Eddie and I took the kids out in the yard to play with the football and put together the stomp rocket. It was huge hit. Thanks Johnson boys!!!! Then we began an odyssey of bureaucracy. Chantal needed to get Rwandan documentation as they had just returned in Sept of last year having lived in the State for 21 years. It is important paperwork to have to show citizenship and to occasionally take advantage of a ‘local vs tourist’ rate on something. We drove up dusty roads filled with people to a little shack which housed the office of the mayor who overseas this village. Since she has connections, she was able to cut a lot of corners. But they gave her the run around for 4 hours. I continued wander around to meet and photograph the people A white woman (actually anyone who is white) is like a magnet. The people will yell muzungo, muzungo!!! It’s a clear way to announce to everyone that a white person is coming. Now I know what it is like to live in a fish bowl. But I just smile and do my best to say words in their language like hello, goodbye, hi, bye. The crowds laugh at my attempts…but surely they are laughing with me not at me for they are very kind people. The contrast between the haves and have-nots is extreme. There is simply no visible middle class. The city is buildings some very impressive offices and shipping centers in an effort to “become like Chicago in 2020”. The buildings are impressive. But contrasting that are bumpy dirt road lines with people walking everywhere. I believe walking is their key to staying so trim. But the reality is it probably because most don’t get enough to eat. Back to contrasts…the poor people live in settings like you’ve seen in every program asking for money on TV. So many people are hanging out on street corners or small stores looking for work or just hanging out. As I make my way through the crowds they turn to stare. Many ask for money. Chantal take a moment to talk to them and coaches them “to be proud people and not to beg”. She is surely a wonder. Eventually she got her paperwork and we then went to the bank to change money. Forget the concept of ATM’s, this is nearly an impossible task. Add to that…no one wants a bill before the year 2000. I can’t figure out why…but that’s the way it goes. The banks tell shops it is ok, but none will take them. Additionally $20s are not accepted anywhere including the bank we visited. And shall we say UGH to the fact that I brought A LOT of $20s. Thank goodness life is simple here & I brought some food from America. Chantal is happy to provide me with food and I know she is already starting to get worried that I am not eating. So yes people, once again the picky eater strikes again. After the bank we went to have a dressmaker create my Easter dress. Since the Home paid for the fabric, I insisted on paying the $30 to have it make “rush”. I can’t wait. We had such a fun time designing what Chantal thought would be best based on the photos on a poster. Then we rushed home so I could go with Sabrina to church. We walked about 20 mins down the dusty road amidst construction. Then weaved our way through crowed vendor stalls. Yes Max…just like the Amazing Race. The market was quite crowed so it make for quite a journey along the badly eroded road. We arrived to find the church already in session It was so perfect…a small group of maybe 50, many kids. I followed Sabrina/Seiba…(I can’t quite tell which name they call her.) to a small bench (yes mom and dad…like Kenya) to be seated. The priest stopped within moments to welcome the visitor. Me. He asked that tell him where I was from. I answered. Someone translated for those gathered. In the small world- go figure – camp, The priest had spent last summer in Elk River MN! He had just arrived in Rwanda (his birthplace) from NY and NJ. Go figure. What are the odds? He asked someone who spoke English to come sit on the other side of me to “make a sandwich” of love. How could I be so blessed? At the end the priest asked if I had any announcements to make. I was completely caught off guard. Me? Announcements? I simply said that the people here are very beautiful and I love them very much. He said “America is very white. Here it is very dark. But in the darkness…hopefully you see the light!” The sunset and the church helpers light the kerosene lamps on the alter to provide a slight glow in the rather open-air setting. The church was under construction. It has a roof, a portion of the walls and a door. The windows and remaining walls are to come. The benches sit about a foot off the floor. A simple house of praise…just like the Last Supper. I became very aware of the mosquitoes and wished that I had put some spray on before I left the Home. So I slowly rolled down my sleeves to my wrist and prayed a small prayer that surely God would protect me from Malaria in this house of prayer. After church the people gathered to meet me as the sunset shown it’s last glimmer in the night sky. They all laugh as I spoke the 10-15 words that I know try to utter. Hugs and applause brought an end to the gathering as a lovely woman gave us a ride almost all of the way back to the home in her car. The moozoomgo was a surprise to many was we slowly our way through the crowded stalls. No time to prepare for her arrival…just boom…did I see what I think I saw in that car…and then she was gone. I was glad that I tucked my trusty headlamp into my fanny pack as I thought we might have to walk all the way home. (Yup dad…you taught me well!) I just held it in my hand as we walked. It was a great find out way on the bumpy road without twisting an ankle. Of course the locals simple walked by the light of the moon. I’m not sure what they thought of my technology. Sieba didn’t seem to mind, but wasn’t all that impressed as I think the moonlight would have been just fine for her. A beautiful full moon over Africa. Earlier in the day, I had sheepishly offered to give English lessons to any of the workers in the home that would be interested at night after the kids go to sleep. Their eyes lit up. YES YES YES. I said that I didn’t’ need to...I just wanted to offer. Their interest was sincere. So when we arrived after church, 5 women were waiting for lessons. It was a blast. Working with the basics. Point at something and then say the word. They repeat. As a group and then individually. Shirt, skirt etc. We got advanced…we moved on to color…black shirt, etc. They were so awesome. Since we were studying by kerosene lamp it was often hard to make out the darker colors…like purple. The kerosene had another effect…my head was ready to split. I risked the mosquitoes to take them outside in the yard for words like sky, stars, etc. But for me, it was simply a ploy to get fresh air in my lungs and leave the door open for a bit to get fresh air into the room. I know the people here do it all the time, but even with the window opens it was really strong. Having mastered some phrases like hello, nice to meet you what is your name, my name is, do you speak English, just a little bit, where do you live? Its nice to meet you . good bye. We decided the lesson was over for tonight. We’ll begin again tomorrow. They laughed every time I gave them a shout of victory and did my victory dance when they got something right. We hugged and eagerly awaited tomorrow. I then asked if I could have some water for my African bath. For some reason no one understood, so I am left with 2 litres of hot water, writing in my journal by candlelight from the behind a closed door hopefully blocking out the kerosene fumes. Then a knock on the door….and a request for my bucket…Ahhh, communication is good. Clean again. Who needs a common language? The days are so full I don’t think I really have time to process or reflect, I’m so glad I decided to journal. I will have time to really soak it in when I get back to the states. The priest tonight said God as a plan for you “he didn’t bring you here to meet a priest who has been to Elk River by chance”…Ahh, the mysteries of our lives… Good night Sleep tight. All is well.

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