Sunday, August 15, 2010

Last stories...

Mwarlamutse! (Good morning). I awoke this morning to great surprise – my alarm had yet to sing its cheerful, off-beat melody. 6am found me wide awake, ready to pack my bags, go on one last walk around the cobblestone and dirt roads of quiet morning, and start the process of saying goodbye. As I packed, I heard the morning noises of this place: jumbled radio stations, kids’ sleepy voices greeting one another, water splashing on the cement kitchen floor, birds squawking unabashedly. This place is home, well, another home, to me. The people here are family, a second community. To say I am blessed is an understatement.

The kids head back to school Monday: some to Sonrise, some to Remera. When I ask them what they think about going back, most are excited, some are sad to leave home. Yesterday, in our last lessons, I asked the kids what they hoped for. Each and every one of them want to improve in some subject, mostly French. French is so hard for them! I pat their backs and tell them, kids, you already know two languages! It’s only a matter of time and you will know French, too! Their eagerness for greatness is unfailing.

Some highlights of the last week:

Sport! The tantines asked me a few days ago if I’d do “sport” with them, meaning lead them in exercise. I led them through some circuit training moves (thanks Kate and Stacy!), yoga, and a little jogging. We all laughed incredibly hard. Yoga was awkward. I bent the auntie’s limbs and adjusted posture to the best I could, but with a language barrier, their poses weren’t exactly yoga. We endured. The moves must have worked something, because each of them griped about their sore muscles the next day!

Visitors! A wonderful family from New York is currently visiting Rwanda. They joined the kids and I three mornings this past week. They jumped right in, getting to know kids, bringing their own talents.. The youngest boy is a phenomenal drummer and led the kids in a rousing game of “pass around the beat.” We were rockin’.

4-year old English! Dorcas and Ariane amaze me. Their English is SO good, although they are very sneaky about letting you know that. Last night, as they sat on my lap before dinner, they started pointing at my face and naming all the parts (nose, eyes, ears, etc.) Then, Dorcas starts telling me a story in sentences. No prompting, nothing. Incredible. Language acquisition is so interesting. They are at such a formative age, and I’m so glad they have their big brothers and sisters to speak English around them! Bilingual kids in the making…

For all of you who have been reading our reflections and stories, thank you. I hope we can give you a glimpse into the lives of these incredible children and adults at New Hope Homes. This is Abby, signing off, from Rwanda. Peace to you!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

And then there was... 1.

Abby here. Sarah and Donna are safely back home, and that leaves me here with an amazing group of kids, tantines, tantos, and mommas. I’m falling into a rhythm with the occasional surprise here and there. As Sarah’s last post mentioned, the kids did a fantastic job cleaning their classroom. I’m happy to say it stayed very clean the whole week afterward. Clean until today, that is. This morning, at least 50 kids came from church to visit the New Hope children. I walked into the classroom and literally every inch of the floor was inhabited by either a little body or a discarded toy. Usually this wouldn’t phase me much (I teach first grade), but the look on some of our kids’ faces reminded me of how hard they had worked to make their classroom clean. Luckily, when all was said and done, the disarray was not completely overwhelming. With help from the visitors, we were able to clean it up quickly, much to the kid’s relief. It definitely helped, too, that we had organized well the week before!

Tonight I helped Momma with a heaping pile of laundry. We washed as we waited for dinner to be ready. Laundry / wash here is meaningful to me. That may sound strange, but sitting around a bucket with women who work tirelessly reminds me of what it takes to care for these children. Scrubbing endless piles of clothes each day is not an easy task. Momma and the tantines do it with efficiency and care, each and every time. They laugh at me a lot, because I don’t use enough soap, and I think my hands are much weaker than theirs. I try not to let it phase me… but really, I wish I could wring out a pair of jeans as fast as they can! Perhaps I should start hand washing at home?

Comical relief happens all the time here. Kwizera, a 1 ½ year old boy, is constantly dressed in princess pajamas. When he trots into a room covered in pink and princess, it is enough to bring me to hysterics. Last night, though, he was wearing an especially pink shirt, glittery pants, and (no joke) was prancing around in little girl shoes. I think the girls in his house egg him on… and possibly even dress him at times… but I almost lost it. Sarah and Donna – I wish you would have been there. His outfit and the look on his face topped all of his evening attires of the past month!

Dashaka kajama! (I want sleep!) Goodnight all.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Back again!

As tried and true teachers, Abby and I believe in teaching kids responsibility. So on Saturday we told the kids that if they wanted to come up to house #1 (where we’ve been staying) they had to help clean the school. They came, and together we conquered that mess!! These kids were incredible. They needed no prompting and jumped right in sweeping, washing windows, mopping the floor, organizing toys, sharpening pencils, and even washing dusty legos (ok, I made them do this)! It has really made a difference. And the kids are taking more and more ownership over that space. Sande seems to be the natural leader of the kids and he has taken charge over that school. The other day I passed out marbles for the kids to play with and was adamant that I needed 60 back before we could leave for dinner. When I went outside to collect them, Sande met me with a written report of who had turned in their marbles and how many each kid returned. Good to know we can count on him to keep order 

I’ve gotten to teach more this week since Abby’s been feeling a little under the weather. I cannot even lie. I am NOT an elementary school teacher. But no one was hurt, and I think we all walked away learning something (me: stick with high school). Monday we did estimates, the kids actually had a lot of fun. And yesterday was a science lesson on how Jiffy Pop works. On Monday we also played English Bingo with the staff. HILARIOUS!! They are a fun loving bunch. Claudine and I were wearing matching laesos (long fabric wrap skirts) one day and she paraded us around, her as Miss America and me as Miss Rwanda. I know, right? Pretty great.

I am preparing to leave. Tomorrow I head to the airport. It’s hard wrapping up an experience like this. It’s not my first time at New Hope Homes, but it’s always hard to leave these kids. They, each of them, are so strong in their own right. They have hard stories and a lot of obstacles to still overcome. It’s pretty meaningful to know that these kids have a web of support that spans around the world.