Sunday, August 12, 2012

This trip comes to an end.


The last two days have been so jam packed that there was not time to blog.
For those who have been to New Hope Homes, you understand the nonstop nature of the everyday life when you are one person.

We’ve had treasured time together.

I was able to update the sizes and Christmas wish lists for the kids. This is a huge feat. Try to imagine working with 29 kids age 2.5 to 12 to properly measure their foot size noting current and estimating for growth. I was working from a master list of year ago and each of the older kids had to know how much bigger their feet are now. There was surely a sense of pride. I took the kids in alphabetical order which made for lots of tears from the little kids as they kept coming up and saying “me, me” thinking I was going to forget about them. I tried to point out their names on the list, some understood and skipped off the other just wept until I got to them in the sequence.

Next trying to sort top and bottoms. Fabiola, was a huge help with measuring feet and Innocent was awesome at checking size tags. Of course about ½ the tags didn’t have sizes that were visible or they were simple things like small or large which doesn’t help in the process. In each of those cases the child would need to go to their small clothes cube and bring me something else that fits., then we would check for tags. The process goes on and on.

Fabiola was especially happy to see that her foot was big enough to move to the adult foot measuring system.

Then each of them would give me an idea of a small gift that they would love for Christmas. Last year was the first year we were able to do a real Christmas for the kids where everyone got a lovely hand made bag by Deb and inside a pair of shoes, underwear, a small toy and a new outfit. We hope to be able to do the same this year. I explained to the kids that I can’t promise it, but we’ll see if people are again able to help us.

The popular gifts appear to be dolls with hair (remember our kids have shaved heads), scarves (Rebecca, you set the tone last year!) and toys with remotes (Christine you started a trend)

I wish I could make a video of this process because it is so noisy and crazy that you simply need to be here to get it.

We also did several “adventures”. The kids are starting to get the idea of the word. You simply leave the house and go someplace you have never been in order to try to see what fun will come of it. I have a rule that it always has to include something new. We can start in the same direction, but we must make a new turn at one point. This process has yielded great benefits. We found an open field for the kids to play soccer (aka football) in amidst some cows and foot traffic of the local people. We found an area that is used to cut big logs that we can use as a volley ball net. And the best of all, when we climbed to a high place we found a beautiful stream below that has served for two days of great fun splashing and just being goofy kids.

In the process of fun, one of Esther’s flip flops floated away along with our new Frisbee. The kids all freaked but I told them that it would bless someone else downstream and they liked that idea. Hopefully someone will understand the idea of a Frisbee or it will serve as someone’s plate!

The kids were all supportive of Esther as each lent her a shoe on our way back trading out every little bit so someone was always walking without a shoe! They proactively each offered to help.

One of the DVD’s I brought was Chimpmucks – the sequel. In it is the song “all the single ladies” . The older girls love the song and have started to work on a routine with it. They do it everywhere, from the stream to walking the hills to the front yard. It cracks me up big time.

We got a lot of much needed rain yesterday, This almost cancelled our adventure as Issac thought it was too wet for the kids to play. We had wanted to go to the stadium – not sure what that is, but they say it close, to play soccer, but Isaac and Sande said they would sink to their knees if we did.

Eventually I coaxed them into the local adventure knowing it would be a bit muddy, but we would be fine. It was, after all, my last day. The stream was on the hit list so we tried a different way to reach it which involved crossing a few muddy terrains. Well, not so much muddy in the traditional sense as it was slippery dirt. They quickly got the concept of creating human chains to help us all cross! It worked brilliantly and the giggles continued. It’s especially meaningful when I can get the older boys Isaac and Sande to turn into giggling kids as they are often so serious.

I LOVE LOVE our new city where we will be raising the kids. While I don’t know that area like I do Kigali and Kicukiro where we have lived the past 6 years, this place seems simple and lovely.

Chantal created a special opportunity for the older kids who did not get to go to Kibeho stay overnight at Chantal and Mbandas. She also included anyone that was 1, 2 or 3 in the class as another special reward. We want the kids to excel in school as we believe it is the way out of poverty so having small rewards like this is another encouragement.

Since they have wifi we were finally able to skype with people. Some were scheduled, some were just random dials when the kids saw they were “green” on skype – meaning they were online.

So sorry for not being able to connect with more sponsors this trip, but it was so short and I didn’t have working Internet for most of it. We’ll be sure to make it happen during Christmas.

Perhaps the most important adventure for me of the day was seeing our new house under construction. For those of you who are new to the our journey, we have made a change in the last few months.

We moved sold the 3 homes the kids had been living in for the past 6 years, bought some property near the boarding school that they kids attend and have started construction of a single home for them to live.

While we loved the idea of 1 home per 10 kids, each with their own Mom, it is outside of our current financial situation. One home will be more cost efficient and importantly the piece of land we have will allow us to be more self sustaining. We hope to grow all our own vegetables, have chickens and rabbits for food and have our cows nearby for milk. The vision is wonderful. Now we simply need to raise the money to make it happen.

We have made great progress on the house, but need the funds to finish it.
If we can raise $48,000 more, we could be in the house by Christmas. Additionally we need $17,000 more for operating cost through the end of the year. Yes, these are big numbers and I have not idea from where the money will come, but I believe that by being transparent with you about our needs someone somewhere will know someone who can help. Every $ matter, so if you are even able to give $10, please do. I know that sometimes people think they need to give a lot to make a different, but I do mean it. $10-$25 will matter.

This home will be for our kids they place that will we know as home for their lives. It will be filled will love and we will help them meet their God given potential. We will be the hands if you can be the part of the support system to allow us to meet the kids of this wonderful children.

As is our new tradition, anyone who is 1,2 or 3 in their class gets to go to a real restaurant and with me and be celebrated for their accomplishments. In April Harvin and I took Grace and Alice. This time, they were joined by Dorcus, Caria and Ariene who are in preschool. They were so excited to do something previously reserved for the big kids. We went to a pizza place and celebrated and talked their success.

I asked by good grades are so important. Grace said “it is because we want a good future!” Yes, indeed sweet one. You got it! Thanks to all their school sponsors they will indeed have their best shot.

This is the first trip where Dorcus, Ariene and Caria have spoken a little English. Dorcus is really really starting to understand a lot, despite how much English she speaks. It been amazing to see her go from a baby to this wonderful pre-schooler.

The final drive.
Chantal agreed that the 4 oldest kids could drive with me to the airport. It used to be 20 mins away but now I need to leave 3+ hours earlier. I reminded the kids that it is a long drive and told them they didn’t need to come. Isaac said “no one will refuse you, because we all like to go places in the car!” It’s true, their lives are focused at New Hope Homes, school and Chantal & Mbanda’s so if they get to see anything else, its such a treat.

Exits are hard. I usually have to fight back the tears for the kids and work extra hard to keep it together and fun for them as they feed off our emotions. This trip, for some reason was a bit easier. I think it because it was so fast and the kids knew it would be so they were just thankful for our time together. Usually they start withdrawing the last day as they start protecting their little hearts from another goodbye. The combination of the hike and playing in the water prevented that from happening this time. It’s hard to be sad and withdrawn when you are playing in the water!!!

The next little trick is ice cream! About 30 mins before I have to leave, we put the kids in groups of 3 and put a small container of icecream in front of the little kids and away we go! Laughter, giggles and good fun. As the eating came to a close I ran around to each of them and hugged them telling them I loved them and would be back at Christmas. People that have been part of this in the past will be very surprised to know I did it well for the first time. Only a few moments of tears well hidden and then off to the car with Isaac, Fabiola, MarieRose and Sande.

The windy roads in the dark make for quite a drive as our driver works to avoid so many people on foot. We talked a bit and slept a bit. They of course wanted to have the ipad so they could play with my fifa app that they love. I made the wait until we got just outside of Kigali as I didn’t want anyone to throw up in Chantal’s car. We stopped by Abrahams to get a frame for my painting and he gifted me with a beautiful scarf that matched my Rwanda dress! Thanks Abraham, I wish we had more time together.

Getting to town plenty early, we had time for a burger and fries at Mr Chips. It a tiny burger place that opened a year ago and had been my favorite place by our old house so it was fun to drop by.

As we waited for dinner the kids noses were down in the ipad having the time of their lives, so I just let them be. I did however, keep giving them grief about how much I was enjoying our quality time together! NOT!!! They looked up, laughed to ensure I was kidding and then back to the match. When dinner arrived their play time ended. I look forward to sitting across the table from these kids when they are 20 and 30 years old to see where life’s journey takes them.

On the drive to the aiport they wanted to know everything that I do with the planes after I say goodbye. So I gave them very detailed info about the security, checking bags, passport control, connections etc etc including getting home Thursday night and going back to work on Friday morning. Phew. They got it. They got it so well they said…”wait…you do not have time to relax when you go back, you go back to work right away?” “Yes, we need to raise money and me working is part of making that happen.” They said I needed a job where I could come live with them for 2 years. I told them I have a great job with a great boss who lets me come see them 3 times a year. That is a very special place for me to work as not many companies anywhere in the world would let that happen. They understood.

Arriving at the airport they said they were all going to cry. I made them stop by saying “ya ya, you’re crying because the ipad it leaving not me!” They thought was was pretty funny. In a remarkable turn, Isaac actually walked me to the door of the airport with the other kids. He always finds a way to suddenly disappear and stay in the car so he can cry privately, but this time he made it all the way. You have no idea what a break through this is for us. I hugged and kissed each one of them, telling them I loved them until they couldn’t take it anymore. Then gave them one from Harvin as the kids are so excited to see him at Christmas.

They walked away and I went to stand in line to begin my return back to my other life…

Monday, August 06, 2012

Nathalie pointing out the direction to the healing water.

The basic stares at a Muzungo (me!) in the van.

The one and only Wonderful ABBY. WE LOVE YOU!

Teaching Anathalie (aka Nathalie) English. What a team!

Kibeho. The site of Mary's appearances in 1982-1989

Young kids and teenagers getting ready to work in the field.

Now you know why the kids call him "BIG JESUS" :)

The simple life that is Rwanda.

The most amazing trip to Kibeho yet.

Today was a very special day for me. Awaking at the Cana Center in Kibeho we were surrounded by raw beauty of nature. Kayitesi was my roommake and gently awoke when my alarm went off at 7:30.

WARNING…this is a bit of a faith based entry,so if it’s not your cup of tea, pass and look for tomorrows. There. I warned you.

Cana Center is beautiful retreat center. The rooms a simple, but sparkling clean and have bathrooms in each one. The yard is lush green and sits on the top of the hill that provides spectacular views. I often look into those hills and imagine the sights and sounds during the genocide. The echoes would have gone on for miles.

In the center of the grounds is a statue I have named Big Jesus for the kids. When driving to Kibeho, they always ask if we have time to see big Jesus. When I say, BIG, I mean B-I-G. He is made of some type of cast iron and must stand 50 ft tall. Some day I will ask….but you get the this idea he is HUGE. It is the Divine Heart of Jesus so he has a red and blue ray coming out of his chest and features the words In Jesus I trust at his feet.

Often when we visit, there a people sitting on the simple benches praying or singing. Today I got some solo time with the big guy and got some work done on my heart and life. It was time well spent.

The boys were up early so I had to tell them to keep it down, as I knew Abby hadn’t slept much since Grace had been throwing up during the night. But, by morning, everyone seemed ready to play. I headed off to spend some time on the ground of the grounds of the church and chapel that are home to the miracles that happened between 1981 and 1989. Mary – yes THAT Mary. Appeared to 3 schoolgirls to warn them about the upcoming genocide, to encourage them to repent and turn their lives around AND to pray a special rosary called the Seven Sorrows Rosary.

One of the girls – Nathalie – has stayed there since she was 17 when she had her first visions of Mary. Everyday she greets people and tells her story. She patiently answers questions and prays for each of them. I have gotten to know her quite well over the past few years in visits and texts (yes! Texting with a visionary!) and we planned that on this trip I was going to get some quality time to help her with her English. We scheduled time starting at 9:30am. I got there at 8 to pray, to walk around and to simply soak I the place that was so special to be deemed worthy of this miracle.

It was quality time. Every other time I have gone, I have been constantly worried about getting back to the kids, or if I am taking to long praying in the chapel etc…but today I got some zero pressure time for me. It was beautiful to just breathe it in.

I saw Nathalie early on but we both just kept doing our thing knowing we would be seeing each other in a bit.

As it goes in Rwanda, nothing is ever as planned so you go with the flow. After walking the grounds and chatting with some young people who were working the nearby field I arrived at Nathalie’s home right at 9:30 sharp. As I rounded the corner I saw Father Ulbald ( I met him in NY about a month ago on retreat with Immaculee. He is very special man.

Imagine if there were you life experience thus far: Fr. Ubald has been a Roman Catholic priest for 25 years in the Cyangugu Diocese of southeastern Rwanda. Cyangugu is situated very closely to the Congo and Burundi borders on the picturesque Lake Kivu. During the 1994 genocide Fr. Ubald lost over 80 members of his family and over 45,000 of his parishioners were exterminated.
This humble, wonderful man has the gift of healing and is quite a vessel.
Imagine both of our surprises to see each other at Nathalie’s door at the same time!

We greeted each other. I explained I was there to teach her English lessons. He has about 15 people from Australia and Germany with him. They of course deserved 1st position. ☺. Nathalie explained that it wouldn’t be long, but over an hour later, I was concerned that our 2 hour English lesion was shrinking quickly. Earlier I had asked her for her notebook that we used in April. I write in English, she translated to Kinyarwanda. This time I handed the notebook to Sande, Grace and Kayitesi who came over to help me teach. I wrote out the sign of the cross, the our father, hail Mary and each of the 7 sorrows. The kids transcribed on the steps outside of Nathalie’s small room where she greets people.

The guests thoroughly enjoyed the time with Nathalie although I did not understand a word that was uttered! After the guests left we all pulled up chairs to her small table and began to teach. The kids were terrific helping her with translation and pronunciation challenges.

We worked our way through all the parts of the Seven Sorrows Rosary, but I had forgotten a few sections. She kept trying to tell the kids that I had missed something but it kept getting lost in the translation. Eventually – like a thump on the head – I got it.

The time was so sweet. She really enjoyed the kids and at one point suddenly got up from the table asking the kids if there were thirsty or wanted a sweet? They didn’t ask for anything as you an see what a simple life she leads. Yet, moments later she returns with some hard candy pieces for them. It was so sweet. I know I keep saying that, but it was, just simple honest connections and love.

As we wrapped our time together, Abby, the driver and other kids arrived. Nathalie was going to show us where the holy water stream is. She first said a prayer for us and walked us through the main church for another blessing.

As we rounded the corner to start heading down the hill to find the water, another group of visitors arrived…and so goes her life. All are unannounced and all have likely flown and then driven a long distance to meet her and enter this holy place. She of course needed to spend time with them. She walked us part way down the hill and then pointed out the series of turns to the kids. Abby and I looked at the clock which was now 1;20. We had planned to leave no later than 12:30 to get out of the mountains by dark. Sande suggested the walk was about 10 mins. each way. This over course means it would be 20 each way and put us into an unsafe situation. As I walked away, I yearned to stay to reach this new holy place. Looks like it would need to on the Christmas agenda when I return.

The first part of the ride was filled with high energy giggles, then sleeping, then awake. Our rickety rackety old rental van, is do load and the dust pours in from all side on the parts of the journey that are dirt roads that it made conversation a bit more challenging that usual as you had to yell from the front to the back to be heard.

No the less, the adventure was perfect.

We dropped Abby off just outside of Kigali so we could continue on while we still had light. Abby is such a gift to these kids and me. She is a constant presence of love, faith and fun. We are all blessed to call her our sister.

After Abby left, the van suddenly turned into the vomit mobile. Innocent filled a gallon Ziploc bag more than ½ full an then started another. I was doing everything to not vomit on Grace that I couldn’t even help him.

Grace then lept from my lap looking for a bag and voila. Puke.

Kayitesi was already lying down.

I think it was just the end of the long twisty turny roads and backed up behind some highly pollutant trucks that billow the dark black smoke unceasingly. Rwanda is such a “green “ environmentally sound country, these trucks always come as a surprise to me.

Back at New Hope Homes the kids cheered our arrival. We were one big dust cloud of love. Our bags where covered, but the hugs were clean!

When I went to greet everyone Alice hid under one of the boys bed. She told me “I do NOT remember you!” “What?” “What did I do Alice?” She then gave me a lickin’ for not saying goodbye when we left. She was apparently reaching out to hug me goodbye when I close the van door on the kids that were staying. Yikes! 29 kids in need of lots of love and attention can make for an occasional oversight. I asked her for “forgiveness”. She appears to be thinking about it! ☺

My head is spinning from the road, but my heart full.

The adventure continues.

Morning service at Bishop Mbanda’s church. As usual the visitors need to stand and be introduced and welcomed. Chantal made me stand and be welcomed. She then had to go forward and explain who I was to the congregation.

In Kinyrawranda she told them my story and love for Rwanda and the orphans. She told them that they need to know that “I am one of them.” They needed to get to know me as I would be around a lot more than before as the kids now live in Musanze.

That’s one of the best intros I have received. “I am one of them”. Love it.

After church 6 of the kids: Sande, Kayitsi, Innocent, Grace, Lionel and Marie Rose said goodbye to the others as our bus arrived for transport to Kibeho. Our rattly old 1972 van no longer can be trusted to do errands beyond Musanze so I chartered a van and driver. I laughed as it arrived given that it made our bus look like a new Cadillac! Truly.

We trusted the good Lord to get us there, so off we went.

5 mins into the drive, our driver Forstine pulled into a garage and asked that we get our spare fixed. Good planning.

We also got “chemicals” as they call them for the kids. Pills to help them not throw up in the car as it is a windy road that stretches for at least 6 hours.
This of course meant they all slept the 2 hour drive to Kigali.

We agreed to meet Abby at the airport as the box containing our 4 donated laptops had arrived. I forged through the piles of luggage that was stored in the various rooms to no avail. Just when I was about to turn into a NYer insisting that they find the bag, I discovered it in a far away storage room. Hmm, I wonder how many things disappear there?

Abby arrived shortly thereafter and the kids were overjoyed to see her. She’s been in the states for 2 months living. She was equally happy to wrap her arms around them.

We journeyed onward to Kibeho sleeping, talking, playing the “I am thinking of something” game etc etc. Time passed rather quickly. Well as quickly as it can with the roads, bumps, twists and turns.

As we turned off the main road to the final 1 hour dirt road drive to Kibeho we had a blowout. We were so thankful it happened that close to town. A lovely man help us create a lift with some rocks and got it changed pretty darn quickly. Thankfully we got the spare fixed 5 hours earlier! Off to Butare to get it repaired.
The kids, while being sweet, clearly acknowledged they were getting hungry to we again added to our grocery supply. Buture is a University town so we were able to get a few good things for the journey.

Arriving in Kibeho we went to Nathalie’s front door and knocked. No reply. Then to back door. The guard sent word in that we were there and a quick reply came to come to the front door.

We had a quick hello and made plans for English lessons tomorrow at 9:30. We tried to call my Mom and Dad to say hello, but Dad was at Mass so we agreed to wake them up the next day at 5:30 AM! (Ya, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!)

Dinner at Cana Center was delicious. Rice, potatoes, a little bit of meat and tea. The kids were giddy and said they didn’t want to leave the next day. We were thankful that we were the only ones in the center that sleeps 82!

Some played after dinner Ping Pong, Kayitesi hung with me. MarieRose grace traded off hanging with Abby to play card and visiting me as I was setting up all my electronics for charging and gabbing with Kayitesi.

It’s a very good life

Saturday, August 04, 2012

An adventure filled day.

It’s been a while since I have done a solo trip to New Hope Homes. It’s wonderful to have the kids to myself, but at the same time, overwhelming.

I enjoyed 7 pure wonderful hours of sleep last night. Ahhh. So wonderful. Chantal and team left early for one of their many wonderful projects. I enjoyed a slow calm peaceful start to my day. Innocent again had oranges, pineapples and banana bread for me! I could get use to this special treatment. I usually stay with the kids, but until we have the new house finished there isn’t any room. I usually awake at 5 am to the sounds of the kids giggling and the aunties and uncles readying the day. Quite a contrast.

I scooterd off around 9:30 and somehow made a bad turn. Thankfully after a few do-overs I found the right way. Kickuro near Kigali has been home in Rwanda for the past 6 years so I still need to get my bearings in Musanze. A female muzungo on a scooter is a rare sighting so everywhere I go I get beeps, yells and “muzungo”…I reply to each with a good morning, hello, or good evening in Kinyarwranda, which is always returned with cheers and laughter from the crowds.

The dirt road by the rental house is so very challenging to navigate. There are big boulders; lots of tiny rocks and of course the log bridges. The cheers as I navigate each successfully are all the more stressful, as I know the throngs of people are watching my every move. I of course wear dresses here so trying to keep my skirt from flying in the breeze is also a bit challenging when I get up to 50k on the main drag.

Our new GoPro client wanted to send a camera with me, but in my quick exit, we didn’t have a chance to grab one. She would have LOVED the footage from the helmet cam mount!

BEEP BEEP BEEP at the gate confirms that I have arrived at New Hope Homes. The kids yell Miss Donna Miss Donna Miss Donna as they come running to greet me.

There is nothing in the world like a hug from our kids. While I am only here 5.5 days, I’m now confident that I made the right decision to come. The rental house and yard is small relative to what the kids are used to having so we have to be creative. Where they are used to grass we have gravel, we are without the multipurpose classroom and most of the toys. In a way, it’s back to the beginning when we opened our first home. The good part is with everyone in one room, is people communicate and play with each other vs wandering off.

I arrived to find the big kids working on their homework for break. How cool is that? They started their day, without anyone’s prompting by getting their homework done! They were working on “opposites” and abbreviations. With a bunch of brothers and sisters they tried to solve them together.

When all hope was lost, we opening up my laptop and went into the dictionary for a little assistance. In the end we were stumped on two. I will try to remember to post on facebook when I can remember what we couldn’t solve. One was COURSE…not coarse. What the heck would that be?

After playing around for quite some time I asked the big kids if they wanted to go on another adventure. Some said yes, others no. Isaac has a hole in his shoe so he didn’t think he could go. I showed him that the rest of us were wearing sandals, so it would be ok.

We set off in the same way as yesterday. Down the dirt road. We brought a Frisbee, jump rope and ball with us. I thought the place we had found yesterday would be a perfect location for all of the above. As we approached we saw that there were quite a few prisoners in the yard and police. The children and I agreed that we should ask permission before playing. The police could not have been more lovely, but in the end, they could not give us permission or the other kids in the hood would want to do the same thing. Understanding completely we said our goodbyes.

Down the hill just a bit the boys found some trees that looked like a goal post. They decided it would be a perfect volleyball net. Auntie Grace was with us so she sat in the grass and enjoyed the game while the other kids tossed Frisbees.

I love our new neighborhood. Or shall I say our short term neighborhood. As the location where we are building the new home is in Muszane, but not in this neighborhood. It’s much more rural and filled with adventure possibilities.

After about 30 mins Esther decided is was time “to go”. They wanted to continue the adventure. We decided to go down the hill vs up as we did yesterday. Everyone kept asking me “where are we going?” I kept replying, I don’t know. I just thought we should explore. The reply “but where?” My reply, “ Let’s just have an adventure and see where it takes us”. Not quite an easy concept , but they got it.

Finally when all the faces where grumpy I said. “ok, do you want to stop” NO was the reply. “Are you having fun?” YES was the reply. I asked by the faces, and they said they didn’t know they had those faces.

After another and another log foot bridge we got to the bottom of the hill and the kids love the big stream. We aren’t used to seeing lots of water where we used to live, so this is all good.

The local in the village aren’t used to seeing all these kids, much less me, so they stopped and stared for what seemed like eternity.

I try to take the time to reach each one and ask their name. But, it’s simply not possible given the number of people as we were climbing down the big rocks.

I kept saying we need to find a mountain to climb. The kids said yes yes. Just after we agreed to go back Sande spotted a both up the side of a mountain. I suggested that we do it Tuesday when I am back from Kibeho, unless they wanted to do it now. NOW was the reply.

We presumed a way to get to it then asked a villager who confirmed we were correct. It was a great climb and I was very thankful to have Auntie Grace with me to keep track of the kids. We were on a path the entire time, but each turn revealed a new adventure.

When we got to the flat road, the girls wants to do the “hey hey we’re the monkeys walk as we stretched across the entire street. I taught it to them in April. They then re-wrote the song to be “hey hey we’re Harvin, and we here to monkey around!” He would have loved it.

In the end, we had a great time. We walked back through town and I got water for everyone as we were thirsty from all that work. A bottle of water here is a big deal, not quite as good as Harvin’s donuts after their run, but a treat non the less.

Mama greeted us at the return asking about our adventure.

Back home it was time to play with the little kids.

In the morning I put in a video to distract half the kids so I could get time with the other, but I didn’t think 2 videos in the same days was a good plan so we just made the best of it.

Eventually Fabiola asked if the ipad could come out again so they could play football (aka soccer) games. They have become must more respectful of asking permission and waiting their turns. Yes, indeed they are growing up.

Since I don’t have my modem yet we substituted calls for skype. Clearly more money, but since my time is short here, I wanted to make sure some of the sponsors got to chat.

Everyone wanted to call everyone. In the end Kristen and Ian got the 1st call, followed by Harvin who got 30+ minutes and we left some random messages.

The sun began to set and I knew it was time to scoot as I don’t think I could manage the roads in the dark. Yet.

I hate leaving them at 6:15, but I need to be smart. Yes Mom, I do make good decisions every once in a while!.

The good part is it’s 7:30, the blog is now finished, I’m showered and can now start editing photos.

This is indeed a very unusual trip as I’m usually going until 1:30 AM here.

Tomorrow is church and then a big adventure to Kibeho. We plan to pick up Abby in Kigali and for the first time do a overnight as the drive we not be 6 hours each way vs 3.

I can only imagine what the day will bring…..

Blog done…Chantal and Mbanda just arrived home….time to close.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Day 1

I slept 17 of the 19 hours in the air to Rwanda. I landed feeling refreshed.

Alas, the 1st of many challenges began when my box containing 4 computers did not arrive. I am choosing to believe that they are simply misplaced vs a scan showing 4 laptops perfect for snitching.

We had closed a wonderful win for Carat with the GoPro account the day I left, but there was much to do when I landed but technology failed me. Thus I was left with only the ability to text. That and lots of conversations with the top people at AT&T which revealed why my data wasn’t working on the iphone…AT&T changed a system 1 month ago and unfortunately Rwanda has not thrown the switch on this end. At 4AM I finally put my head down hoping the 2.5 hours of sleep would come.

Chantal greeted me with OJ, pineapple and banana bread. AHHH, I am calling this the pampered trip as I usually stay with the kids, but our rental house does not have room. Thus I now have running water, always on electricity and AND hot water. YA, don’t feel bad for me at on on this trip!!!

We went to MTN , one of the local carriers and found a way to make my ipad work with email. Not exactly pocket size…but it will do for now.

I picked up my scooter and followed Chantal to the new temp housing. The road was a bit perilous including crossing 2 rivers that have only logs to ride over. The locals where we used to live know me, so they get use to seeing me doing all sorts of strange things, but here, the Muzungu (white person) on a scooter crossing rivers on logs was a new sight, so needless to say, the cheers and hoots were heard down the entire road.

Thru the gates and into the arms of our kids is a wonderful joy. You simply can’t explain it. The big kids are getting a little cool for school to come running to greet me but the little kids hoot, holler and scream for joy when they saw me. Missy Donna Missy Donna echoed through the lunch room.

We spent time just playing and chatting. When the little kids laid down for their naps the 12 bigs kids and set out to explore our new neighborhood. We walked the dirty bumpy road, then cut through a path to an open area to assess if we could play football (aka soccer) there. It was a no go. Then we heard a stream and wondered over to check it out. Next the kids saw some corn that was 2x as tall as me and told me they wanted to see it…but they really wanted to see was a prison near by.

Part way through I asked if everyone knew how to get back? This was met with yes and no’s…ok not really no’s…but lots of puzzled facing trying to remember. 45 mins to the walk I said we needed to go back the way we came try this other road which I hoped would take us back. There was a split decision so we decided to take the adventurous non traveled route which thankfully took us back home.

I brought out my ipad which followed Harvin’s lead from last time…and well, that’s the last time I saw the faces of the big kids for two hours. It worked out well as it gave me more time with the little kids.

I learned we have lots of kids doing well in school. Alice and Grace did well..and Dorus is #1 in her class. Luv it!! We’ll be having a special time together to celebrate. A new tradition to reward the good students.

Issac then returned home from an extra 1.5 weeks of school where he was studying for his exams this fall. These exams are huge. The kids greeted him like the pied piper and he loved on each and every one of the little kids.

He said he could not tell any stories or answer any questions today as he head was …and made a dizzy face…from studying sooooo much. Then he turned and laughed.

More time loving the kids and trying to split myself into 2 to give them each some attention which is of course impossible.

I scootered home just before dark as I didn’t think I could make it with just the headlight of scooter on this tough road.

Dinner with a wonderful group of people in from a variety of places to help the Mbanda’s on one of their beautiful projects or to serve as a contact for them.
One many was expecially interesting. He runs the coffeee company – Land of 1000 hills…this is the name for which Rwanda is famous.

Home I am trying to help Mbanda with some faceook issues for his church and hope to sleep tonight.

Time here is so precious.



Due to work needs, this will be my quickest trip in the 6 years I have been coming to Rwanda. I have 5 ¾ days with the kids. It breaks my heart just typing that. Such a short short time. But I’m thankful that I could even get this much with the kids given all that is on my plate.

My goal is to try to take this trip in slow motion. Yes, slowwww. Try to soak in every moment while I try to get through the many tasks on my plate.
1. Be present to each child and see how they are doing. Love em, hug em, laugh with them and simply carry all your love with me in my arms and wrap them around each and every child.
2. Check on Desami’s progress with the walker.
3. Get a feel for how everyone is doing in their new surroundings as we moved the kids nearly 2 hours away from where some have been living for all 6 years. We did this to get them closer to Chantal and to build a new home for all of the kids.
4. Get a handle on our budget. We need $48,000 more to finish the home that we just broke ground on. This plus our regular operating budget.
5. Make a plan for our new playground for the kids in their new home. We have donor who wants to build a basketball court to accommodate the net and backboard I brought. They also want to put in a swing set play area. What a blessing! I need to get a handle on costs so the donor can start raising funds.
6. Get everyone’s sizes updated. This is a full day job. Truly. You can’t imagine how much time this takes to assess shoes, and clothes sizes. I am secretly hoping to wait until Abby comes to help.
7. Get updated pics of everyone
8. See what small special little present they might want for Christmas so Harvin and I can start spreading the word.
9. Connect with Chantal and Mbanda on the other hopes and dreams they have for the people of Rwanda.
10. Skpe with donors and friends of the kids.

Most of all it is about being thankful for the blessings of the people of Rwanda, especially Chantal & Mbanda and the kids of New Hope Homes.

Thanks again for following along on this journey.