Friday, August 08, 2014

Harvin's post

Thursday August 7, 2014

Hello, Harvin here.  It’s actually August 8th right now. I am sitting here early this morning, recapping yesterday’s events, sipping coffee (still SO thankful for Donna’s gift of a percolator coffee maker for me), listening to the home of 28 kids begin to arise:  Sleepy voices in Kinyarwanda drifting in from upstairs.  Auntie Grace sweeping up the few remnants of the popcorn dance party we missed last night. Our cook Manuel setting out the cups of porridge that will fuel our morning.  The sense of calm before the storm of activity that 28 kids descending on the day will bring.

I have so missed this. It’s good to be back.

Yesterday started about the same as today, the house slowly waking up, etc.  Or at least I assume it did.  I wasn’t awake to experience it.  I finally whipped my jet lag and slept through the night, sleeping in till 8 for the first time.  So yesterday I arose to porridge on the table, a pot of coffee already brewed for me, a couple dozen hugs greeting my sleepy eyes.  Except for the water running out before I could fill half a bucket for my cold shower the night before, I’d say it’s like my own little perfect Rwandan B&B.  I really do have a wonderful life here. 

During breakfast Franny was double checking all our list of sponsors vs. thank you notes, and discovered despite our best efforts the night before we had missed a few. That’s ok. Give these kids a paint set or a bunch of crayons and markers, and many are often content with sitting and coloring together.  So we split up as a family. Some of us chose to go to the field to play soccer again, some chose to stay and color and finish the few remaining thank you notes. I chose soccer.

By the time we arrived at the field we had collected our opposing team. It works that way.  A few Muzungos with a legitimate soccer ball walking down a rutted path to a field draws a crowd. A side note on the field today; only one goal was usable.  The other had a crowd of kids and parents around it, with a local physician weighing the kids by putting them in a harness and scale suspended by the other goal post.  Think of a fish scale for kids.  So many unfamiliar things happen here that you just have to soak it all in and laugh.  We adjusted and put out rocks for a goal on that side and started the game.

I was pressed into playing goalie.  My defenders were Grace, Anna, and Prince.  Isaac took his normal position as striker, Eli and Fabiola playing midfield.   We were set to take on the locals.  They scored on us right away.   Given many of our kids stayed behind, today we were even more outnumbered so I asked one of the opposing ringers to join our team instead to even it out.   From there on it was a pretty even match.   Fabiola ended up our lead scorer despite getting kicked in the shin and limping off the field for a short rest before returning once the tide turned against us (tough girl that one).  Isaac’s ball handling skills were on display again.  Grace and Anna and Prince did an admirable job running towards whoever had the ball in our end and employing that age old defensive strategy of giggling and causing general chaos amongst the sea of kids aligned against us.  Final score New Hope Homes 6, Rwandan locals 4.   We all shook hands and started home just in time for lunch.

Lunch today was a special treat.  Each time Donna visits, she takes the kids that perform the best in school (ranked 1,2, or 3) for an outing to recognize their hard work.  Today it was back to Volcano pizza with Grace, Chanel, Desame, and Sala.  And Donna and I had an alternative mission.  There is always so much to do here that can distract from time with the kids, general errands that need doing, etc. and as Ely so aptly described in his blog, things can take a long time here to do anything.  Culturally time moves slower, but Donna and I were on a mission to show Eli and Franny just what two type A executives with a hyper organization skills, a good attitude, and sense of humor could accomplish in 3 hours even here.  Eli and Frany don’t believe we can get so much done in so little time. 

Final tally?  In 3.5 hours we were able to drop off Donna’s dresser to get drawers made, pick up water, make two stops at Tigo (think Rwandan Verizon) to get my phone working, drop off three pairs of jeans that were too long to be hemmed, buy water, exchange money, buy a small table for the spare room or kitchen, get a couple extra keys made, buy some plastic buckets for the bathroom for bathing, and have a relaxing lunch celebrating the kid’s accomplishments in school.  Now in American this might sound like a normal Saturday afternoon To Do list, but trust me in TIA (this is Africa) this was a miracle of accomplishment in such a short amount of time.

And now for a little color….

1.     Our money changer in Musanze works out of one room shop, carries all his Rwandan Francs around in a large paper bag, and will meet you anywhere in town.  He’s totally legit, very honest, gives a good exchange rate, etc, but every time I find myself in the back aisle of a grocery store with a man dealing thousands of dollars out of a paper bag I can’t help feeling like I’m part of some elicit deal.  Part of the color of our lives here.  TIA
2.     Lunch was awesome.  The kids were super excited, and hungry.  How their little bodies were able to pack in a single pizza each defies the laws of physics.  Then again, if I tasted pizza for the first time I’d probably overeat as well.
3.     We have a bet on whether or not we will ever see Donna’s dresser again after dropping it off at a rather sketchy looking roadside wood working / lumber yard.  This was plan B since the original carpenter never finished the work. TIA
4.     Watching Eli carry the small table through the market on his head, to the stares of the locals and having him fend off the endless offers to carry it for him (for a small price no doubt) was hilarious.   TIA
5.     And trust me, getting a key made in Musanze is not like walking into your local hardware store.  TIA

We returned to New Hope Homes and put our new buckets to good use by re-introducing them to the concept of bobbing for apples.  Eli was good enough to demonstrate the concept – and got rather wet to the laughter of the kids, who then lined up to try their hand, um, er, face at it.  Lots jeering, all successful at spearing an apple with their teeth, even Ms. Donna and Franny, after a good soaking each and lots of laughter, were able to wrangle their apples up.

And then it, as it often does, turned into impromptu fun.  We all hung out in the yard for a good hour, practicing headstands with each other, wheelbarrow races, kids carrying kids on their backs backwards like backpacks (too funny) and just general good times till dusk drove us inside. 

The plan was to watch another movie after dinner, but of course for that you need electricity and as sometimes happens, we were without power.   No problem.  My phone had power and disco music down loaded.  Flashlights, when shaken properly, make excellent strobe lights.  The coals of Manuel’s cooking fire were still hot enough to pop popcorn.   All the ingredients needed for a Disco Popcorn Dance party - 28 kids dancing to 70’s music by the light of flashlights - so much fun.

After the little kids went to bed, Franny, to the joy of the older kids, substituted her phone’s hip modern playlist for mine, and the girls put on a demonstration of Beyonce’s All the Single Girls.  That turned into a boy vs. girls dance off (which the boys lost of course) and then the lights came back on and it evolved into a rather fun and funny fashion show, with all the girls (and the very good sport Eli) dressing up in Rwandan dresses and parading down the made up runway of the hall.   Seeing my nephew Eli both laughing with and being laughed at for his willingness to play along made this uncle very proud.  

And then lights out so soon after lights just came on.  Donna and I retired to our usual nighttime roost at the top of the stairs of the boy’s side (the only place we’ve found to get good data reception in the house) to recap our day together and return all those work emails that had started filling our inbox a few hours earlier, ending one more long, fulfilling, and fun day at New Hope Homes.


Linda said...

I think what you are doing is fantastic.

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