Friday, August 29, 2008

Long Overdue

My friends, I am so sorry that I have not been updating my blog! I could give you a million excuses - the unreliable Internet that we experienced for a while, being on the field, having work to get done, being lazy - but none of them truly excuse it. I apologize. Even though I have so much to share with you - lessons learned, questions, adventures - I thought this one would be a bit more lighthearted and focus on some of the highlight stories that I have experienced in the past two weeks.

Story #1 - The Nacumatt Experience
How many of you know what Nacumatt is? Carrefour? Anyone?

Think European SuperWalmart.

The first Nacumatt came to Kigali last weekend and of course we had to go see it. AWESOME. You can buy your electronics, toiletries, cereal, and furniture all in one stop. As you can imagine, this is a really big deal for all of the expats here. Not only are items such as lotion and familiar brands hard to find but they are expensive once you do find them (think $14 for lotion). Nacumatt has come to save the day. You can find so many products there (including Cadbury chocolate) and the prices aren't as bad as they are in other places. I'll be honest, we spent about 45 minutes just walking around the store and as we were leaving I thought, "Wow, with this here now, I could live here..."

Story #2 - Nobody puts Baby in the corner
Trivia Question: In "Dirty Dancing" what was Baby going to study when she went off to school?

Answer: Economics of Developing Countries - so she could join the PeaceCorp.

What an appropriate movie for us to watch! Last night we celebrated Sarah's (Director of Programs at WRR) birthday by eating chocolate ice cream (another reason to love Nacumatt) and watching "Dirty Dancing" projected on the wall. Sarah had never seen the movie before - she wasn't allowed as a little girl - and always wanted to see it for her birthday. It certainly proved that birthday wishes can come true! With 6 girls and 2 boys joining in on the celebration, we sang along, giggled, and were reminded why Sarah was probably not allowed to watch it (I wasn't either for a while...) It was sitting there last night that I was filled with so much joy that it brought a few tears to my eyes (to know me well is to know that isn't too big of a surprise). How often do we really stop and enjoy the simple pleasures? Do we really stop, rest, and recharge enough? I went to bed very content last night.

One of the best lines in the movie: "I have been thinking a lot about the Domino Effect lately. Do you think if Vietnam falls China will fall as well?" (remember, it was set in 1963)

Story #3 - I want one.
When Phil and Becca were out of town last week I had to come up with some means of transportation. Paying for a taxi all of the time gets a bit expensive so I decided that I was going to be adventurous and try one of the taxi motorcycles that I had seen zipping around town. I have been on the back of a bike before but this was different! The bikes are not that big (could they support both of us?), they dodge in and out of traffic like small gnats, and the road conditions here are less than favorable. I summed up the courage to finally get on one of the motos and... I LOVED IT. I rode them all day, all over town. Now, to be honest, during my first 3 minutes I told the driver to slow down about 86 times but once we got moving and I began to trust him, we really started moving and had such a good time. I am dead serious when I say that I want one and I look for opportunities now to ride. I get disappointed when a friend says they will give me a ride because it means that I won't be able to take my new favorite means of transportation.

Story #4 - Crisis Adverted
This actually comes from excerpts from a few emails that I sent out about a week ago.

I had been having this awful thumping in my ears and I was scared (thanks to WebMD) that I was 1)going deaf 2)had cancer or 3)had gotten a parasite - yes, in my ear, so I went to King Faisel Hospital, just down the road from World Relief. One of the receptionists there was very nice and she gave me all of my instructions in English. I filled out my paperwork and then went up to stand in line at the counter in order to check in. I was standing about 2 feet behind the person who was being helped and not 1, not 2, but 3! people cut in front of me. I have talked to some of my African friends here and there are varying opinions about it being just bad manners, I was not aggressive enough, people are not used to using the "queue"(not an original part of the culture), some think they are more important than others, etc. It didn't matter - I was not feeling well and I was going to be late - not a good combination. I FINALLY got up to the counter, put down my paperwork and smiled at the lady. She not only did not smile back, but proceeded to ignore me and do other work. I will admit, this is where I lost my culturally-savvy cool, grabbed my paper, mumbled "FINE" and went over to the other receptionist who was open. She got to see my smile and I was quickly processed for the small fee of $20 (yes, this is all my doctor's appointment cost - without insurance). I was then ushered to another receptionist in a different area and she took my paperwork and told me to have a seat. My appointment was at 3:40pm and it was now 3:45 (It was the unresponsive receptionist's fault - I was there at 3:15!). I sat there, and I sat there, and I sat there... 40 minutes after my appointment was supposed to have taken place I asked the previous receptionist, who was wearing a very pea-green blouse, when I could expect to be seen. I was extremely polite and non-confrontational. She responded, "After the person in front of you is finished." My bad. One hour and five minutes after my appointment was supposed to take place, I was seen by Dr. Jeffrey I-can't-pronounce-your-last-name, ENT. We hit it off famously! He checked my ears, nose, and throat and found nothing wrong. He said that it was probably just from all of the dust (darn dry season) and the irritation from being on the moto (trust me, this will not stop me from riding again). He prescribed some drops and said that I could use them if I felt like making sure my ears were totally cleaned out (I told him my mother would be proud to hear that I have dirty ears - although I don't, I clean them fanatically). He did check my throat to make sure that I did not have Thyroid Cancer as WebMD, as I said, had me convinced this was a valid option. He also took my blood pressure and he said that it was low. I asked him if I was dying to which he responded, no. PHEW. He did, however, say that women who are expecting can have a low blood pressure... I assured him this was not the case and, in fact, the words "Immaculate Conception" were used. He then sent me on my way and on my way I did go. I'll be honest, I still have no idea why my ears were bothering me. They are absolutely fine now. Maybe I just had to learn a new aspect about the culture - customer service and rights. Huge lesson.

That's it for stories (well, at least for now). We have a team coming from Mars Hill to do a Water Harvesting project starting on Monday. Please keep us all in your prayers. I promise, I will be more diligent and will write more soon.

Imana Ishweme!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Few Of My Favorite Things

It is hard to believe that I have been here for four weeks already! In many ways it feels like the time has gone by very, very quickly. In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was saying goodbye to my mom and brother at the airport. Regardless, I have come across many things that I love here in Rwanda and I thought I would share some of them with you:
  • Walking to work and then home again in evenings and being stared at by the schoolchildren. Most are brave and say, "Bonjour" and their smiles become a million miles wide when I start speaking French back to them.
  • Going for runs in the morning and seeing the sun rise over the hills of Kigali
  • Chapati - why I have to run in the first place
  • Clemence, my office mate, who makes me laugh more than anyone else here
  • The guards - whether it be at the office or at home - they are so cute and I just want to hug them all (no worries, I won't)
  • Song 146 in the green song book. I don't know what it says but I constantly have it stuck in my head
  • Spending time journaling. I don't do it nearly as much as I wish I did but when I do, I love it
  • Getting emails and facebook messages from home.
  • CitrusMint gum - my after lunch treat
  • The smiles of the pastors that we come in contact with and the huge hearts that they have for their congregations
  • The old women who always hug me and and grab my hands. I'm not sure what they are saying to me but I could "talk" to them all day
  • Walking home past the embassies and the Rwandan "White House" every day - kind of like DC...
  • The 75 degree weather every day

I'm sure there are a million more but these are the ones that come to mind immediately as I sit here. Life is good and I'm happy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My New Home

This weekend I said goodbye to Kayijuka and his family (well, goodbye in terms of living with them - I still work with Kayijuka every day!) and moved in with Phil and Becca. Phil is the country director for World Relief Rwanda and both he and Becca have been wonderful in welcoming me into their home. They have a beautiful home - complete with it's own African Crested Crane, Umasambe (which means "Crested Crane" in Kinyarwanda - it's like the people who name their cat, Cat.) The story goes that Umasambe was brought to the house while the previous country director and his family were living there. Apparently one of their little boys was nervous about people breaking into the house and so he was given Umasambe as a "guard bird". One of yesterday's adventures included Becca and Baptiste trying to clip Umasambe's wings. There was NO way I was going to be a part of that! Baptiste was able to catch and hold Umasambe while Becca clipped away and I watched from a safe, responsible distance. Umasambe has a "beautiful" call that sounds a whole lot like a bad bike horn and likes to eat bread (who doesn't?) If you aren't careful with the front door it is pretty possible that she will end up in the living room!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Back from Congo

I figure that it is easier to update everyone on here rather than to send out 2395872359 emails!

Four summers ago (ohmygoodness, it has been that long?) I nannied for two great kids named David and Amanda. David had this CD that had a song that chanted "Nothing can go wrong-o, I'm in the Congo" (you have to love kid music). I would like to say that I was mature enough not to sing that constantly while we were there but then I would be lying. Thank you so much for all of your prayers while we were away. God really used this team from FMC in Indiana in amazing ways.

Our 12 days in Goma and Rutshuru, Congo (DRC) were spent doing various activities based on Servant Leadership. About a month ago FMC had sent a team to work with local pastors and train them on the concept of Servant Leadership and the Church taking care of the most vulnerable in their communities. The purpose of this trip was to do follow-up with these pastors, encourage them, and partner alongside of them in their outreach activities. Some of the activities included building houses for widows, cultivating a field that the Churches had rented to grow a crop that would support the needy in their communities, providing food to the prisons, and doing home visits to those who were sick or without a support system.

It was incredible to see the team and the pastors experience the true power of serving others. One team member had that "A-ha" moment one of our last days and he couldn't keep it in any more: "In serving others, those who are being served are then encouraged and impacted and then they want to serve others and then the whole system keeps expanding!" YES! He got it! While we were washing our hands before a meal one evening, I overheard two team members talking about how true service is giving in abundance out of what you have rather than waiting for an abundance in order to give. Amazing.

A beautiful example of these concepts was shown through one of the widows for which we had built a house. She and her three children had to flee their previous home, in the middle of the night, due to it being set on fire (probably the actions of military or rebel forces). Not only did she and her children join us as we were building the home but every day, at each new outreach activity, she was the first one there, ready to lend a helping hand. Her life had been impacted and now she was going to impact others. All along it was God and His love being manifested through us and the workers (including the widow) that was given the glory. What a wonderful picture of God reconciling hearts and lives back to Himself.

It was also really neat to see pastors from various denominations lay aside their differences for the greater purpose. They truly understood that those small things that divide us are not the things on which we should be focused. It is an incredible example that should be noted and followed. The pastors that we worked with are not about programs but people. People's lives and their hearts are what God cares about.

Personally, this trip was good and challenging for me. The things that I have just told you about were incredible to witness. It was also so good to be able to laugh with a team, try new foods, perfect my already impressive bucket bath skills, and play with a million children. In terms of being challenging, I saw another level of poverty (including IDP camps) than I have seen (or processed) before. I also had to wrestle with my own personal role in helping those with which we interacted and with my role in relation to the team. With all of that came questions of the purpose behind my time here in the Great Lakes region as well. I do know that God has me here for a purpose and there is no way that I want to cut my time here short (no matter how much I miss Dairy Queen). I want to wrestle with these challenges - journal about them, pray through them, talk to others - and live in every single moment.

I am going to work on getting a album of my pictures (including some stories) on here within the next day or so. Check back!