Saturday, August 4, 2012

I don't know what day - it's Saturday

Today was an "off" day for us so we brought Angel along and explored Gisenyi. We walked to the Congo border which was only a mile away. Then we went to Lake Kivu - a huge lake that borders Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo. We went to see the hot springs, ate at the Paradise Hotel and came back home. We rode on the Motos again as well as the bus.

My friend, Charlotte, at the Congo border

Lake Kivu

Me, Angel (our Rwandan friend) and Charlotte

the Hot Springs (if you look closely, you can see where the water is boiling)

me at Paradise Hotel 

We kind of saw the "toursity" side of Rwanda and I will tell you that I am enjoying seeing the real country. It's much nicer to spend time with the people in the villages and learn about them vs just being waited on hand and foot in a hotel and not mingling with the people. I feel like I am learning so much more this way. 

The Rwandans are very friendly and I really haven't felt unsafe, even in the market. I've been in markets in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Tunisia so I know what it's like to be nervous in a market. I'm not here. 

I'll have more later!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Day 3

Day 3 - GBV Women
Yesterday, we traveled to Gisenyi which is on the edge of the country, about a 1 mile from the Congo border. We drove through the mountains which were absolutely gorgeous. We also visited the Noel orphanage which has 600 children! It was amazing - all of the kids came up and hugged us, held our hands, walked with us. They told us their names and although there is a language barrier there, they really just want to be near you. The rooms where they sleep are quite stinky, one in particular smells like urine. But they do a very good job with the resources they have and all of them are happy children. We then visited the women with HIV and the medical clinic. We talked to them and they gave us a bracelet that they make. They use old calendars to make beads and sell them to Muzungus  - white people. I am fully embracing the language here, it’s so fun. 
Today, we spent a whole day with the women. The language barrier made it tough to speak to them, other than the few words I have learned, but just helping them make these beads was amazing. I loved it even though my back was hurting. I think we’re going to spend a week doing this, travel back to Kigali and then take a trip to a rain forest to see the chimps. The last week, we will spend in Gisimba, the orphanage. 
The people here are so friendly. When they greet you, they will say welcome or hello, but if you respond, Muraho, or hello, they will smile and be so happy. The main things I have learned so far are Muraho - hello, Murabeho - goodbye for a long time, mirwe - see you soon, murakoze - thank you, mwana - baby, mwiza -beautiful, ni meza - i’m good. The lady told me today that I was beautiful which I thought was so nice! 
I’m actually very sad that I have to come back so soon. 2 weeks seemed like a long time before I left, but now, it seems so short. Maybe i’ll win the lottery and I can come back for longer. I am very glad that I chose Rwanda over Kenya and Ghana because the people here are so friendly, and Angel, are house guide, says that they are not like that in Kenya. 
I’ll have more later! 

Day 2

Rwanda Journal - Day 2
Yesterday was our first full day in Kigali. We had our orientation, ate lunch downtown and went to the genocide museum. Orientation was really just Claire, our FVA leader, telling us about Rwanda. She discussed the culture, what’s expected of us and do’s & don’ts of traveling here. 
The Genocide Museum was interesting. It told the same story that I already knew, but it was interesting to see pictures and films of the people after. The guy that is supposed to be a hero from Hotel Rwanda actually turned out to only accept people into that hotel that paid money. So, there’s not much mention of him in the memorial. The other thing I learned was that after everything happened, they had a court system where the genocidaires (they call them) and the victims had to meet to discuss. They wanted to begin the healing and bring Rwanda back together as a country. The Belgians were who decided to separate them into tribes, the Hutus and the Tutsis. Before that, they had never had any type of civil unrest. What Claire said though, struck me because it’s something I could use in my daily life. She said, “We can choose to move forward, or choose to look at the worse. To look at the worse only brings pain, so why not stop doing the negative.” The hutus killed over 1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days. Children and women were systematically raped and killed because they didn’t want the Tutsis to reproduce - they were trying to exterminate them. But they are choosing forgiveness. They want to go back to a world where they shared everything and were a true community. They may not be advanced in many ways from the Western World perspective, but the US could learn a lot about forgiveness and the thought of a neighbor. The whole is what is important to Rwanda, not the individual. 
After the museum, we went by Gisimba, an orphanage here in Kigali. We met Immaculee, who is the president and founder of FVA. We also met Ildiphans (I think I’m spelling that right), someone else in a leadership role with Gisimba. They were both very nice and I practiced some of my Kinyarwanda on them, “Muraho” which means hello to someone you’ve just met. The other word I used a lot yesterday was “Murakoze” which means thank you. Everyone here is so nice and they got really excited when I tried to practice some native words with them. Claire said they like muzungas, foreigners, to come because it makes them feel special. Like, if they view the western people in such high regard, which they do, and they want to come spend time here to talk with them and help them, then maybe they are special too. They put westerners on a pedestal and when we come to them and say, “we are equal”, it gives them confidence. That’s one reason that I hope I can talk to the women in the outreach program. They are learning to start their own business and I’d love to just meet them and help in any way that I can. I believe that we will be going to Gisenyi today and will work in the outreach program for a week. Then we will come back here and work in Gisimba. 
Lastly, I was a little nervous about the food because I wasn’t sure what they had but so far, everything has been delicious. Lots of potatoes, rice, fruit and veggies. I have not eaten but one piece of meat and it was good, but I feel like this is my time to kind of “cleanse” myself so the less meat I eat, the better. We have not had good coffee yet because most of the places sell their delicious coffee. But I have had awesome tea! Lastly, I think we are going on a safari maybe next weekend and we’ll get to see Elephants, monkeys and zebras. I’ll be sure to take lots and lots of pictures.

Rwanda - the trip here

Travels to Rwanda - july 30th - august 1
My flight to Kigali went much smoother than anticipated. I started off in Charlotte where my flight was delayed and my first thought was, “oh lawd, here we go”. Based on my travel experience to Italy, which was the last time I flew to Europe, I was a little nervous since I’d be traveling by myself this time. But, I landed in DC with plenty of time to spare. My thoughts about the DC airport, it seems so long ago now. The international portion of it was VERY international. I do remember that part. It wasn’t like the little international portion of Charlotte-Douglas - it was the first time that I felt a little out of place on this trip. 
The flight over was find - it took 6 hours and 45 minutes. I was able to watch a movie and a couple of tv shows (Big Bang Theory simply because my mom raves about it so much. I did laugh out loud on the place at one point so maybe she’s right). We had dinner and breakfast, as well as plenty of snacks. The food was actually okay, better than I expected. I arrived in Brussels and was confused immediately. That airport is very big and while there are some signs in English, there are many that aren’t. It was confusing. I had to stop and ask 4-5 people where the heck I was going and while none of them knew, I somehow ended up in the right spot. That was the first time I felt a little panicky because I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to get my bag or not. They didn’t give me a boarding pass for the transfer from Brussels to Rwanda because I had to “re-check” in. I wasn’t sure if the re-check included getting my luggage. I stood at the baggage claim for a while, wondered around trying to find the Brussels check in, went the wrong way up a transfer path & finally ended up back in front. I may spend more time in Brussels on my way back but I was too nervous about trying to figure out where I was to included trying to go outside and look around there. It was also 54 degrees and I was wearing a t shirt and capris. Looking at Brussels as we flew in, it looked like a pretty cool place to visit. Everything was green, there were a lot of farms and old stone houses. 
For the second time on my trip, I felt like a fish out of water. No one really spoke english, the signs were in different languages, mainly french and dutch. I thought, how in the world am I going to figure out what I’m supposed to do here. But I thought about what my cousin-in-law, Melissa told me as well as my friend, Nancy - when I’m quiet and let go of fear, God delivers the right people in the exact right time. So that’s what I tried to do. Now an angel did not come flying out of the heavens to gracefully guide me to the Brussels check out counter but each person I asked for help slowly got me to the right area. 
I boarded the flight to Rwanda and felt relieved I had made it through that part of it. This time, there was a tv screen but it played only 4 channels and none of them were really interesting to me. I slept for a good portion of that flight but since it was nearly 8 hours, there’s only so much sleeping one can do. One thing I found was that the food on European flights is different and in a good way. My plate from DC to Brussels was a salad which had cucumbers and tomatoes with ranch dressing, some kind of beef curry dish with rice, and a roll. The dinner for this flight had a salad with mozzarella balls with a light dressing, a roll, sweet bread, a wedge of a creamy cheese, and chicken. I love how Europeans add lots of cheese and sweet breads and things like that to a meal. Then they came around with a Belgian ice cream treat and coffee. Then we had some kind of wrap made with organic ingredients and no preservatives. It was awesome!
I landed in Rwanda nervous about if my bags were there, was it hard to get through customs, will my driver be there, etc? My bags were there, nothing was broken or stolen, customs was the easiest customs I’ve ever been through and my driver was not only there but very friendly. Check! I came to my guest house and met 1 girl who’s been here for 2 weeks, Cameryn, a new girl who just arrived that same day, Charlotte, and 2 that were leaving the next day. 3 were from Australia and had beautiful accents, the other from WA State. 
My first thought when I got in the car and started heading towards the guest house - “I can’t believe I am here and in Africa”. I’ve wanted to come for so long that I was a little overwhelmed at the idea. It was night, so I couldn’t see much other than a huge, sprawling city and house lights lit up as far as I could. I could tell it was hilly and felt like it must be beautiful in the day. It was cool, about 75 degrees and there were people all in the streets. It reminds me of Costa Rica. I feel asleep around 9:45 pm under my mosquito net and awoke to sounds of people working out in the streets. It’s lively at 6 am! 
The last thing I wanted to share was that my goal throughout this trip is to operate out of confidence and love. I do not want to operate from fear. I made that mistake in Costa Rica and feel like I missed out on some things. So, in preparation for my trip, I’ve been praying that I continue to remain calm and pause when agitated. My friend gave me a daily meditation book called Jesus Calling and here is the meditation for today - 
“Nothing can separate you from My Love. Let this divine assurance trickle through your mind and into your heart and soul. Whenever you start to feel fearful or anxious, repeat this unconditional promise: ‘Nothing can separate me from Your Love, Jesus”. Most of mankind’s misery stems from feeling unloved. In the midst of adverse circumstances, people tend to feel that love has been withdrawn and they have been forsaken. This feeling of abandonment is often worse than the adversity itself. Be assured that I never abandon any of My children, not even temporarily. I will never leave you or forsake you! My Presence watches over you continually. I have engraved you on the palms of My hands.”