Saturday, October 24, 2009

Just some reflections I had to get on paper....

It has been fifteen years since the genocide. Rwanda has made tremendous strides toward healing, redemption. I am given the privilege of living in this country – from my front veranda, I can see lush mango, papaya and avocado trees, and the green valley. My children play with Danyire, Jiye, Samuel, Francine, Pierre, JoJo, Benita, Jadit, Christian. The rains pour down in the afternoon, bringing life to the red earth. It is a beautiful country.

I went to a meeting the other day at the Free Methodist church in Gikondo. Good people. Incredible hearts for the handicapped, the widow, the HIV-AIDS victim, the youth. We walk past the old church, being remodeled for a new Bible training center. 165 people were killed there. In cold blood. By their neighbors and friends, sanctioned by their Bishop. I am asked to see the future. To help with the future. Yet, the past is right there in front of me and I find myself fighting tears, seeing ghosts. The dead still speak.

Our security guard and gardener returns home from an evening out. He asks me for permission to return home to the North next week so he can pay his school fees and receive his diploma. He asks me in broken, yet understandable English sentences. I have been paying 8,000 francs ($12 USD) a week to study Kinyarwandan and I still can't have a two sentence conversation with Zechariah. He could not speak more than three words of English three weeks ago, but each night he studies a worn out 1970s textbook the gardener across the street lent him. And he can talk to me. I envy him.

Our househelper, Consolee, can barely stay awake by 3:00 pm. There are no Starbucks runs here. I tell her that she can take an hour break – I had assumed she would. One can't assume. I am the boss. I direct the program. If I don't make it clear that she can take a break, than she doesn't. I want to kick myself for not recognizing this earlier. I ask her when she studies for I know she goes to school six days a week after working for us nine hours a day. She says she wakes up at 3 or 4 am to study, before getting her five children up and ready for school. Her mother died when she was 16, so she had to quit school. Now she is determined to finish. I let her go early that day.

I met a woman on the plane. We are becoming friends, having weekly playdates with our daughters, taking Pilates together. She is Rwandan, but has only spent four months in Rwanda until now. Her family fled in 1959, so she grew up in Uganda. Her family returned to Rwanda after the genocide. She studied in the United States. Her family is of the elite. She asks me when I adopt if I will adopt a Hutu or a Tutsi. I don't hesitate to say, “It will not matter to us.”

The genocide is still the point in time by which everything else is defined here. The country wants to move forward. It is moving forward. I walk by people on the street and wonder what their story is. The number of crippled people here is staggering. No one needs to ask why they are maimed. I truly cannot begin to fathom the depths of the evil done by people to people. It has been fifteen years. My life here is good. We are doing good things to help build the economy. We will be forever connected to this country through our son's blood. My heart cries out for healing for this beautiful land. My soul is humbled by the people I meet. My mind seeks to grasp all I can learn so I can understand the stories of these people through their own language. It has only been three weeks. Time, time....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A little publicity from Gordon College

My alma mater, Gordon College, actually interviewed me for this back in the Spring, but I just got an email today saying they published it to their blog. Very nice of them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Listen and Learn

These are the two words I keep hearing in my heart and mind as I live life here in Rwanda. It has been three weeks and if you know me, you know I am a doer. And now I am in a land with plenty of needs for which there is plenty of "doing" to be done. I am friends with so many people who are great "doers" and for whom an immediate need on the street requires immediate action. Yet, I continue to hear the whisperings of "Be Still."

I attended a Bible Study today with other Westerners and the theme was on...yes, "Being Still." The author of the study said the Hebrew word for this expression is "rapah" which literally means to relax, be lazy, be discouraged, be slack, weak." When I've heard or read these words before in Psalm 46, I never viewed them in a negative way. I always thought it mean to just be quiet, relax. But this Hebrew word implies so much requires one to literally give up control. That is what I feel I am to be give up control of what my ideas are for my time in Rwanda.

"But, wait," I cry. "There are street children and orphans and widows...your word cries out for them, so I should do something now." And, yet, I keep hearing....just listen and learn.

So I have been here three weeks now this evening. While we're still lacking certain furniture and comforts of home, I feel quite settled into life in Kigali. So I want to know what is next. Dano is busy with Karisimbi and I am thrilled by how that is going, but my heart is for the orphan and I want to know what I am supposed to do for the orphan. I met with a wise woman today who has lived in Rwanda for five years and works with African Enterprise. I told her of my struggle and she was so encouraging to me today. She said, "The best thing you could do right now is to listen and learn because you're not just listening and learning for opportunity, you're listening to the culture."

The guys have commented that they are so glad we had several months to just meet with business leaders, organize our thoughts, meet with the leaders again, reorganize our thoughts, meet with them again, etc., because now the final product is so much better and the clients have tremendous buy-in. Every day the guys learn something new about a potential client or Rwandan politics or business and with each lesson comes a better focused direction for our company. I believe that is what is happening with me as I seek to discern how to best serve here.

So I have decided to just start meeting with people who are doing orphan care work, to hear their hearts, to see the needs, to simply be present. I'm starting to see and believe that so much "good work" that is often done is often done too quickly. It is still good work, but it could be so much better if the idea and heart behind it were given time to "Be still."

Help Support Ballet Rwanda

We are very proud of our friend, Caroline Peixoto, who moved with us to Rwanda. She is launching Ballet Rwanda on November 9. Check it out at and if you're interested in helping her meet her fundraising goal of $2000, you can give online at

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dossier in the Hands of the Minister we wait...our dossier was delivered to the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion yesterday. Hard to believe we may have our son within a couple months.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Adoption update

Our dossier arrived at our Rwandan attorney's office this evening. We will meet tomorrow and then she is presenting it to the Minister of Gender and Family Formation. According to this attorney, it is highly likely that we could receive our child within 2-3 months. The other thing she told us is that since we are in-country, once the Minister has approved our dossier, then our attorney will go with us to the Sisters of Charity Home of Hope orphanage and we will choose our child. Dano and I are taking big, deep breaths right now. This is so different from how our other two adoptions went. And it feels like a very heavy weight on us right now to "choose" our child. So we are praying in a very different way for our son right now and would appreciate any prayers from friends and family.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A little press from our friends in Rhode Island

The reporter saw the chalk painting that our friend had commissioned of the girls at the Providence Street Festival and wanted to know the story behind it. Dano did the interview via Skype, so there are a few misspellings and omissions, but it was still nice to have the free press.

We also have a blog for Karisimbi at

Day to Day in Rwanda

So we've been here nine days already. In January 2008, my college roommate, Anne Mugofwa, told me on a phone call that I would find myself in Africa much sooner than I expected. I told her we kept getting sidetracked by Asia. Who would have guessed?! Anne has never been to Rwanda, but the company she works for just decided to open an office here, so she was here on Wednesday and will be back in a few weeks. We managed to get breakfast together. I think it was rather surreal for both of us. When we were in college, we always dreamed of doing some great work together that would bridge our continents. Now we are on the same continent. I'm still in a season of listening, absorbing and learning, so am not jumping the gun on any work-related ventures (outside of helping us launch our company), but it is fun to wonder how Anne and I may do something together in the future.

I don't really have a routine yet. I've told myself next week is the week for that. I have my language lessons scheduled for almost every day next week so that I can catch up to Carter. Lian's school will be on a regular schedule and I'm committed to doing "school" stuff with Anna. Of course, if you know me, you know that is hard for me to do and not invite all the neighbor kids. So, Anna and I took "school" outside the gate today. Also, if you know me well, you will know what a stretch it is for me to live in a "gated" area, but that's how things are done here. Anna and I set up our blocks on the front yard and just started playing. We saw Pierre and JoJo and said, "Ngeeno Hano" (come and play) and they did. I spelled out their names for them, whcih was very fun for them. Most of all, they just liked building towers and crashing them down.

Setting up a house here is a lot different. Stuff at the department store is not cheap, so you go to the furniture market where you can either choose something off the block or bring ina picture of what you'd like and have them make it for you. Of course, that requires a lot of bargaining and negotiating and since I'm white with Chinese children, we are an oddity. But, I felt more confident today and I asked our house helper, Consolee, to help me with some of the negotiations. It took 45 minutes, and me walking to the store across the street, in order to get them to lower the price on a bathroom cabinet, but in the end it was a good deal on all fronts.

Lian had a great first week of school and seems to be doing well. We decided that we city folk need to embrace our new surroundings and our beautiful yard and welcome a few more additions to our family. So meet "Sunny and Joy" - these are our gifts to our girls for being such troopers this summer. We met this guy who was giving them away for free. And he has someone make the cage for us. The girls were so surprised! We saw them today and chose two boys (yes, boys, even though Anna named hers Joy) so as to prevent future bunnies from being born. We will go back next week to bring them home. Hmmmm...chickens might be next since we do have the chicken coop...
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Week's Reflections

***Having a difficult time uploading pics here. If you are on Facebook, please check out my Facebook photos for most recent pics***

It is hard to believe we have been here six days. I actually feel like I have lived here for much longer than that. Now I don't think I could have said that the first two days, but now I am starting to feel at home. The past two days in particular have been wonderful.

Yesterday was Lian's first day at Kigali International Community School. She had a wonderful time and it was honestly nice to just have Anna home with me for a day. We were able to have one on one time, made an art project and just played together. Then we went for a walk in our neighborhood. I took a play parachute with me. We walked to the place where people seem to gather. There was one small boy there and a teenage girl. We showed them the parachute and I asked if they wanted to hold it. Then I began to sing Kinyarwandan numbers from 1-10 to the tune of "Ten Little Indians". Before I knew it there were about a dozen kids playing with us. We had so much fun.

Lian had asked me the other day why we couldn't give the kids the candy we had brought. I told her that I wanted the neighbor kids to see her and Anna as their friends first, rather than the girls who give them candy. She seemed to understand. After a few weeks, I'm sure we'll give them some treats, but for now it is neat to see them becoming friends with their neighbors and it felt good to tell the neighbors that we would be here for a few years. Thus, even though we had to go inside, we would be back.

After picking up Lian from school, I went to my first Kinyarwandan language lesson. Carter has been studying for a few weeks, but said I could join him for his lessons. I have much to catch up on, but the tutor was so encouraging. His name is Silas. I like that we are learning the building blocks of the language, rather than just expressions. There is much to learn, but I am so desparate to be able to communicate with the children here.

We had our first Rwandan meal last night since our house helper, Consolee, cooked for us.
What a treat. It is definitely a change for me to have someone helping with the cleaning, cooking and laundry, but somehow I don't think I'll be complaining about it. I am still cooking several nights a week ,but it is fun to have Rwandan meals a few nights as well. We are definitely much healthier here - we drink water all day long and sweets are expensive and not easy to find. Thus we're eating a lot of beans, rice, and fruit.

We got a car today as well. It is a sedan and is the color of eggplant. It has tinted windows and has this lovely "funky" sound when you go into reverse. It's gotten a few laughs, but it gets us where we need to go, is great on the bumps, and gets great gas mileage (gas is $6/gallon here). Kerry said it needed a name. Eggplant in french is aubergine (sp?), so we're calling it "Obie" for short : ) It feels great to be driving on my own. I got lost going to Lian's school today, but managed to find my way. There really aren't that many main roads in Kigali, so should be easy to navigate once I practice a bit. Even managed to find my way to the market and craft store today.

Kerry, Kristin and I went to a Bible study for women today. There are two women there who've adopted Rwandan babies, so another great community to connect with.

On the Karisimbi front, the guys have their first strategic planning retreat this weekend and it looks like three more definite clients are in the works. We have eight proposals out to other potential clients and things continue to move forward.

I just realized this posting isn't really my reflections, but more newsy. I"ll try to be more reflective in my next post because there is definitely a lot upon which to reflect here.
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Thursday, October 1, 2009

The First 48 Hours in Rwanda

I'll try to post some pictures in the next day or two, but they are taking too long to upload tonight and I am quite tired. We have had a very full 48 hours here in Kigali and according to our friends here, we have accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. Many thanks to the Crocketts who have been here for five weeks. Kerry has been my tour guide around Kigali and Carter had things like internet, water, electricity (have to pay in advance), and interviews with potential staff lined up for us the moment we arrived. I hear that is a minor miracle.

We were without water yesterday. The emergency tank was empty. Then the electricity goes off almost every day for an hour or more, so that is fun. But, we truly have so much to give thanks for. One hundred yards from our home is a common clustering of shanties and mud houses. The children from this area hang out on our street a lot. While waiting for our ride yesterday, the girls and I orchestrated a game of tag with the neighborhood kids. We had a blast and I hope to see Jackie, Nadesh, Daniel, and Christian again soon. I truly have nothing to complain about when the water tank is empty. Most of these families have to walk to a well to fill their jerry can with water.

I am truly understanding the need for our home to be our refuge. Maybe that sounds selfish, but there are so many needs all around and just doing life takes a lot out of you - and it's only been 48 hours! It is nice to return to our home and just feel safe and surrounded by a few things that make us feel at home. I am very grateful for the beautiful garden we have and I am determined to grow something successfully :) Lian is most excited to eat the mango, papayas and avocadoes growing from our trees.

Lian starts school on Monday and we are going to meet her teacher tomorrow. Anna will really miss having her big sister around, but we met a young woman on the plane who is Rwandan, but has lived in California for the past ten years. Olive has a three year old daughter, who was also on the plane. We hit it off and she asked if we could get together sometime. She wrote me today and Anna has her very first playdate next week. Hard to believe my three year old has lived on three continents in three years.

The guys are hard at work already with Karisimbi. They are hosting a strategic planning retreat with Gerard Sina of Sorwatum, a tomato processing company, in a week or two. And they continue to meet with potential clients. The need for these small to medium size companies in this country is great.