Sunday, December 28, 2008

Creepy Crawlies in our House

I am fine with bugs. In the south we had big bugs. I'm okay with them outside. I have a husband. He kills them if they cross the threshold inside. I thought when we moved to Rwanda I would have to deal with big bugs. But, surprisingly, have not. What I am learning to live with is spiders and lizards. I try to leave the spiders alone because although I do not like them, they eat things I do not like even more. There is one certain spider which lives in my kitchen and I am currently deciding his fate. I'm trying to decided if the work he's doing is worth the heart attack he gives me every time he pops out while I'm lost in my own world doing dishes, cooking, rattling pots around. I'm leaning towards, die spider, but perhaps if I see him with a juicy fruit fly in his web I will reconsider. We also have lizards. There are white lizards and green lizards. The white ones are creepy and run sideways; I don't like them at all. The green ones are okay. We have one green lizard that Rob thinks wants to be our pet. He lives on the banana leaf cork board we have in our living room. Rob took him outside one day and the very next day he was back on his banana leaf as if he were saying, "thanks for the outside time, but I'm an inside lizard". We've decided to let him be. Perhaps tonight he'll get a name if he sticks around. I am okay with these creepy crawlies. I am even more okay with these creepy crawlies if they keep the real big bugs at bay.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This is a little of what our Christmas was like this year. Enjoy the final installment of pictures, I hope to see what some of what your Christmases looked like too!

The Kimironko Market

Kimironko is a fascinating place to be. It overwhelms all the senses - more about this large open air market in a later post, but for now enjoy picture installment #3.

In one picture you will see a women carrying fruit with a bundle on her back. Not only does she have amazing balance and strength to carry the large fruit tray on her head, but add to that a bundle of joy on her back! This is how women carry their babies. Once I saw a 7ish year old with a similar bundle and thought she was mimicking her mom with a babydoll, but she was actually giving mom a break and taking a turn with baby sister!

Ruhengeri Pictures

This is installment #2 of promised pictures. These were taken on our way out of town about 90 km Northwest of Kigali. Ruhengeri is famous for the Volcanoes National Park and silver back gorillas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Downtown Kigali

Its about time I made good on my promises for pictures, please enjoy the following four posts. Each with a slide show depicting a different area of our lives here. This first slide show is some pictures of downtown Kigali. Better ones will follow, I'm still getting comfortable taking shots downtown.

Christmas Dinner for Lazarus

I don't know when it started but as a kid I had two traditions at Christmas time. My poor parents must have rolled their eyes every year. One was that I would dump the entire contents of our freezers ice tray on the deck hoping to help lower the outside air temperature and wait for a white Christmas. "I'm just helping" I would tell my mom as she asked what I was doing with all her ice while she was trying to prepare holiday dish after dish. I'm sure that's not the kind of help she was hoping for, but I thought it might help God get the idea that I really wanted snow for Christmas.

And two, I insisted that our pets had special food for Christmas too. While my mom did the shopping for our Christmas dinner, I would run off in search of something feline appropriate for theirs. Surely they knew we were having special food, and it just wouldn't be right to not include our 4 legged members of the family.

Well this year one tradition continues. Though I don't have any ice to put on the back porch and if I did it would be water before I got out the door we do have a dog. The special meal for our dog, ... that, that I can handle. This morning Lazarus dined on Christmas cookies for breakfast! I was a little to slow with the camera this morning. By the time I had it out, I think most if not all his cookies had been gobbled up!

Hair Cut for Christmas

I'm starting to get the hang of cutting Rob's hair. It's fun and I tell him I'm doing as good a job as anyone here would do. (Although it may take me twice as long). I cut a chunk of hair off behind his ear the first time, which did not make for a happy husband. But this time was much better. The only goof was a wobbly nape of the neck line. Hardly noticeable.

Before......................................... During...................................... After

Presents from Husband

I have a sweet husband, who makes the following onslaught of posts possible. Part of my Christmas present is INTERNET for my computer. You can thank him every time you see our smiling faces on a skype call and each time you read a new timely blog post.

Thanks husband.

p.s. for christmas Rob's getting a current copy of Newsweek and the Economist. Quite luxury items here!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Local Honey Bees

I know that there are some bee lovers in my family- so I thought I’d share what little I know about honey bees here. 1. As we’ve driven outside Kigali on a couple of excursions, I’ve often seen signs posted in French proclaiming a Bee Cooperative. I’d love to go in one day and ask them what they do. From what I learned in the U.S., African bees are more aggressive than the type American beekeepers prefer; but that has not slowed down entrepreneurs in Rwanda. Local market shelves are laden with clear Mason Jars filled heavy with the amber miel; unprocessed pure African honey. Why expats buy the honey bear in Nakumatt for quadruple the price I have no idea. 2. When we drove to Ruhengeri this past Saturday to take Brenna to see a cultural village we noticed what seemed to be rolled-up straw mats nestled between branches high in the tree tops. Rob said, “I bet those are honey bee hives.” Turns out they were and so here are two pictures; hives circled for clarity, (we were driving and the pictures are blurry). As I learn more about how these hives function and how the honey is harvested I’ll let you know.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

We've Moved

Dear Family and Friends,

We’ve moved to Kigali, Rwanda! Rob has accepted a position as the Savings and Credit Associations Specialist with HOPE International, a Christian microfinance organization based in Lancaster, PA. We've been here a little over a month and we’ll be here in Kigali until next summer working in partnership with the Anglican Church and its many savings groups. We’ll be learning all about savings group methodology and how this model can be replicated worldwide. Rwanda is a beautiful country and we’ve already met so many new friends. We’re happy to be here and look forward to all that this assignment holds for us in the coming months.

We look forward to keeping in touch with you.

LOVE, Rob and Danielle Hartley

Skype: robertpaulhartley; daniellehartley
Mailing address:

Rob Hartley
HOPE house
75 Avenue Paul VI
Biryogo, Kigali

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Lazaroo, Lazzy, Lazoo, and Lazy are just a few names by which we call our new dog Lazarus. After Rob accepted the job in Pennsylvania, I begged and pleaded for a dog to keep us company in our new apartment in Lancaster. My pleas were to no avail; and soon enough we were on our way to Rwanda with hopes for a dog forgotten in all our pre-departure hustle. Lazarus; however, was eagerly anticipating our arrival. Our 4th welcomer to Rwanda came from this howling yellow lab whose claim to fame (at least for Rob and I) is his ability to open the front gate for people of his choosing with his front paws and snout. We witnessed this trick as we arrived in the pickup truck and the door swung opened with no guard present. Seconds behind the yelping dog, the guard released the second door for our vehicle to enter the compound. We ignored Lazarus for the most part until we noticed his hungry whimpers after his owners' (our next door neighbors) left shortly before we moved into Hope house. I asked Janet who fed him and she waived her hand around the compound and said, "oh everyone." Unconvinced, I began preparing Rob that somebody had to feed him and it was going to have to be us. We started slowly trying to detect if he was actually being well fed and merely begging for more. I found an old bowl and began using it as a water dish. The next evening I gave him my takeout leftovers. The next morning, I walked down the stairs to find him sleeping soundly at our front door. Good guard dog. I was hooked; I have a dog. Now in the evenings I try to scrounge up something for him to eat, open the kitchen door, whistle and listen for him to come pounding down the grass alleyway to our back door. Rob says he feels very southern; he often comes home in the evenings to a yellow lab that runs alongside his silver stick shift pickup truck and a wife outside taking clothes off the line. As I greet him I often have to talk over his exaggerated southern drawl belting out country gold.

Expat Women’s Bible Study Christmas Party

The group which hosted the Christmas party Tuesday is an expat group of wives, and oh how I loved it! The women were warm and welcoming, everyone gave me tidbits about where to shop, go to the doctor, get recipes etc. It's everything I was hoping to find. I think this group of women that meet every other Tuesday morning will be a huge support to me. Most of the ladies are missionaries or their husbands work for nonprofits or government agencies. The 30 or so women are majority American I think, but there are some brits, and South Africans as well. The age ranged from teen-aged daughters to moms-to-be to grandmothers. Shortly after I arrived, Christmas carols began, and then a gift exchange game followed by a Christmas brunch—of AMERICAN dishes!!! It was a wonderful Christmas social. It was the first time sense being here I saw so many people at once who looked, dressed, and talked like me; it made me feel like home. I've loved how Rob and I have intentionally tried to integrate ourselves into the Rwandan community and will continue to do so; but being in groups that reinforce your own cultural identity is valuable and healthy as well. This week as Christmas approaches I've really been missing baking goodies, and Christmas parties, and the usual Christmas festivities, so this gathering was absolutely wonderful for me. And the Christmas gift I received…Chocolate Chip cookie baking mix!! I think that's going in a certain husband's stocking.

While there, they invited me and Rob to a Christmas party on Friday night (we're excited!) and me to a cookie exchange on Monday night. I don't normally do cookie exchanges at home; but I guess my going will depend on how starved I am for Christmas festivities and if I dare try to bake 2 dozen cookies in my oven!...

Our 2nd Anniversary

We woke yesterday morning to find lots of well wishes for a happy 2nd anniversary online and in our inboxes. It was so fun to read all the messages. It was like opening gifts on Christmas morning-but better. Thank you! It's amazing to think we've been married 2 full years and this morning began our 3rd. In the words of my poetic husband, "Here's to two more!"

Looking back it's hard to believe all that we've been through the past years: quitting jobs and all that comes with that, living the extended version of "flip this house" in a foreclosure property, graduate school in economics, and an international move; not to mention the ebb and flow of daily life for any newlywed couple. It makes me tired just thinking about it, but to us for so long- that was normal. Our successful 2 year marker, however, is the result of more than just our effort alone: Family more supportive and loving than we understand, invested friends that fit the definition of family far better than friends alone, and mentors whose wisdom encouraged us on our path that sometimes seemed too hard and elusive. Often our prayers begin with thanking God for these people in our lives and asking to be people like this to those around us. So, thank you for helping us be successful in the most important earthly relationship a person can have – I am a very happy wife and have found my perfect partner.

We spent some time yesterday daydreaming about what we hoped our third year of marriage would look like. We're looking forward to all that year 3 holds for us.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Chinese Radio

I have a sweet husband. Last night after our first dinner in our new home, Rob surprised me with an early gift for our 2nd anniversary. Ever since the first Saturday we arrived I have talked about how badly I wanted a radio. I dreamed of waking up early on Saturday mornings, drinking coffee and listening to the BBC – A great substitute I thought for my normal Saturday morning news programs. So last night Rob handed me a gift wrapped in the comics section of a newspaper we’ve had from October and a “Joyeux Anniversaire” card he picked up in a local store. I opened the wrapping and discovered a small silver radio. JOY! As Rob and I opened the box and examined the pieces, he told me the story of when he bought it. We were at the Christmas Bazaar I wrote about earlier and he spotted the radios across the room. He kept me from seeing them by distracting me with other things at the bazaar – and went back to buy it while I wasn’t looking. Amazing considering the fact I’ve had my eye out for one since we arrived. Rob said the lady at the booth wanted to take out the radio and show it to him and gabbed away about all the features. He was beside himself thinking I would discover what he was doing and hurried her along as best he could. And the group selling the radios…The Chinese embassy. My radio graphics and its instruction booklet are completely in Chinese (except for some key components). The radio is a world receiver and combining last night with this morning we’ve heard the BBC plus a French station, German, Chinese, and Rwandan. It’s wonderful. I love my Chinese radio; it is the perfect 2nd anniversary gift.


Rob and I saw this mural on the side of a building when driving around the outskirts of Kigali in an industrial park type area. My French is rusty, but I think it’s something like the guy on the left commenting on how Kigali is becoming a beautiful city and the guy on the right elaborating on why it has become so fantastic.

Friday, December 12, 2008

First Dinner

Last night I cooked for the first time in over a month. It was great to have a kitchen again and I enjoyed cooking. I was really tired from our 2nd day of cleaning; but I thought it would be nice for our guest and also for Rob and I to enjoy a meal at home instead of going out or having toast and jam…again…for dinner. So, about 8 o'clock I started.

I browned some ground beef I bought a few hours earlier from Nakumatt – less than 2,500 RWF for a kilo. So, around $2 per pound; which is great considering the meat is organic and super lean. Ground beef is also the cheapest type of meat Malu says. I don't understand this. I see many more goats than cattle. I think goat will be cheapest.

Brenna, our first houseguest and new co-worker of Rob's, helped by snapping the green beans. She's super sweet and has spent the last three weeks in Rwanda assisting with the transition from Malu to Rob. She's providing a lot of information and is quite helpful during this time. When she leaves on Monday it will just be me and Rob.

We put some noodles on, and cut some tomatoes up in the beef and soon we had a feast.

Add juice, avocados, bread and cheese wedges and we had quite a celebratory dinner.


Hope House

Finally Home. After loading up the truck in East Point on October 25th and packing up our house for weeks before that, we have finally unpacked for the last time on December 10th. As I lay in bed the first night I thought, this must be kinda what heaven is like, finally feeling at home after a long journey – minus the mosquito net and leaky toilet. Those of you who, like me, like nesting know the joy I have every time Rob says, "where is the umbrella, or where are my shoes" and I know exactly where they are. Or, when I'm in my kitchen and know where to look for the salt, bread, or coffee cups. It is nice to finally be home.

Wednesday morning Malu left for the airport and I was over bright and early to help Francine with the cleaning. Francine washed the clothes, cleaned the bathrooms, and washed the floors and I cleared out rooms, rearranged furniture, and scrubbed some of the walls and the entire kitchen until my hands ached. Rob says we have to get used to a new standard of what clean is, and I agree, but I just can't handle a greasy kitchen. An example of our new standard of clean is that its still clean even if its dusty. Our home is filled with screened windows and its absolutely gorgeous weather here. So to enjoy the fresh air and moderate temperate climate, the windows stay open most of the day unless there is a windy rain. However, open windows leads to a light covering of dust/dirt on everything. Wipe the kitchen table off in the morning before breakfast; wipe it off again in the evening before dinner and your rag will be dirty. Drying clean clothes out on the line also immediately makes them dusty. But, I can handle this; otherwise I'd go crazy trying to clean everything.

So here are some things about our house. We now live at the front of the Anglican Church compound right by the gate. We're the only 2 story flat as well, so I think it will be easy for guests to recognize the place. The guards are very nice and play an eclectic range of music in the evenings and early morning. It almost reminds me of an African Lawrence Welk station and African gospel. It's weird and soothing and I don't think we'll ask them to stop. The world wakes up early here; and it's not unusual for birds to start singing in anticipation of the dawn and the guards' to their radio. We have a lovely front patio; the only drawback is it's right by the guards at the front of the compound by the gate, so it's not at all private. This morning as I came down the steps I looked out the front door and saw Lazarus lazily sleeping on the patio. I think we may have inherited a dog! We have a small back patio off the kitchen where I hang clothes to dry and where Rob takes the trash out. Also, Lazarus has a dog bowl out there (in hopes of being fed). We also have an avocado tree out back which I wish was lower so I could pick the fruit. Our electric meter is out there too.

By the front door is a small half bath with the sink outside the door. The living room is filled with your typical missionary furniture and huge front windows. We also have a TV! We're enjoying left over cable that will probably run out the 15th! It's the first time we've had access to most any kind of TV for a month. We were sort of used to not having it and as soon as the cable is gone we'll probably put the TV in storage. But for now it's nice! The living room and dining room is combined and we have a large dining table and buffet where we now have our crèche scene. There is also a large widow over the table. Rob has a desk downstairs in between our living room and dining room which I'm hoping gets moved upstairs. Our kitchen is fun. The main components are a smallish stove and smallish refrigerator, cupboard, and sink. We also have a toaster, microwave and coffeemaker and a large teakettle I use to heat water to wash dishes. The stove is gas and the propane tank is right next to the oven. In order to cook, you must turn the nozzle on the tank, light a match and then light the burner for each eye. Everything in the whole house is unplugged at night except the refrigerator. Electricity is still a luxury item here and the price reflects this.

Upstairs is the balcony (which I hope to make more homey in the coming weeks), our room with a big bed and wardrobe, a guest room with three twin beds(?!) and wardrobe, and a full bathroom. I like the bathroom. It's blue tile, has a small shower area and while I type a repair man is hopefully successfully repairing the leaky toilet. The bathroom has a small water heater tank that I turn on first thing when I wake in the morning (5am-ish) and then turn off after we've had our showers. I have forgotten to turn it on and we have had cold showers. There is also a small nook with a desk and ironing station set up where I hope to put a cabinet for toiletries outside the bathroom. The bathroom is also where the clothes washing takes place. By the way, is America the only place with shower curtains? There's no such thing here which leads to a very swampy bathroom sometimes.

We love our new house and even its quarks. I'm also getting used to a rhythm of life set by the sun and ordered by the chores of the day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Packages Arrived!

Oh happy day! I had no idea packages from home would make me so entirely happy! My mom sent me and Rob three packages on November 18th, (we had been here less than one week) and today, today I received 2 of them. I've tried to track them down earlier, early last week I stumbled my way to the correct post office office where through broken English, Kinyarwanda, and French I assumed they were not arrived yet. I went back Saturday and the post was closed. I went back yesterday around 4 and the post was closed and today we both went at noon where a gruff blind man informed me, "midi et demi". Come to think of it, I guess he wasn't blind because he spoke French to us instead of Kinyarwanda. So, Rob and I returned about 45 minutes later after their lunch break!

This time I came prepared with the words I wanted to get across in French. But he spoke so fast! He took a look at my address I had scribbled on a piece of paper and said, "oh yes, I know you" and returned to the other customer he was helping. Since he didn't shoo me out of his office and waive me off out the door, I thought, this must be good news! So we took a seat and I leaned over to Rob and said this has not happened before. We sat and sat, and then we saw he and another worker rustling through packages behind the counter. I would think they would have some sort of system; whether alphabetical or by date, but it seemed to be just a hodgepodge of packages stuck here and there. A few minutes later he returned with one package and was tickled by my excitement. He said another has not yet arrived. He then returned a few minutes later with the second package, told me to come back Friday for package number three, and that it would be 240 f. We gave him 300 francs expecting 60 francs in return. He handed us 50 f and I said so, see you Friday and 10 f please. A simple "no" was his reply to my request for the rest of my change – he didn't have it. Where then I said okay, the next package will be 10 f cheaper? He laughed and nodded in agreement.

Rob and I stopped in Bourbon Café for a snack and could wait no longer. We opened one package, examined the contents and then after saying we'd wait till we got home to open the second, we opened the second! It was so fun! The contents were all my mom's choosing since we hadn't been here long I had no requests. We received some sweets, cereal bars, pb crackers, lots of meal addition packets, ziplock baggies and containers.

It was a lot of fun. I think more so than receiving the contents, the adventure of going to the post and wondering if today is the day, along with getting any kind of mail from home is the best part! So, besides the street address that we gave out before we moved; rob and I also have a P.O. Box. I don't know where it is, I'll have to find that out tomorrow.


Yesterday, when Rob, Brenna and I were out exploring we stopped by Frulep (my favorite Rwandan grocery) and picked up some items before heading to the shop next door. This is what I bought and probably the base components of what a typical dinner will be. The other items are just for showing other things we eat: Baguettes, cheese wheels, and those green melons, yeah those are avocados!!!

Snap green beans – 1 bag at 400 RWF

Potatoes – 300 RWF per kilo, this was 400 RWF

Onion – 1 onion at 150 RWF

For a grand total of 950 RWF (less than $2 USD)

Also exciting news, I found cheap butter!! Most of the butter we've seen has been very expensive—1500-1800 RWF for 250 grams, or over $3 USD for the equivalent of less than 2 sticks. But at Frulep, I found 1 kilogram for 3,000, so less than $6 USD. It's sold in clear plastic bags under the French title "Beurre de vache" (cow's butter) and is half the price of western looking butter. I asked Malu if the butter in the plastic bag would be harmful, but she said no, the government is pretty strict about food regulations.

I also bought a wooden spoon next door for 250 RWF. Malu has plenty of "modern" spatulas and spoons at the HOPE house where will be moving as does every other store in Kigali, but I like wooden spoons.

Just for fun, while i'm adding pictures; this is mostly the kind of stuff we drink besides african tea and water. Splash fruit juices and coke in recycled bottles.

Monday, December 8, 2008

St.Etienne’s Children’s Christmas Play

Today was a special day at St. Etienne's. For the first time since our arrival we had communion, Malu's son Jirus sang a solo, the prince of peace choir returned after their absence last week, and it's advent season so the messages are quite festive. I missed most all this however, because early on in the service a small child made her way up the aisle, to our pew, to my seat and whispered in my ear, "Do you want to help us with the Christmas Play?" I followed her out of the church outside to another building used for everything from wedding receptions to the conference center to Sunday school. I walked in and was called up front and introduced; Joy then turned to me and asked do you have the play? Do you have any written material? I tried to make it clear that I was helping with the play, not in charge of the play. A misunderstanding that I hope to clear up early on. The rest of the Sunday school time consisted of choosing angels and shepherds; inn keepers and wise men and all of the Christmas story participants including the elusive "little drummer boy". All the "babies" 2 & under were automatically assigned the roles of lambs and cows- as it was explained to me, "they like that part; they like to roam around and baaa and moooo. I have a feeling that only the babies are actually going to know their "lines" come December 21st, as next Sunday is our one and only practice.

This week I am in charge of actually writing out the Christmas Play for us; including songs. It will be a different Christmas for Rob and me since we are in Rwanda. So instead of trying to recreate what a Christmas at home would be like, we are enjoying the differences that our Christmas in Africa offers. Like, last night, we were invited last night to a YWAM (youth with a mission) bible study by a mzungu friend from D.C. Liz. They in turn invited us to visit an orphanage with them on Christmas afternoon. We're excited to go and share Christmas with them.

Side note--YWAM's bible study is called Heart of Worship and it meets every Sunday from 5-7pm. It is the closest thing to CCF in Africa I think imaginable. The majority of the time is spent singing, followed by about a 10min talk (the shortest in Africa!) by one of the members and then tea time. They go on Picnics, retreats, and have bonfires on special occasions. The age range is perfect for Rob and me. There are some marrieds, mostly singles, though and even 1 or 2 couples with kids. Some are still in University, but mostly it's a young working crowd. It seems to be a great community and I'm happy that it is a good mix of Rwandese and Mzungu.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

U.S. Soil

Yesterday we touched U.S. soil; something that I had not expected to be able to do for the next 6 months. We went to the U.S. embassy located near the airport. Ahh, it was good to breath U.S. air again, and my how beautiful the flowers were! Our business there wasn't dire. Brenna needed more pages put into her passport and Rob and I just wanted more or less to get a sense of the place. We did have some questions though: I wanted a list of U.S. organizations that work in Kigali so I can start looking for a part-time job. We wanted to know how to vote in GA's run-off election. And, we needed to update or registration with new local phone numbers. We were also told standard information that will be useful in the case we need to exit the country quickly. All in all, a good trip.

Church dinner

I think cultural differences will continually catch me by surprise no matter how many weeks and months go by. Personally, I think I'm adjusting to the new culture quite well and my expectations have been in check. But, there are some things that are so much a part of your identity that you don't even think to consider them differently in a new culture. For instance, take a church dinner. Please imagine what a typical church dinner, a social if you will, would look like on a typical Sunday evening in a typical church. For me as a child, me and my friends would stuff our faces with food as quickly as possible and then beg our parents to let us go play. The mood was light, the dress was casual, and the lone prayer of blessing the food was the only thing that stood between the congregation and tables full of home cooked dishes passed down by the generations before. The few times I attended a meal at Southwest Christian Church the same scene repeated itself as in my childhood; however, a few prized desserts by seasoned old ladies warranted experienced churchgoers to hit the dessert table first. At our old church in Buckhead, it was slightly different; we had games, chili cook-offs, and birthday cake to celebrate the passing years of our young church, and yet it was markedly the same.

With all these memories sewn into our lives, Rob and I attended a church dinner at St. Etienne's Sunday night. The evening began at 5:30 as we walked through the door and I knew then we were not in for what we had expected. The ladies were dressed in their Sunday's finest sari-type regalia and the men in no less than coats and ties. We sat down at a table laden with the finest china I've yet seen in a room decorated as if for a wedding reception. There was a DJ in the back of the room providing a festive Christmas ambiance as we all waited for the dinner to begin. We were presented with a program bulletin listing the order of events in both Kinyarwanda and English—the program listed words to be given by the archbishop, various distinguished guests, and mothers' union representatives with dinner lost somewhere in the middle. Speech after speech, sermon after sermon, prayer after prayer, and song after song continued until well after 8 and I wondered if everyone else had forgotten about dinner. Surely not as Rob and I exchanged stolen glances, they couldn't have, the tables were still pristine and untouched. …The meal finally began well catered by a local hotel. Chapatti, matoki, cassava. One thing I've discovered is to take a little bit of everything offered. Not so much as to be polite, but because I've learned a good lesson. Once at a lunch I noticed a banana dish that looked delicious and a pot of beans that seemed to be your standard pinto bean. I loaded up on only these two items and happily took a seat. Two bites later I knew I had made a mistake and because you can only go through the buffet line once, my very grumbly stomach let me know it until dinner. So with a well mixed plate, the evening continued with speeches and greetings from far away guests. The hour was late by the end of the program and everyone was on their way home in a flash. We caught very few familiar faces to speak to, but those we did were happy to see us and thanked us warmly for attending. While our two main objectives, dinner and socializing, didn't unfold exactly as we expected, hopefully the church will begin to see us as participatory members and relationships will follow suit. As we walked across the street to our house shortly before 10, Rob and I said, "well, next time we'll know what to expect", but somehow I'm not quite convinced.

Christmas Bazaar

On Sunday after church, Rob, Brenna, and I walked a little over a mile downtown to the market. Brenna was interested in getting a nativity scene, or crèche de Noel, like ours and we decided to take her to see our friend Jean Baptiste who had sold us ours the week before. When we arrived, we discovered many of the vendors closed and to our dismay jean baptiste was nowhere to be seen. I asked his next door neighbor where he was and he said that there was a festival and he was selling his wares there. A festival! Where? And we were soon on our way after mixing bits of English, French, and Kinyarwanda to get directions. More than slightly unsure of exactly where we were headed or if we would even make it anywhere at all, our adventure began. We decided it was definitely worth a try and it was a nice day for a long walk. A long walk later, smattered with landmarks our guide had given here and there, we stumbled upon an unusual number of mzungus coming out of a church's compound. This must be it. As we entered we discovered a fantastic site. It reminded me of a fall festival. The fellowship hall had been leased by an aid organization which brought in local artisans to sell the wares to shoppers eager to bring home Christmas treasures for their families. It was converted in to a market feel and filled to capacity with merchants and shoppers. There were books for sell, jewelry, table linens, baskets, and Rwandans own first chocolatier! We found Jean Baptiste among all the hustle and bustle; he remembered us and was overjoyed that we had brought him more business. Christmas music playing in the background mingled with the sounds of children playing games outside as the smell of the grill wafted indoors and Christmas goodies pleasured the eyes. It was wonderful and festive. Such an unexpected treat fondly reminding me and Rob of the Christmas season we're missing back home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Children's Voices

We have seen many children who live, play, and “work” around St. Etienne.

The children who live on the compound are many and play frequently in our backyard. As I type there is a boisterous game of kickball going on with lots of yelling and laughing. Every once and awhile the ball goes high enough that I can see it over the patio wall, once it practically landed in Rob’s lap. These children are shy. I often try out my Kinyarwanda with them, with sheepish answers in return or answers in English. I think they are slowly warming up and I hope to play with them more as I get to know them and work with them in the nativity play at church.
(The above picture is of some children who live on the compound. This was taken in November on Rose Kibuye Day as they watched from the driveway)

The rest of the children at church are NOT shy! After Sunday services while Rob and I make friends with people in our new church I will more often than not feel a small hand slip into mine. Looking down I’ll find a small child tentatively staring at me, I’ll talk to them and they’ll look at me, sometimes answer, but never will they let go of my hand. Their moms normally have to shoo them away and into the church. On Thanksgiving Day, Rob and I were sitting on the front steps of St. Etienne when the nursery school let out. At once there were little hands patting and stroking my hair, fingers reaching for our computer screens, and small faces in our faces. We had been surrounded by about 20 kids chanting, “mzungu, mzungu” (an endearing term for any kind of foreigner). Intermittent with the mzungu chant came English phrases like “good morning” and “what is your name”. Their leader came and drove them away from us; the children ever so reluctantly complying. Though, one small boy lingered behind bidding us, “goodbye mzungu, goodbye mzungu” until he was pulled out of earshot by his teacher.

There are three street kids who loiter by the front gates of St. Etienne. I am looking for a good time to ask pastor Sam about them, like who are they, who feeds them, where do they sleep. But until that time, I guess they will continue to speak to us in French and name their price of the day; “Bonjour, cent francs, cent francs!” There are some street children who shout both English and French demands as mzungus pass, “Give me Money!, Donnez-moi l’argent”! These are few, however; and the number of children who skitter by us in the market places, spattering French greetings and giggling through rehearsed English phrases far outnumber the sales speeches of the others. The favorite English phrase of the children we know, by far is, “good morning” no matter the time of day or night.

Our Housemates

For the majority of our time at Mercy House, we have shared it with many people: David, a professor at KIST (Kigali Institute of Something Technology), Jeff, the interim director of World Vision, and a Sudanese party of three.

David, and his wife who flew home a few weeks ago, are from the U.K. Actually, David was born in Rwanda to missionary parents and lived in Burundi during his childhood, but the accent is perfectly British. Now, semi-retired he works as a mechanical engineer professor and academic consultant at KIST and his wife at the theological seminary in town. David is fun and talkative. Rob and I often share potluck meals with him of whatever we have on hand and share the end of the day. He and Liz will hopefully be our neighbors when they return the first of January; they at the Shalom house, us in Hope house.

Jeff practically arrived the same day we did in Kigali and has had no rest since arriving. He has a hilarious dry sense of humor, but was quite soft spoken until we got to know him. He has always asked us how our days have been and how we’re doing. He’s looking forward to returning to Seattle to spend the holidays with his family after already missing some traditions over Thanksgiving, but says he needs a little while more to finish his work here. He may return in January-February to do just that. If so, I’ve already invited him over for dinner.

A couple nights ago, Jeff gave David a hard time for just then telling him that if you turn the water pump on outside the water pressure in the bath will be much better. I think the reason it’s not left on all the time is two-fold. One, mercy house cannot stop nearby neighbors from taking the water at the pump and turning the pump off makes it harder; and two, it uses too much electricity to let it run 24/7. So, this night, around 10 o’clock, David prepared to lead Jeff out around back of the house to teach him what to do. The two came knocking on our door, giggling like boy scouts asking for flashlights. Equipped with flashlights and lanterns, they march out of the door as if beginning a ceremonious hunt and we heard them making a racket until they return minutes later, their faces much more boyish than their true years.

There is also a Sudanese party of three that has been staying at Mercy House for the past week. They are Bishop Micah, Evans, and Mama. Mama (head of the mothers’ union) and Evans (youth director) went home today while the bishop remains two days more to rest after a stomach issue. The first time I met Mama she shook my hand warmly and proclaimed, “I will pray for you to have a son” quite matter-of-factly. Perhaps, she will wait a few months. The three of them were here to exchange information concerning the trouble in Sudan, especially concerning Darfur. The bishop and his companions hoped to learn how Rwanda had moved past its own troubled years into a future that has been marked by leaps and bounds with development; both in buildings and in people. The group was chauffeured around to many diocese and events this week and I think the relationship between the two churches has been strengthened and there will be many more visits between the two.

So, with approximately 10 days to go before we’re in a home of our own, it will be bitter sweet to leave a house in which were able to share breakfast with such varied people.

Nothing Says "Happy Thanksgiving" like a Sand Storm

After my ironing was completed from the wash the day before, it was nearing lunch time. As we enjoyed our lunch of carbohydrates, we saw a sand storm approaching in the distance coming over the neighboring hills and through the valley. (Kigali is spread over many hills and valleys – Rwanda in general is referred to as the “land of a thousand hills.”) Rob woke a bishop who was cat napping on the porch and told him to come inside and I ran to our bedroom to close our windows as Malu closed the windows in the front of the house. We watched it come closer and turn everything it closed in on a dusty brown. I wanted to grab my camera and take a picture, but it would just have been of brown fog, not a thrilling photo op after all. The wind tussled and blew the tin roofs of our neighbors and howled passed our windows. In a matter of about 15 minutes it was all over. Strange. Why there was a dust storm is beyond me. It’s the raining season here and we had just had a good soaking rain a few hours earlier. The sand storm prompted a family memory of Rob’s that the bishop couldn’t help but overhear and it amused him greatly. When Rob’s parents were newly married they shared a holiday with Fran’s parents. Rob’s dad, Ted, and Fran’s father assumed the role of master grillers. Before the meat was done it began to rain. They decided it would be a good idea to load up the bed of the pickup truck with Ted and the grill as Rob’s grandfather got behind the wheel in search of clearer weather. Ted continued to grill and turn the meat in the back beckoning his father-in-law to slow down, which was understood in the front cab as a plea to “go faster!” It is an infamous Hartley family holiday story; which I myself may not have believed if I had not stumbled across an old family photo of a young Ted Hartley happily perched in the bed of an old blue truck next to a giant grill.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

This is how I Wash our Clothes

After hunting down all the dirties, grabbing the hand-washing detergent sunlight, and the pink 12” in diameter plastic wash basin with faded soccer balls around the sides, I head to the bathroom. I check the water pressure and if it is just a trickle, like today, I ask Janet to turn the water pump on. Then, I go back to my make shift washing room. There, I do the first “load” it consists mostly of all our under garments and socks. I fill up the wash basin with warm water and, if I remember, I add the detergent then so that it mixes in well with the water. If not, there is a lot of swooshing that has to happen to get the water sudsy enough. You are only supposed to add 1 handful of powder to a load, but I’m not sure that’s enough. I’ve tried 2 handfuls and that’s too many. So, I’m still working on the right consistency. After the water is ready I add the clothes and let them soak for 1 hour. I intermittently check on them to make sure no color is running. Like today, I had to quickly take out a maroon shirt because it was starting to bleed and the other light colors had to be taken out as well so they wouldn’t soak it up!! After any and all crises are averted I’m free to do other things during that hour. Today, it consisted of straightening our room and hiding from the bishops’ meeting called “the house of bishops” that is taking place at mercy house today. I had to put on nicer clothes just in case they saw me, which isn’t too fun when you’re splashing water on you for the better part of a morning.

[Rwandans dress very nicely and I’ve read do not appreciate it when westerners do not also care about their appearance. Almost as if, “you wouldn’t dress so scruffy in your own country so why would you here?” Even though most of us do dress quite casually! For example, students in the university dress very nicely and trying to explain U.S. students going to class in pajama bottoms and a hoodie is impossible. Rob and I have not had any problems, we’ve always looked nice, as far as I know. Although, I have had to resist the urge to arrive at the breakfast table in pjs.]

I return to the basin. I swoosh and scrub each piece individual and then wring it out and lay it to the side. I don’t spend much time at all on each piece, but collectively it seems to take awhile. Then I try to rinse each piece and refill the basin with clean water and put them all back in for a “rinse cycle”. I repeat the process of individually taking them back out and wringing them as dry as possible. Then, because this first load is under garments, I hang them in the bathroom. It seems slightly more private. There is a clothes line hanging over the bathtub and it is normally just the perfect amount of space for all those types of clothes. When we get to Hope house, I’ll probably dry all our clothes outside.

Today, just as I’m finishing up rinsing the first load and about to start my second there is a brown out-a loss of electricity during the day. This is not at all uncommon and normally the generator comes on in a few minutes, its only aggravating when you’re doing laundry. The house is well lit by sunlight and you can’t really tell the electricity is out except in the bathroom due to the lack of windows. After flipping the switch in the bathroom a few times hoping it will magically come back on, I remember I’m in Africa, that brown outs happen, and it’s nicer outside anyway. I feel around for the washing powder sack, my now half full bag of dirty clothes, dump the water out of the basin and into the tub and go outside to use the water spout there. Outside it is hot and bright, a great day for washing clothes-they’ll dry quickly. But as the day wears on the chance of rain increases and many here say that the intense heat is a sign of coming rain. I hope I can finish up before a rain shower undoes my work! I fill the basin with water, this time forgetting to add the washing powder at the beginning and thus vigorously swoosh in the powders in the basin full of water. Then I add the clothes and start the soaking process over, I’ll return to them in 1 hour.

The wind is beginning to blow hard; also a sign of coming rain. I hope at least the first things dry before the rain comes. I go to check to make sure the clothes haven’t blown off the line—very few clothespins here at mercy house! If they have blown off, I’ll have to re-wash them…. After seeing that everything is still on the line, I’ve decided 45-50 minutes is long enough to soak. The previous clothes are almost dry and if I hurry everything else should be dry by 1pm. I begin the process over again, scrub, swoosh, wring, rinse, swoosh, wring and hang. As I hang the clothes on the line under an avocado tree, a tropical crow-type bird with a white neck pecks in yesterday’s trash finding a cheese rind as his treasure and the smell of coffee wafts through the kitchen window in preparation for the bishops’ tea time. I begin to wring out one of rob’s dress shirts as I am beginning, a lady passes by and shakes her finger as in no no no, and motions to me how dress shirts should be hung on the line to drip dry. I guess that makes sense; I learn many things here every day- and everyone has become my teacher.

I am done with the wash process. Hopefully, the rain will not come until they’ve all had time to dry. I’ll take them off the line, shake off any spiders and leaves and bring them in to iron another day. All this I can do. Or, we could pay 2,500 FRW the equivalent of less than $5 USD to Francine for working for 5 hours, she would come and do the washing, ironing, and cleaning. Normally, Malu has her come twice a week, washing one day, ironing the next and cleaning interspersed throughout. Although I am not quite ready to hand it over to Francine. I kinda like the repetitiveness of the process and the quite time it gives me. I’ll stick with it for now, at least until the new year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Champions Graduate

Today was the champion’s graduation ceremony. The “champions” are pastors, archdeacons, or other church leaders who have been selected from their diocese to be trained in the Chalmers’ method of leading savings groups. These champions, normally three leaders from each of the ten diocese in Rwanda, have attended all 4 of Malu’s trainings, have trained others in the methodology of starting savings groups, and have formed groups themselves.

So today in celebration of that a graduation ceremony and luncheon was given in their honor. Several songs were sung in Kinyarwanda, prayers were said, and lots of people spoke, including Rob who also tried his hand at Kinyarwanda. Bishop Augustin Mvunabandi of Kigeme gave the main address. He used Acts chapter 6:1-7 as the basis of his talk. From what I gathered from our translator, Dianna, he urged the champions to take their training and role as leaders of the savings groups seriously and to view it as a critical role of the church. We consistently hear the same from Malu and others who are well versed in the savings-led approach to poverty alleviation. A key element of the training that the champions receive is that these groups provide a means of restoration for their members: a restoration of what Chalmers teaches are the four main relationships of man; man with God, others, creation, and himself. HOPE, Chalmers, and partner organizations see helping people along the way to restoring these relationships through the use of microfinance programs as a ministry that will bring people closer to God. And that churches should not neglect the physical need of people but should give them tools to aid restoration. Chalmers, a research center located in Rome, GA, has done a great job integrating christian principles within the microfinance framework.

In our short time here, we have heard many stories of which I’m sure our blogs will be filled with later, of group members paying each others’ debts, HIV/AIDS groups saving solely to care for their own sick, and the healing that takes place among groups comprised of differing ethnicities. The community and hope that is built up in these groups is amazing. Someone told us recently that it is incredibly difficult to have hope for something that you have never known. Saving seems like such a reasonable practice to do if you have very little and want to improve your situation in the future, but from their point of view, they have not known things to be better. They may want to pay the school fees in order to send their child to school, but once you give them the tools to form a savings group they can actually begin to hope for and see a way in which they can sustainably do so. Marie Jean, a woman we will write of more in the coming months, works for HOPE in the provincial office near the airport. She has been involved with savings groups for a long time. Her first savings group started off with each of the members saving only 100F a month (not even 20 cents) and now just a few years later, they are contemplating the purchase of a used vehicle in order to resell it.

The savings groups are a powerful way of allowing the poorest people to begin to build their way out of poverty, to believe in themselves and their neighbors rather than relying on foreign aid, and for communities to come together and help each other with what little they have. The savings led approach seems to have the greatest impact while maintaining the base value of first “doing no harm” in communities. There are many different methodologies of working a savings group including; raskas, askas, silc etc. which we are still mastering and will write more on later. But however they choose to operate; these groups are making a real difference in the lives of many families. (These groups have originally targeted women as the ideal members of savings groups due to their smaller probability of blowing the money on women and alcohol, and more likely to care about the health and education of their children; however things are beginning to change, Emmanuel who joined us for tea last Sunday said, “the men need to start learning to save, it is dangerous for the women to know how to save and for the men not to.” I don’t know about “dangerous” hopefully he just didn’t have the right word, but the next step in the growth of savings groups would be for men to join in larger numbers, which is what we are seeing happening, or at least a stronger interest in them.

The graduation serves as a type of closure as well for Malu. She is able to see a glimpse of the results of a program in which she has poured herself into for the last year. The numbers are as follows: There are currently 1503 Savings Group leaders trained in Rwanda. There has been documentation of 617 new savings groups formed, and 1,615 pre-existing savings groups have been converted to the Chalmers methodology. Due to missing data (more on this in later blogs), an extrapolated figure estimates a grand total of 33,480 members involved in savings groups over all Rwanda who are together saving $6,087 USD. Thursday was an energizing day for the program and the savings group leaders. The champions were encouraged by each other and were able to reconnect and gain momentum again. The graduation ceremony went over well and the “diplomas” were a big hit. You could tell that the ceremony was a special occasion for them and that were proud of the program and their hard work.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Impromptu National Holiday

Today we had a good long soaking rain. Rob and I sat out on the front porch and listened for the rain as it made its way over one hill, down into the valley and then up to the hill we live on. We listened for it coming and then stayed out on the porch for lunch. It was very relaxing listening to the rain on the tin roofs (ours and all our neighbors). We were able to enjoy the rain and lunch at home because of a quickly declared national holiday. News spread around the country yesterday afternoon, and this morning EVERYTHING was closed, businesses, schools, and churches. In fact even the doors were closed to St. Etienne’s. We watched some of the festivities from the balcony of Malu’s (and soon to be our new) home. Watching us was a woman who lives on the property; she eyed us as she swept her dirt front porch. Here, everything is cleaned; cleanliness is definitely an instilled virtue. Some examples: Paying to use the restroom –there’s always a cleaning lady in there, driving down the street you’ll see women sweeping the dirt roads, women tirelessly clean their homes; (watching Janet wash the terrace daily reminds me of my mom and her garage), walls along the road are repainted regularly. All the cleaning women in public wear the same blue apron uniform.

Malu said we were free to go into town with the demonstrators; that it would be safe, but we decided like all the other muzungas to stay inside for the morning. Music played loudly, kids ran around, women carried their babies on their backs, and two people held between them a large banner as the processional prepared for the rally in the city center. The gathering was peaceful and life resumed as normal around 2pm. Our house mom, Janet did go into town with the rally, I couldn’t get much out of her due to the language barrier, but I think most enjoyed a morning off from the demands of a regular day. Most of our sessions’ attendants and church staff at St. Etienne’s closed the gates and retreated to the sanctuary to pray. Saying, “it is better to pray than to demonstrate in the streets.” Rob has a posting on his blog discussing the point of the national holiday and the community rallies on his blog, (

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rwandan Church and Tea

Breakfast was waiting on us as we prepared for the English service at St. Etienne Anglican church this morning at 8:30. We scarfed down pineapples, honey, buttered toast and tea and headed out the door. We walked across the street and through the gates as the first song was being sung. The service was entirely in English. The songs were all familiar contemporary praise songs with a few traditional hymns mixed in by the Prince of Peace choir. The children’s choir sang too before going to children’s church. They all stood at the front in a group as the tallest young girl sang loudly and the others followed suit. She just kept singing and singing and pastor adrian had to wait until she had finished all the verses she wanted to. When she decided she was finished, the same young girl continued singing as the others flowed outside for a service of their own.
Two pastors presided over the service, Adrian and Sam. Adrian handled the first part of the service, scripture reading, announcements, welcome, etc., as well as giving the totals from last week's offering: such and such amount of rwandan francs, kenyan shillings, ugandan shillings, and 2 US dollars. Pastor Sam then preceeded to deliver the message. In the episcopal tradition, they follow the church year, now we are in the season of advent and so all the messages up through Christmas will be in preparation for the birth of Jesus. Pastor Sam gave a really interesting sermon about prophesies, discussing the different passages foretelling Jesus' birth in the old testament up to present day examples and how true prophecies will always be made known in time. At the close of the service we were introduced to the congregation and welcomed, as St. Entienne's will be our church home during our stay in Kigali. (However, I think we will take a Sunday and visit Pastor Nathan's church, the church of the blessed mango tree - yes they do really meet under a mango tree - and sing in the 'God Help us choir'). We were however asked to join the Prince of Peace Choir and I did volunteer to help with the children's nativity play this christmas season.
At the end of the service, Pastor Sam asked for adult helpers to usher angels, and shepherds, cows and magi down the aisle for the annual pageant. He says, " Last year was a disaster with the children going this way and that, this year we're starting earlier and the children will memorize their lines so they understand what this is all about." So, with Rob's consent and a gentle push when I became too shy, I committed to joining what seems will be quite a production.
There is a large expat community at St. Entienne's, the service constitutes about one fouth muzungas (foreigners) and the rest rwandans. We met most of the muzungas after the service and were invited to many bible studies and received many invitations to dinner. Roger, Rob, Pastor Sam, Emmanuel and I all began our walk out of the church yard. Pastor Sam gave his goodbyes as Emmanuel invited himself over for some afternoon tea. ( I really love how people invite themselves over, we have had at least three drop in guests just for me and rob and many others to see Roger, Malu and Janet. Its a great part of the culture that fits us so well). So the 4 of us made our way over to Mercy House for tea.

Emmanuel asked us a lot of questions about ourselves. After inquiring for a couple minutes straight he offered. It is good for us to know about you if you are going to "walk with us". I thought his language was beautiful and dead on, it is most likely an idiom in Kinyarwanda for worship with us or attend our church, but I think it evokes a much more personal relationship. Emmanuel is an older man, a type of pastor who works with HIV/AIDS women's groups. He told us alot about that program with the church and also about himself. He is a Ugandan and his wife and children are still in Uganda. He hopes to return home to them early next year. The conversation soon turned to the tensions in Goma and their underlying causes. It's really interesting to hear about current events from regional people and their feelings towards them. He clarified many things for me and gave us a more insightful look into matters that you would be able to find on BBC.
Some how, oh I remember, Emmanuel was telling us about how they encourage savings groups to keep rabbits as a source of income. They are easier to handle and multiply faster than cows. They are especially good for the HIV/AIDs women because they are easy to kill for meat. After discussing their multiplicative capability, Roger volunteered a family story from childhood.
It seems his family had a rabbit as a pet. His uncle author found out about this and also wanted a rabbit as a pet and wanted to breed rabbits. Rogers dad said no no no, but finally after about a year author won out. Author brought over his rabbit and Rogers family had ceremoniously put their rabbit in a cat carry type kennel in the middle of the living room. Author swung open the door, shoved in the rabbit and closed it. Immediately rabbits were running circles inside the kennel and bouncing off the sides, fur was flying and a terrible commotion ensued. Author reached in pulled out his rabbit -hoping it to save it from death -and the family decided never to try that again. ... 30 days later, bunnies arrived.
As the afternoon wore on, Emmanuel crossed the street back over to St. Entienne's and the three of us retreated into Mercy house for a quiet afternoon.

Mercy House

We have a 3 minute video to upload as soon as I can get the technology to cooperate!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Explanation of previous posts

So, don't worry! You won't have to read through long catalogs of all our days here everyday. But everything here is so new and I want you to know what is going on with us until we are able to set up a skype schedule and until things gain a sense of normalcy. And I no longer feel the need to tell you what we eat for breakfast. :)

--Also I am claiming that my spelling is so bad b/c of trying to learn a new will get worse. Also because for the past few days my malaria drugs have made me feel loopy, and I'm jet lagged, err go, i get allowances.--

Good news is the side effects from my malaria drug, Malarone, has subsided and I feel great. Right now Rob and I are sitting outside the Anglican church listening to the choir sing praise songs in English. It is wonderful.

Today was a fun day. we started off with a great breakfast again and the company of Roger and the Anglican Archbishop of Kigali. We had to be introduced to him properly. Then we debriefed with Malu on the standing of the savings groups and then took a lunch break to cactus cafe. (english names are strange here). Don't let the name fool you. It was like paradise. Flowering trees, a clear view of the mountains, a tropical rain shower, excellent french/belgian food and wonderful fruit juices. Another plus Free internet for as long as your there. So I was able to see all your great emails that made me enjoy my day even more. Rob was happy too, but they especially lifted my spirits. I can say that after the mal effects of the malarone have worn off, I feel great and am really excited to be here.

Well, It is dinner time here and we don't want to be late for the supper Janet has prepared.

In Kigali - The first days

On the way out we were introduced to one of the bishops of the diocese, who also warmly greeted us. We loaded our luggage in the bed of the truck and rode windows down through Kigali, around 15 minutes to the HOPE compound. The ride was fun. I felt like we were in a documentary of Africa. Women in traditional wear, kids running in the street and walking home in uniforms from school. Small buses filled to the brim with people fighting motorcycle taxis for road space. Lots of sounds, horns, music, kids, shouting, traffic. It was great to get fresh air after being in so many airplanes and to finally feel like we were in Africa after such a long journey.

As we pulled up to the gates Musoni honked and lazarus opened the door for us. (Lazarus is a dog). Then the guard opened it more fully and let us in. On your Left coming into the compound is the HOPE house. It is bright yellow and homey. It will be our home December 13 when Malu leaves. The downstairs has 2 baths, a living/dining room combo. A kitchen fully equipped with a triple strength water filtration system, refrigerator, oven, pantry and storage closet. Right outside the kitchen is where the laundry is hung to dry. We haven’t yet seen the upstairs but there are 2 bedrooms and a bath.
Farther down the hill to the right is Mercy house. This is where we are currently staying for our first month. It is also bright yellow. It has a wonderful patio area and front porch, where we took the video. I think Janet washes it daily, (more about Janet later). We sat outside last night and talked as night fell on Kigali. It was beautiful and relaxing, but also made me feel how far away we were from home and how foreign this new place was. I pulled out my crocheting and felt better as rob read and I worked on Tiffany’s baby blanket. There was something soothing about returning to your normal after being exposed to such newness.
Mercy house has many bed and bathrooms. Janet is like the house mom. She takes care of us, cooks, washes and cleans. It is great to have her while we are new to the country. It makes it a smooth transition to not have to think about buying groceries, cooking and cleaning while we are learning so many other things. We have a cozy bed with a romantic mosquito net hanging down. The misquito net is not really needed at all. I just like it. Here in Kigali, malaria is RARE. It is only begins to be a concern when you leave and go to the villages. However, most people here do not take malaria drugs and so there is some comfort for them in the nets. We also have a W.C. (toilet room) and then a shower room. We will share these two rooms with Roger when he arrives later tonight. Roger is a boss to Rob while we are here. He arrives on the 7:15 flight, which likely means 8:30 for the Kenya Airways flights into Kigali.
Our first night here we had dinner with Malu, her son, and a woman from Ghana studying to be a doctor, who is also staying in the house for the month. Janet made rice, chips (fries), cooked green beans, carrots and onion dish (It was really well done Ted you would have loved it), and a fish sauce. It was really good. The most flavorful baby bananas were served for dessert. Rob and I had a few minutes to sort out our stuff before crashing for the night.
The next morning we woke and had a great breakfast prepared by Janet. We had tea (much more common to drink everyday here because it is far less expensive than coffee - and also due to the French influence in Rwanda. We also had toast with jam in a can, a type of nutella spread that also has hazelnut flavoring, and scrambled eggs that have a strong eggy flavor.

We left to go to Nakumatt the super expensive grocery for expats and diplomats and price groceries. More info on that in Rob's blog, but lets just say 6 cereal bars there cost $20. No worries, we can survive with out cereal bars. The good news is we will be eating lots of healthy fresh foods like potatoes, carrots, green beans, and spinach, etc. Malu is taking me to the two markets she shops in tomorrow. One for dry goods, one for produce. After Nakumatt we exchanged money : 500 KRF for 1 USD is the current exchange rate. Then we headed to bourbon cafe for coffee/coke and a recap of the day.

The final flights and first meetings in Kigali

London- Nairobi
I must confess I was a little scared of flying Kenya Airways. I imagined an old old rickety place and uncertified pilots. But I have to say I would fly Kenya Airways coach class any day. It was comparable to 1st class elsewhere. It was a great flight. Good food, good movies, and this time we were seated on the side section and had 3 seats for both of us. Rob slept fairly well and so did I until around 3 am. Which made sense because 3am London time is 8 am EST. Until then I thought I alone was unaffected by massive time changes. Turns out I’m just like everybody else. But, the good news was again, lots of good movies. My favorite Wall-E. We touched down in Nairobi as the sun was rising. We had arrived. A totally new continent for me and a totally new life of everything foreign. I was excited and scared and unbelievable out of my head jet lagged. The landscape of Africa is beautiful and totally different than anything I’ve ever seen before. Lots of small lakes, rolling hills and valleys and the strange type of African tree often pictured. We deplaned on the tarmac and walked to the actual airport building. We didn’t have to go through immigration because we just stayed in the airport. We arrived at 6:15ish and our next flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 1pm. Once in the airport we walked around a little until we found a nice place to sit and I left rob with the bags to explore J There were a ton of duty free shops. I walked in to all of them hoping to find something to eat, but for the most part there were only candies and chocolates. I did buy us a mid morning snack of macadamia nuts and a liter of water. We took day three of our malaria pills right on schedule and I explored a little more of the shops familiarizing myself with African things.
We grabbed some more food at Java House. I think our tummies were thrown off by the time change, as well as our sleep. Rob had a Kenyan coffee (excellent but I’ve been staying away from caffeine while my system adjusts to the time change), I had a large portion of the best mango juice I could ever imagine for like 1 dollar and we split an almond croissant while we regrouped and watched the BBC. The rest of the morning from around 10am to 1pm. So from around 2am-5am EST we (especially me, rob read the whole time) experienced awful sleepiness and that painful sensation you get when you know you should be sleeping but you can’t. I slept in like 5 minute intervals until the gate number was posted.
Nairobi – KigaliOnce again we loaded on the tarmac. I remember very little from this plane ride. The small amount of time that I wasn’t asleep I was in a weird sleep like daze. Rob even told me that we were delayed on the tarmac for like an hour. I had no idea; except for when we took off I thought we had landed in Kigali. Apparently, someone did not make the flight and so they had to find and remove their luggage. Very good treatment, much less English spoken, and less familiar food offered. This plane ride afforded an excellent chance to sleep before being hit with lots of new things. My attempt to jump right into the new time zone was rejected by my body’s demand for sleep and I was totally fine with that. Very sleepy Hartleys landed in Kigali. 3 of our large bags came right out, all fine and the insides totally intact. The only problem was that our huge black one, the heaviest one, had the handle ripped off somewhere between London and Kigali. The 4th finally arrived about 30minutes later. Also fine. We also escaped the overage fine charged for heavy baggage because Rob works for a non-profit, of course HOPE would have paid this but it was nice not to have to deal with it on the front end. We left the baggage area and immediately saw Malu. She warmly greeted us and took us to our car (a new pickup truck) and we met our driver Musoni.

London for an Afternoon

London was amazing!! I loved it. I had no idea it would feel like such a foreign and European city. We arrived in London at about 5:15 East Coast time and a little after 10am London time. Got our passports stamped and looked for a place to store our luggage for the afternoon. On the way we exchanged about 100USD for Pounds. We have heard news reports of the dollar losing value before leaving; but you really don’t feel it until you get to Europe. The exchange rate is pretty close to 2 dollars for every 1 Euro and to make it worse it seemed like some things were 2x as expensive in the US. Or we’re not tourists and we know where to go in the U.S. We hoped to get lockers for our luggage and then we saw the price. 6.50 Pounds for each bag. Mind you, we have 8 big bulky heavy bags, there’s no way we can take them and no way were we going to pay close to 70USD to store our bags for 4 hours. So instead of lockers for 45.5 Pounds we rented a miniature hotel room for 4 hours in the airport. It was crazy weird looking. I’m assuming it’s a chain and it’s called Yotel. It looked like we were staying in a minimalist version of a room idea section of IKEA. We managed to cram our 8 bags in a small small single room. That had like a lower portion of a bunk bed with a flat screen TV at the foot, a sink with mirror and a toilet and shower and pull out bed side table- all for 27 Pounds for 4.5 hours. It was tiny. Once we got all our luggage in the room it was unable to function as anything but a storage unit. There was just enough room to pull on some warmer clothes, but that was fine, we were off to see London. We took the slower metro into London. It took about 20 minutes more both ways to get in the city, but it was one fourth the cost of the faster train and therefore well worth the price. We paid 7 Pounds each for a day pass. And were afford 20 minutes more sleep on the metro. The metro in London is much like the one in NYC with lots of lines and connections that I feel like would take a long time to learn and lots of people. We randomly chose a metro stop to get off of (the one that had the most connections and superfluous titles along with it and took our chances. It turned out to be the best choice. We talked to a lady in the information window and she gave us a map and a general route and we were off once again. We thought about taking a double decker tour bus, but we liked the idea of fresh air and walking after the long flight, and plus the tickets were like 27 pounds and walking is free. Walking made a lot more sense for a 4 hour window than a bus. I think the bus would be great if you had an entire day because then you can go everywhere and get off and on at different stops around the city. And also if one were budgeting for a vacation and not a layover, we wanted our spending to match up with the fact that we were there on a layover- not an extended stay. So we made choices that maximized our experience of a happenstance trip to Europe. Once we walked up stairs out of the subway station we saw what looked like the London version of Times Square. It was an amazing first look at the city. We began walking, in a little more than an hour we saw everything I could ask, big ben, the London eye, Buckingham palace, the horse guardsmen, West Minster Abbey; where we stopped for hotdogs at a venders. A bad bad choice they were nothing like Oscar Myer. We walked through St. James Park, saw the eros statue, the Houses of Parliament, tons of old architecture and statues of everything and everyone everywhere. I loved it. We didn’t meet many people; just one lady outside Buckingham palace who asked us if she could help us find anything and if we were from New York. We stopped in a small market and bought candy and coke and then headed back to the subway in perfect time. Grabbed our luggage and were off to the next flight.

Front End Flights

Philly – D.C.
This flight was mostly uneventful; we just finished making a lot of calls to family and so I was kinda homesick and tired. It was also one of those planes that is just 2 seats on each side. TINY. I never feel good in those planes. I don’t think it’s good to feel every pocket of air. We were only in the air for 30 minutes. So it was a short flight. More good news, my ears didn’t hurt at all. I had been worried because I’ve been a little stuffy for the past couple weeks. And had an awful ear experience on a flight to Ft. Lauderdale once
D.C.- London’s Heathrow Airport
We had about 2 hours to burn in D.C. I got a soothing cup of chamomile tea from starbuck’s with the last of my giftcard. Thanks mom, it lasted me quite awhile and made me feel better. The flight was bad – how people fly coach is beyond me. It’s ridiculous compared to first. I guess it actually feels like what you would think flying would feel like overnight for 7 hours, but after buddy passes I am spoiled to thinking first class is the only way to go. I’d rather feel pampered in a hotel like class than squwench in between people in the very middle of a long row. Neither Rob nor I slept much at all. And we knew we had much more traveling to do.

I've posted new pics on the picasa site here are two.

And Linda, Rob and Josh made it into one of my pictures by accident. So, this is as good as you will get!
PHILADELPHIA – The real journey begins
We caught the 10am train from Lancaster to Philly after our last trip to the storage unit to drop off the car after ALL our bags were finally packed. We loaded our bags onto the Amtrak train and were aboard just barely before the train pulled away. The train ride was short, just enough time for a Sunday crossword puzzle. As we were filling in the answers, I wondered, do they have English crosswords in Kigali? We debarked the train and entered into Philly’s grand train station. I wished we weren’t in such a hurry, It was beautiful and I would have loved to have had a cup of coffee and stared up at the ceiling for an hour. Instead we headed up a ramp with all 8 bags and just barely made it in time for the R1 septa train to the Philadelphia airport. Now, that was an experience. There were many many stares from harried philly commuters and they darted pasted us trying to make it on board before we clogged the doorways. Once all our bags were on board, I was stuck in the middle console between 2 trains were passengers and baggage is not allowed. The conductor saw me there with 2 bags bigger than me plus 2 more prohibiting me from helping myself in anyway. He said, “ Anybody with you?” I pointed down the aisle to Rob who had left me to man the fort while he made space for us and our bags. The conductor, a gruff guy swore under his breath and threw my bags onto seats and spaces in a matter of seconds and we were off. I didn’t mind because he couldn’t have done anything to our luggage that 2 domestic and 2 international flights wouldn’t do anyway. Shortly thereafter he began the call. “Tickets! Tickets!” For the sake of time, Rob and I postponed buying tickets until we were aboard as to not miss the regional rail line. Although, we thought we would be sitting together. Who knew SEPTA would be so busy on a Sunday morning at 11am. As he approached me I gave him a sheepish look; I had no money on me, I couldn’t leave the bags to get rob, I couldn’t yell for him across the car, and I was not looking forward to getting yelled at. He said, “he got you?” pointing to rob. I said “yes” and he passed on by. Come to find out later, Rob says he was left holding his 20 bucks as the guy promised to “get him later” but never did. Turns out we decided he was a sweet guy behind a gruff exterior as he threw our bags out on the platform when we arrived at the airport- that or- he felt we had already paid enough lugging so many bags on the SEPTA. That night Rob took me to my first NFL game ever. And perhaps the best one there has ever been- Giants vs Eagles. Rob planned a special night for me to celebrate our anniversary early and as a way to celebrate me because he thinks I have been a strong wife during all our transitions. It was a great night. It was really cold in the low 50s. We brought a blanket, wore hats and bundled up and were sure not to wear any New York apparel so we didn’t get spit on. (no kidding- philly is a serious sports town). We had great seats complete with the type of infamous characters that Lincoln stadium is known for. Another important item, we ate well. A turkey leg and pretzel for me, Ribs and nachos for Rob. And to complete a great night the Giants won. It was our superbowl and a great match up, my favorite team and our new hometown team.

On Monday morning before our evening flight, Josh Jeffers (a friend of Rob's from seminary) showed us around philadelphia. We all went to Independence Hall, where the constitutional congress met and the declaration of indepence was signed. We also toured the Liberty bell and general downtown area.