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.

SEEP conference in DC

DC was a whirlwind trip. Every night was late and every morning came really early. We arrived on Tuesday election night and drove around to see the life of the city. It was cool but less than I expected, friends told us later that we were close to the action, but we just didn’t see it. But, I think it was pretty cool to be in the city as a new president was being chosen around the country. We saw overflows of people waiting for news outside bars and hotel lobbies, and also lots of fancy dressed people walking to political parties. But for us, we headed for the hotel room and just tried to stay up long enough to hear the results. We didn’t make it and discovered our new president-elect the next morning. The conference took place 8 – 5 everyday. It was a SEEP conference (I still don’t know what SEEP stands for, rob’s told me many times but it just doesn’t stick for some reason.) It was great, super informative, really encouraging. We learned a lot and met a lot of people which was wonderful right before we headed to the field. The first night we had dinner with Adrienne. She is HOPE’s expat personnel director and care giver based in Richmond, VA. She is really sweet and I’m sure she will take care of us well while we are in Rwanda. We may even see her in March. The second night we went out with 2 of Rob’s groomsmen, Justin and Matt, and 1 of their friends, Jeff. It was wonderful to hang out with them and visit before we left. It made me sad that we will be far away from that community in D.C. for so long. But hopefully they’ll still be there when we get back. The third and final day of the conference was crazy LONG 8 am to 10pm after a late night. And then the drive back to Lancaster, we arrived around 1 am after a couple stops.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Extras in Lancaster County

While we've been in and around Lancaster county for the past two weeks, we've seen and done a lot of Lancaster things. My favorite thing has been exploring downtown and the central market. I can't wait to take visitors to the central market. It is a really neat place filled with fresh produce, meats, cheeses, seafood, baked goods and coffee all crammed in to this old brick building in the very center of the city. Rob and I stopped their last Friday and bought crab cake sandwiches from Bob and split a seafood bisque.
While we were there we ran into a guy we met who was having a porch sale on Prince St. with his wife Kara when we first visited Lancaster in September. He works on an organic farm and was at the market trying to sell the last of their crop for the winter. We also made friends with Wendy Jo and girl about my age who has a homemade baked goods stand with her sister. We bought an apple pie for our lovely hosts after asking around in the market and everyone sending us to her. We also met a guy named Rafiki who is from Uganda and has an african food case there in the market. We told him about us and what we were doing with HOPE and said we'd come back to see him when we got home.

Another thing Lancaster is famous for is used book stores. We've already picked out a favorite in Dogstar Used Books. It is in the neighborhood where we first had hoped to live, the West End. Its a small crammed space where every nook and cranny is filled with books. It's right across the street from the Chestnut cafe which closes down every tuesday to sell at the market.

Rob and I have been interested in visiting St. James Episcopal church, its a really friendly close-knit community. We've stopped in a few times during our two visits up to Lancaster and have always left with good feelings and warmed hearts. When we first stopped in last Friday to say hello and tell them we were back in the area for about 6-9 months and why, they were excited for us, interested in what we were doing and even prayed for us. Bob Hartley, no relation we've yet found, also took us on a historical sociological tour of the city. He's lived here over 30 years and described the transformations the city has went through during that time. He also pointed out the three main types of original housing structures you'll find in Lancaster city, working class homes, managerial homes, and owners homes. It is an interesting feature that Rob and I now take note of more consciously as we explore the city. While on the tour we made a stop at a small store you would think resembled more of a package store than what we found in side. As soon as you step through the door you're pretty much bowled over by the scent of quality aged cheeses. Turns out this whole in the wall is really a specialty import store well disguised. Specialty meats, mostly cheeses and also vats of specialty olives are the biggest treasures located in the back of the store, but in between the front door and the back meat case are a few shelves lined with a variety of any kind of imported food you could imagine. It was totally not what we were expecting to find. Bob also took us on a tour of his own garden- he asked if we didn't mind a side trip as the previous night there was a bit of frost and he had covered his lettuce to protect it.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Dutch Blitz

Wow! Has our life ever turned upside down! We've officially moved to Lancaster, PA. And in one week we're moving to Kigali, Rwanda. Last Friday we packed the Uhaul and headed out the drive at 7:20 pm. We made it to Statesville, NC the first night, York, PA the second night, and by day three we were in our first hosts' home.

We spent the first half of our first week with the Dunn's who were kind enough to answer all our Lancaster related questions and let us know all the ins and outs of Lancaster county during a critical period of geography absorption. We went in the the office everyday if even for a few hours to get to know the people and the organization better. Our week ended with a guided tour of Lancaster City's historical and sociological roots and a Halloween office party for HOPE's children to come trick or treat.

We're now residing with the Fishers and will spend the remainder of our time in Lancaster with them. They are a gracious bustling family with four children and thankfully room for the two of us for quite an extended stay. Rob began his official first day on the clock this morning at 8am. He is in the office today and tomorrow before we steal away to D.C. on election night for a conference the following three days. We'll return late on Friday night, make last minute preparations and then head to philly before our flight leaves out Monday night.

We've squeezed in lots of touristy things in our short stay. More on those later.