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.