Monday, February 16, 2009


I've decided to keep a list of crazy things I see people hauling while riding motos. Since there's no way to snap a picture when such things fly past you a take you by surprise, you'll have to use your imagination to get a visual. Picture a motorcycle, driver, passenger, and then random item listed below:

1. Large crate full of eggs
2. A twin size mattress; rolled up balanced on the top of the passenger's head
3. Babies!!! Forget car seats, these babies need helmets.
4. Freshly killed chicken dangling in the exhaust of the moto
5. Large television, like a 64 in screen

I'm sure I'll continually be amazed at the things I see being transported by motos. I'll keep the random sitings list going.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trip Home from Cyangugu

A couple of weeks ago Rob and I, along with his team returned from our road trip to Cyangugu. They were there checking out the progression of the Savings and Credit Association groups and I was there on assignment from World Relief to check out a community health training session that was happening in neighboring Nyamasheke.

Cyangugu is in the far Southwestern side of Rwanda nestled along beautiful Lake Kivu and overlooking the borders of Congo and Burundi. The whole time we were in Cyangugu, however, I was really looking forward to the trip home. In order to get to and from Cyangugu, you have to travel through the national forest. On the way in it was raining so hard I couldn't take in the change of scenery, but we left on a cool clear day. The total trip time home takes 6 hours. 1 hour to the forest, 2 hours in the forest, and 3 hours out of the forest. Rwanda is approximately only the size of Maryland; the roads are just in poor condition outside the city.

The national forest is filled with all kinds of wildlife and hiking trails. The most common form of wildlife: monkeys. All different kinds of species. They are so used to local traffic that they aren't scared away by cars and I was able to snap a few photos.

Rob is really interested in going back one weekend and doing some of the hiking trails. The forest is beautiful, with cliffs, hills, waterfalls, and tropical vegetation. I really hope he is able to fit it in.

We stopped for lunch during the 3 hours out of the forest segment at a small cafe. We were served a traditional Rwandan buffet meal. I decided on the chicken after seeing these tasty specimens outside the front entrance.

Bon Appetit!


or as I encourage others to say, Ra-Ta-Touille!

Eggplants - the signature ingredient in Ratatouille - are cheap and of endless supply in Kigali. Ergo, I began to search for an easy dish to make with them. Not being the biggest fan of making cheesy casserole-y dishes, I settled on Ratatouille.

Honestly, I probably never would have been interested in making Ratatouille had it not been for the Disney movie titled Ratatouille about a rat wanna be chef . However, I hope this same power of suggestion works on my kids and all kinds of cartoon movies come out promoting healthy dishes like, Peas and Carrots and Eat Your Broccoli.

I read over a few Ratatouille recipes online, decided I had most of the crucial ingredients, noted rough measurements, and began.


1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 medium red onion, diced
3 green peppers, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
2 carrots, chopped
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 -4 cups water
4-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper

In a large stock pot, I put 3-4 cups of water on to boil. Seasoned with lots of olive oil and cloves of garlic. (If I were in the states, I definitely would have went for a type of stock, either chicken or veggie and next time I'll only add 2 cups instead of 4 due to the large water content of most of my veggies.- live and learn, I guess) I then began the process of chopping up veggies beginning with veggies that would take the longest amount of time to cook: potatoes, carrots, etc. working down to those taking least time to cook.

Once all the veggies are added, season with salt, pepper, and thyme and that's it! Half way through chopping I put on a pot of rice and by the time the rice gets done dinner is ready. We spoon the Ratatouille over rice and it's a deliciously light dinner; warm enough to comfort on winter evenings, but full of such great veggies that it's perfect for a refreshing summer time supper as well.

You can adjust how soupy the Ratatouille is by modifying the water content and also change up how you serve it. Unlike the chunky version detailed above, Ratatouille can be served as a soup or stew and served with cheese bread or sausage and crackers.

Even though there's a good amount of chopping involved, Ratatouille is worth the effort. It makes a large quantity the leftovers can be frozen or easily altered into tomorrow night's dinner.

Happy Valentine's Day

Our Valentine's Day didn't go exactly to plan.

It started out wonderfully, though. Rob finally arrived home after being out of town all week. He brought me flowers and chocolates from Kigali's own resident chocolatier. (I've decided that if a career in NGOs or writing doesn't pay the bills, I'm going to become a chocolatier.)

I was feeling pretty poorly from battling the same virus Rob had earlier in the week and exhausted from a language barrier between me and my refrigerator repairman. (It's still broken.)

We both hoped that Saturday we would feel up to going to a Valentine's Day yard sale and dinner and a movie later that evening. Well, Saturday came and went and we barely got out of our PJs. We were both sick and Rob pulled double duty by being sick and also taking care of me. While it wasn't exactly what we had in mind for our holiday. It was still romantic to spend the day lounging around watching movies and eating soup.

We also played a fun game of what did we do on previous Valentine's Days:

1. Rob gave me 2 dozen roses and we went salsa dancing with the Jacksons and Thompsons
2. First married Valentine's Day. Poor and in Graduate school. I think I gave Rob 4 chocolate chip cookies and a card.
3. Graduate school exam followed by dinner at OZ Pizza
4. Sick together in Rwanda

They've all been wonderful.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Working Gal

I'm so excited to announce that I have a Job!

I now work with World Relief. Roughly part-time, in the areas of communications, research, and writing. It couldn't be more perfect as preparation for what I hope to do long term, and how I ideally hoped to spend my time while in Rwanda.

Rob and I really consider it a great blessing. It's not easy to find work for just 6 months, overseas, and during an economic fallout in the states. I'm really excited for the opportunity and love what I'm doing.

Time Assignment

I think I'm a schedule-type person.... Actually, I am a schedule-type person. I've always wanted to claim 'Spontaneous! I'm Spontaneous' thinking surely spontaneous people are way cooler and have tons more fun. But, I bet Benjamin Franklin preferred schedules and I know Bill Gates has too. These people are way cool. And, I'm ready to own up to my need for a schedule.

I am in the process of a major overhaul to the way I spend my time. I'm setting up a schedule in excel (just like I used to keep on the fridge for roomies during college years) and getting the time in my days in order.

Why? Because at the end of the day, I'm exhausted, and haven't got to nearly half the things I had expected to and zero of the things I wanted. Now, I don't think this is because I necessarily dawdle or waste my time. I think it's because I'm trying to pack to much in and/or under estimating the amount of time it takes to do things, here especially. And instead of cramming left over essential business into my evening hours I want to reserve that time for relaxing things I enjoy and for guilt-free walks with husband. I want to be 'off-duty' at 6pm.

The undertaking of this time tracking feat comes because for one solid week I have meant to post that I HAVE A JOB and a million other short stories that are going on with us here. But seriously have not had a moment to do so before collapsing in bed each night.

Of course the main culprit responsible for occupying my time now is my job. However, this obvious transition time has been complicated by the fact that we've been a little under the weather, traveling, and every major appliance that could break has. Not really, just the fridge, but it might as well be everything. If you don't believe me, please reference the number of food related articles on my far.

So for the rest of this week: I'm tracking my time, prioritizing, and scheduling weekly tasks to specific time slots.

This may seem a little control freakish and impractical...but I'm citing sanity and giving it a whirl.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I celebrated my 26th Birthday.

Rob and I woke early early to pack for our week long trip to Kigeme and Cyangugu. (We couldn't last night because the power went out just as we were about to begin.) We managed to eat some blueberry muffins that I made last night and we're out the door before 8.

Rob bought me a Toblerone candybar and apple juice before we were too far outside Kigali and announced to the truck, "Do you know what today is? It's Danielle's birthday."

We arrived in Kigeme and heard from HOPE's champions on how they saw their program going and then ate a wonderful lunch. We had a short break and then went out to the field to meet two savings groups. One group was comprised of former street youth who have adopted the savings group methodology and undergone a complete transformation. We saw one man's home and family, as well as, the group's shared cows and gardens. A main income generating project of the men is growing eucalyptus trees. We then walked down the road a bit to visit with a group that has just been started up in the past three months. This group has been spurred by the success story of the first and reaches out to youth on the streets. They meet a few times a week, play soccer, and learn about the benefits of savings.

A managed to squeeze in a few hours work of my own and soon it was dinner time. A day in the life. Here's a birthday picture of me in case you want to see my 26 year old-ness.