Abode Video

15 Feb

Well folks, there you have it. That’s where we live.

Not too shabby eh?

 

Love,

J & M

(P.S. Yesterday we got too busy and tired to write anything about Valentine’s Day.  We’ll probably do that tonight…maybe.)

Little Things

13 Feb

Today, we finished work at 4 PM in order for Justin to go play football with the boys who go to school here in Gahini. We got there just after 4, only to sit under the tree by the side of the pitch and wait for another 45 minutes until the rest of the boys started trickling in. We met Derek, who conversed with us effortlessly in English, telling us he thought America was a beautiful country, that in his biggest dreams he wants to play for a European football team, and that Africans don’t have the physical energy that Americans do to play soccer.

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Derek is in front of the frame with the blue and red striped jersey, running away from the scary muzungu, Justin.

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I was so proud of my husband. He was so brave! Situations like this paralyze me– you are the only one different in a whole crowd of “others” and you all want to do something together so you just have to jump in. And he did. We sat under the tree for a bit, as I said, until he finally got up to “stretch”– which basically means comparing break-dance poses for a while– with some younger boys. Then he was off across the pitch to play.

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I don’t know why I was so touched by his courage. It is just something I could never do. Not in a million years. A) I don’t play soccer and B) I am terrified of putting myself out there like that. But he just went. And I took pictures!

…which is why there were suddenly (I kid you not) 200 small children crowding around me jumping into my pictures.

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They poured out of the primary school and I said hello to one and before I knew it, familiar cries of “Muzungu!!!” carried across the school yard. 200 kids. 200. 400 eyes staring at me like huge full moons.

I was so terrified.

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Not that they would do anything to me. They were scared of me, after all– some running out of the way when I swung the camera towards them, others jostling everyone else out of the way to get a “Foto! foto!” And at the end, one little guy put his hand out towards me so I put mine out, palm up, and as he gingerly lowered his hand towards mine I GRABBED his with my fingers. He shrieked and fell back into the crowd. Another mistake, because then every 200 of them wanted to touch my hand. 400 little hands.

Then one of them sneezed on me. Which she continued to do a few more times during the remainder of J’s game. And coughed on me. I thanked God silently for the bazillion antibiotics and acidophilous I am taking.

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I can’t describe it. It was just insane. I can’t imagine seeing someone and finding them so odd and interesting that I would just sit and stare– that is what living in a diverse city for the past 23 years of my life has done. Justin and I were trying to think of someone we had never seen before, only heard of, that we would stare at if we finally got to see them. The closest we could think of is a Maori warrior from New Zealand.

Just the sheer number of them. Packed in like sardines to within six inches of my legs. And then one boy would shove everyone from the back and suddenly they were all falling down and the tiny girls were getting trampled and there was a mob. A mob of little people all around me. I wondered if one could be killed by a stampede of children.

But they just kept crowding. Jostling each other for a picture, to see the LCD screen on the back of the camera with their faces on it, to grab my hair or pinch my arm and then run away. I had the zoom lens on to take pictures of Justin out on the field so I couldn’t get all of them in, but trust me. I felt overwhelmed.

A teacher (I assume) in a white lab coat came out. “Please,” he said. “The children have to do community cleanup, now.”

As if I wanted all 200 of the ankle biters surrounding me, dude. Give me a break.

“Sorry!” I stammered. “I just had my camera out and they all came over to see the pictures.” At this point, I recognized that vacant look in his eyes I have become all-too familiar with: He had no g.d. idea what I was saying.

So I tried to put the camera away because I realized that had been what had drawn them all there. I sat down by our backpacks and tried to pull out my book, but then they all pushed closer. I don’t often feel claustrophobic (occasionally on elevators) but this was a whole new world. They all just looked down at me from various heights above my own head. “Okay, I’m standing up again,” I said to the hordes.

It just kept going. At one point, Justin saw me from across the field and came over to check on me (love that man). As he came through, the children parted like the Red Sea before Moses, screaming! Screaming!! Running away from my gentle man. It was hilarious. They were tripping all over themselves, losing their shoes and tackling each other to get away from the bearded wonder.

“I just wanted to make sure you’re okay!” he said, chuckling at my predicament.

“Oh, I’m fine,” I said, laughing, because I didn’t know what else to say. So he returned to the game and the sea closed up over me again.

Remember, most of them speak no English and I speak incredibly limited Kinyarwanda, so the extent of our verbal exchange was “What is your name?” “Maggie.” And then I couldn’t ask all 200 of them their names so that stopped there. “How are you?” “I am fine, how are you?” [Bashful silence, more stares, giggling] So there was another wall. “How old are you?” from the back. “23.” And of course, I didn’t want to know all 200 of their ages, and few would answer me when I tried to volley the question back to them. Instead, they just kept staring.

I saw an older boy in the back– Alex, whom we had met a few days before. “Alex,” I cried, trying not to sound too desperate, “Would you please tell them to go away?” I paused. “Nicely!!” I added as an afterthought.

He said something in Kinyarwanda and they all just laughed at me.

So clearly that worked.

Not one of the massive horde moved a muscle. They just kept staring at me with their luminous eyes. And I kept not having a clue of what to do next.

And I kept looking around, clutching Justin’s precious camera in my hands and checking on our bags to make sure no grubby paws swiped his iPhone or our keys, watching more and more tiny kids pour out of the schoolyard. The sea grew.

You know, I don’t pray anywhere so much as in the majority world. I remember when I studied abroad in India being struck by the fact that it was there that God was all I had. People didn’t speak English enough to help me if I got lost. I couldn’t have my parents come get me out of a bind. He was all I had. It was us against the world. Me and God.

So as I watched more blue sweaters, dresses, and shorts surround me, I giggled and prayed under my breath for God to keep me safe. From children. How ludicrous! But it was terrifying in the moment.

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So God sent another teacher– and this one had a stick.

He ran around, bless his heart, on his one lame leg and one good one and chased the little buggers away! He carved a no-fly zone around me, vacated by the kids who ran shrieking from his brandished stick. I think he must have told an older boy to help him, too, because this other fellow in a black shirt and camo pants helped herd the kids away more.

The whole crowd of them then proceeded to run directly through the soccer field.

Only a few stragglers trickled back. And finally Patrick, who was wearing a Harley-Davidson belt-buckle in the shape of a bald eagle head on two olive branches, all framed by a circle of bicycle chain, came up to chat with me. He must have been about 10 and was a shameless flirt who only knew the standard English phrases that we discussed before. Finally, I gained a smaller, more manageable crowd.

And by the time Justin was done, I had covered the back of my hand and wrist in my Kinyarwanda lesson from these kids. We’d point to things and say them in our respective languages for a while until I realized this opportunity that was right in front of me. So I grabbed my pen out of my bag and wrote it all down. I’ll teach you soon.

An older lady joined the crowd and took her place directly in front of me. This turned out to be quite the vantage point because she could bend over and shout the pronunciation of the word in my face if I didn’t get it the first time. Which actually helped quite a bit. She even gave me a sheet of paper from her bag to write on instead of my skin.

So at the end of the day, I was covered in ink and my husband in the red dirt of Rwanda.

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Then we went up the hill to Wim and Berta’s house (South African missionaries; he’s a doctor and she’s a teacher) to pick up a package we are going to take into Kigali tomorrow. We saw this beautiful sunset (yes, another one) outside of their back porch. They have the best view of the lake and almost the whole valley. Justin apologizes for the fuzzy photo; but I think it’s beautiful.

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It was just a weird day. I felt unsettled by the whole child-ambush thing. Not sure why. I think that one of the reasons is that I was suddenly aware I had pictures of strange African children on our camera whose names I would never knew. Just like every other white tourist who visits the continent.

And it didn’t make matters worse that I saw my first cockroach before dinner. I won’t tell you where he came from, only that I steeled myself and smooshed him with the aluminum foil that covered our plates. If you know me, you will know how absurd this story is because I can handle most creepy-crawlies– but not cucarachas. Something I inherited from my mother.

I think it helped that he looked like the cockroach from “Wall-E” and so I decided he wasn’t so gross as he could have been.

Then I saw two spiders, each the size of my palm.

“Did you see that?” I asked Justin of the gargantuan arachnid that had just scuttled back outside through the gap under our front door. “Nah,” he shook his head, nonchalantly, communicating to me that he had, in fact, seen every leg on it but just wanted me to forget it.

Then another one crawled towards our storage closet.

I will be blocking the gap under our bedroom door tonight with towels. And gasoline prayer.

I was just unsettled by a lot of little things today: little children, little cockroach, big ass spiders.

It was just… weird. Just a reminder that I’m not home. I don’t speak the language (and don’t have enough time to learn sufficiently), am an obvious outsider because of my skin, and most days just want to stay in bed with the Internet to keep me company. But I must learn to be content and present where I am. J and I both agree we aren’t exactly happy here, but it could be worse– and someday it will be a great three-months worth of memories and stories. Not to mention that we get to go to Europe when this is over.

So now I’m going to bed. Where I will be praying the mosquito net keeps all of these flying and crawling beasties away from my body and that of my husband. We are going to Kigali tomorrow to visit our friends, Deke and Jocelyn. And I get to take a yoga class at the US Embassy with Jocelyn. I might cry, I’m so happy just to be doing something I love with a friend. It was the small things that threatened to unhinge me today, but they’re also what keep me going: a good lunch, the promise of a yoga class, killing that mosquito, my hilarious husband, being asked to do the readings at the English service on Sunday as a couple. Justin and Deke are going to play more football, and we will drink the bottle of wine that I won at Nakumatt last week. It will be a wonderful anti-valentines day. Perhaps we’ll tell you tomorrow why we don’t celebrate Valentines.

Love from the land of spiders as big as your palm,

M&J

[Hello boys and girls!  It’s me.  Maggs had quite the experience today.  I was genuinely worried for her with the horde of children around her.  And she’s not joking when she says there were 200 of them.  At one point, I watched one child emerge from the pack in a bright canary yellow jacket–which looks exactly like Maggie’s rain jacket.  I saw Maggie had her back to the child and figured the child had slipped it on and walked away.  I watched this child walk all the way to the other end of the pitch, battling internally on whether or not to run after this child and snatch Maggie’s jacket back.  Alas, the girl turned around and there was brown writing on the front of her hooded sweatshirt.  I told Maggs this later and she said, “Could you imagine how scared that girl would have been if you had run up to her?”

Also, I want you to know that tomorrow I am going to post a video and some other pictures that are on my iPhone/iPad.  For some reason, my computer won’t register either of them when I plug them in and so I’m unable to get the pictures off of them!  But tomorrow we’ll have wireless internet (not just this “modem” internet that is really just a flash-drive with a cellular SIM card in it).  One of these precious items will be a video of our abode here.  It takes you from our bathroom and out to our porch.  It’s got the best commentary too…I think, I don’t remember.  Anyways, speaking of bathroom, today when we got back from down the hill, while I was still red-faced and sweaty, we both got to take a nice shower.  Mind you, it’s quite a bit different of a shower than in the U.S.  It’s more of a “shower” than a shower.  Nonetheless, it felt incredible.

That’s all for now, I’m exhausted and we’re waking up early (6ish) to catch the bus to Kigali tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with two flies mating]

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[Classy as usual, babe. And may I also add that my shower was remotely warm at the end? It was another little thing that gave me hope.]

Fat Kids Do Laundry

12 Feb

J: So Maggie and I were looking back on old photos of us recently and we realized that we’ve both gained quite a bit of weight since we first got engaged/married.  (Me especially, I’ve gained at least 40-45 lbs!)

M: Yeppers. I was always one to deny the reality of the Honeymoon Period 15 or 30 or whatever, but it has happened to us. I guess that’s what living within walking distance of a Chipotle for a year and then eating Cuban food for four months will do to a body. And so, without further ado– two chubby white kids attempting to do laundry, Rwanda-style.

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M: Luckily, one of the housekeeping ladies walked by and laughed at us. She mercifully relieved us of 2/3 of our laundry– which she then proceeded to do in half the time it took us to do the remaining 1/3. AND she was quite pregnant. “Ndashaka!” she pointed at our laundry. “I want!” Thank the Lord she did!!

J: And like the dummy I am, I left 2/3 of the shirts I needed washed hanging on their pegs in our room.

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J: Here’s our fancy dryer.

M: I secretly think that the staff came to laugh at our underwear. Or, not so secretly– as I told Justin I hoped the female staff would come laugh at his.

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M: I spent hours making all these skirts to bring to Rwanda/wear for years afterwards. I dyed this white one this exquisite coraly-peachy-pink color, and of course, Rwandan water sucks the dye right out of it.

J:  She also dyed my hands pink.

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J: During a break to fetch clean water and pour the old water in our toilet (we’re so economical and green), this little guy fell in the washing basin.

M: He is one of the less formidable bugs we have encountered here so far.

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J: No worries though, I saved him!

M: I’m so proud.

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M: Then we washed up to go to a wedding up the hill. However, we neglected to “schedule” lunch and arrived up at the top of the hill to see the wedding guests all leaving for the reception. Oh well. It is hilarious that we were late to an African wedding though. “Late” is what they do best here! So instead we walked around and took pictures.

J: What Maggie has neglected to inform you is that we would have been on time had we received our lunch when we had asked for it; instead we arrived 2 hours late.  (Sweet fences, eh?)

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M: In typical white fashion, I had to conquer something African. So I stood on this tree.

J: Hard to tell from this picture, but it’s a frickin sweet tree.  From the roots up it twists in an odd manner from left to right.  And the leaves are in bunches, only at the end of the branches. Not to mention it’s HUGE.  Hence the large root system that Maggs is standing on..

M: You twist in an odd manner from left to right.

J: O_o

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M: There are all these inspirational signs in a lovely courtyard in the English-speaking primary school. One of them says “Even Girls Can Make It”

J: I took this picture with Grace Ciak-Linton in mind.  I figured she’d appreciate it 🙂

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J: In case the first one wasn’t clear enough. (M refused to caption this, saying “It’s the same sign!!!”)

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M: This is a relatively even part of the massive hill we have to walk up and down twice a day.

J: And she’s going down hill when the sun isn’t shining.  Normally we do this in the heat of the day with backpacks and sweat our faces off.

M: Someday we’ll tell our children Mommy and Daddy walked to work uphill both ways for months.

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J: Pay no mind to the way that I’m standing.  I was caught unawares.

M: All lies. He posed for the cows.

J: Now who looks like a liar!?  There are no cows!

M: They’re just outside the frame. Admiring your eagle powers.

J: I’m sure they are.

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M: Bougainvillaea that looks like a sunset!!!

J: For a proper sunset see below.

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J: I snapped this at the base of the hill.  It gives you a literal snapshot of what we see on a daily basis.  The buildings on the other side of the fence on the other side of the road are the Seeds of Peace center where we live.  The white vans with blue stripes are taxis.  Then there’s  truck and a boda (motorcycle taxi).  To the left you can see a fabulous sign with 5 girls that says something about not needing a “suga mama” or “suga dadi.”

M: It’s actually three girls and two boys. Regardless, you can see Lake Muhazi just behind the center.

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J: This is a window.

M: Justin has THE BEST eye for finding beautiful windows and doors wherever we travel. I love the vibrancy of this shot.

J: If only they paid people for finding doors and windows!

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M: Just another day in paradise.

J: Another slightly boring day…in a rural and lonely paradise.

M: Time to go find a margarita. Oh wait.

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J: The end.

M: You’re the end.

J: You come off it!

M: You.

J: You infinity.

 

Love,

M & J

“Do for one what you wish you could do for all.”

12 Feb

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 I recently heard the above title and it helped me ties up loose ends that I had avoided for quite a few years. Sure, I had considered it figured out in my head, but never in such a succinct manner. You see, back in 2008 when I was in Uganda, I was faced with various issues around the world that are beyond overwhelming: child labor, the ever-popular figure that 25,000-35,000 children under the age of five die daily, a drought in East Africa, a pandemic somewhere else, AIDS here, malaria there. All of these things caused me to think deeply for quite some time about how I could respond. I wanted to help, but how could I help in all of these causes?

The answer was simply: I couldn’t.

So I took some advice from Mother Teresa at the time and attempted to “do small things with great love.” And I decided that whatever my life work would be involved in, it would be focused and specific so as I wouldn’t be spread out too thinly to ever make any real difference.

However, even with a specific focus, there is still the possibility that I might not ever make a real dent on whatever particular issue I end up giving my life to. Again, this, deep in the back of my mind, caused me some discomfort.

“What good is giving your life to something if it’s not going to make any real difference?” I would hear.

So it was at this point that I realized that it is far more important to be faithful than to be effective. Sure results are nice. But at the end of the day, I don’t feel the need to justify myself with statistics and numbers that make me feel good about myself. If, by the time I die, they accrue, that’s great! But if not, then no worries. It’s not up to me to save the world—this is a deeply misled attitude that many United Statesians have these days, but I digress.

Again, it’s not up to me to save the world.

My objective in life is to discern with others a mode of living that may not make a whole lot of sense to most people but will remain faithful to what we understand God to be leading us to do. If I can find my niche and work at it with all of my being, then I will die satisfied. My goal is to help people. If I can’t help millions of people, but there is a handful of people that I am able to help, and I do, then my life is a success.

But again, my conscience and conditioned U.S. ways creep in and say, “What difference does it make if you help a handful of people? Will you leave the rest to fend for themselves?”

And again, I must brush off these faulty fatalistic premises and speak truth to myself. The reality is that I’m not alone. You see, the reason these premises are both faulty and fatalistic are that they are from a specific neoliberal worldview that views humanity as a great conglomerate of individual monads. However, as a follower of Jesus, I realize from the get-go that this is wrong. We are not individual monads; for we were created for community and at the very core of our being—ontologically speaking—is a deep thirst to know and be known. Since we are not individual monads, we do not have to listen to the nonsense that our conscience tells us.

If I were to view the world from the perspective of an individual monad, I would be devastated and would be a true pessimist—to the point of suicide. For if my life has no meaning and impact, then what point is there to live?

Again, thankfully I don’t view the world in this way. I am a communal being which necessitates the other. To my understanding, the other is my fellow pilgrim, another beloved child seeking to follow and become more like our rabbi, Jesus.

Since I am not alone—for one cannot follow Jesus alone, I promise you that!—I do not fear what will happen to the others that I am unable to help. Which enables me to focus on the handful of people that I do have the ability to partner and journey with. For “helping” is not a one way street, it is a journey of learning embarked on together. As I teach, I also learn and vice versa.

Again, since I am not alone I am filled with hope that my God will inspire my fellow brothers and sisters—can I just say that I love being “children of God” because it erases any goofy and instinctual desires to create any form of hierarchy; we are all simply children under our heavenly father—and they too will affect change on a handful of people. Hopefully, through our encounters with Jesus we will become more like him and will be filled with love. Then love will fill our encounters with others and hopefully they too will be filled. In essence, slowly by slowly, love will abound and the handful of people that are initially effected will then begin to affect others by passing on the newfound love they have. The idea is that we are blessed in order to be a blessing. We are never blessed individually. Anyone who tells you that is lying to your face. We are ALWAYS blessed instrumentally so that we might bless others. (If you don’t believe me look at scripture, especially Genesis 12:1-3)

So anyways, back to the beginning. I like to imagine that I am a weaver holding on to this big piece of tapestry. There are many different holes and things to be fixed and the tapestry is so vast, I might never even fix .0001% of it myself. However, I don’t see it like this at all, for that would overwhelm me and I would simply quit weaving all together. I look to my right and see my beloved bride, Maggie, weaving alongside me. To my left I see my mother, smiling and working diligently. To her right I see my sister, also working diligently. To Maggie’s right I see my good friend Jared, weaving his little heart out. To his right are my friends Jon and Adrienne working together and weaving beautifully. Across from me I see JM, Andrew, and Steve squirreling around with their piece of tapestry, and to the left them our good friends Grace and Patrick working with great passion. The the right of them I see my grandparents and both of them has the tapestry right near their faces (not because their sight it poor but because they are so focused on weaving and love it so). And on down the line, on both sides of the tapestry it continues. But each of these people actually isn’t weaving. Maggie and I are trying desperately to love the people here in Rwanda by helping the the local diocese development office. My mother is spreading love by first loving Lila and Lexi and having that love spread to new friends in Colorado. Tiffani is spreading love by working with special needs children and having patience, tenderness, and kindness. She reaps and sows the fruit of the Spirit. My friend Jared loves the youth that he works with and genuinely wants to help improve the city he lives in. And again, it continues. Each person that I can see near or next to me on the tapestry is building for the Kingdom of God. They might not be the best at it—I’m not even the best at it—but the point is that we’re all trying. Not for results or effectiveness but merely seeking to be faithful to loving as God has called us to love. I have hope because it’s not up to me to fix the world. But I am honored to have a role in building for a new Kingdom and an alternative reality. As I wake up I’m not trying to change the whole world. All I’m trying to do is, slowly by slowly, meet the handful of people I encounter daily where they are and with great love. I fail often, but I’m learning and that’s what is important. Progress not perfection.

(And for all of you pessimists out there, I understand that this might be a bit idealistic. And you’re right, it is. I myself find myself often being negative under the veil of “realism” or “pessimism” so this isn’t for you. It’s for me. I need this in order to stay positive in light of all the hardship in the world. So while it might not seem realistic, that’s okay. It’s simply positive reinforcement and it’s quite helpful! You should try it sometime!)

Love,

J & M

P.S. This is a “theological reflection” I had to do for school that I thought I’d share.

Thief in the market…

10 Feb

Today was interesting.

We woke up, ate breakfast, and then we were off to the market.  We went with a young lady named Betty who acted as our translator and bargainer.  She was quite helpful.  However, it seems that wherever we are, we attract a crowd.  Something about our pigmentation or whatever, I s’pose.  People always seem to be laughing.  Sometimes with us.  Sometimes at us.  Although since we can never actually tell, we just like to assume they’re always laughing with us.  Even though they probably aren’t.  Anyways, today they were laughing at us because we spoke their language (for some reason a white person speaking Kinyarwanda is humorous).  Then they were laughing because I picked up some tomatoes that had fallen on the ground and no one else had seen them fall.  So apparently it’s also humorous if white people are kind.  Then finally, they were laughing because of the massive horde of children following us around.

The children are always curious about us–if you’ll allow me a brief caveat here, I’ll share some of my thoughts on Rwandan children.  We’re so very different looking I think.  Obviously we’re a much paler complexion, but our hair is different too.  Then there’s our facial structure and our eye color.  We also have hair on our arms and they do not.  My favorite part is walking down the road as the sun is going down and hearing, “Good morning, how are YOU?!?”  It appears that in school here, the English they’ve learned is always in the morning time.  Or even better, in the morning and you hear, “Good evening, what is your name?”  Children a funny, they’re innocent (for the most part), and they’re not shy about breaking social boundaries to stare at you for 30 minutes while you’re sitting in a truck at the market waiting for your friend to finish shopping for the centre you’re staying at.

Anyways, so today was quite interesting at the market because right before we had left the manager of the centre hands me about $85 worth of Rwandan Francs and I have no place to put it other than a bulging wallet.  Well, we weren’t going to be buying that much worth of groceries/goods so I had a bulging front pocket (which is where I keep my wallet in foreign countries to discourage thieves) due to all of this unexpected money…ahh, the part I’m forgetting is that it was 50,000 Francs but they were 2,000 notes so I had 25 of them, and that is what made the wallet bulge.  Anyways, Maggie and I had just had a brief conversation where she was worried about the money and it getting stolen.

My response to her was, “Do you know what they do to thieves here?”

“Do you?”  She retorted.

“You only know that do to thieves in Uganda,” she quipped, trying to justify her fear.

“Maggs, I’m sure it’s the same here,” I reassured her and we continued looking for the final items on our list.

 

When we were buying beans there was a huge commotion throughout the market.  Then, right down the row we were on came a young boy running and about 5-7 men yelling after him.  Well, as soon as the market heard the yelling of the group of men, the group more than doubled, at one point I think there were at least 30 people chasing this boy.  One man would grab his arm and he would evade his captor by escaping their grip and diving through the hanging shirts into the next aisle over.  Well, eventually a large enough group grabbed him.  At this point, with the whole market coming alive as if they’ve just watched the Giants beat the Patriots in a Superbowl (there are two now, so take your pick!), Betty turns our way and nonchalantly says, “That boy is a thief.”

My heart was racing and I was quite concerned for the boy.  You see, in many honor based societies (such as Uganda and Rwanda) stealing is a major dishonor.  Since it is such a hanus crime, sometimes, people who steal might be beaten to death on the spot.  Hence the reason I stopped breathing.  My heart was pounding and I couldn’t look away (much like a car crash, or something else that’s awful that you shouldn’t look at but simply can’t stop yourself).  But then, just like that …

…the boy was dashing away through the market with nobody chasing him this time.  It was if they gave up.  I was very confused.  But a bit later, as we were buying plantains, I saw another crowd.  This time it was the same boy, they had indeed caught him and again, I couldn’t look away.  The boy was laying on the ground on his stomach with two men in what look like maroon wind suits (you know, the athletic looking pants and matching wind-breaker?) and somewhat menacing batons kneeling near the boys face, speaking with him.  I quickly deduced that these men were “security” at the market.  At this point, the crowd around the men and the boy swelled to the point where I could not longer see them and I was forced to look away and find something else to occupy my time with. Luckily, they needed my help carrying the bushel of banana plantains so I was distracted for a while.  Afterwards, we went and sat in the truck waiting for our friend to finish shopping.  As we did we saw two things: First, we saw the two men in the jumpsuits and the boy walking together.  It seemed that he had been disciplined and was now being released.  Second, a young boy walked up to me and said, “Give me money.”  A fairly common thing to hear from young children when addressing a white man in Africa.  It seems that they think we give out money or candy–“Give me sweetie.”–all the time.  In fact, I’d like to speak to whoever is walking around African nations and giving children candy, because it has made some interactions with them frustrating and if I ever find them…well, I suppose I’d ask them to stop.  Anyways, to this young and seemingly smart-mouthed boy I responded by putting out my hand towards him and asking him for money.  He looked at me, shrugged somewhat begrudgingly, and then walked away without saying a word.

So at this point I’ve lied to you.  The first sentence said our day was interesting.  I’m not sure it has been.  Kids ask for money and candy here and sometimes thieves can be beaten to death.  Thankfully, today was not interesting because no kids got money and no one was beaten to death.

Also, I’d just like to try to tell you a little bit of the hilarity that is us ordering food here at the Seeds of Peace Centre, especially after I misled you through the last story where you thought you might get to read about a teenage boy getting beaten to death for stealing.  Shame on you really, shouldn’t have wished for that.  How morbid.  Anywho, let me give you a few examples of what we’ve order and what we’ve received.  I figure, it’s better to share it and laugh about it than be bitter and resentful.

This morning I woke up around 7, as I do every morning, wake Maggs briefly, ask her what she wants for breakfast, grab our wind up radio and walk up to reception to order.  Well this morning, I ordered pineapple for Maggs,  two african teas, and a small glass of buttermilk and then crepes with avocado and tomatoes for myself.  Some people came to my room about 15 minutes later and said they didn’t have the things to make crepes so instead I said that I’d love pineapple as well and that’d be fine.  Well, 45 minutes later they brought us four pieces of toast, 2 african teas, and 3 boiled eggs.  Bless them, they’re so sweet.  I’m just glad Maggie didn’t notice she didn’t get her buttermilk or pineapple.  We were both quite satisfied with the toast.  They make it in such a manner that they butter both sides and they are somewhat crispy while the middle is still soft.  It’s quite a feat I think considering the fact that they “toast” it over an open fire.

Then tonight we ordered beans, rice, tomato soup, 2 banana plantains for Maggie and 4 potatoes for Justin.  We ended up getting rice, tomato soup, 2 banana plantains each, and 3 potatoes each.  We often end up shifting food from plate to plate, but it keeps the meals interesting since the food we order can be quite monotonous and doesn’t change all that much.  Okay, at this point I’m rambling.

Love,

J&M

[As an aside, I just would like to say that my husband who wrote the above post is sweet and sensitive and steady when I am batshit crazy an insane ball of every worry and nerve I’ve ever had about how I am ashamed to be white/vaguely descended from the rapists and colonizers of Africa/taking our new friend Betty out of her office to be trailed like a mother duck by two muzungus around a marketplace. He makes me laugh when everyone is staring by saying “Miriwe,” good afternoon to a little girl and making her cry because he is white and tall and bearded. Then he just says “Oops!” with a sort of giggle and shrug and all of a sudden we are both laughing riotously in the middle of 1000 Rwandans who have no idea what we are laughing about and that is okay because it is just the two of us. I could not do this without him. We say that to each other at least once a day: “I’m glad you’re here. I would be miserable without you.” But seriously, kiddo, I’d have been on the next plane to Belgium this week if you weren’t by my side. I’d hunker down with good food, good drink, and be comforted by being around other people who looked like me. Instead– you push me to think anthropologically, to test my limits, to be uncomfortable yet stay positive. And then, after we’ve gone through this hard but good experience together, we’ll get to go to Europe and eat and drink and be tourists for a while. Together. Love you, Justin. –M]

Snapshots

9 Feb

It seems years ago that we were in Miami for our first anniversary.

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But now we’ve been in Gahini, Rwanda for a week.

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And we’re very excited to be here!

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We are particularly happy today because we finally got to take running showers (not pictured. Obviously). After a long day of work, we took a conspicuous walk through the village where we met John, Emmanuel, and James, among others, and Justin got invited to play basketball and football (soccer, for you Yanks). We saw one kid on the dusty basketball court with a NY Giants shirt on! We collected quite the following of children on our short walk who asked about the ring in Justin’s nose, giggled at us, mocked Justin’s laugh, and inquired where we were going– no one quite seemed to get the concept of “exploring.” And on the way back, a tiny Rwandan playing with an inner tube screamed delightedly at the top of his lungs “MUZUNGU!!!!!!!!!” and promptly bolted over to hold Justin’s hand for a few steps before running back to his friend. “Muzungu, muzungu, muzungu!” he continued, giddily. It was nice to experience someone who wasn’t afraid to scream at us after dealing with a whole day of just being stared at.

By the way, the thing on my head in the pictures above is not a hat. It’s a can of water which I quickly learned to balance on my head and Justin, just as quickly, learned to dress like a tourist.

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Here’s looking at you, Jared Hastings Myers.

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Justin has always and forever raved about African tea. He fell in love with it when he lived in Uganda for a few months. Every once and a while, we sought to make something like it in the US by adding powdered ginger to tea with lots of milk. It was close, but nothing beats real African tea– made, as the noble Doug Fountain says, by heating up milk and then waving the tea bag over the mug once.

It’s wonderful. When it’s made right, it’s hot and spicy and sweet and milky. And it’s fun to drink because you have to periodically skim the skin off of the top.

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Another thing that is fun here is wearing the same shoes. Every. Day.

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On the Chacos website are picture that die-hard Chaco-ians post of their Chaco tans, post-international adventure. We are well on our way to being on that wall of shame fame.

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So here we are, just a couple of kids pretending to be professional development consultants and trying to hoof it in the Rwandan world.

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This would be an apt time to shout out to my Lama, Justin’s mama, Linda Nargi, a megablogger by trade, moonlighting as a homemaker, for getting him all of these collared shirts on clearance at Target before we went to Miami. That’s all he’s worn so far, Linda! The first day we were here, he put on a polo shirt and we both looked at each other and laughed.We are in for quite the next three months.

Time to hunker down beneath our mosquito net and wait for the morning fog to roll in. Moramokeho. Goodnight.

Love like a sunset over Lake Muhazi,

M&J

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Just Pretend

8 Feb

Most of my life, I get through hard changes by pretending or imagining things. As you may have guessed, this is Maggie writing this post– not my stoic, rational, and dependable husband. Anywho. So I pretend a lot. Yes. When I was in India, I would stare out of the window in Physics class daydreaming about Princess Sheherezad and her 1001 tales or making up my own story about the cat peeing on the garbage pile in the alley and Prabitha Ma’am would yell at me. “Maaaaaaaargaret??” she’d demand shrilly, snapping me out of my stupor. And just like that, I was back in the real world.

Well, suffice it to say, I am pretending a lot so far here in Rwanda. It’s survival mode, baby. And yes, it is only six days into our stay here. Come off it. As an accomplished anthropologist, I am more aware of cultural differences now which induces the onset of culture shock much sooner than usual. Or at least that is what I’m telling myself. So I am pretending we are on safari or an ornithological excursion where we learn what wagtails and golden-throated, small-winged warblers are to chalk up one more on my board for exotic bird bingo. I pretend we have chocolate brown skin like Betty or Gerald, our new friends, when everyone stares at us when we walk up the hill to work in order to convince myself they’re staring just because we’re young, attractive, and in love– not because we are a couple of muzungus huffing and puffing our red-faced way up the hill they walk every morning to and from work. I pretend I am the kindest of Grantham ladies from Downton Abbey when the staff of the Seeds of Peace Guest Center bring us every meal (including tea! HA! We’re so cultured.) and generally wait on us hand and foot; I can’t speak their language so I just say “morakoze,” thank you, and smile and giggle a lot. As long as they keep laughing at or with us, we’re good.

Tonight, we had no power and so ate our beans, rice, potatoes for Justin, bananas for me, and cow soup by the light of a silver lantern that looked like something a Victorian coal-miner might use. The manager of Seeds of Peace, Alfred, gave it to us the day we moved to our current room. “Chinese!” he said proudly, gesturing to the LED lantern powered by merely a battery pack at the bottom and shook his head in disbelief. I nodded my head understandingly, agreeing that Oriental wonders would never cease.

Walking back to the room, I dreaded the possibility of lacking running water as well as electricity. But as we hopped down the steep staircase towards the lakeside, I heard my mother’s voice in my head.

“Just pretend it’s camping,” she said chirpily.

I was surprised her voice said this particular thing about having no running water or electricity because my mother has been known to say much more descriptive things about such a situation. But I was happy to hear her pretend voice and it was good to be reminded to keep my chin up. Arriving back to the room, we found out we indeed had no water. Luckily I had saved some this morning, although I really was excited about a running shower instead of a bucket bath. To console ourselves, we called our mamas. It was good to hear their real voices and there is nothing like a mom to remind you that you are loved, that your phone calls are relished, and that you make someone proud (despite having had a meltdown the day before about a bed the size of a twin and a mosquito net touching your face for hours and your big hunk-of-a-man husband touching you with his 2384654835 degree body all night). Mid-Google call, the electricity came on.

Slowly by slowly, all shall be well. We got a new bed. I feel highly accomplished every time I take a bucket bath. We sweat just a wee bit less walking up the 1 KM hill the second time today.

There’s no pretending about that.