Tag Archives: Soccer

Ramblings

17 Feb

M: Two weeks ago, on our first visit to Kigali, we picked up a few things in the local supermarket, Nakumatt. I think it was just conditioner and lotion. While I was fumbling with my francs, the lady rang up my purchases and printed out my receipt. The bagging gentleman held it out to me and said “Come with me. You have won a gift” in a deadpan monotone.

“A gift?” I said. I was sure he was joking.

But he wasn’t.

So I was hustled over to the customer service desk where they solemnly handwrote my name and information down in a book and then presented me with a package: A brown paper bag with a sign on it that said “A Valentines Gift for you” (and inside, I found out later, was a gift-wrapped bottle of vintage 1999 Chardonnay from British Columbia. I will let you know how it tastes when I’ve opened it).

They made me stand with a tall male employee and get my picture taken while he pantomimed handing me the parcel. I was mortified.

Justin wanted to take a picture with his iPhone but I bolted out of the store, shushing him. “But why do you refuse him?” the kind female customer service rep called after me, as I slunk away with my tail between my legs.

Hooboy– it was a crazy induction into city life, let me tell you.

J: So she somewhat reluctantly let me snap this one when we got back to Deke’s room. ¬†I’m pretty sure it was because she didn’t let me take one in the store…but she was a bit flustered and surprised and I shouldn’t have asked…anyways, here’s that pic I was telling you about.

M: I should have just let him take the freaking picture in the store. I felt so bad afterwards! Justin loves to take pictures and I give him such grief for it, but if he didn’t make me stop to take a picture now and then, we wouldn’t have any.

J: P.S. That bottle of wine is from British Columbia (B.C. for you cultured folks) and the year of Prince’s party, 1999.

M: I already told them, babe. Not the Prince part, though, so you get props for that.

J: Well, just in case they forgot after reading the rest of your lengthy introduction ūüôā

M: Bite me.

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J: Just so I can beat Maggs to the punch, “Oh look! ¬†Another sunset!”

M: See? This is why I give you grief for taking pictures!! Because we have a million like this. But they are beautiful and you have a good eye for them and we can make an Instagram collage out of them when we return to civilization.

J: OOH!  Hipster points for referencing Instagram my love!

M: AND I’m wearing a grandma skirt and a grandma hairstyle today. Triple Hipster points.

J: (Picture to follow in the next post)

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M: I make no grumblings about these neat Panoramic pictures J takes with his Hipster application on his Hipster iPad. They are so neat!!! This is the football pitch where he plays with the village young boys– he’s the lone white man out of about 60 Rwandans. And he literally blends right in– I walked past yesterday and it took me a good two minutes to find him!

J: Yes, thank you Brent Spead for the Hipster app and Daniel for the Pad. ¬†And yes, this is the football pitch. ¬†To the far right, there is a lot of grass where the ball gets stuck and you have to kick it really freaking hard in order to get it to go anywhere…although yesterday I tried and it didn’t go anywhere. ¬†I was actually laughing at myself.

M: Is that where you kicked the stone?

J: No, that’s somewhere slightly left of the middle of the picture. ¬†And I didn’t kick it. ¬†I tripped over it. ¬†And again found myself laughing at…myself.

M: See? This is why I don’t play football. Or any sport for that matter. I’d rather make the other villages and myself laugh at myself by sliding down a 6 in. hill and landing on my knee in a perfect Icecapades position. While wearing my fancy, no-slip sandals and holding two large backpacks.

J: I have absolutely no idea what a “Icecapades position” is, but it sounds fun!

M: I just kneeled really gracefully with both of my arms out at my sides, okay? As if they didn’t have enough to stare at me for.

J: I’m sure the judges gave it a 10.

M: Winning.

J: Twinning.

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M: Do you want to write on this one first?

J: Sure, this is my plate from dinner the other night. (Notice, there are no lack lack berries?) For now, I’ll simply say that we got 5 very large avocados at the market the other day (think twice as big as they make them in the U.S., yes, even Texas) for about 50 Rwandan Francs. ¬†600 Francs equals a dollar. ¬†You do the math.

M: I knew you were going to type “You do the math.” I think this is my plate, though, because you don’t eat avocado!

J: Nope, I did eat one.

M: Was it dericious?

J: It was actually pretty good. ¬†The avocados here are so fresh they almost have a sweet taste to them…wouldn’t you say?

M: Yes, I want to bathe in them. They’re amazing! So light and almost fruity. The perfect accompaniment to spicy beans, rice, and tomato (pronounced to-MAH-to) sauce.

J: Ugh!  Bathe in them? SMH.

M: Never again. Never again use that acronym in my presence.

J: Anyways, back to the food plate. ¬†We also had “chips” which are simply really good potato wedges or as some of you might know them, “Freedom Fries.”

M: We’ve had Freedom Fries, Freedom Toast, and Freedom Ketchup.

J: Let’s just say that Freedom has been busy on this side of the pond.

M: This is basically what we eat for lunch and dinner. Every day. Luckily it is yummy and filling and sometimes they put less twigs in it than usual. Sort of kidding.

J: Oh, don’t be so negative.

M: You’re right. Other people cook for us three times a day and I’ve only gotten a branch in my greens twice. Isn’t it hilarious that, in a restaurant in the U.S., we would immediately send that dish back and ask for a refund plus free dessert or drinks? Here, I just removed the fibrous stalk from my mouth, calmly set it on the plate, and kept eating. Puts things in perspective.

J: Heh, fibrous stalk.

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J: This is a picture of the capital city, Kigali. ¬†Just so some of you know that there are “proper” cities on this continent.

M: We had delicious Indian food for Valentines lunch (including a paper dosa and biryani! Yay!) and I found a yoga mat at a Chinese store called T2000 AND I took a yoga class with a bunch of expats at the U.S. Embassy. Which looked laughably (or maybe not so laughably) like Fort Knox.

J: She absolutely loved the yoga class!  Many thanks to our friend Jocelyn (see below) for hooking that up!

M: We’re going to try to go to Kigali every week to do some work with Deke (since he graduated from the same program as Justin) and to get our expat food, people, outings, etc. fix. We’ve deemed it necessary for our sanity, you know? Just to get away and be with familiar people and things and activities for a few days a week. It is a welcome break and relatively easy to do. Though those busses are going to have to grow on me.

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J: This is Deke. ¬†He’s slicing tomatoes or onions for our homemade salsa! ¬†Notice the iPad to the left, Deke keeps recipes on there for when he’s cooking! ¬†Pretty sweet eh?

M: So glad we bought ours. It is such a precious luxury– so portable and useful.

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M: While Jocelyn and I were at yoga, Justin and Deke cooked us V-Day dinner– guacamole, real tortilla chips, homemade salsa, and fajitas made out of filet mignon pieces and peppers and onions. In Rwanda, and much of the rest of Africa, tender meat is not valued– they prefer tougher meat. So Deke picked up our filet at Nakumatt for $5. Drool.

J: Also, while Maggs was in the shower, Deke and I decided to make a chocolate cake to surprise her with!

M: That was for me?!?!?

J: Yeah, you were the last one to know about it (we tried to hide it from both of them, but Jocelyn came in and discovered it) and we wanted it to make you happy since you had been having a rough couple of days, there.

M: You are the sweetest thing! And smart to know one of my weaknesses. Which is, of course, chocolate. This cake was to die for. I don’t know if it was on purpose but it was just a hint salty so it was sweet and decadent and crunchy and then the salt hit you and it was just a party of deliciousness in your mouth.

J: Eso es lo que dijo ella.

M: Para.

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M: Here it is, in all its glory. When they took it out of the oven, the boys threw it in the refrigerator. And that made it collapse. I’m not sure why, but at the time, it made Jocelyn and I crack up to imagine them pulling the hot, delicious cake out of the oven only to think it was a good idea to put it in the fridge. That may have been the passionfruit mimosa talking, but I swear it was the best joke I had heard all day. That crunchy top was just divine!

J: It sounded like a good idea to us at the time. ¬†And I think we might have simply thought that it would be a good way to keep it hidden from Maggs…I dunno.

M: You are so sweet. And wickedly funny– sometimes without meaning to be. Regardless, it was delicious.

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J: Here’s the homemade salsa, guacamole, and chips. ¬†Deke sliced tortillas for the chips and then I put them in oil to harden them. ¬†They were super delicious, as was the guac and salsa.

M: It was just superb. Seriously. This meal blew me away– and not just because I had eaten rice and beans for the past 983479283 days. It was so simple and flavorful and good. A simple meal, but it made me so happy!

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J: Here’s the filet with peppers and onions made into shish-kabobs by the cook there. ¬†Deke and I could have done it, but Jaqi absolutely loves showing off her cooking skills (especially to Deke’s friends) so she was really excited to make them for us. ¬†They were freakin delicious! ¬†(As a token of our thanks we gave her one and she seemed to really like it because when we woke up the next day she had done all of the dishes we were going to do before breakfast!)

M: I know I complain a lot about our situation here, but I am truly thankful for how it is revealing to me what I have, what I take for granted– especially back in the U.S. After eating goat kebabs that made my teeth ache the other day, this meat made me groan with pleasure. Literally. I could slice through the tender pieces with my teeth alone! It was like butter. I hope that sort of appreciation will sink deep down and take root in me so I am always thankful for tender, flavorful, simple food.

J: Mmmm…just looking at this picture gets me excited for next week; we’re planning on having dinner with them every Tuesday!

M: I guess we should go order our beans and rice for dinner now, huh?

J: ::looks at the time on his phone:: Yes, we’ll be back…enjoy…you’ll never know we left.

J: So much for uneventful!

M: I know you can’t tell, but that took way longer than it usually does. First, because we had to interrupt a dance party in the kitchen, and second, because a large thorny branch attacked me in the dark when we were walking back to our room. By attacked, I mean I tripped over it and then it lodged itself in my legs and skirt. Justin, my knight in shining armor, pulled every piece out and even got a war wound: a thorn prick on his finger. Hilarity ensued.

J: We might not like it very much over here, but boy does Rwanda keep making it, at the very least, interesting and new each day.

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M: Anywho, we’re back. These are our Valentines Dates. Deke apparently has a habit of doing this in pictures, so don’t hold it against him.

J: Notice the chapati in Jocelyn’s hand, it’s filled with that delicious filet you saw. ¬†Soo good.

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M: We were talking here about going to see the gorillas in North Rwanda, I think. Then Jocelyn and Justin started talking about the hippos they’ve seen and how I won’t go swimming in Lake Muhazi (the lake right outside our doorstep) because someone at Deke’s work said there used to be hippos there.

J: This is Jocelyn’s impression of a baby hippo. ¬†And I’ll let you know how swimming in the lake is after tomorrow morning–I’m gonna wake up to work out and play basketball with the Bishop’s son, Sam, and his friends, tomorrow at 6 am.

J: Ugh, just read the above statement again! Who am I?  6 a.m.?

M: This is just a place for abnormalities for us, kiddo. Get used to it. I will be sleeping in and then watching “Ever After” so I’ll see you when you get back, my lovingest love.

J: Not so fast, we’ve still got a few more pictures and I haven’t eaten yet.

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J: I took this to show you Kigali at night.  There it is.

M: What a talented husband I’ve got! Ugh, your breath smells like a Jolly Rancher.

J: I’m drinking Rwanda’s President’s water company’s apple juice. ¬†Still with me? ¬†Okay, it’s essentially Green Apple concentrate flavor, water, and for kicks, some more sugar. ¬†It’s pretty good. (And I didn’t want to mess with the settings on my camera so the picture below is somewhat fuzzy and pixelated, FYI.)

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J: They HATE Sherlock Holmes here!!! O_o

M: As mentioned previously, J likes to take artsy pictures of windows and doors. Another thing he has an affinity for is signs– like this one that forbids detectives or smoking or something, rusting away in the hall on the side of the Guest House where we live. It may or may not find its way into our bags when we depart.

J: Nothing to say about possible theft, I plead the fifth (does that work here?). ¬†And the best part about this sign is that it’s leaning again a fence pretty much in the middle of nowhere on the compound. ¬†It’s definitely in the least traveled area on the premises.

M: So they won’t miss it if it’s gone. No seriously, I’ll ask Alfred if we can have it when we leave. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.

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J: Whoa! ¬†Just noticed that the bottom of the picture didn’t load! ¬†Freakin goofy internet…it took me about 3 hours to load these damn pictures onto photobucket this afternoon. ¬†Thankfully I had some Angry Birds and Plants beating up on Zombies to keep me company while I waited and Maggie read/took a siesta.

M: I dreamed I was still reading my book. While it was on my face and I was actually sleeping.

J: The best part of writing this is that Maggie and I sit silent the entire time…not talking, simply reading what the other has to write and awaiting a reply. ¬†So you¬†are a bunch of eavesdroppers…

M: Thank you for eavesdropping. Everyone has had such nice things to say about our ramblings; we really appreciate it. We are doing this to keep ourselves sane and like that it maintains a connection with our lives back home.

J: And we’re trying to get famous. ¬†So we’re gonna start writing things about “Snooki” and “Jeremy Lin” and whomever else is “hot right now” so that we can get tons of hits…

J: Okay, that’s a lie, we don’t care. ¬†In the words of Andy Bernard, “I said no hits!”

M: I would actually like to get famous.

J: On second thought, make my potatoes a salad.

M: Bless you for coming out in public.

J: Mazeltov.

 

Lots of love,

M & J

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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.]