America, we meet again.

Before we left we discussed the issue of reverse culture shock and the difficulties we will have as we transition back to life in America. One of the main things we talked about is that we will be angry. Our emotions and confusions will find an outlet through our anger. Sometimes at the weirdest and smallest things. For some people in the past it has been walmart or lawns. I am sitting in the airport in Washington D.C. and have already dealt with my share of culture shock and I haven’t even left the airport yet.

So I’m going to let you guys know what those things are that are making me angry. They might be a bit ridiculous and they aren’t necessarily ‘right’ in thinking, but it’s how I’m feeling.

Everything is huge. In the airport there was this gigantic wreath on the wall. I think my words were something like, “Why is that stupid wreath so freaking big?!” It just seemed so obnoxious. The airport is monstrous and I have had to walk all over this thing. Last, but not least, the people. This may sound really mean, probably because it is, but Americans are fat. I literally saw one overweight person in all of Africa. I can’t even count how many I have seen in this airport alone. It is disgusting and embarrassing once you have seen people literally starving to death. Like I said, this is a little cruel, but I’m just letting you know the thoughts that have been going through my mind.

A vending machine for electronics. Are you kidding me? Who on earth has the money to just buy an ipad from a vending machine. How exactly does that go? Like they are walking by and go, “Oh, I’ve been wanting one of those. Here let me put $500 dollars in this machine and I’ll get one right here.” Or is it more like, “My ipad broke on the plane, good thing they have this vending machine so I can buy a replacement immediately!” I mean, come on!

iphones. I am so annoyed by iphones. People act like it is their source of life. If you don’t have one you are like a lesser race. And there is this ridiculous software that all you have to do is talk and your phone will practically make you a sandwich, pick out your outfit and drive you to work. It’s obnoxious! Is it really that difficult to press the buttons? Reading a text message is just too much work, someone has to read it to you? That thing is not a cell phone. I wouldn’t even call it a computer. I don’t know what it is.

Since you guys have shared this experience with me I figured you should share in the difficult transition of returning home also. It’s not all sunshine and roses. In fact, there is hardly any sunshine.

I’ve been home about a week now and still struggling with the transition. There are some really great things about being home, but then there are some really hard things also. I’m taking it day by day. The best I can do is be incredibly thankful for how I have been blessed and try to see how I can take the changes that God did in my heart in Africa and bring them into my life in America and share them with others.

This is probably my last blog post seeing as how I’m home now and blogs just really aren’t my thing. I want to thank everyone who read this. It means a lot that you were interested in what I was doing and I am glad you got to share in my amazing semester with GoED. I hope you learned something or at least enjoyed reading these posts. Know that I appreciate your support. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again one day.

I’m not done with Africa yet.

Who even likes bittersweet chocolate anyways?

Bittersweet. That word pretty much sums up my thoughts about going home. As my semester here begins to come to an end my heart is filled with this confusing mix of sadness and excitement.

I am going to miss all the amazing people that I have grown to love, but I am so excited to see all of the ones I left behind.

I am going to miss our little GoED family, but I am excited to be home with my family for Christmas.

I am going to miss eating mandazi (sweet, fried bread), but I am excited to eat donettes and voodoo donuts.

I am going to miss drinking orange fantas everyday, but I am excited to finally have some Dr. Pepper again.

I am going to miss playing football with the local kids, but I am excited for intramural indoor soccer.

I am going to miss having class on our front porch, but…..well, let’s face it, I’m not excited to be in a normal classroom again.

I am going to miss being able to buy a pineapple anytime of day for only like 80 cents, but I am excited to eat froyo anytime I want.

I am going to miss baking in the kitchen with Aidah, but I am excited to never have to worry about running out of chocolate chips.

I am going to miss the wonderful warm weather, but I am excited to go snowboarding.

I am going to miss being able to sit out on the porch at night in shorts and a t-shirt, but I am excited to live a life without ruthless mosquitoes.

I am going to miss being able to barter over any price, but I am excited to not have to worry about getting ripped off everywhere I go.

I am going to miss being able to take public transportation for only like 25 cents, but I am excited to have my own car again.

I am going to miss Aidah’s excellent food, but I am excited for unlimited ice cream at the bon.

I am going to miss walking everywhere, but I am excited to be able to go out in public without feeling like Justin Bieber in a crowd of teenage girls.

I am going to miss the amazing ways that God is working in my heart and the changes that are occurring, but I am excited to see what more He has to teach me at home.

Part of me absolutely cannot wait to get off the plane at 8:52 on Saturday and see the people I love, but another part of me absolutely does not want to get on the plane at 4:00 on Friday and leave the people I love.

I’m scared.

I’m scared of that horrible feeling that is going to come into my gut as soon as I step on the plane and leave Rwanda. The same feeling that is going to double in size when I step on the plane in Washington D.C. and say goodbye to the other students. I’m scared because I know it’s coming, but I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to prepare myself for that heartbreak.

I’m comforted.

I’m comforted because I know that I will be overwhelmed with joy to see my friends again. To see my family. To bring the changes that have happened within me back home to share with others. To be a part of my George Fox community again. I’m comforted because I know that God is always with me, regardless of what country I am in.

Along with the fear comes the love. Along with the sadness comes excitement.

Someone at our Owning Poverty session said, “Wherever you are you have to believe that you are exactly where God wants you to be. That there is no better place for you to be at that moment.”

It’s a constant battle between those things that are bitter and those things that are sweet. It’s an annoying feeling. Nobody ever wishes for it. It’s not like you would sit around and think, “Man, I hope today is a really bittersweet day.” But, that’s life. I know that I just need to focus on the positives and appreciate the experiences I have had, live in the present and enjoy each day as it comes. To know that God has placed me exactly where I am because that is exactly where He wants me to be. For today is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it (In the Bible somewhere).

life in the village.

Last week we spent a day with an organization called Azizi Life. This is an awesome organization based out of Gitarama, Rwanda. They work with local artisans to export their crafts to places around the world in order to expand their market. They are starting a new tourism part of their business in order to bring more money into the communities and also to give people the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a Rwandan villager. If you want to know more about it you can go to their website: http://azizilife.com

We arrived in the village sometime in the morning and split off to two different households. They prepared us for our day of work by dressing us in the the traditional wrappings. They gave us a piece of material to go around our waist and then put a head wrap on us. We headed out to the fields. We cultivated a field and planted Irish Potatoes. This was a tough job for my non-calloused hands. I had two decent sized blisters after only about 10 minutes of digging. The sun was beating down on us and we were working up quite a sweat.

this is the life.

my weak hands

Then we went to cut grass for the cows. I was unaware that this was death grass. I reached in and just got right into it. After my arms started stinging and burning I thought I was going to die from an allergic reaction. Then I found out that it was just cuts from the sharp edges of the grass. We each gathered a bundle of grass, put it on our head (duh, it’s the African way) and walked back up to the home. I’m really starting to master this art of balancing things on my head and I totally see the benefits of it! Africans can carry anything and everything on their heads. I saw a man walking in the street with one boot on his head. Just one. Anyways, after feeding the cow we went to fetch water. Thankfully, the borehole (a type of well) was not too far away. We waited around for probably 30 minutes to fill all of our jerry cans. Then we put them on our heads and walked back to the home. This was much more difficult to carry than a bundle of grass, that’s for sure. I thought my head was going to explode or I was going to topple down the side of the mountain because of the weight of the water.

gettin some wata.

When we got back we had a lunch of beans, rice and sweet potato. It had only been a few hours and I was exhausted. I have always known that the women here are hard workers, or “husslers” as my friend James likes to say, but until that day I did not realize just how tough they were. I admire those women so much. I couldn’t do half of what they do. And they still are filled with God’s joy and love. Amazing. We spent the afternoon sitting on mats under the shade of a tree and learning how to weave. We each made our own rings, with the help of the ladies of course.

our rings!

All in all, it was a day I will never forget. I got to get my hands dirty in the Rwandan soil and truly understand what the life of a African village woman looks like. Not only did I gain even more respect for these people, I have a whole new appreciation for the blessings I have been given.
Check out Azizi life online, it’s a great cause and their products are beautiful. There is a pretty good chance I will be selling some of their products when I return home, so let me know if you’re interested! Also, my blog is stingy and wants me to pay to upload a video so you can watch it here instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIJCZ82zgVE&feature=related

we kill our turkey and eat it too.

Yesterday we celebrated thanksgiving at our house in Kigali, Rwanda. It was a day to be thankful for so many reasons.

The kitchen was crazy busy and chaotic, of course. But it was also filled with fellowship, laughter and lovely people. I could have spent all day in that kitchen, covered in flour and laughing at Aidah as she yells at Sarah Mast about using the wrong pot, watching Sarah Colligan dance and make weird faces as she washes dishes for hours, smiling at the silly faces that Leah and Jordon make in order to get Zeke to laugh…

it wouldn't be thanksgiving without a crowded kitchen

We also went up to the national stadium and managed to get on the field. We played a game of American football, tackle and all. It was a blast and one of our semester goals. I’ve actually never played american football on thanksgiving. I was experiencing and American tradition for the first time in Rwanda. We also played a short game of football before we had to head back to the house to finish cooking. We ended up with so much food. More food than I have ever had at Thanksgiving. We had turkey that some of the girls killed with their own hands last week! (I was too much of a baby to kill one. I couldn’t even watch them be killed. It made me nauseous). We even had sushi, thanks to our Korean friends!

yeah, I'm doing the heisman back there.

I got to share a delicious meal with people that I love. I got to sit across the table from our house staff and laugh as Alphonse tried sushi for the first time and Aidah complimented everyone’s dish (as if her food wasn’t twice as good). It felt like a true thanksgiving, even though it was in Rwanda. I was overwhelmed with how much God has blessed me.

some of my favorite people in the whole world.

These are only a few things I am thankful for (I could never count them all):

1. Africa and all the people I have met here. Coming here was not the easiest decision, but it had definitely been a life-changing experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. God has taught me so much since I have been here.

2. My family. They’re always there for me and supporting me.

3. My friends at home and all around the world. I have the best friends and roommates that a girl could ask for.

4. My health. I’ve had my ups and downs, but I can play football and jump on a trampoline. i couldn’t ask for much more.

5. The fact that God has provided for me always. There is always food on the table and a roof over my head.

6. God. Everything that I have and everything that I am is because of Him.

the black hole…

Although we are back in the swing of things with class and homework our lives are far from boring. There is rarely a dull moment in the GoED house.

It's a Thanksgiving miracle!

First of all, we found oreos this week. Yes, you heard me correctly, oreos. Real oreos. The actual brand oreos. They were right up the street at the supermarket! We were all feeling a little extra bounce in our step on that day. It was the same day as little Zekey’s 6 month birthday so we made a cake topped with crushed oreos and celebrated that handsome little man’s life. He is such a joy to all of us and we have been so blessed to be able to share the so much of his first year with him and his amazing parents.

We love this little guy!

We found a trampoline in our garage. Don’t ask how or why or what. These things just happen at the GoED house. There is a black hole in which many things disappear, but occasionally we experience a little miracle and something great will reappear…like this trampoline. Needless to say, we set it up instantly. I thought it was difficult to focus on homework before, now it’s just impossible. We have already spent hours jumping around and laughing until we peed ourselves. I actually just went and jumped on it for 20 minutes. We got Aidah and Kotchi to jump with us, but Alphonse and Celestine refused. Then we come walking out tonight to find them both jumping away on it!  It is hilarious to jump with them. It is a very foreign activity, that’s for sure. The motion just looks unnatural to them and I imagine it feels unnatural also, but they survived. Although, Celestine did jump a little too far off and one of his legs went straight through the springs. Luckily he is like the strongest man in all of Rwanda so he was fine.

photo credit to the one and only Leah Bright

Last, but definitely not least, we spent the past weekend in Gisenyi. It is a town near Lake Kivu and it is absolutely beautiful. It didn’t even look like a lakeshore, it looked like a beach in Hawaii. This was our first trip without our leaders, so we were on our own. We took the bus (3 hours) and arrived in Gisenyi town after dark. We had booked a hotel, but we wanted to find a cheaper place to stay. So we asked the only other white person at the bus stop (a cute little old nun from Italy) and she directed us to a church guest house. Turns out they had a dormitory (a room with about 6 bunkbeds) and it only cost like $3. And they had a restaurant which only cost like $3 per meal. We roamed the town for a little before calling it a night. The next day we met up with one of our friends from the center, played football on the beach (I was on skins…don’t worry, I kept my clothes on) and swam in the lake. It started raining, but we kept swimming. We made some Congolese friends to entertain us. They would copy all the tricks we would do. We were flipping each other and then discovered that we could go a lot higher if they flipped us. The rain got heavy so we went up to a little tiki style bar and watched all the local boys have a dance party on the beach. Did I mention that they swim in their underwear….just a little awkward.

I wish I could live here

football. anytime, anywhere.

the vuvuzelas are calling.

Another week full of homework and fun times.
Unfortunately, our classes are  a little more tough now and we actually have to do some work. However, we have still made time for adventure and excitement.
This past weekend we visited a student from the center. What we thought was “in Kigali” was actually a 20 minute bus ride, a 30 minute bicycle ride and then another 45 minute walk. Oh, fun times. Side note: the bicycle taxi’s are probably one of the best things on earth. You pay like 40 cents to ride on this lovely little seat on the back of a bicycle and just enjoy the ride. It’s peaceful as long as you’re not speeding down treacherous dirt roads towards an approaching moto (not like that has ever happened or anything). Sometimes they are even equipped with a bell or a tricked out horn. Anyways, we finally made it to his village and enjoyed a wonderful day with his family. They were so kind and hospitable to us. They welcomed us into their home, cooked us great food, made tea (tasted exactly like fruit loops. so strange, but good) and just graced us with their smiles and loving hearts. They really enjoy taking pictures so we probably did that for a couple hours. I spent most of the time laughing at their silly poses and funny faces. They gave us gifts of bananas and sugar cane as we left (we may have had a few casualties on the ride home). Such a generous culture. I left with a full stomach and a blessed heart.

family

Monday night, we had a cookie bake-off. It was quite the event. There were 8 or 9 cookie entries, and I may or may not  have eaten one of each. Personally, I think mine were the best, but that’s just me. I made “Monster cookies” with a little bit of my own twist. They were peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip-white chocolate chip-peanut m&m cookies. In the end, my cookies didn’t even place. It’s alright though, I’ve already cried my tears of heartbreak. I got to eat cookies until I couldn’t walk anymore, so I can’t complain. Our house staff got in on this competition, which made it that much more fun. Celestine and Julius both had plates with one of each cookie on them. This actually worried us a little because they are not used to eating that much sugar. We were a little concerned that our American sweet tooth was going to make them sick. I think they ended up alright though…I never heard them causing a ruckus in the middle of the night due to a sugar high, so that’s a good sign.

Yesterday, we went to a football match up at the stadium. We try to figure out when games are, but we can never seem to find the answers. So we just wait until we hear the vuvuzelas going crazy up at the stadium and then we know that a game is going to be that afternoon. We went and watched the game with some of our friends from the center. It was a way better game than last time. If you guys remember, Rwanda lost 5 to 0 last time. This time they were playing Eritrea and it was a qualifier for the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. They won 3 to 2. It was much more exciting and enjoyable when we actually go to see them score a goal. After the game our friends came over for dinner and we got to spend some time with them. It was nice to get to hang out with them again.

just a little post goal celebration

our brothers from another mother

Another activity-filled week ahead of us. Trying to make the most of what little time we have left in this great country.

Hey fiddy cent, check yourself.

I wish that American music artists understood how much of an influence they have worldwide.
I mean, they know they’re famous and all, but do they really know how much of an impact they have?
When we were at the Center for Champions I mentioned how many times I heard Chris Brown “Yeah 3x.” What I didn’t mention is that he was one of the many American artists that they constantly listen to. I’m talking Justin Bieber all day, erryday. Lil’ Wayne, Akon, Kanye, Tupac, 50 cent, Usher, Sean Kingston (at least he’s still popular somewhere), Diddy, Beyonce, you name it. They don’t just listen to the music, they idolize the singers. I know this happens in the U.S. also, but it is different here. For some of these boys, the only English they know comes from these songs. Many of these boys don’t have a father figure, or any positive male role models for that matter. Therefore, Lil’ Wayne becomes the person they strive to be like. I think most people in their right mind will agree with me when I say that is a terrible thing. For all you Weezy fans out there, you’ve got to admit that he’s not the ideal role model.

It’s not just listening to the music either. It’s wearing a t-shirt with T.I.’s face on it. It’s painting an entire taxi bus devoted to Chris Brown. It’s a little out of control.
It’s just something to think about. These artists are in a position with a lot of power. Along with that power comes a lot of responsibility, but are these artists really taking that responsibility into consideration? They have the opportunity to impact millions of lives. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if they used that for good instead of talking about getting drunk, having sex, cheating, stealing and smoking weed? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my fair share of hip hop, rap and all that other popular stuff the kids are listening to these days. I know that not all of it is bad, but there is definitely room for change.

Don’t worry, I plan on bringing the boys some quality American music that they have been deprived of…….. Taylor Swift :)