There really are starving children in Africa…

We spent the past week in Mpanga which is in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. A little background, PROCOM is the NGO (non-governmental organization) that our program (GoED) is under. They own some land out in the East and they are working on a corn growing project that will provide Rwanda with seed that is best suited to grow in the land and will produce more food for the country. Basically they are doing an incredible and much needed project and are working their butts off to do it. So anyways, we stayed at “The Farm” which is PROCOM’s little area out there. They are in the process of building some facilities so we stayed in a half built mud house, which was a great shelter from the rain!

our house for the week

Days 1-3:

We went out into the nearby villages and did research. We conducted a health and hygiene section of a household survey. I also asked many of my own questions and just talked with the people. The households that I visited varied in wealth. It is surprising, but there is actually such a thing as “wealthy” in these destitute villages. Wealth is based on land and animals. So one man that I visited with owned a cow, 8 goats and some chickens. He had enough money to save a little bit to buy more animals in the future, but he still lived off of two meals a day. His sons were street children because he did not have enough money to pay for their school fees. It is unfortunate because Rwanda has achieved free primary education; the schooling in itself is free, but families still have to pay for the food and the cooks and this is not possible for many of these families. I also visited with families who live off of one meal of cassava or maize per day. Families who can not afford the universal health care that costs about $5 per year. I was face to face with those “starving children in Africa” that you are given a guilt trip about every time you don’t finish all the food on your plate. Looking at the faces of starving and malnourished children is a lot different than just hearing about it. It somehow manages to shrink your stomach and eliminate your appetite. It completely changes the way you look at the world and your life. It was difficult to go back to our camp and eat a hearty lunch of beef, beans, rice, bananas, and pineapple without feeling horribly guilty about it. This was probably one of the most challenging weeks of my life. It was difficult to process what I was seeing and be able to wrap my mind around it. It doesn’t seem real compared to the way we live in the states, even when I was experiencing it firsthand. It also was frustrating because I couldn’t think of a simple solution for these issues. It’s not as easy as just planting a few crops or sending some money for food. As you can imagine, it was an overwhelming and emotional couple of days, but it’s not all bad. These people still have an incredible joy and hope that I can’t understand. God is moving in these communities despite the lack of food. Also, well building projects have done a great job at making water accessible to each village! Instead of having to walk for 8 hours to get water like some villages, they just go to the local well. Although it is not clean drinking water, it is water and that is a big step. There is still a lot to be done, but it is encouraging to see that there have been some accomplishments and they are working hard at improving their communities.

such a kind family

Days 4-5:

We hung out at the farm and compiled all of our information. We worked on creating a poster and on Friday we presented our information at the local school. We gave our presentations to various community leaders. I also got pulled into one of the classrooms and was asked a ton of questions about myself and life in the U.S. It got me so excited to be teaching next month and as a career also. They asked me if I would come back and teach in Rwanda and my answer was heck yeah I freaking hope so! But in simplified English I said, “I hope so.” Hopefully the community leaders took our information into consideration and will make some changes within the communities. We spent a lot of time with our translators this week and goodness do those guys have a thing for white girls. They don’t care who you are, they just love you. My face is currently the background on my translators phone. Oh boy.

the cutest little girl ever!

Practicum positions were decided this week and I will be in…Drumroll…..Hoima, Uganda! I am so excited. I will be with three other girls and we will all be doing different things. We will be staying with a missionary family that one of the girls stayed with last summer. I’m not exactly sure what I will be doing, but I am so excited! We leave for Uganda on Monday so these last two days in Rwanda will be busy with last minute things around Kiagli!

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We at the hotel, motel, Holiday Inn.

Earlier this week we gave presentations on different topics related to the genocide. One group did a drama on the role of the church during this time and after. It was powerful. They ended with a question, “Who is the church?” and answered it with  “we are” with both a victim and a perpetrator hand in hand. We are a body with many parts. We are all the church. We have all failed. You cannot say “the church has failed” and leave yourself out of that accusation. Why do we always feel the need to point the finger? Why does it always have to be an us versus them? I have been reading the book “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers” (read this if you haven’t yet) and it has been challenging me on this same question. Why are Christians condemning others and encouraging hate when we are supposed to be loving each other? Jesus commanded us to love one another. To love EVERYONE. Not just the people who have the same beliefs as us, or the people that are nice to us, or the people that hold the same political stance as us, or the people that think the same way about same sex marriage or abortion as us. He calls us to love everyone, regardless of those things. He loves each and every one of us equally. He loves me just as much as he loves you. He loves me just as much as he loves my friend who is a homosexual. He loves you just as much as he loves your alcoholic father. He loves the virgin teenager just as much as he loves the pregnant 16-year-old. He loves “us” just as much as he loves “them.” This is a lesson many Rwandans, and many other people, learned the hard way. Something that is meant to be so simple has been turned into a complex and confusing concept. Thankfully, many people are recognizing this problem and doing their best to get it right. These are the people that show Christ’s love by living it out. I hope and pray that I am somewhere close to this or at least headed in the right direction and that the body as a whole can work towards truly representing Christ.

After 4 weeks of oh so rigorous classes (okay, okay, they weren’t that difficult) we got to take a mini vacation to Lake Kivu in Kibuye. This place was beautiful and captivating and peaceful and every other positive adjective you can think of. We stayed in a hotel right on the water and enjoyed delicious food, wonderful water, majestic scenery and great company. I’ll be surprised if I don’t end up with an amoeba or some other bacteria from the water, but it was worth it. We swam at 9 in the morning and it was still warm and sunny. We took a boat out to two islands. The first was Bat Island where there were literally hundreds of bats. The second was Peace Island which was literally the most peaceful place I’ve ever been. It was a relaxing weekend filled with way to many Fantas. I will probably come home with like 8 cavities because of all this sugary soda I’m drinking, but it’s so good! Anyways, now we are headed to the Eastern Province for a week to do development research. We are going within a community with PROCOM (the NGO that we partner with) to get some hands on experience with everything we have been learning about. Hopefully we can come up with some good solutions to bring about positive development in this community!

swimming in Lake Kivu

at the top of Bat Island

Sarah, Hannah and I

our view from the hotel balcony

Girl, you need a man.

So, this week I have learned a few new things:

1. I need a husband. At least according to the men in this city. Let me explain.

I was at the market and I almost knocked over a rather obnoxious drum (which, in my opinion, was poorly placed in the walkway). Anyways, a man said, “Sister, you know what we say here in Rwanda when you are knocking things over and go all over the place?” Of course I don’t know the answer to the question so I gave an uncomfortable laugh and said, “No, what do you say?” And he said, “We say, you need a man. When a woman knocks things over, she needs a husband.”

Well thank you for that random market man. I wasn’t sure if he was just implying that he would like to marry me or if this was a cultural thing.

Well, when we went to this wonderful Ethiopian restaurant it was confirmed that this was a cultural saying after my friend Hannah broke a glass all over the table. The waiter told my friend to come back sometime and try to find a husband. So moral of the story, we clumsy girls need husbands because they will solve our problems.

Ethiopian food

By the way, this Ethiopian restaurant was amazing. Our waiter was hilarious and so friendly. The food was pretty great too! I was a little uneasy about the injera (the rolled up bread stuff and the bread under all the food) because it had a weird sour taste, but I still liked it. We had a pretty great experience filled with broken glasses, bleeding arms, babies rolling off the table and magical carbonated water that “comes from the earth.”

2. I love the worship here. Not only is it beautiful and powerful, but there is no such thing as being off beat! Often times they just clap or slap their legs to create a beat. But there is never one set beat, you can clap one at a time like normal, clap twice and then wait a bit, or just clap like a madman. It doesn’t matter. Quite a relief for someone like me who doesn’t seem to have a rhythm nerve in my body.

3. The dirt is sparkly. When we get done playing soccer and kicking up tons of dirt for hours, instead of having gross, brown legs and feet we end up with a nice sparkly layer over our skin. It is pretty great and just gives me another excuse not to shower :)

4. Rwanda has doritos….kind of. They are called OLA, but they taste just like doritos! They even have a cool ranch flavor! I was excited to say the least. I plan on buying about 78 packages of these bags full of wonder, that should do it.

a bag filled with joy

P.S. I Love You

Here is my address for those of you who have asked for it. Mail isn’t always reliable, but right now it is working! Obviously don’t send anything big or expensive in case it doesn’t make it here, but shipping would cost a small fortune anyways so that shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re going to send something you should send it soon though. It can take a while, so all those birthday presents you guys plan on showering me with can just be sent now :) Just kidding. But really, it takes a while so if you’re going to send something send it now.
Jordon and Leah Bright
PROCOM RWANDA
ATTN: Kaylee Leddy
PO BOX 4274
Kigali Rwanda
Africa

Dirty Feet.

I have accepted the fact that my feet will be permanently dirty…well at least for the next 3 months. I have given up trying to wash them every time they get dirty, there isn’t enough water in this country for that. I even go to bed with them dirty, gross huh? Oh well, I’m over it.

my drug

Yesterday we went to that donut place I was talking about. I thought I had accidentally gotten on a plane and flew back to the states. So. Many. White. People. They do donuts every Saturday so it is kind of a place for expats to go and have a little taste of home and make connections with other expats. It was a neat little place and the donuts and bagels were so darn good.

This pretty much sums up the soccer game experience.

Yesterday we also went to a soccer game at the stadium that is down the road from our house. It was Rwanda vs. Ivory Coast. Even though Rwanda got their butt’s handed to them (5-0), it was a blast! It only cost 3,000 rwf ($5) for seats right on the sideline. We all wore bright yellow Rwanda jerseys, little did we know mzungus are the only people who wear jerseys. There were probably 3 Rwandans in the entire stadium that were wearing jerseys. At the beginning of the game there was a guy running around with a vuvuzela and his body painted (see picture). Well my lovely friend Hannah thought it would be funny to get a picture with him. I decided I wanted to just stay in my seat and continue to watch the game. Well Hannah brought him over and he plopped down right next to me. I decided one picture wouldn’t kill me so I allowed him to put his arm up on my shoulder (even though he was basically choking me) and smiled for the camera. He decided to take advantage of this opportunity to try to lay one on me and my friend Hannah. First he tried to kiss her on the cheek, I think she may have dodged it. He then turned and planted one on my cheek as I innocently smiled for the pictures. This picture was taken moments after this traumatic experience. We all started screaming and as you can see in the background everyone was laughing at us. Hannah and I were covered in chalk (apparently that is what they use for body paint here) and we smelled like his sweaty armpits for the rest of the day. This was actually really inappropriate for their culture, but it was so hard not to laugh. Nobody seemed to take it to seriously though..and it was pretty entertaining. Thank you random, crazy, smelly, Rwandan fan.

Hospitality

This morning we went to a traditional church service with our Rwandan friend, Justin. There was about an hour of worship and introductions. They were so energetic and enthusiastic! I had no idea what they were saying but I couldn’t help but smile. They were singing and dancing and grinning from ear to ear. They had us up on stage to introduce us and then they had us sing a song. We attempted to sing “How Great is Our God” but we kept forgetting the words. I don’t think they noticed though. Then they had us up there to dance around to one of their songs. It was so much fun! We looked like goofy little 5-year-olds, but we were loving it! Our friend Justin translated the rest of the 4 hour service for us. Yes, that’s right, I said FOUR hours. These Rwandans are not messing around when it comes to Jesus time. I have a lot of respect for them. I was dying.

After church we went to our friend Justin’s house for lunch. His entire family was there and they made us a traditional Rwandan meal. It was so stinkin delish. And of course, an orange fanta to go with it :) We had rice, beef, noodles, avacado (which they eat like a side of fruit), beans, maize, and little potato things that are kind of like french fries. His family was so welcoming and kind. It was cool because Justin has been teaching us about Rwandan culture and etiquette. They have a very formal way of visiting each other. When it was time to leave we asked to be “let go” in a way and then there were a series of speeches. First, I gave a speech on our behalf thanking them for having us and saying how we hoped to spend more time together. Then the grandfather thanked us for coming and talked about how glad he was for our friendship. Then the father also thanked us for coming and encouraged us to spend more time together. They even invited us to their daughter’s wedding and insisted that we go. Then we all stood up and say our goodbye’s by giving a hug/pat on the back thing and then shaking hands. Then they walked us out and all the way down the street where we do the hug/pat on the back thing and shake hands again. Then we walked the rest of the way home. Quite the process for saying goodbye and very different from in the states where we just say, “Alright see ya later” and walk out. I just keep learning new things everyday!

Sometimes In April

This might be a little graphic. Just a warning. This wouldn’t be a good one to read out loud to the kids, in case anyone had that idea.

When we first got to Rwanda we watched a movie called “Sometimes In April.” This movie was about the genocide that happened here in 1994. If the only thing you know about the genocide comes from the movie “Hotel Rwanda” you should learn more about it. It is tragic to learn about, but it is important. We went to three genocide memorials in the past two weeks. Talk about emotional. These memorials explained everything that happened before, during and after the genocide. They explain the heartbreaking and gut wrenching details. There was an entire room filled with stories of the children that died during the genocide. They gave the last words of a few kids. One little boy’s last words were, “Mommy, where can I run to?” Two of the memorials we went to were churches where people went for protection. Eventually the killers made it to the churches and killed everyone there. We stepped inside the old Sunday School building and listened to our guide explain how they used a giant stick to kill women by shoving it through their entire body. He then pointed out the bloodstains on one wall and said that was where they threw the babies against the wall. I don’t even know how to explain how that made me feel. All of this was actually pretty confusing. Part of me was terribly sad and wanted to cry. Another part of me was angry at the people who did it. Another part of me was sick to my stomach thinking about how that could ever happen. I was confused about how a human being could ever do that to another. Let alone that fact that it happened on a mass scale and has happened in multiple countries. To say the least, it was emotional and discouraging. Kinda makes you lose faith in humanity.

However, that is not the end of the story for Rwanda. There is so much more to this country than the genocide.

This culture is unlike anything I have ever experienced. People will invite you over for dinner the first time they meet you. They ask for you phone number after a 5 minute conversation. The amount of hospitality they extend is unheard of in the states. The other day we talked to a man at the bus stop who only knew about two sentences worth of English. Yet he was advising us to stand across the sidewalk in order to avoid pick-pocketers and he even flagged down a bus for us. Today while playing soccer with our friends, I accidentally kicked one of them in the shin and I’m talking about like a full on taking a shot on goal kind of kick. What did he do? He apologized to me, saying ,”Sorry sister, sorry!” Despite all the evil that overtook this country 17 years ago, There is hope here. Rwanda has taken leaps and bounds of growth since 1994. Rather than assuming that every country in Africa is dangerous and primitive, I recommend looking beyond those assumptions and opening your eyes to the beauty that is within these communities. Everyone needs to add “Visit Africa” to their bucket list.

Well, on a lighter note we are getting donuts tomorrow morning! It’s not voodoo, but I am more excited than a little kid at disneyland. I can’t wait. We are also going to a soccer game at the stadium and then a movie at night! Fun times are happening in Kigali. Well, I’m off to watch The Last Song.