Monday, August 06, 2007

One day left

We are leaving tomorrow and it seems like we are both relatively prepared. Beck got most of the the research data she needed. I got a lot but I found that the more information I gathered the more questions I had about what I really wanted to focuse my MA paper on. I think I have a general idea and am feeling better about it over all. I turned in three reports to the Director of Solace last week. They were the finished products of what I have been working on all summer. Jean seemed very pleased and is even exploring possiblities for me to come back to Rwanda as a consultant to Solace and other organizations. At the very least I got a lot of very valuable experience from this summer and was able to produce some things that will hopefully help the organization improve some of their programs.

Becky and I met with the Director of Food for the Hungry this morning. He and his wife have over 20 years of experience living and working in Rwanda/Burundi. He was also a professor for many years at Greenville College near St. Louis. He has really helped both of us think through some areas of our research and is interested in keeping in touch with us for the future. In the meeting today was a community psychologist from Greenville doing research here during his sabatical. That was a good contact for Becky too. Seems like there are several people wanting us to come back and there are a few avenues we could take if we decide to do that. It is always nice to have options.

This will probably be the last blog entry for the summer (unless Becky wants to add something). So goodbye and see some of you soon. Thanks for tracking with us during our time here.

Friday, August 03, 2007

4 days

So, it's 4 days before we head to Ethiopia and I haven't written in a while. My research is basically done. I'm trying to find the orphans that I originally interviewed to have them fill out an additional form that my translator was supposed to give them. It's an important part of my dissertation and she just forgot to give it to a lot of people so now I have only a couple of days to find them.

I'm also scrambling to get ahold of Leocadie, the leader of the orphans in my village in Nyagasambu. She's been sick and hasn't been able to come in so it looks like I won't be able to get a picture of the new girl who is going to be sponsored and sent to Gahini in January. Solace promised to get one for me after I left though so hopefully that happens soon. I was worried when Leocadie wasn't coming in because she was due here on Tuesday and it's Friday now. I also know she's been getting threatened because she knows me. Her neighbors see that white people visit and assume she has money and come to her home in the night to try to get it. Her husband is a soldier who is deployed so she's all alone when this happens. It turns out she's just sick and she's seeing a doctor so she should be better by Monday to come see me one last time.

Also, now that I'm close to leaving, I'm doing my official interviews for my research. I interviewed the secretary general for the Ministry of Education today and the director general for the National Curriculum Development Center. I am also going to meet the director of education and the director of documentation for the Gisozi Genocide Memorial so I can find out what is being taught. I think I'll have enough for my dissertation.

Ian and I are just wrapping things up here the next couple of days. There is a dinner for us on Sunday before we leave. I've been sort of ignored most of the summer and now they are realizing we're almost done. They want us to come back next summer and the director of Solace wants Ian to get a consultancy job in Rwanda while I lecture at the national university. We'll see what happens.

That's it for now. It something interesting happens before we're in Ethiopia we'll write again.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Photos from Nyagasambu and Akagera Game Park

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sorry it has been so long since we have written. We have had difficulty with internet access because of issues here at the guest house which include turning the computer room into a bedroom and Becky and I getting "displaced." The good news is that we have a really great place we are staying in now. Our Canandian Baptists friends are away for a week and asked us to house sit in there really nice little home that just happens to be close by to Solace. We enjoy having a kitchen to actually prepare real meals in and not having to sleep in the same place as our office.

In the past few weeks I finished writing the five year strategic plan for Solace and just finished the evaluation report for the Child Sponsorship Project in Kabuga. Becky and I will both work on the baseline evaluation report for Nyagasambu where Solace is considering sponsorship options. We got to spend a full day in Nyagasambu last week. Becky did some of her own research and I interviewed the Solace community President. We also brought some other foreigners with us who are supporters of Solace and are volunteering here right now. Nyagasambu is even worse than we thought, if you can believe that. It seems that a lot of the people we were able to interview for the evaluation were actually the ones doing the best...and they aren't doing all that well. Everyone else leaves as soon as possible. The boys often end up on drugs and many of the girls have gone into prostitution. A lot of these orphans were taken in by relatives after the genocide who treated them like slaves and took away their remaining property. I asked the community President what can be done for them and she said, "Actions, not words." A lot of people have gone there over the years promising help and nothing has come of it. They are really desperate now. The good news is that some of the Americans who came with us had raised extra money for their trip and want to use it as seed money for a project in Nyagasambu. Also, the evaluation we are doing is the groundwork for starting sponsorship projects there. Becky has done an amazing job of recruiting sponsors for children already but a more structured system would really help the entire community. We will keep working for Nyagasambu even after we leave. There are few people advocating for the orphans there.

We got to take a fun trip yesterday to Akagera National Park and go on a short safari. Akagera is on the Tanzanian border and is filled with typical East Afrian wildlife. Since it is the dry season we didn't get to see a whole lot of animals but we did see zebras, giraffs, hippos, impala, baboons, warthogs and a plethora of birds. We had some especially close encounters with the baboons because they are aclaimated to humans. We do have an "R" rated account of an encounter with one baboon that I won't describe here. All in all it was a great time.

Becky and I are also preparing for our short trip to Ethopia on the way back to the states. We wanted to go to a rainforest in southern Rwanda to go chimpanzee tracking but we decided to save our money for the trip to Ethiopia. While I am enjoying my time here I am definitely lookinf forward to taking a break from my work. In addition to what I'm doing for Solace I have also been trying to interview people for my own research. I'm not sure if I will have enough when I leave and I'm still not certain what I want to focus my MA paper on. Hopefully that will become a bit more clear when I'm away from here and have some time to reflect.

Anyway, that is it for now. I'm sure Becky will write her own update soon. We will also try to post some pictures soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

and now for the good news

So, after Ian's summary of my rough week, I wanted you all to know that things are looking better. I hired a new translator today who is known for being methodical and a little boring but a great translator and very trustworthy. He's also agreed to what I will pay and has VERY clear guidelines about what is expected for the price. Also, I finished translating my Gasabo questionnaires. My Kinyarwanda has gotten a lot better doing those but I'm learning phrases like "My future will be bad because I'm an orphan" and "I'm so poor that life is very difficult." Now I've started on the rest of the questionnaires for Ian's evaluation in Kabuga and Gasabo. It will be hours and hours of entering numbers and translating but the end is in sight.

Also, I did get some good news tonight. I've been offered an adjunct faculty position at Holy Cross, a Catholic university near Clark. I will teach 3 classes a semester while I finish my dissertation. It will only be for a year or two but it's a solid job while I finish and pays almost three times the stipend I was getting at Clark. It's really increased my workload for the summer since I have to choose my texts and write the syllabi, both of which are hard to do while in Rwanda. However, it will be great experience and will set me up to find a good and more permanent teaching position when I'm ready to move out of New England.

Joys and Sorrows

Maybe that's a little bit of a dramatic title but it probably got your attention...right? So yesterday Becky and I had days that sort of cancelled each other out. The director loved the strategic plan I submitted and now is suggesting that I work on their bylaws and be a long-term consultant for Solace. I guess the "no experience" factor doesn't seem to bother him.

Becky had to fire her translator yesterday while still depending on her to complete the translations of a few interviews. This girl (translator) is a piece of work. Here's a rundown on her past issues. Strike one: she stole money from Becky's phone which Becky caught her doing. Strike two: she told us to meet her in a village a long way from Kigali an hour earlier than planned and then showed up an hour late. Strike three: she refused to make transcripts of the interviews into Kinyarwanda (even though Becky hired her for that in addition to English) and demanded more money to do it. Strike four: she erased a bunch of interviews so that no one can even transcribe them into Kinyarwanda. Strike five: she hired a friend of hers to help do the translations instead of telling Becky that it was too much work for her. Strike six: she tried to convince Becky that she wasn't getting paid enough even though Becky is paying her more than she would earn in a month as a teacher (her profession) and more than most translators get in an effort to be very generous. So she struck out twice over. Personally, I would have fired her a month ago but lucky for her she wasn't working for me. I've never seen anyone fired in such a nice way before. It made me want to be fired.

So today Becky is going to meet with another potential translator. He was recommended to us by some friends here. Becky sat down last night and wrote out a detailed job description just so, in case he isn't great, she doesn't experience the same issues again. The good news is that she is almost done with her research. The last part seems to be the hardest.

We are hoping that today has a bit more good news for Becky. It looks like the evaluations we are both working on will maybe get done this week, which is nothing short of a miracle. I also have interviews with the World Food Program, the UN Development Program and World Vision for my research at the end of the week. I am glad that I only need translation for a few of the things I do.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Not much to report

Life here has been a bit more run-of-the-mill lately. I finished the first draft of the strategic plan for Solace and am waiting on feedback from that. I spent the better part of last week staring at my little computer working on it so it is nice to sit up straight and look at things further than one foot away from my face again. We really have to get these evaluations finished but are bogged down waiting for some groups to finish surveys and some people in the office to translate what we've received so far. I need to light a fire under some people because in a couple of weeks I have to start writing reports. This has to be finished before the director of the german NGO that works with Solace arrives in late July.

I interviewed a few people for my research last week, one in the ministry of foreign affairs. Hopefully this week I'll be able to do a few more of those. I still don't know exactly what my MA paper is going to be about but I'm gathering a lot of interesting information about what sort of experiences returnees have reintegrating.

Becky has a few encounters that have to happen soon. Her translator has been taking advantage of her a bit. Think/pray for her about that one. This trip to Rwanda has been a bit rougher for her than before because of some sticky relationship issues with some old friends here. I'm sure she can write much more about that.

This past Saturday we got to go see a really cool street kids ministry that a local church does. They have really changed the lives of about 70 children who were living on the streets sniffing glue and getting in trouble. It makes me ashamed to think about how I've reacted to some of the kids on the street here. Seems like this is a huge need here in Kigali.

That's it for now. Overall things are going well.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

birthday weekend

Per Caitlin's request, a comment on my birthday. I usually don't really celebrate birthdays so I decided to do more this year and we had a birthday weekend.

On Friday night, we went to the American Club for the buffet/movie. We didn't realize that you needed to be an American AND a member to get in but the president of the club let us be his guests for the evening. The buffet had some American style food and we all ate way too much, especially considering that the movie was "Hannibal Rising" which is filled with too much gore to watch it on a full stomach. Probably not the best weekend to go to the Club but it was an experience and I even got to meet some Marines.

On Saturday, we went to Gasabo, my village. We took motorbikes from town, the whole 40 km, which was great. It also got us there by 9, which is when my translator told us to be there. She didn't show up until 10:15, which meant the village kids had an entire hour to stare at us. They were relatively nice, especially to Ian when I wasn't there. It seems the attention grows significantly when I'm around. I did get 4 interviews done for my research and could even use my Kinyarwanda to explain to Leocadie, the president of the orphan community, how Ian wanted his surveys distributed. It wasn't pretty but she got the idea. After that, we came back and went to the pool (our obligatory weekend activity) and to the Soucy's for dinner (the Baptist couple who has adopted us). They even had birthday cake for me.

By 8:30 on Sunday we were on a bus to Butare. It was a 2.5 hour ride on the hilly roads. We went to see Jessie, one of my Rwandan sisters who was sent to boarding school. We wanted to take her out but she's not allowed to leave and we weren't even allowed to bring her any food. It's like a prison. They don't even give her tea or bread for breakfast, only sorghum porridge. So, I snuck her chocolate in a purse I gave her and we bought her soda and samosa's from the school store. We travelled 4.5 hours for a 1.5 hour visit. But, Jessie loved it so it was worth it. That night, the guest house made me dinner. No birthday cake but they did make the grilled bananas with passion fruit glaze that I love.

The birthday continued on Monday when the workers at Solace suprised me with cake and tea. I thought they had all forgotten so it was nice to get a suprise. Ian also took me on our first real date since getting to Rwanda. We went to Chez Lando, the same restaurant I went to for my 21st birthday, which I also celebrated in Rwanda in 2002. They have great goat kebabs and fried plantains. And that is my birthday weekend.

Today is July 4, a huge holiday here, so no work. It was the day the RPF took Kigali during the genocide, marking the beginning of the end for the killers. They used to celebrate July 1, since that was independence from Belgium, but since the previous administration turned it into an opportunity to suppress Tutsis even more, it's no longer a national holiday. On the 1st they filled the newspaper with articles on why it's not appropriate to celebrate but today there are bbq's, soccer games and fireworks. We're going to try to go to a Mexican restaurant that has beach volleyball and swimming. Nothing like celebrating the 4th with fajitas.

Friday, June 29, 2007

pigs and kids

I'm glad that Ian wrote about the lovely Conservative Baptist man that we met. He should have known that we weren't his type when he saw that I was in jeans at church. I avoid men like that but I don't avoid all westerners. Tonight, Ian and I are venturing out to the American Club. I've never been and have always been turned off by the fact you have to have an American passport to enter but it seems like something I should experience at least once. They have free movies on Fridays and there's not much else to do in Kigali so we'll try it.

Our days are getting busier so it's nice to relax sometimes. The evaluations for Kabuga and Gasabo need to be done soon but everything moves slower here and we haven't collected all of the ones we need. We don't always get accurate information either. Many of the widows had children after the genocide but don't have husbands. Very few men will marry a widow and so these women get lonely and find a "husband" for just a short time. It provides companionship and much needed money. The problem is that the man usually leaves when the child is born and then the woman is alone again with another mouth to feed. There are many (over 50) of these children in the sponsorship program at Solace. The problem is that the widows are ashamed to tell this Christian organization that they had a child out of wedlock so they will lie and put the name of their dead husband as the father's name of the sponsorship forms. This leads Solace and the sponsors to think they are sponsoring a genocide orphan when they aren't. These children still deserve sponsorship because they are abandonded and at-risk but it's important to me that the sponsors get an accurate description of their sponsorship child. Now I'm trying to get a more accurate description of the children before Ian's evaluation is due.

That's my little rant about research. Our days aren't all work though. I got to go to Ruhengeri yesterday to look at pigs. Solace is going to start a pig project there. The pigs multiply fast, they produce lots of fertilizer, they can be sold in the market for good money and they are easy to raise. However, Solace doesn't have a pig project going already because very few widows are willing to take pigs. Everyone wants cows because cows represent wealth and status. Pigs don't do the same thing. It's nice that the widows and orphans are willing to stop thinking about what makes them look rich and start thinking about what will actually bring them money. The pig are also cheap to buy - $1.50 a kilo. You can buy a six-month-old pig for less than $30. I went with Ben and he also let me drive most of the way home. It was 1.5 hours on winding roads up and down the hills in a pick-up. It was great. We even stopped on the way to buy sugar cane from village kids. They cut it straight from the field for us. It was $.30 for 4 stalks.

When I got home from Ruhengeri, Ian and I did our nightly jog/walk. We took a new route and when we got to one area, about 20 minutes from the guesthouse, we saw this group of kids pop out of the bush. They starting jumping in a circle, dancing and shouting "abazungu, abazungu" which means "foreigner." The youngest was less than 2 and the oldest child was no more than 5. They ran to us and walked with us, holding our hands and petting us, for about 10 minutes. They were adorable. I think it was the most fun I've had with street children in Rwanda.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Becky forgot to tell one of her shining moments of last week. We went to the opening of a new Baptist Seminary this last Sunday to get some shots for Becky's mom who had done some teaching in the uncompleted building while she was here. As soon as we entered we met this guy who was a Baptist preacher from the states. We knew immediately that he had a slightly more conservative perspective than we were comfortable with. Unfortunately we were seated next to him during the ceremony. He went on to tell us how he has been in the country for four years and that he can give us the "white/foreign perspective" if we wanted it. He also revealed that despite the fact he has been here for four years he hasn't learned the language. I think I know more Kinyarwanda than this guy. The church he started is the sort that things the King James' Bible is the inspired word of God. When we were leaving we asked him about his church and he said that they are, and I quote, "Conservative, right-wing, fundamentalist Baptists." He then asked us if we'd ever heard of them before. Without missing a beat Becky said, "Yeah, my mom's a Baptist pastor." He didn't have much else to say after that. It was brilliant.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's my turn now. I don't have an update on my research, just a comment on my t-shirt. It really is a great shirt. The first national presidential elections in Rwanda since the war were at the end of 2003. I was here at the beginnig of 2004 and saw all of the men on the street who had these shirts with Paul Kagame's face on them. I love Kagame and really wanted one but no one could tell me where to get them. They had been passing them out during the campaign but now you couldn't find a new one anywhere. Finally, the day before I left, I found them. Someone knew someone who knew someone who owned a wedding store with a small section dedicated to RPF paraphenalia. There were t-shirts and pins and flags. It was great. I've never been able to find that store again but I have my shirt. It even survived the fire. I wore it again last night and again, the kids didn't demand money. It's as if they know Kagame would be disappointed in them if they asked so they stay away when I wear the shirt with his face.

That's the latest news here. Ian and I are working on the story of Ben today. He works at Solace and will be going to an American conference on forgiveness in July. We're editing his story and creating a summary for him to present. He wants to turn it into a book later. It's an amazing story so I hope that actually happens.

Monday, June 25, 2007

When you need a little respect...

...wear a t-shirt with Paul Kagame on it. At least that's what we discovered today. Becky and I went for an evening jog which would normally be quite an event. We already stick out a lot and attract large crowds of school children during that time of day. Wearing shorts and t-shirts normally doesn't help matters much...unless your t-shirt has a picture of the President of Rwanda and former RPF (Rwandan army) General on it. Becky got the t-shirt three years ago when Kagame was running for President (an election he "surprisingly" won with a mere 95% of the vote). Before leaving to run I asked her to please not wear it because it would attract even more attention than usual, but she persisted so we went for our jog. It soon became apparent that while we were a spectacle it was very different that usual. Instead of calling us white people and daring each other to talk to us or touch us the school children kept a healthy distance. Instead of looking Becky up and down and hissing at her men kept quiet and only glanced at her. The shirt apparently had the magical quality of putting fear in the hearts of Rwandans. At one point Becky overheard a child saying to another one in Kinyarwanda, "they're not white people, they're Rwandans!" I will be on the lookout for my very own Paul Kagame t-shirt.

That was the most exciting thing that happened today. Becky has some things to report about her research that are pretty cool...I think. I'll let her do that.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Now an update from Becky. I've been lazy and letting Ian do all the work but now it's my turn. Sorry, this won't be as interesting as the Gisenyi trip. No gun fights this week. We've both been spending most of our time doing actual work. I'm starting to analyze the orphan's stories for my dissertation. I ask them to tell me the history of Rwanda and their own history. The stories have been informative in what they don't say. They're shorter than what I would like but I'm retraining my translator and hopefully I'll get some longer ones soon. It seems that the orphans can't think of Rwanda before 1959, when their families started to get persecuted. It's like time didn't begin until the conflicts started. It's the same way with their own stories. Most can't remember life before 1994, except to say that it was peaceful and they had families. Life really only exists around violence for them.

Yesterday, I crashed the first annual conference on psycho-social interventions for vulnerable people. It was at the hotel near my office. No one bothered to ask if I was invited because they assumed any foreigner there was supposed to be there. Ian even came for lunch and no one noticed that he was eating without ever going to a seminar. I even got some documents on orphans and potential interventions that goes really well with my research. I also met the chair of the psychology department at the national university in Rwanda. He said he'd give me a job when I finished my dissertation. It was a nice thought even though my research would probably prohibit me every working for the government university. It doesn't quite follow the party line and the government can be a little strict with that sort of thing. He's got my contact info and asked me to come visit him in Butare while I'm here so we'll see what happens.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gunfights and Sunburns: Tales from a Bordertown Vacation

Despite the somewhat negative title we actually had a really great vacation in Gisenyi. We spent three days there that each went something like this. Wake up, eat breakfast, walk to beach hotel, lay out, order coffee, read, drink coffee, read, swim, lay out/read, swim, order drink, play cards, layout/read, eat something, sleep/layout, swim, dry off, walk back to guest house, shower, eat dinner, play cards, go to sleep. Not too bad. There were only three negative aspects: 1) the gunfight near our guesthouse (which is not unlike Worcester except in Worcester you are not concerned about guerrillas spilling over the border from the DRC or New Hampshire); 2) being verbally ravaged by primary schoolers who could make a drill sargent blush; 3) taking my malaria medicine (which makes me sensitive to the sun) and laying out for a day without putting sunscreen on my legs (see picture). We thought about crossing over into DRC for a day but there really isn't anything to do there just for a day besides getting another stamp in our passports for $35. If we had had time it would have been fun to climb the volcano and camp out in the crater. Also apparently you can see gorillas in DRC for a discount price from Rwanda but you also have to be careful of the other guerrillas.

Now we are back and hard at work. I'm actually getting to do some work for my personal research and Becky is spending most of her time entering data for her work.

Friday, June 15, 2007

New Job, Kabuga, Sponsoring a University Student and Trip to the Beach

Photo: some sposored orphans from Kabuga
This week was relatively uneventful except for a few things. I (Ian) was offered free lodging and a small stipend in return for an increase in my work load at Solace. Instead of just doing two evaluations I will do one more and write a new 5-year strategic plan for the organization. The director liked the evaluation plan I wrote for Kabuga so much that he apparently thought I could do all of these other things too.

We went to Kabuga this week to pass out surveys to widows and a few child-headed households that have children in the sponsorship program. I was very impressed by how these genocide survivors have rallied together to support each other and provide for each other. The community organization is made up of widows and genocide orphans (13 - 31 years old now) and Solace basically came along side this group to help with what they were already doing for each other. There is a great difference in the prosperity of this group compared to Gasabo where Solace is hoping to expand the child sponsorship program. Part of this is due to the proximity to Kigali but some is also a testimony to the success of these survivors.

Despite the success of the sponsorship program for children under 12 who are the children of survivors, Becky has noted that the actual orphans of the genocide are receiving less and less assistance. An actual orphan of the genocide will be over 13 today. Many are about our age but spent the time of their lives when they would normally get an education raising siblings and/or other genocide survivors. Now they are too old to be sponsored and have few practical skills that could help them improve their own livelihoods. Becky and I discussed trying to help develop a program whereby some of this "kids" can receive at least some sort of skills training. It seems a small thing to do for some amazing self-sacrificial people who gave up so much of themselves to provide for others.

Today I conducted my first interview for my personal research. I've decided to interview Tutsis (since those are who Solace works with) who are returnees to Rwanda. I thought it would be interesting to get a sample of different returnees who had fled at different periods in Rwanda's history and then returned. 1959, 1973 and 1994 are three years where a lot of Tutsis had to flee due to persecution and massacres. I want to get an idea of how governments and aid organizations reintegrate groups of people.

Anyway, the woman we interviewed today is actually a 28-year old genocide orphan. Her immediate family was massacred and through a miraculous series of events she was able to make it to Goma in what was then Zaire (now Dem Rep of Congo). She was repatriated in 1999 after having completed secondary school in the DRC. Her goal when she returned was to go to University. Though her extended family had the means they refused to pay for her and still horribly mistreat her. They forced her to sign away her father's land to them or else they would kill her. The government programs meant to help survivors also turned her down for assistance. Through the help of others and her own very hard work she has managed to finish two years of a four year degree. However, the man who has been helping her has had to stop paying because his wife is now going to university and he cannot afford both. This man is actually the one who set the interview up for me. Before we started interviewing her (Becky was my translator in French) we had already decided that we would at least like to pay for her two remaining trimesters for this year. I am considering sponsoring her for the last six trimesters but wanted to ask any of you if you would like to help this sharp woman finish her studies. Send me an email at idezalia@clarku.edu if you are interested. It would be pretty informal as we are sending the money to the man who had been supporting her and they are paying her. No IRS tax break on this one for those of you who care.

As the title of this post suggests, Becky and I will be taking a trip to the beaches of lake Kivu with another American this weekend. Our bus leaves early tomorrow (Saturday) morning and if everything goes right we will be laying on the beach by noon. The city we are going to is called Gisenyi which is just across the border from Goma, DRC. We may take a day trip into Goma but haven't decided yet. It should be a good little trip and there will be plenty of work waiting for us when we return.

Friday, June 08, 2007

pictures from Gahini

Here are the pictures I promised from the boys at Gahini. Habimana is the tallest boy, Vedaste is the smaller of the older boys and Gilbert is the young one. There is a picture of Habimana from my last trip to Rwanda, when I first met him. There really is a huge change in him now that he's in school and actually has some hope for his future. This was the first time I had ever seen him smile.


Here is an update on our last trip to Gasabo.

We went on Wednesday to collect data for my (Becky) research. There were about 15 orphans who I had interviewed 5 years ago and about 40 new orphans. It took us 1.5 hours to get to Gasabo (a 25 mile trip) because of how slow the taxis work. We had to take one from Kacyiru to Remera (waiting 20 minutes for it to arrive) and then another one from Remera to Kabuga. We would have had to take a 3rd taxi from Kabuga to Gasabo but we were running so late that we took motorbike taxis instead. I highly recommend motorbikes for travel in the village.

We spent most of the day watching orphans fill out surveys although Ian did get to play volleyball with one orphan. I also got to see Dorcas, an orphan who had me be a bridesmaid in her wedding 5 years ago. She has 2 kids now and she brought them all the way to the meeting so I could see them and she could do my survey.

On the way back we had a fun experience in the taxi that Ian will talk about.

Ian: So we got in a "taxi" which is actually a van stuffed with about 19 people. As muzungu (white people) we gather quite a crowd in a little village. A troubadour of sorts came by to serenade us (see picture). He wasn't really posing for this picture...he really looks like that and was completely playing the role of the crazy street musician. Everyone around us was laughing at his little display for us which involved some intense head rolling, pelvic thrusts and sticking his tongue through the hole left by his missing front teeth. He got a good laugh and 100 francs out of us. We got a picture and a good story.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

First update from Ian

It looks like Becky has done a pretty good job of updating for the two of us but I thought I'd throw my two cents in too. I am really enjoying my time here so far. Rwanda has been called the land of eternal spring because the weather is always between 60 and 80 degrees. No need for AC or heating. I really like Kigali too. As far as capital cities are concerned it is pretty laid back and people are not too pushy. Even though I stick out like a sore thumb people mostly only are curious about me so I don't mind the long stares and the constant shouting of "white person" in kinyarwandan. Apparently Kigali is one of the safest large cities in Africa which so far I can understand.

I've enjoyed learning more about Solace and the work they do. I've been neck deep in learning more about the 1994 Genocide. What I thought I knew is nothing compared to being here in person, meeting survivors (many with obvious physical and emotional scars) and imaging what this city and the countryside would have looked like with hundreds of thousands of bodies piled up on the roads.

I haven't begun my own research yet because I have been really focused on the project I will be doing for Solace (Becky explained it in her last post). So far I have only prepared an evaluation plan which means I have been in front of the computer. I did get to spend a few hours in Kabuga where the evaluation will take place. I was there when Solace made the final arrangements in the purchase of more land for a demonstration farm, a clinic and a warehouse for the area. They are hoping that as Kigali expands Kabuga (which is just on the outskirts of Kigali) will become a regional center for their work in addition to the offices here in Kigali. Much of the funding from child sponsorship goes towards community development projects like that which are beneficial to everyone. I'm hopeful that the evaluation I help conduct will in a small way benefit them.

I guess that's it for now. I don't have a camera anymore so I'll get Becky to take some pictures and we will post those soon.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I am waiting to interview some Kigali orphans and Ian is off in Kabuga so I'll write an update for our eventful weekend. On Friday, my mother and I went to Gahini to see Vedaste, Gilbert and Habimana. I will try to get some pictures up here soon. They looked really cute in their school uniforms, khaki shorts, blue plaid shirts and black shoes. Vedaste is learning a lot of English and Habimana couldn't stop smiling. That is a big change from the first time I met him, before he started school. The headmaster told me that Vedaste and Habimana are the leaders of the boys, even though they are only in 4th grade and Gilbert is doing better. He finally passed first grade.

After this visit, we thought we were heading home but we stopped and had lunch with some cattle farmers who might sell cows to Solace for the widows. One of the farmers decided that we should see the cows so we parked our car on the side of the road and hopped into his to go to his farm, about 5 kilometers up dirt roads, in the middle of nowhere. As soon as we got there, we noticed the front tire was going flat. The farmer said it was no problem because there was a spare but then the spare was flat. Again, the farmer said it was no problem because one of the farm hands could catch a motorbike taxi to town to get the spare inflated. So, the guy runs off with the tire and we start looking at cows. 3 hours later, the tire still isn't back, it's about 30 minutes until sunset and my mother and I are late for a dinner date with some Canadians. We were just about to start walking when the guy with the tire came back. It turns out that no one would let him on their bike with a tire so he had to run the 5 kilometers to and from town with the tire on his head. We finally got home, 5 hours later than planned, and with no desire to see another cow for a long time. It was nice to come home and have a long, fun dinner with some Canadian Baptist missionaries who live down the street.

On Saturday, Ian arrived and we took my mother to the Kimironko market for her final day. As soon as we pulled up in our taxi, boys were covering the car, yelling at us to higher them to carry our groceries. The problem is that we weren't buying a lot and they had a hard time taking no for an answer. They followed us most of the time we were there. This is the big market where farmers from all over the region come to sell their produce so it's big and loud and full of everything you need. It's also only a fraction of the cost of the fancy, western markets in town.

My mom left Sunday after preaching to the widows and orphans at Solace. Ian and I spent the rest of the day walking into town (3 miles) to change money. It was a Gacaca day so everything was closed down except for one little place. No stores are supposed to be open because everyone is supposed to be at the courts, listening to the genocidaires confess. We passed one of the meetings and we could see the line of prisoners in pink sitting in front of a large crowd. I'm not allowed to go to Gacaca because you need government permission and an official has to accompany you and then they start asking questions and I try to stay away from politics as much as possible.

So, that was our weekend. Things will definitely be picking up now that Ian is here and my mother is gone. We're already both doing work. Our Solace jobs will be to evaluate the success of the child sponsorship program in an area called Kabuga (mostly Ian) and perform a needs assessment in Gasabo to see if a similar program would be effecitve there (mostly me). It should be a good summer.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

So, an update for Tuesday. This will mostly be what my mother did today since I learned the hard way that fish in a land-locked African country is not a good thing to eat and spent all day in bed. No worries, I'm feeling better now and my mom did just fine without me. In the morning she preached to a group of widows who are the leaders of the various widow organizations at Solace. They loved her. I even had one woman come to my room to show me the notes she wrote during my mom's talk.

After that, there was a trip out to Bugesera. This is an area known for its mosquitos and draughts, where a lot of Tutsis were forced to move years ago. This means it's also a place where a lot of killings took place during the Genocide, including at a Catholic Church, Nyamata, where 10,000 people were killed in 2 days. Anyway, my mom got to see the church, which is now a memorial site, as well as the Solace satellite center that is being built in the area.

Tomorrow my mother speaks to Solace widows and orphans again and in the afternoon we're visiting some child-headed households in the city. Leocadie, my contact in my village, Gasabo, is also stopping by so we can set up some dates for my interviews. There's also a festival in Gasabo on Sunday that I hope to bring Ian too since he arrives on Saturday. Hopefully lots of my orphans will be there.

Finally, I get to see my boys, Vedaste and Gilbert, on Friday along with another boy, Habimana, who is supported by a member of my dad's church. I send them to a private, Anglican boarding school about an hour from the city and we get to drive out and visit with them while my mom is here. Seeing Vedaste is always my favorite part of being in Rwanda so I can't wait to give him his presents and see how much English he is learning.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's time for a Saturday update. I just met a pastor for Bukavu, Congo who works with orphans and widows, mostly from AIDS. It looks like Ian and I will be able to visit him, if I can get permission from Jean to go to Congo. This part was a little dangerous a few years ago but it's much safer now. I really want to go to Congo and Burundi when I'm hear since the conflicts there are related to Rwanda.

Also, I finally took my mother into the center of town. We took a mini bus in so she could experience a crowded bus. We walked for a while before we found the gift shop run by Caritas, a Catholic organization. My mother got 10 creches and we're getting more before she goes. We had to take a private taxi home, $5 instead of $.20 for the minibus, but I think my mother appreciated the extra room.

I also hired my 2 translators for the summer. One will interview orphans who are survivors of the genocide and the other will interview orphans who are not genocide survivors. Each translator is interviewing people from their own group so the orphans feel safer and more free to speak. It can be hard to talk in Rwanda if you do not know who is listening. I have even been very cautious about who I talk to and what I say because you do not know who is around.

Tonight Jean and Viviane, my Rwandan parents, come back from a month in Switzerland. They were visiting people who are donors for Solace. The whole family is coming into town to greet them so I get to see my sisters who live in the south and north. Once Jean is here I can start doing my research. I know I've only been here 5 days but I'm ready to start working.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another post, and I promise not to complain about food anymore. My mother and I went to Gasabo yesterday, where I will do my research. Most of the orphans and widows who would have been at the meeting we had were either at school or a meeting that had been called by the government. We had to be quiet in our meeting because government officials were walking around to make sure everyone was at their meeting. We didn't want the people at our meeting to get in trouble. We gave out candy, toothpaste, toothbrushes, medical packets and bracelets. They seemed to like them. I also got to explain my research to Leocadie, the Gasabo orphan who will help me find the participants I need.

I my translators for my research. I will use Harriet, a Solace orphan who speaks great English but is in school part of the time. I will also use Michel who got his bachelor's in Psychology this last year from the national university. He's translating my interview questions and informed consent today. I think it might be a problem to use a non-Solace translator but he's too good and has too much psychology training to not use him. He's also the one translating for my mother when she teaches at the Baptist university at night. His dad is a pastor there and he makes a lot of his money translating for visitors. He still doesn't make a lot though and so I'm going to try to use him as much as possible to get him money.

Today we went to a meeting with widows. We passed out all of the shawls made by the Methodist women but there weren't enough for all the widows so more need to be made. My mother preached to them and then they sang and told us a couple of stories from the genocide. When the second women was telling her story (she survived Ntarama, a church where over 10,000 were killed) another widow had a seizure. She has epilepsy and the trauma from hearing the stories brought it on. Instead of taking her to the clinic, they prayed over her. Instead of getting her medicine, they say they can just pray for Satan to leave her alone. I admire their faith but sometimes I wish they would use more counseling and medicine in addition to their prayers.

Finally, I found out today that I'm supposed to be charged $25/day in rent for the guest house. That works out to almost $2000 for the summer. This is a little more than I was expecting, especially considering I have always stayed here for free before. Please pray as I work with the staff to figure out a way to make my stay here affordable because I definitely can't pay that much for my time, especially when I don't even want half of the emenities that make this place so expensive.

Monday, May 21, 2007

So, my mom and I made it to Rwanda. Ethiopia was interesting. The hotel was "tolerable" as my mother put it and there were gunshots outside at 4:30 but there have been gunshots outside of my apartment in Worcester so that wasn't too bad.

We're staying at the guest house at Solace. It is so nice it's almost like being in the twilight zone. We have hot water and three enormous meals a day. It's actually a little sad that they have such a good chef for the guest house because we aren't eating Rwandan food (dinner was a salad, toast with mushroom cream sauce and a cream puff for dessert) and all I want is sweet potatoes and beans. They also serve so much food that nobody can finish it and it seems wasteful to give the foreigners so much when there are hungry people sitting outside of Solace every day. I think I'm going to ask that they serve me traditional food because I can get cream puffs in America but I can't find ubugari anywhere else.

So, that's the update for today. We get to go to Gasabo tomorrow and I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about that. I can make contacts for my research and see the land that we might buy for Vedaste's house. I don't get to see my boys, Vedaste and Gilbert, tomorrow because they are at boarding school but I'm going to bring my mom to their school soon to meet them and I do get to see all of the other orphans that I worked with on my other visits. Everyone keeps telling me how big Vedaste is and I have to see it for myself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

next trip

I leave for Rwanda on Saturday with my mother. I will be using this blog (again) to keep people updated on my time there so make sure to look back next week.

Monday, January 09, 2006

more pictures

elsie (nicholas' wife), the kids and me the night before i left. nicholas and jean had a falling out and i was not supposed to visit him but the scottish people wanted to go and i was the only one that knew how to get to his house so it was a great excuse to see them one last time. this caused some problems with jean but not as bad as last time and it was marvelous to see nicholas' family. the children all speak english with a scottish/african accent. it's great.

christmas in gisenyi. jean and viviane don't smile in photos but i promise they were having fun. the kids (left to right) are florence, jessie, mucyo and ezra.

i'm in the amsterdam airport. i have been traveling for 18 hours so far. i have another 6 hours here and then a 6 or 7 hour flight. i haven't really slept but hopefully that will come when i get back to america. this place is very different than nairobi so the 8 hours i'm here shouldn't be so bad. being in a modern place made me crave the internet, especially on my laptop since i've been using unreliable dial-up for a month. this also means you get to see more photos.

my departure from solace was just another day. i think some people forgot i was leaving so i didn't get to say goodbye to mama lambert, daphrose or consolee. mucyo did come down from ruhengeri and got there and 5 minutes before i had to go to the airport. no big send off, just hopped in the truck and got dropped off. i think i like it that way. the big goodbyes are reserved for the visitors that are only there a short time. i did have a widow come and give me 73000 francs ($131) worth of crafts made by solace widows. all of my things are in my carry-on and my 2 suitcases are only things to sell for solace. as long as my luggage arrives safely this should really help solace.

that's it for now. i don't think i'm awake enough to say anything else. i will attach a picture from christmas

Thursday, January 05, 2006


so, i went to gasabo today. i gave soap and toothbrushes and toothpaste and bracelets and a backpack to vedaste and his brother. vedaste was #2 in his class. i thought it would be hard for him to do well since he was 15 and in second grade but he has done great. his brother flunked the first grade so i gave him a strong lecture.

i also met habimana. he is also 15. his mom died from aids last year and he spent 3 days with her body because he didn't know what to do. he stopped going to school when his uncle refused to pay school fees. his uncle also beats him when he tries to talk to other children. he takes care of cows and other kids are mean to him and beat him. he wants to go back to school. he would start the 2nd grade. the rwandan school system is different. the school year starts monday, not in the summer. i've decided habimana needs to go to gahini, the anglican school where vedaste and gilbert go. there are several students there that are about 8 years behind like them and so they can encouragement instead of ridicule for being so behind.

the problem...gahini is expensive. it's about $80 a trimester plus when a student first starts they have to buy soap, a uniform, towels, etc. it's a boarding school. these orphans can't go to school all day and then come home to farm and cook. they have to go to boarding school. i would pay for habimana myself but i already pay for vedaste and gilbert to go to gahini and vedaste's house is about to fall down so i need to save to get him a new house.

does anyone want to send an orphan to school? a sunday school class or entire church or a family with about $200 to spare? i'm looking for someone to pay for more than one year. what's good with school if you can only go one year before your sponsor gets tired of paying? i'm giving money to solace so habimana can start on monday but it's vedaste's school fees for the next trimester so i need to reimburse solace as soon as possible? anyone want an orphan? trust me, it's marvelous to know you are literally saving someone's life. vedaste was being threatened and barely eating when i first sent him to school and now he actually looks like a man. it made me cry.

for the pictures:

habimana, the boy that wants to go to school. he says he can't smile because he has too much sorrow in his heart. he's 15, he shouldn't know that kind of sorrow. blah.

my gasabo orphans. can you see me? notice the cute braids. we're outside the church where we had to meeting.

me, vedaste and gilbert with the bags i gave them. vedaste is the big one. he was just above my shoulders and his legs were skinnier than my arms when i first met him and now look and him. it's marvelous.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

finally found

first off, i have 15 creches that i am bringing back to america with me. i was going to buy more but the price was raised and i didn't have the money. 15 is about all i can fit in my suitcases anyway i think. i also found 15 tiny crucifix and 5 medium size ones that i think are very rwandan and very nice. i spent so much in the store with the creches that the seller gave me a free bracelet. i think i gave him his income for the month.

i also went to see the first bricks laid for a shed at a demonstration farm where they will teach widows and orphans to take care of fresian cows before they are given one to use to sell milk for an income. one cow is all a village family needs to support themselves as long as it is a western cow and not the rwandan ones that don't really give much milk.

we are in day 3 of no water. i think the scottish visitors are finally getting a little bothered. they got dirty and the farm and wanted a warm bath and a cold bucket of water was all the were given. it's really not that bad. i didn't have water for a couple of months during my first visit and for a month the second time. at least we've always had electricity.

tomorrow night i am going to an assemblies of god church (in english) for a night service with nicholas and his family. nicholas used to work for solace but was fired so i can only see him without upsetting jean, the leader of solace, if i meet him at church. i went on sunday and the preacher spoke and extra hour because about half the church came late. he was trying to teach them to show up for church on time. what if preachers did that in america? but, it's the only way to see nicholas, elsie and their 4 children so i will go and listen and pray the pastor keeps it short. he's canadian; he should know better.

that's all for now. i will try to post one more time before i leave rwanda in 5 days but the internet has been not so great this week so we'll see what happens.

Monday, January 02, 2006

so much to say

i have not written in a while because i have been so busy here and so much has happened. here is a brief overview.

the woman i lived with during my first trip, a member of parliment, has a friend whose daughter wants to visit america. i was told she only needed a letter of invitation because her friends were not citizens yet. it turns out she wants to spend a month with me, having me show her around america (i want to see the rap stars on the streets of miami) and buying her whatever she wants (please get me a camera phone and ipod, now). now i have to find a way to tell her she can't come to america through me without upsetting harriet (the mp) or the girl's father (an important colonel). who sends their 15 yr old daughter to america for a visit with a stranger?

the christmas/new years celebration was held at solace. i wore a traditional rwandan outfit and served the dignitaries that came. during one part a widow and orphan gave their testimonies. the testimony of the widow was especially horrible with rape and torture. about 5 people were so traumatized they started screaming and fainting and had to be carried out. one woman had a flashback and thought everyone there were hutus trying to kill her. i didn't like that part.

new years was uneventful. i watched "when harry met sally" with florence in our room and it ended at midnight. there were fireworks and lots of screaming from the national stadium. they started the fireworks last year - first time since the genocide. they always publicize it well so people aren't scared but it is still frightening to hear lots of explosions and screaming in kigali. i really didn't like it, and i wasn't even here for the war in 1994.

today it is off to kabuga to look at a farm or something and then i am buying creches. i spent about 100 dollars buying crafts made by solace widows that i will bring back for main street umc too.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

the scottish are coming...

i moved to solace today. i am the first guest in their guest house, along with my translator, florence. we are the offical hostesses of a group of scottish people coming tomorrow. i get to teach them what it is like to me a muzungu in rwanda. jean also asked when i was going to bring a group of americans...any takers?

i spent 8 hours getting braids in my hair yesterday. i had the woman (who i paid 1.50/hr) use yarn. it doesn't look that bad and when i wear long sleeves at night, i look like a light-skinned rwandan and nobody screams at me. it's the dust that continually covers me that helps me look darker, not an amazing tan.

sorry there are no great updates for today. i will be trying to get more surveys and preparing for the visitors. saturday is the big christmas/new years party at solace. it's 3 hours. i have to dress like a traditional rwandan girl and serve the distinguished guests (the mayor and some members of parliment). i'll try to post a picture if i can.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

noheliz nziza

I'm back from Christmas in Gisenyi. The 3.5 hour ride turned into over 7 because for some reason Jean likes to drive very slow and will just randomly stop for a minute on the rode. What would happen if people did that on the rode in America? Anyway...Here are the things I did this weekend

+ spent the weekend at a nunnery in the north east part of Rwanda, 10 minutes from the border with Congo (the safe border)
+ swam in Lake Kivu several times
+ went to Congo for all of an hour (10 country stamps in the passport now) - definitely worth the $30 for the visa
+ rode on the back of a moped to get back to the border for my ride
+ took a boat ride to a hot spring that is so hot the water boils as it goes to the lake and villagers cook their food but just sticking it in the puddles - it comes from the volcano that erupted 4 years ago.
+ had a Christmas day service with the nuns - no Christmas Eve service
+ no presents for Christmas but I gave some to my family - the only ones they got.
+ saw my family get about 100 text messages on their cell phones - the way people say merry Christmas here - I even got one.
+ got called muzungu more times than I can count but at least there were no marraige proposals
+ got cookies for breakfast - definitely making up for any missed meals this past week

Now it is back to work and my surveys and preparing for the big Christmas/New Years service at Solace on Sunday. I also get extensions put in my hair tomorrow so I don't have to wash it anymore. I take cold showers here with the water coming from a faucet about waist high which is not conducive to hair washing.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

muzungu, donnez moi l'argent

i'm putting 2 posts on in one day. i don't think there is internet in gisenyi so i'm getting my internet fix to last the weekend. i just went to town for the first time. there were street children everywhere saying, "muzungu, donnez moi l'argent" which means "white person, give me money." i just tell them i don't have any. my search for creches was not fruitful. maybe next week. i spent 3 hours walking around the city with jessie and got my first sunburn.

it was great to be back in the city. it smells and there are tons of people everywhere and it takes forever to walk around and there are always people trying to sell you watches and candy but it is marvelous. i took a taxi back to the office and there were 24 people in the taxi which is the size of a large minivan. i was in the back row (safest in case of an accident) with 3 mothers and their babies. the babies kept grabbing my hands and smiling while their mothers said "ari muzungu" (she's white). it was so cute i didn't even mind the smell or being called a muzungu.

merry christmas to everyone. enjoy the snow for me. i'll think about you when i'm on the beach in gisenyi.

good food

we had a huge dinner last night. it was marvelous. company is always a good thing here. we had a british family at the house and the father didn't realize that there was a housegirl and so he kept complimenting viviane on her cooking skills. no one wanted to tell him she just watched appollinaria cook.

i leave tomorrow for gisenyi for christmas. it will be nice to relax on the beach. it really doesn't feel like christmas when it's so warm. there is a drought now so it's hotter than usual. it's still only 83 but we need rain for the farmers.

the boy who was breaking down yesterday won't go to ndera, the hospital. he says they inject him with sedatives. the solace workers say that prayer will help. as a psychologist i wish we could combine that prayer with some strong medication but it's their culture so i'll go along with it.

that's all for now. i must get back to my surveys. i still don't have a phone which is frustrating because it limits my ability to travel. i can't be on my own without a phone so i have to ask people to go with me everywhere. i'm going on a hunt for as many creches as i can find today.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

i think it is a good thing, no?

a story from jean: when i was young, when the weather was good and we had rain, there was food everywhere. you could just go to a field and see beans everywhere. there were bananas on trees all over that were so ripe the birds were eating them. now, there are too many people and not enough food. people must work all day to find so they can eat and if they don't, they do not eat. i think this is a good thing, no?...

i want to ruhengeri in the north, where they have volcanos, for a camp. the orphans there spent 2 hours talking about how they hate their holidays because they cannot find food. one tried to kill herself 3 times. another boy stayed at school and shared food with the watchman. another hadn't eaten in 2 days. after the stories we went inside to eat lunch. this cosisted of rolls, somosas and soda. i didn't eat. i gave my food to the orphans that hadn't eaten in a couple of days. now they can eat today too. by the time dinner was served at 10:30 i was so hungry that i wasn't hungry anymore. my stomach was too tired to growl.

tonight we have company - the parents of a British girl who is in Rwanda for 6 months. that means lots of food at dinner and it won't be late. this is a good thing.

there is a boy at solace who is the only survivor out of 127 people thrown into a hole. he is going crazy now. he has slept at solace for 3 days instead of going home. he always looks like he is in pain and grabs his head. he goes between whimpering, screaming and crying. i don't know what to do. i would like to bring him to the mental hospital in the city but i hear they chain people up and treat them horribly. most of the surveys i have gotten back show that orphans don't blame their neighbors for what has happened to them. that would seem to show that they are adjusting well...and then i meet boys like this. i wish i had more than 3 weeks to figure this all out.