Sunday, December 28, 2008

December part kabiri

So now I’m continuing from the last post and just jumping right back to Christmas. The Christmas season is not a big deal here. Some people will go to church on Christmas and have a nice meal, and that is the most celebrating most families have. The expat community (expat= someone not from this country) really makes efforts to make it feel like Christmas time. We had get togethers to eat cookies and sing Christmas songs, and we even had a party at our house for the first time! On Christmas Eve, CCR (my church) had a kids’ party in the afternoon and then a candlelight service that was very nice in the evening. It felt strange to not have gone our Christmas shopping at all…and hearing “busy sidewalks” in the song Silver Bells cracked me up because we don’t even have many sidewalks. It did, however, feel like Christmas when Shannon brought 2 suitcases full for me!!!! I had composed a list of requests and sent her some money to purchase things and bring them over for me. Some wonderful people also donated things as well! So, I really got spoiled this Christmas. In fact, when I’m finished typing, I’m going to go make coffee and drink it was hazelnut creamer!!! I got great things for school, food and candy, toiletries, and some new clothes too! One of my favorite things was that a few people saw Shan before she left and sent notes and gifts with her 

It was pretty unreal to have someone from my life in the states come to my new stomping grounds. I just wondered all the time how she perceived things. Spending time walking and talking with someone is the best…it makes me think about how often times I find myself reading about God or talking about Jesus with someone else—but how much sweeter would it be if I was just walking and talking to Him. Maybe the physical presence is a bit different, but I still think that’s what I need to be seeking.

Ok- there is SO much I could keep babbling about…so I’m just going to share 2 things…what I did on Christmas day and what my plans are for this week.
- Christmas Eve I went to the children’s Christmas party at my church, and in the evening we had a candle light service with singing and scripture reading and candles. It felt like Valley to me. On Christmas Day, I had the best plans in the world, but they didn’t end up working out. Our friends were going to take us to an orphanage to hand out candy and talk with the people, but since we hadn’t been before and the office was closed we couldn’t sign in. That was quite the disappointment. But, we did have a lovely day. After running to Bourbon to use internet (not unusual), I rested at home for a bit and then went to Kimironko market to pick up some fruits. I looked for shoes too, but not luck. We brought our fruit over to Joe and Phoebe’s house, where there had been lots of preparations going on for an enormous Christmas dinner. There were 9 of us in total, from at least 5 countries, so we sort of brought together many of our traditions (like a party favor called a xmas cracker) and had a wonderful meal together. It just felt homey to be sharing a big meal and enjoying the company of other people, even if it wasn’t our actual families. Plus- while I was there I was the lucky recipient of overseas phone calls of which I was passed around and got to hear everyone’s voices. That was quite the highlight.
After dinner, Cady and I went to our friend Jenny’s house. We hung around and chatted with some of our friends. Since school has been out, we've hung out with our friends Yvan and Skizzy pretty regularly. They didn’t really do anything at all to celebrate Christmas which is hard for me to fathom. Even after all we’d been doing for the past week or two to get in the Christmas spirit, it was still lacking a lot of the festivity I’m used to…so there is a big contrast in cultures.
-Plans for this week…I’m going to Tanzania!! I wouldn’t have been able to point it out on a map several months ago, but now it’s next door and happened to just call my name! Jess and Marissa left last week and bused through Uganda and Kenya and they will be meeting us in Tanzania. Liz and Cady and I are leaving tomorrow morning! We don’t have all the details planned; we just know what we want to see and an idea of what to do when we get there.

Thanks for keeping up…I don’t know how to set these to get comments…but feel free to email me 

December part rimwe

As promised…I’ve got some more updates to share.
The end of the semester seemed to come quickly after Thanksgiving break. Although report card time is not as stressful for primary school teachers, I was still feeling the crunch at the end of the term. It was fun to talk about Christmas coming with some many cultures in my room. Each of my kids has had a different experience with “Father Christmas” or other traditions. I was not prepared to answer them when they asked, “Is Santa a real person?” or even how to respond to, “I think Santa and God must be cousins.” One of the best parts of the end of the semester was having parent teacher conferences. I don’t have a chance to talk to parents very often, and it was fun to show them what their child has done in class and to compliment their work.

The best part of my Christmas season was that my wonderful friend Shannon Buchanan came to visit!!! It felt so unreal that I was going to the airport to pick her up- but there she was! It was incredible to have someone so important in my life be able to experience parts of my new life with me. I got to show her my classroom and all our favorite places to hang out. We went for a long walk to the market- which is definitely a sight to see. It was actually emotional to take communion with her at my church here and to worship with her.

Also, our ACU friend, Serge, is from Rwanda and was here visiting at the same time. (I’ll be going to his relative’s wedding wearing traditional dress tonight!) On Sunday of Shannon’s stay here, Serge was gracious enough to take us to two genocide memorial sites. Nyamata and Ntarama are just two of the churches that people sought refuge in during the war. Of course they thought no one could kill inside a church, so they went there to be safe. On our way we crossed over a river that was famous for having bodies dumped in it during the war.

Nyamata was the first, and it was an open church building with rows of benches. Every bench was covered by stacks of clothing that was found on the people killed inside this church. It also had a case of skulls and two underground places (I don’t know what to call them). We walked down the steps and it was cool because we were underground and there were just caskets right there on the shelves. We were told that each one had many skulls inside, not full bodies. The next underground place had some caskets and then also just whole shelves filled with skulls. They weren’t in a case or anything- we were just standing inches away from people’s skulls. I just couldn’t stay down there, so I walked back out. It is strange because for me to walk away may be seen as a sign of respect or contemplation or understanding of the tragedy if I were at something like this at home. But here, people have had to see many dead bodies and limbs and then it just seems like we ‘can’t stomach it.’ So, after all they’ve seen and experienced, it seems like I should be able to handle just seeing some neat rows of skulls.

Ntarama was definitely an experience. This church was the place where Serge and his grandmother went to seek refuge. He said that if the faces were on all the skulls (there was another shelf of skulls) that he would recognize every one. There were clothes hanging on the walls, and a stack of foam mattresses people had brought with them. There was a shelf of items like cups and bowls and a shelf with only shoes on it. Serge showed us the place he sat with his grandmother when they came. He told us that he heard them coming and then when they attacked, his grandmother died, and he ran out the door and headed for the bush. He was being shot at as he ran away, and he was just 8 years old. While he was telling us the story, he was standing by the bench he had been at, which is just a few steps from the doorway. The doorway doesn’t actually have a door, its just an opening. And inside the church didn’t have any lights except for the sun coming in the windows. So to see Serge standing there in the dark church, with this bright doorway next to him that he escaped from was really remarkable. Although the church itself was not much larger than maybe the size of a school classroom in the states, there were around 5,000 people who were on the compound who were killed that day.

I have more to write about, but I think this might be a good place to break it up into two entries.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blast From the Past

I am SO far behind in blogging, because things are happening every day here and I haven't written in a month!
I've decided I'll try to write extra blogs this week, and by the end of the week you'll get to hear about my friend Shannon's visit here!! (she is here right now and it is sooo wonderful!)

In fact, I should just begin with what I did on Thanksgiving. I left at 5am Thursday morning on a bus called a Jaguar headed to Kampala, Uganda. I just won't write a detailed description because this blog shouldn't be 8 pages long. We arrived in Kampala and met a guy from a church there we were connected to who helped us go exchange money and hop on a little van to get to Jinja. We got in pretty late at night, but were starving, so we went to a restaurant- that had CHICKEN! it was pretty good, not like a good chicken breast in the states though. It was pretty tiny.
We ate a lot since it really was Thanksgiving.

The next morning we walked down the road to the rafting site, had breakfast and loaded up on the back of a large truck with the rest of the rafters. People were there from all over and for all different reasons. I was surprised with how many Europeans were just traveling Africa. Rafting was a blast!! I couldn't believe that I WAS REALLY ON THE NILE RIVER…that is just someone else's life ya know. The rapids
were pretty great, but there was quite a bit of time to relax as we floated down the river to the next rapid. We had fresh pineapple on our boats for lunch that was sweeter than it is in Rwanda…I loved that. And despite my doxycycline malaria medicine causing severe reaction from the sun, I think I reapplied sunscreen often enough because I really didn't get too burnt.

Saturday was an adventure. I feel bad not trying to explain it to you…but I just can't, so I'll just say that Kampala gave me crazy culture shock that made me nervous to go back to the States. If I was so surprised in Kampala, then I'm literally going to have a panic attack when I arrive back home. There were stores and a food court and a movie theater! (with 2 screens) It was just really weird the things I would notice. We ran into some guys we had rafted with and were able to show them around Kigali since they were heading to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas. I loved the feeling of showing someone around Kigali, because it made me realize how acclimated I've become!

Later this week, you can expect updates that will come in relatively sequential order containing:
-concerts and thoughts on being a white
-the first semester of school coming to a close
-christmas season in rwanda
-plans for travel
-Shannon B's visit