Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mixed Emotions

It is 1:00 p.m. Kigali time and Heidi and the kids are taking me to the airport in about 1/2 an hour. In about 40 hours I will be home.

I've had such and nice time and I'm sad to be leaving my family (OK - mostly just the kids), and this beautiful place.

I am however, ready, and happy to be going home. I miss my big comfortaire mattress. I miss my cat and all her 'issues'. I miss having clean fingernails. I miss having more than 2 changes of clothes. I miss going to work. I miss chipotle chicken fajita tacos. I miss cold skim milk. I miss my quiet house (not the mortgage).

But I know as soon as I step foot in the airport in less than an hour, I will miss my beloved babies more than anything...

I came with two suitcases, a 38"x10"x10" cardboard box, and this bag which is now all I'm leaving with:

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Steel Toed Sandals

Yep - these road workers are using pick mattocks while wearing sandals... And no safety vests!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Sentence I Don't Get To Say Everyday

Today, while on safari in Africa, a baboon attacked me and tried to eat my peanut butter sandwich.

Here she is, moments after trying to leap into the vehicle:

All of the windows in the Nissan were rolled down, and the engine was shut off. This baboon snuck up to the side of the car (none of us, including our tour ranger) had any idea she was sitting outside the front passenger side window until she leaped. Of course it happened so fast I couldn't get a photo. This however, is a photo of her muddy paw print on the door:

I asked the ranger if they have tried this before, and he said yes on occasion they think they will find a piece of food in the car. The only food we had was peanut butter sandwiches way in the back, so I can only imagine that is what she was going for...

After the car was started and the windows rolled up, my ever thoughtful brother-in-law who had control of all the windows from the front seat, rolled my window down as far as it would go so that I could get a close up shot of the baboon (thanks Ev, love you too) .... look, she's giving me the stink eye:

In spite of the windows being up on the other side of the car, these three baboons somehow made it into the backseat with me:

Some of the other wildlife we saw included velvet monkeys:

These things that look like deer, but they jumped a good 6 feet straight up into the air (I don't remember what they were called):

Did someone ask for a hippopotamus for Christmas??

We saw a few herd of zebra. I tried calling and whistling to them, but I couldn't get them to turn around and smile for the camera:

Buffalo - these things were enormous:

My favorite of the day was the close encounter with a giraffe. This animal was so beautiful, and so peaceful. Yes, he is peeing, but he pee'd for like 3 minutes straight:

And.........more zebra butts:

Baboon butt:

Buffalo butts:

And finally, the Nissan after we got home from our day at Akagera:

Monday, December 28, 2009

Name That OSHA Violation...

You don't have to know me well at all to know my PASSION for construction, and all things construction related. A year or so ago I took several credits in construction safety - not the most interesting topic, but I sure learned a lot!

The scaffolding here alone is enough to make me nearly pee my pants...

Lets look at that one a little closer, and call it "How MANY OSHA violations can you see"??

A few more examples of site conditions here...

Sunday, December 27, 2009


WE WISH TO INFORM YOU THAT TOMORROW WE WILL BE KILLED WITH OUR FAMILIES is the title of a book by Philip Gourevitch, taken from a letter dated 4/15/94 written by seven pastors who sought refuge in the Mogunero Adventist mission compound. On 4/16/94, the seven pastors, their families, along with 3000 other men, women and children were killed in the church.

I was an adult in 1994, but had very little recollection of the events that occurred. In fact, if someone had said the word "genocide" to me, I would have immediately thought of the holocaust and left it at that. Genocide is defined as "the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group".

In order to put the Rwandan genocide into perspective, I'll give a couple of comparisons to the holocaust (and this is not to in any way diminish the atrocious nature of either event). Nearly 6 million Jews were killed in 20 countries throughout Europe and Asia over the course of 12 years. Nearly 1 million tutsi Rwandans were killed in a country about the size of Vermont in 100 days.

While the holocaust was an attempt at destroying an entire religious group, the Rwandan genocide was black christian africans killing black christian africans. Neighbors killing neighbors.

Since I've been here, I've read the book noted in the title of this post. Wondered over the lack of intervention from the international community, including the UN who stood by and watched as hundreds of thousands of people were tortured and murdered (not that I didn't already consider the UN to be a joke). Wondered over the Clinton administration that sat by and supported the lack of international intervention, and refused to even acknowledge that what was going on was genocide. And wondered over my own lack of interest or care in world events during that time.

Yesterday, we drove out to another church, 30 or 40 miles outside of Kigali where thousands more tutsis were killed in a single day. There are no photos as I could not bring myself to take any. While the bodies and bones had been removed from the sanctuary, the clothes that the victims wore remained, covering every pew by at least a foot. A large area at the back of the church which had no pews was covered with clothes two feet high - the area where the children where killed. We saw the different pillars of the church. The pillars where the people were placed to have their arms and legs chopped off by machete. The special pillar that was used to kill only children 4 years old and younger.

Holes made by bullets (from those tutsis who had enough cash in their pocket to pay to be killed by bullet instead of machete) and grenades remained in the ceiling, as well as dark blood stains - nearly 16 years old.

The basement was set up with glass cases containing bones from several victims. Some of the skulls were in perfect condition. Others contained bullet holes or cracks from a deadly blow of a machete. Many, many leg bones were laid out severed in half.

Again - these were christians killing christians in a christian church located in a christian nation.... in my lifetime.

Who were greater criminals - the nazis or the hutus? Who were more innocent victims - the jews are the tutsis?

I've met many Rwandans since I've been here. It is considered rude to question them about the genocide (there are far more people here who turned their back on the murders than there are survivors), and rarely has anyone mentioned it, except in vague references to either "before 1994" or "after".

I have enjoyed my time here with my family, and lush beautiful hills. But I've been forever affected by what I've learned and seen in the 10 days that I've been here.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

This won't interest too many other than my parents...

Its Sunday morning - we are shortly heading out to visit some genocide memorials. My recap ought to be one of the more interesting posts here. I've done a lot of reading this past week and the whole topic has me very thoughtful.

This post however, is pretty boring (though there are pics of the fam at the end).

This is post #1 of the tour of Heidi and Evan's house in Kigali. The day I arrived they had moved into a new house right next door to the house they had been living in for several months. Following are some images of the exterior:

A couple of these signs are posted outside the project compound:

The steep hill from the gate at the property entrance - this hill is 10 times better than the previous driveway!:

Heidi and Evan's vehicles at the top of the hill. The big window to the left of the Nissan is the room where I've been sleeping:

The brick wall separating this property from the one they just moved from - broken glass bottles are cemented into the wall as a way to prevent people from climbing over. you see this ALL OVER Kigali:

View of the front porch and front door - this is a wonderful place to sit in the morning with a cup of hot coffee watching the fog and mist move around the mountains:

Sitting on the front porch looking to the right, this small building is the wash house:

Sitting on the front porch, this is the view of the mountains (avocado trees too!):

And looking slightly more to the left, you see the driveway again - and the gate that is guarded 24/7:

What has been particularly disturbing to me is the 1" gap between the bottom of the doors in this house and the floor. Any number of critters can crawl into the house at any time (mice, salamanders and ROACHES)... also, imagine the dust and dirt on the floors inside the house as a result (my mom would go insane):

Finally - some photos of the family on Christmas eve...

Evan and Todd at the Christmas eve party:

Bromley and Sophie at the Christmas eve party:

Pokey (in the Christmas sweater vest) and friends at the Christmas eve party:

I didn't have a picture of Heidi on Christmas eve - but this is typical of the lazy-arse herself:

Evan and Pokey at the Christmas eve candlelight service:

That's it for now - GO VIKINGS!!!!

Images from Kigali

Uploading photos is easy when you have access to the internet.

Following are a few images from the past couple of days:

Homes in an economically depressed part of town:

A couple of fellows carrying parcels on their heads in front of the grocery store:

Public Transportation #1 = Taxi Bus (think 25 bodies smashed into one small vehicle):

Public Transportation #2 - Moto-Taxi (they are EVERYWHERE, and very, very scary)

Man running uphill with a barrel on his head:

Business District:

And finally - most importantly....


And Liam:

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Gingerbread Mwami Palace

When I wasn't much older than Bromley, a friend from German club and I built a gingerbread "chalet" for Christmas. A picture of us and our creation ended up on the front page of our local newspaper.

On Tuesday night Bromley had a friend, Sophie, spend the night. Yesterday morning I helped the ladies make gingerbread Mwami palaces.

It required several tries (with delicious failures), but Heid and I finally got it to turn out.

The project was based upon a traditional Rwanda dwelling, this is a replica of the old King's Palace in Nyanza:

The girls decorating with frosting, m&m's, fruit roll-ups, sweet-tarts and gummi bears:

The finished product: