Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ending on a High Note.

If you have been following my blog you may recognize this cutie.

When I first arrived here I was walking down the dirt road by my church. I spotted this sweet little girl just down the way. She had a smile that stole my heart. As most people know, I love kids - doesn't matter whose they are - I just love them!

When I saw this little one standing by her mother pointing her hand to the corn trying to sell it to me I told myself that one time I would have to buy one and definitely get a picture because she is just too sweet. From then on I made it my mission to say hi every single time I saw her while I was walking to church. My goal by the end was to have her recognize me and actually run up to me while I walked down towards her. I absolutely loved walking to church and seeing her bright little smile there to greet me.

When I had left the country for a few weeks I returned and the little one and her mother were nowhere to be found. This broke my heart. Until one day, I saw her. She came running up to me then stopped and I just gave her a big hug! She was back :)

Since I had taken a picture with them I decided to print one for her to have - something for them to always remember me by. Although I spoke limited english I gave the mother the picture and said.. "murabayho" (sp?) This means "Goodbye" in Kinyarwanda... I then made my hands look like an airplaine, pointed to myself and said "Canada". She smiled and I was on my way.

The next time I went to the church our security gaurd gave me an envelope and said "maize" which means corn and then said mama and baby..... this is what was inside

Dear Madam,

I am writing to you in order to thank you for your kindness and your wisdom. You were our best friend; we will never forget the friendship that we built. Your love for Vanessa is unforgettable.

For that, I wish you the good journey; May God guide you wherever you go and in whatever you plan.

Wherever you are, remember us, me too, I will never forget you!

If it is possible, give me your address; phone number and email your name.

May God bless you! Never forget you!

Vanesa's mother, Janet

I couldn't believe it... I felt like it was the best ending to my time here. Even though she wasn't part of any ministry, or I couldn't communicate in Kinyarwanda to her - I was able to impact her life. God can do so much through so little as long as we are willing. No matter where I am, or how little I feel that I can do, God uses it. It was a great reminder to know that I need to love people no matter where I am in this world and no matter what I am doing. You just never know how something so small can so hugely impact someone.

Thanks for reading my blog during my five months here. I can't believe that I am actually flying away from this beautiful place tomorrow. It has been truly amazing... I will always remember my time here and forever miss the people and country.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


For the last five days I have had the opportunity to live with one of my best friends in Musanze Rwanda.

to say I had a good time would be an understatement.

I knew that I would have a great time since I would be spending it with Stephanie.. but I didn't realize just how much I would enjoy everything that her world has to offer.

I lived in her house with her Rwandese family who were absolutely amazing. Although there are frustrations, language barriers, and cultural differences - it was such an amazing experience! I absolutely fell in love with the four kiddies - even Kennith who can be quite a lot to deal with... from peeing on the floor, to crying at night you can't help but love him when he says "Stephatee" or says byeeeeee while moving his hand like a rapper.

Consolee took me in as her daughter and I felt right at home right away - especially after dinner when we all had a dance party. She always wanted me to "eat more" which I willingly did since Martine made such delicious meals!! (I really will miss rice and beans....)

The view in Musanze is so beautiful - One morning Steph and I decided to wake up and watch the sun rise over the town. There was a thick mist that slowly rose above all the trees and the sun rose behind the majestic volcanos. I also enjoyed a new running route especially since the town is much quieter and less busy than the city!

Apart from the family I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living right in the community of Rwandese people. I wouldn't trade my house in Kigali... but to brush my teeth outside, pee in a hole, and partake in all the other traditional african experiences - I am so appreciative.

I also got to be a part of her placement at Wisdom Primary and Secondary school. I am not by any means a teacher, but I enjoyed teaching and marking english. I got to teach the students words with the "ai" sound while Stephanie used her great art skills to teach them what each of the words meant. I also got to work with the other girls that are volunteering in Rwanda to build some lesson plans and brainstorm ideas on how to teach students about computers.

After a few tears...I have returned back to Kigali to finish up my projects and enjoy my last few days in Africa. I can't believe only 8 more days and I will be leaving on a jet plane - not sure when I will be back again. I am sad to say goodbye and close this chapter of my life, but I am also very excited to see what the future holds for me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Living Intentionally.

Well, It is official - My Housemate has gone back to the UK and I have only one month left in this beautiful place they call Rwanda.

I have been looking forward to this stage in my journey. The stage where I can have a bit more independence and really focus on my last days here. I have been praying for a quite a while now... that I would really soak up my time here and live intentionally. Although it was hard to see my housemate leave.. it was good to hear the hearts of the people she knew and loved and to know that I will be doing the same thing in just one month. It also made me realize that there is still more I want to do before my time is done.

When I first got here I was overwhelmed with excitement - the people, the culture, the food, the friends, everything! There was so much to take in and it was all so exciting! Then I got to a stage where the excitement had died down and things were a way of life. At this point - it was important more than ever that I really kept myself busy with photography and projects - especially since I still had 3 months.

When my housemate was preparing to leave I couldn't help but think about when my time was going to come. I started reading lots on re-integrating back into your home country and thought about having to say goodbye to Africa. All I could think of was the fact that being in Africa has been a dream of mine since I can remember and that one day when I am home I am going to wake up and this will all seem like a dream. Who knows when I will make it back here and I don't want to leave with a single regret.

So I have devoted my last month to focusing on my relationships. Coffee dates and home visits are becoming a big priority and just really hearing people's stories. Although I am still doing photos and have another video project to start... I am making sure that I am spending my time wisely - I have committed also to working more on my relationship with God. Each morning I am devoting time to spend with him as well as attending more services at our church. Although I can't understand the kinyarwanda worship music - it is amazing to just listen and pray through the Psalms.

I am hoping that by the time June 23rd comes I will feel that it is my time to go. That I will be ready for the next chapter of life that God is calling me to. That the thoughts of Africa wont be a distant memory - but something that I hold close to my heart and take with my everywhere I go.

I will remember the dust on my feet from all the different places I have walked - and it will continue to be on my feet even as I walk in Canada.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Goodbye Goat!

Well I have refrained from posting about our dreadful goat but it is time to write...

My housemate Nicole bought this cute little goat a couple weeks before I arrived. Well, when it came time that I moved in the goat was a lot bigger, smellier and definitely not cuter!

I was optimistic about this goat, I thought it could be fun - until 6am rolled around on my first morning and all I could hear was BAHHHH BAAAAHH BEAAHH!! You see... the goats house was right outside my window and well if it is alone for too long, or someone leaves, or is left in its house while others are awake it gets upset and doesn't do anything about but make it known to all of us in the house - as well as neighbors (even the ones at the end of the street!)

I didn't think it was a big deal - I just figured that I should get up at 6 am anyway to get my run in and start my day. This worked until the goat would bleat alllll day long whether you were trying to nap, read, or do anything. It got to the point where I just decided I no longer liked this goat. From then on it got worse... it would eat just about anything you had, charge at you, bleat, or even come into the house and poo all over the floor. (yes it happened, and yes more than once)

Nicole said from the beginning that we could kill the goat when it was time for her goodbye party - so I have been counting down the days. Yesterday was the party so we had someone come and make goat brochette (shish-ka-bobs). We even did a skit for people to see just how annoying the goat was. Although I couldn't eat more than one piece I washappy to not have the goat anymore -I even took a nap in the afternoon! it was soooo nice!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kiziba Refugee Camp.

Finally sitting to write this blog...

The last few days have been pretty great. I just returned from visiting the refugee camp in Kibuye and am scrambling to get all my photos edited and organized before the team heads home. It definitely feels good to be busy but I also want to keep people at home updated so I am taking time to post and to upload some photos as well - I got some really good shots!

I went through many different thoughts and emotions while at the camp. It was like the camp was its own little world. There were houses all lined up with matching roofs with the UNCHR logo and people everywhere - getting wood, playing sports, getting food etc. I got to walk around with the president of the youth group and I felt like I was walking with the pope or something! Everyone knew him and greeted him as he showed me around the camp. I got to snap away with my camera and actually felt like a photographer who came in to a refugee camp to report or something - It was a very cool feeling!

At one point when I was walking around and seeing each different person, i felt God laying on my heart their stories. I didn't actually know what any of them went through - but earlier that morning I had prayed for God to give me his eyes and see the unseen. I felt like he was answering my prayer. I have really been more and more burdened for refugees since Uganda and am interested to see how I can get involved with refugees in my own community at home.

Other than that I have only one word.... kids! there were sooooooooooo many kids - it was so awesome! It was so nice to see all these kids and to see how happy they were to see you! At one point I felt like Maria from the sound of music.. sitting in my big skirt on the grass with all the kids huddled around me as I sang them songs - including my favorite one about Rwanda - Albertine.

After we spent the day at the camp we spent most of our time at the guest house and also went on a boat ride to this island where there were literally thousands of bats!! We hiked up this steep hill and when we got to the top all the bats started flying until the whole island was surrounded by them. Although we were sweaty, dirty, and had some battle wounds.. it was totally worth it and we had an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity.

Well, I must get back to my editing - thanks for reading! I will be sure to post some photos for you to see!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Back in the Swing of Thing.

Well I finally have my computer back up and running and boy does it ever feel good! I didn’t realize how much I needed it until it was gone. I found myself a little bit “lost” without it – not realizing how much joy and purpose I felt when I could work on my photos.

After getting home from traveling it was a bit harder to find my place and get back into the swing of things. Again – not having a computer was not helping… I have gone to God quite a few times praying that I would just feel that I had purpose here and that he could use me in big ways even though I have just 6 weeks left. I can’t even believe it.

I honestly had a point where I was ready to go – I was excited for the things I would be going home to and just felt like I had done everything I could here. That was until the team came and I was thrust back into my niche of taking photos and through taking photos I noticed that it really helped me to connect and be more involved in the ministries and people here. I don’t think I even realized how close I had gotten with the people here… At one point during Ubuzima – Alice sat me on her lap and wouldn’t let go of me for about 15 minutes. It felt so good to be loved and to feel like I had such a connection with her even though neither of us can communicate in each other’s languages – it is crazy how much you can connect through smiles, laughs and hugs!

It has been fun to be a part of the team and help show them and tell them about Rwanda. I love being able to share these places and memories with people who are from my home. So far we have gone to Ubuzima, painted at the church, done cooking with the street guys and games, visited Alice & Mart and also went to visit Fabrice’s family. It has definitely kept me busy and today I will be working away at editing all my new photos!

I am excited for next week as we embark on a journey for three days to the refugee camp.

I also had an amazing experience this past week of taking photos for a family that just adopted from Rwanda. They got a boy and a girl! It was so nice to spend a day with all the families that adopted and to hear more about adoption. I also found myself parked in front of the computer for a WHOLE night.. it seems I was making up for the last 3 weeks! haha.

I am so glad that God has been helping me feel like I am doing well here and making me realize just how much I love Rwanda. I am definitely not ready to say goodbye and the best part is I don’t have to yet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Passport Story.

After travelling a total of 36 hours through Mombasa, Nairobi, and Kampala we finally got to Kigali. We were quite exhausted and just ready to get home. Nicole and I met a couple from the UK that were traveling through Rwanda and making there way to Burundi. We wanted to help them out so we found a place for them to stay at for the night and Nicole went with them to book bus tickets for their next day.

She asked me to go get the luggage with Mike to make sure no one ran off with it. I rushed off the bus to be ready for them to open the compartment and grab my luggage. There was a group of guys all standing by the bus running back and forth from the one side of the bus to the other making me really nervous. Not paying much attention to my backpack by the time I got my luggage and got in my taxi I realized that my one pocket was open and that my passport had been stolen.

It wasn't just the passport - but my computer cord had died (hence no new photos being posted…), my tripod had broken, I was sick and I had lost my Ipod connector…. I was exhausted and tired of things happening to me. When I called home I got some other news that just seemed to push me over the edge. It was easter and my family had all gotten together so it was nice to talk to all of them among all the other stuff that was happening.

After praying that night I realized how good God had been to me. Things could have been way worse - I could have been harmed. I know that a passport can be replaced but my life can't be… (also, it would be very expensive had they stolen my computer or camera!)

The next day I talked to Jen and Serge and they went to the bus stop to talk to some of the street guys they knew, I was hoping that this would be the one chance at getting my passport back. Guys that live on the street work and steal within groups - so I thought if Serge talked to some guys he knew they could talk around to other groups and maybe find out who took it. Serge also posted some signs claiming that there would be a reward if the passport was returned - also hoping this would be in my favour because there was no money in the passport…

The next day as I was walking home I was thinking about it and I just thought to myself "God, I know that you can do this… I just don't know if you will.."

Needless to say within 2 minutes of me getting home I got a phone call. It was Serge. He asked me to come open the gate - I ran outside thinking there would only be one reason for him to be at my house…. Sure enough he had the passport and all the other documents in his hand.

Honestly, when does that happen?

I am so blessed and thankful to serve such a big God.