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Proof that we have done something!

Hello All,

I have officially failed as a frequent blog updater. Sorry! But, Sarah has made me feel bad so I decided to write a little something to appease her and to make me feel a little better in my heart as well. Let's see...100 days left of service...that is crazy and hard to believe. May 5th is our official close of service date. So with most of our Peace Corps service behind us I have decided to write a little about our work over the past 2 years and accomplishments so you can see that we have actually done some things besides hole ourselves up in the middle of a rain forest for the past 2 years.

This is probably going to be a very un-detailed blog but should give you some understanding of the work we have been doing in our village. Most of our work has been health related since we are technically health volunteers. But, a lot of it has been outside of the health field and has dealt with community development. So, starting with health...we have worked constantly with a malnourished feeding program to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the project by continually weighing and measuring the children on the program. Sarah has also been able to help in this area using her background in nutrition to improve the quality of food the children are receiving to better meet their nutritional needs. For example, incorporating fresh carrots from the local garden to supplement their cups of porridge.

I am sure we have mentioned this in previous blogs but hygiene is one of the biggest issues in the village...well, all things health in general are an issue. Things that we know as just common sense like wash your hands before you eat and after using the bathroom, brush your teeth to prevent teeth issues, wear shoes because it can help prevent worms, don't drink bad water, don't have 359 children because you can't possibly feed them all and give them a good life, NO, condoms do not have HIV/AIDS implanted in them by the western world, they actually can help you prevent HIV/AIDS transmission, don't eat only potatoes every single day for every meal because you are getting no nutritional balance from eating all starches all the time, you are actually making yourself malnourished and so on. These are all things we deal with on a daily basis that many people have never even thought about because they have had no one to teach them. So, that has been part of our job...educating people on these topics: family planning, nutrition, hygiene, HIV/AIDS, etc.

We have also both done water projects with 2 schools in our village. My project was a clean water catchment system that we constructed to service over 500 primary school children and Sarah completed another bigger water project at a different school that now supplies 1600 students with clean drinking water.

In the not so health related field, we have done things like constructing a play ground for one of the previously mentioned primary schools. This is still a work in progress but we are getting there and hopefully will be done in a month or so. It takes quiet some time to level an acre + of land by hoe and shovel that is off by 15+ feet. I have also worked with our organization to bring an alternative fuel source to our village AKA briquettes. These are small donut looking things that are made from sawdust and scrap paper left over from carpenters and schools. They are mixed with water and compressed into briquettes which can be used for cooking, are half the price of charcoal and reduce the impact of deforestation around the village...which is pretty important since we basically live in a national park that is slowly being chopped down illegally.

We have also worked with the nursery school teachers to do a world map project. This map is 6 feet by 12 feet and actually turned out much better than we had planned. This is great because to be honest, most Rwandans (at least the ones from our village) know nothing about geography. I have still not found a person under the age of 30 who could find Rwanda on the map. They also believe and are even taught in most schools there are only 5, sometimes 6 continents. Because of course N and S America are all just one big continent and as far as Antarctica is concerned, it can't be a continent because, how can people live under the sea? These are all serious questions asked and simply come from a lack of education...another thing we take for granted. But we were so excited about this project because a person can actually learn so much from just seeing a massive map on a wall.

So, these are some of the things we have been working on. Other things include bringing 2000 books to the village (this is still in progress but the books should be in Rwanda within a week or so), teaching English lessons, conducting clothing drives with help from people like you and putting on one stellar dance party with the kids. Also, I have been teaching English songs to one of the local churches now for several months. So far they have learned 3 extremely well (Open the eyes of my heart Lord, O come let us adore Him and I am a friend of God) and these we have presented in church on Sunday morning. But I had to also sing their songs as part of the deal and do all the awesome movements and hand gestures. It 
was great. We have helped refer youth to feeding programs, health centers, monitored and evaluated all programs in our village and probably the most meaningful thing of all is we have developed relationships and friendships with our neighbors and co-workers that will last a lifetime. We have truly been accepted into the village I feel as much as any foreigner can be accepted into such a remote, rural and isolated village. The people are amazing and it will be extremely difficult to leave them.
Oh I forgot to also mention another huge accomplishment and one that was a life saver...that is mastering the art of a make-shift stove to make....wait for it.......PIZZA!!!! Without this little contraption, we might have been home a year ago and still be sitting even now in Pizza Parlor basking in the amazing goodness of that glorious salad bar and abnormally thin pizza dipped in delectable ranch dressing served on what I can only believe are old hubcaps. Oh Pizza will no doubt be a joyous reunion 100 days from today! This blog is for you!

Anyway, sorry I got a little carried away there. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and that you are enjoying the new year. I hope to see you all very soon! Be blessed!


Hilarious post....

Hello all....this is an awesome post another PCV sent me. I LOVE this woman's thought process and it's encouraging. It's currently circulating Peace Corps Volunteers as a sub for PC life...not parenting but it still resonates with us all!

And for all you momma's out there...

Blogger, Momastery

Don't Carpe Diem

Posted: 1/14/12 11:57 AM ET
Every time I'm out with my kids -- this seems to happen:
An older woman stops us, puts her hand over her heart and says something like, "Oh, Enjoy every moment. This time goes by so fast."
Everywhere I go, someone is telling me to seize the moment, raise my awareness, be happy, enjoy every second, etc, etc, etc.
I know that this message is right and good. But, I have finally allowed myself to admit that it just doesn't work for me. It bugs me. This CARPE DIEM message makes me paranoid and panicky. Especially during this phase of my life - while I'm raising young kids. Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong.
I think parenting young children (and old ones, I've heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they've heard there's magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it's hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers -- "ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU'LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN'T!" TRUST US!! IT'LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!" -- those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Now. I'm not suggesting that the sweet old ladies who tell me to ENJOY MYSELF be thrown from a mountain. These are wonderful ladies. Monkees, probably. But last week, a woman approached me in the Target line and said the following: "Sugar, I hope you are enjoying this. I loved every single second of parenting my two girls. Every single moment. These days go by so fast."
At that particular moment, Amma had arranged one of the new bras I was buying on top of her sweater and was sucking a lollipop that she must have found on the ground. She also had three shop-lifted clip-on neon feathers stuck in her hair. She looked exactly like a contestant from Toddlers and Tiaras. I couldn't find Chase anywhere, and Tish was grabbing the pen on the credit card swiper thing WHILE the woman in front of me was trying to use it. And so I just looked at the woman, smiled and said, "Thank you. Yes. Me too. I am enjoying every single moment. Especially this one. Yes. Thank you."
That's not exactly what I wanted to say, though.
There was a famous writer who, when asked if he loved writing, replied, "No. but I love having written." What I wanted to say to this sweet woman was, "Are you sure? Are you sure you don't mean you love having parented?"
I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to sleep (to bed) and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Celebrity Wife Swap, and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.
Every time I write a post like this, I get emails suggesting that I'm being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times -- G, if you can't handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth?
That one always stings, and I don't think it's quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it's hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she's not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn't add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it's so hard means she IS doing it her own way...and she happens to be honest.
Craig is a software salesman. It's a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don't ever feel the need to suggest that he's not doing it right, or that he's negative for noticing that it's hard, or that maybe he shouldn't even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he's ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: "This career goes by so fast...ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!"
My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn't enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn't in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn't MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I'd wake up and the kids would be gone, and I'd be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.
But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here's what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:
"It's helluva hard, isn't it? You're a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She's my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime."And hopefully, every once in a while, I'll add -- "Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up -- I'll have them bring your groceries out."
Anyway. Clearly, Carpe Diem doesn't work for me. I can't even carpe fifteen minutes in a row, so a whole diem is out of the question.
Here's what does work for me:
There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It's regular time, it's one minute at a time, it's staring down the clock till bedtime time, it's ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it's four screaming minutes in time out time, it's two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there's Kairos time. Kairos is God's time. It's time outside of time. It's metaphysical time. It's those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day. And I cherish them.
Like when I actually stop what I'm doing and really look at Tish. I notice how perfectly smooth and brownish her skin is. I notice the perfect curves of her teeny elf mouth and her asianish brown eyes, and I breathe in her soft Tishy smell. In these moments, I see that her mouth is moving but I can't hear her because all I can think is -- This is the first time I've really seen Tish all day, and my God -- she is so beautiful. Kairos.
Like when I'm stuck in chronos time in the grocery line and I'm haggard and annoyed and angry at the slow check-out clerk. And then I look at my cart and I'm transported out of chronos. And suddenly I notice the piles and piles of healthy food I'll feed my children to grow their bodies and minds and I remember that most of the world's mamas would kill for this opportunity. This chance to stand in a grocery line with enough money to pay. And I just stare at my cart. At the abundance. The bounty. Thank you, God. Kairos.
Or when I curl up in my cozy bed with Theo asleep at my feet and Craig asleep by my side and I listen to them both breathing. And for a moment, I think- how did a girl like me get so lucky? To go to bed each night surrounded by this breath, this love, this peace, this warmth? Kairos.
These kairos moments leave as fast as they come- but I mark them. I say the word kairos in my head each time I leave chronos. And at the end of the day, I don't remember exactly what my kairos moments were, but I remember I had them. And that makes the pain of the daily parenting climb worth it.
If I had a couple Kairos moments during the day, I call it a success.
Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day.
Good enough for me.


Janvier and Polina

I wanted to give an update on our precious kiddos, Janvier and Polina. As you may recall their mom abandoned then in the middle of the night. Polina woke up and came to our house to tell us she was scared. Her mom never came back. Man, we have loved those kids so completely over the past one year and 4 months since she left them. We have tried to help them in every way we possibly could. Many tears have been shed over those precious kiddos. I have screamed at their caretaker and begged her to give them to me, I have begged God to change the Rwanda laws so I could have them and on and on. I've started freaking out a little wondering what would happen after we leave.

Well after one year and four months, their mother just reappeared last week. For those of you who really really know me this won't surprise you, but you had better believe she got death darts from my eyes upon seeing her. But I think she truly felt her absence when Janvier insisted "he didn't have a mommy" (she left before he was old enough to talk) and he refused to let go of me to go to her.  Either way, they've loved her  as only precious innocent children can and accepted her completely back! She brought them lots of clothing, shoes, and has bathed them daily since her return. They look so fantastic. They're clean, Janvier's legs are totally healed and they're all smiles. top it off their dad, whom until recently denied they were his children (although they are spitting images) had another wife who just left him. Their mom has moved into his home. they have gone from a caretaker who said she would be "better off if they were dead"  to a home with their mother and their father living under one roof! I know it has only been 1 1/2 weeks but I can't help but be completely hopeful that God has heard my prayers and brought her back just in time for me to leave knowing that they will be cared for. I've explained to her that they love her and need her we'll see if she stays.

Future...and good news!

After much thinking and praying- we have decided not to extend for a third year with Peace Corps. We really wanted too but all the "options" we were looking at seemed to fall through. We even spoke to our immediate boss at Peace Corps and seemed to get some conflicting answers on what a 3rd year would even look like so we decided that not extending would be the best option. We told our parents on Christmas day.

Now that we've had time to think and process what all this means for us, we've began to get excited. Our emotions are high because we love our village and our friends here. Of course, it always had its ups and downs but overall Jarod and I really love this village! I am going to be an emotional basket case saying goodbye to all my babies that I love. But that blog will come closer to going home time. I also wanted to mention here that a few people have made comments about Jarod being totally happy and me being sad in all my blogs. I have COMPLETELY misrepresented myself, if that seems true. I LOVE Africa. I love living here. I love the children, the momma's, and all of the projects we've done. I'm so proud of us. Yes, absolutely yes there have been "those days." But living in a foreign country/culture, speaking a foreign language, while living with no electricity and no running water all in a mud house that leaks constantly...I would LOVE to meet someone who wouldn't have bad days! But honestly, we both love Africa and see ourselves living here long term.

That being said, now that we've decided to do this...we're going thru all of those familiar emotions: updating your resume, deciding where to live, and what jobs to apply for, etc. We just want to make sure everyone is aware now that we're looking all over the world for jobs. My home is where Jarod is and where God says "Go." We are open to go anywhere and be anything as long as we're in His will. We'll see where He leads us.

But for now, we're ecstatic to know that in 109 days we're coming home to see all of you guys and we could NOT be more excited right now.


Sarah here...

Just wanted to apologize and say sorry its been so long since we updated you all! Believe it or not, we've actually been really busy. I'll start off by saying Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We definitely had a great Holiday season and hope you did too. As most of you know, some of our friends from home visited. Meg and Seth arrived on December 16th in Arusha, Tanzania where we were waiting to meet them. It was a little nerve wrecking to see two friends from home for the first time in 2 years standing in the middle of an African parking lot. After we hugged and had our initial "holy guacamole I can't believe you're here moment", we all returned to the hotel to eat. It felt like we had a billion things to talk about and stayed up pretty late the first night chatting. Surprisingly, we caught up pretty quickly. The next day we left for a 3 day safari in Tarangire Park, Ngoragora Crater, and Lake Manyara Park. It was so refreshing and WONDERFUL. The guides were great, the food was wonderful (nice change from Rwandan food), the hotels had HOT water and one even had Wi-Fi. We felt like we were living large for 3 days.

After the safari, we returned to Rwanda (via two different countries/airports) but surprisingly nothing went wrong! Their flight was a tiny bit late but it was no big deal since Jarod and I got to enjoy the airport Wi-Fi for a little bit longer. Then, we all headed to our friends house where we were staying. We all slept in a king size bed and shared a bathroom with no door. It was hilarious. Fortunately, there were no peep shows, we only ran out of hot water once, and the girls made the boys sleep in the middle! haha. It was great. In Kigali we visited the Genocide memorial (it was good for us to re-read everything after having lived here 2 years), craft stores, and ate some yummy yummy food.

We then headed North to Musanze where we hiked a volcano called Bisoke. It was a lot of fun. It was a pretty easy hike for Jarod and I because it was only about 3 hours and our hike out of here is about 1 1/2 hours-ish.  We really enjoyed it. The scenery at the top was beautiful! It was a crater lake. The temperature was 42 degree Fahrenheit. That was refreshing since we haven't seen temps like that in 2 years.

Then, we headed to our village. I realized how much I love our village because suddenly I felt this need to show it off very badly and I was just so proud of it. Unfortunately, due to timing they didn't get to see even half of it!! We visited our work and they of course saw our home but they didn't even get to see the town or an African Market. They didn't get to experience cooking outside and cooking everything from scratch. They did however, experience bucket baths, latrines :), and all lights being attached to your hand or head once the sun goes down. I wish so badly we could have spent more time here  but there's only so much you can squeeze into a 10 day visit.  On Christmas day we returned to Kigali to prepare for their departure the next day. Their initial flight was cancelled but they were quickly re-routed through another country and didn't end up missing a single connecting it was no biggie!! I was shocked at how perfectly the whole trip went since that usually isn't the case. Logistically speaking it was nearly perfect! We did have a few blips that were just hilarious. We had 3 flat tires on our 3 day safari. But he quickly changed them all and we were on our way. Then, on Christmas day there was a landslide that had the road blocked but we got right off the bus and walked past the slide where another bus was waiting to take us. As soon as we got going we had our 4th flat tire!!! I couldn't help but laugh because Jarod and I have not experienced a single flat tire in all of our time in Africa. I think Africa wanted to show a little of her naughty side but kept it pretty mild. We never missed a single thing nor were we late! yay. That's pretty magical for Africa.

All in all, it was a great trip. They got to see Africa and we got to see them.

oh yea...and they brought us 100 POUNDS of goodies. That's right people....ONE HUNDRED POUNDS. Thank you to all of our family and friends that contributed. It was amazing to get a little taste of home at Christmas time. We are loving all those goodies and eating them up. Zuba is also loving his goodies!

We have already posted the photos on our facebooks so check them out there....

I have 2 more blogs to post and will do so ASAP!