Friday, July 31, 2015

Danielle and Dave Pt 5

Day 4 (Rabbit Day, Wednesday)

We got the rest of the hutch finished today. It took a few hours and a couple of trips into town. We used a whole pound of nails and over 3 meters of wire. Over 5 of us spent hours hammering, snipping wire, and measuring wood to complete the hutch. We made the cages larger than the ones the orphanage used. The hutch has two cages to hold two rabbits separately. The feed is put into a grain holder inside the cage or in a wire divider between the rabbits. The bottoms of the new cages are wire so the rabbits’ wastes fall through, hopefully improving their quality of life and reproducing abilities.

When we finished, we tried to bring the new cages into the rabbit house, but our measurements must have been off because it could not fit through the door. Some of the men suggested tearing down the doorframe or tearing the hutch apart and rebuilding it inside. However, Grandpa Howell came up with the idea to saw off the legs and reattaching them once inside. The crisis was averted.

We put two rabbits in the new cages and some wild grass between them. We checked on the progress of the silo throughout the day. After drying in the sun, we carried the grass over to the side of the silo where other men were chopping it into pieces. The pieces were then shoved into the silo and stomped on to compress the grass as much as possible. After carrying about 10 loads of grass, my neck and arms were sliced up and burning for the rest of the day.

Finishing the hutch and transporting the grass took most of the day and after all the work was done we washed up for dinner. This night Grandpa Howell gave the worship lesson to the kids on how everyone has different talents and each is important to God.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Danielle and Dave Pt 4

Day 3 (Rainy Day, Tuesday)
It rained many times throughout the day and sometimes hard enough to bend the trees. This was a problem. The year before the orphanage’s silo failed. The silo was used to store elephant grass during the wet season for the cows to eat during the dry season, when grass prices doubled. However, the grass had not dried enough before being chopped and stored. The result was rotted feed and an expensive order for the cows in the dry season. This year, it was decided to lay the grass out in the sun to dry enough, in hopes that the feed would not rot. The rain made the work of turning and drying the grass from the day before almost futile.

Most of the day was spent trying to beat the rain. We worked to get all the elephant grass into one big pile and under a tarp before the storm blew in. Any other work that could get done despite the rain was postponed because it was a memorial day for Rwanda. This holiday meant that all the stores and markets were closed, halting our progress on the hutch when materials were needed.

When we realized defeat, I spent the rest of the day playing with the kids and having them read to me.

*Pit Silo from last year
*Drying cow grass
*Protecting cut grass in pit silo from the rain
*Pouring outside

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Danielle and Dave Pt 3B

Day 2 continued...
The day was not all virility; at one point we walked into town and visited the sewing center. The woman who runs the center, Theresa, helps make uniforms for students. The store is lined with colorful cloth and bags hanging on the walls. The six or so sewing machines in the room are antique and black, with rust colored foot mechanisms and wooden workplaces. Theresa is excited and bubbly, hugging us when we first come through the door. Her English is limited, but she tries to converse with me in broken French as her accent is difficult for me to understand (coupled with my limited knowledge of sewing terms). We invite her back to the house and give her all types of string, fabric, and lining for the center.

The rest of the day is spent getting exhausted; working on the hutch and chasing pigs until my clothes and skin are so dirty I’ve forgotten what I used to smell like back home. I bathe with the water jug, as the water is not running that day (or any other day afterwards it seems). We eat dinner and lunch with the kids, sets of them clamoring for me to sit at their table. Throughout the day some choice kids appear to watch us work or ask about my life back home. I soon find the kids who seek me out the most are too clever for their own good. They make me love them, despite the short time we have spent together and their attempts to find the most effective ways to annoy me.

That night I find out their worship practices are every night. The kids sing with vitality as they pantomime (sometimes chaotically) all the English and Kinyarwandan hymns they can remember. I clap along to the songs I know, but am mostly content to watch the kids move around, trying to catch my attention. After their gospel lesson, the kids went around the room and hugged everyone goodnight.

That night the sound of a flood against the roof wakes me up. I lay awake for hours afterwards; thinking at any moment the house would be swept away down the mountains.

Danielle and Dave Pt 3

Day 2 (Day of Labor, Monday)
Coming from a family of small women, I was not allowed to participate in hard labor unless absolutely necessary. No matter how much I begged to lend a hand with the ‘manly’ chores, my father would not allow it. Today was the first time I had been allowed to participate in such physically demanding work. We turned prickly elephant grass, which slices up bared skin and leaves you with such an insistent itching only time can heal the burning. We traveled multiple times into town to buy wood, nails and other materials to make an improved hutch for the rabbits. These trips made me realize why my courses stressed how little can get done in countries with limited resources. Most time is spent doing by hand for hours what can get done in minutes by a machine.

Pigs, who I soon discovered to be masters of escape, were chased around and rounded up every few hours. I hammered, I lifted, I pulled, and I performed all forms of manual labor I assumed were lost to my small self. The men who helped us with the work were surprised by my vigor and continuously commented on how hard I worked or how “good of a girl you are.” It took me some time to notice their comments were directed only at me, seeing as I was the only women helping in the hard labor tasks the men usually worked on.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Danielle and Dave Pt 2

Day 1 (Landing Day, Sunday)
We left home early in the morning and boarded an 11 a.m. flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Flying for 16 hours and across many time zones felt as though we were traveling forward in time. We flew from morning to night and back to morning again; seeming to arrive six hours in the future on another continent. We arrived in Kigali, Rwanda at 12 p.m. the next day and for a second I thought we had landed in my family’s home country of Jamaica. The palm trees, warm weather, and rolling hills evoked a feeling of nostalgia and a longing to explore I had not experienced in years.

Our drive into the countryside, to where we would stay the next two weeks, took about an hour. We drove up winding roads with no railings, filled with pedestrians and motorbike taxis. The driving around us was similar to that of other countries I had visited; lots of honking and traffic regulations seen more as guidelines than laws. I sat in the backseat snapping pictures of the countryside, dealing with disappointment in my camera’s inability to capture the diversity of the croplands or how the sunlight splayed across the mountains. Everyone seemed to be doing something; even the people napping on the grass had a sense of business, as if they were catching a few winks between jobs.

In my courses, we frequently looked at photos of the homes and lifestyles of people in poverty-stricken countries. I expected the houses to be similar to the shantytowns in Jamaica, but I was still affronted by the depth of poverty I saw traveling up the mountainside. The houses were made of clay or old bricks and most of the roofs were aluminum sheets. The children wore dirty and tattered clothing, running after rolling tires in the streets or playing with broken toys in the dirt.

When we reached our destination I had already come to love the green landscape and the country land that seemed to be only mountains. I felt at home in the unpaved streets and rolling hills. The more we traveled up the hills the more the landscape shaped into my memories of Jamaica. However, the children’s home would shape my understanding of the Rwandan people. The kids greeted us when we arrived and in minutes I was reading them picture books as they clamored around me for a better view. We ate dinner with the kids and sat in on their worship at the end of the day. I had never felt more welcome in the home of strangers.