Sunday, October 10, 2010

Update from Rwanda

Julie here, posting for John.  He's in Rwanda, Africa and I thought his peeps would want to read an email he sent to me (and copied Alphonse, our Rwandan college friend who's a college student in Little Rock.)

Reminder of the cast of characters:
- Pam, John's mom, is in Rwanda with John and John Isaac
- Alphonse - the Rwandan college student we've befriended here in Little Rock
- Alphonsine - sister to Alphonse, who lives in Rwanda.
- Alphonse's parents and grandmother do not speak any English.

The one thing John Isaac said to John (not recorded below) that thrilled my soul: "Mom was right, I wish I'd brought more of my stuff to give away."

Of course I love hearing I'm right, but even more than that is the fact that John Isaac is realizing he has so much stuff!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John Majors
Date: Sun, Oct 10, 2010 at 10:42 AM
Subject: trip to Eastern Rwanda
To: Julie Majors
Cc: alphonse MUGENZI

Well it was quite a day.  We left  our house around 4:30 AM to head to the national park (Akagere).  It was fun to be up so early and see the streets of Kigali so empty.  A rare site indeed.  Reminds me of the last time I was on the streets at 4:30.  Not a memory I’m quick to repeat.  John Isaac slept a portion of the way, which was good!

We arrived at the park with little problem. I enjoyed the drive and the memories of all the places from our trip to Gahini last year.  We were the first to arrive at the park and immediately John Isaac was making friends. I told mom that we cannot compete with his blond hair and smile. We took pictures with the gate attendants and started out with our ‘guide’ (or basically a man with a radio to help us find the animals).  I did not realize how large of a park it is - 1800 km2 - [Julie's Google conversion: almost 700 square miles] until we drove for 3 hours in just the bottom 5th of the park.  Within the first 5 minutes we saw a Giraffe, wart hogs, and baboons.  We also saw some amazing birds.  Wish I had a bird book!  One crane type bird was as big as a pre-teen. Huge.

We hoped to see an elephant, but it was not to be.  Lots of hippos sticking their eyes out of the water.  We scurried through the rest of the park and I enjoyed the ride, though I think the rest of the party (including the driver and the guide) were ready to be back.  I can only guess as to how bored of this drive they both must be, having done it so many times. JI fell asleep again after we dropped off the guide and slept until we arrived at the intersection that leads to Alphonse’s hometown.  We waited in the car for John to arrive (Alphonse’s brother) with a flock of small children rapidly growing in size next to the car.  The driver (Pierre) attempted to shoo them away a number of times, but it is a fruitless effort, like holding water in your hand.  But they were not bothering us - the children are so adorable.

John arrived and we went to his town and had an amazing time.  First we visited the grandmother.  She was full of joy.  We sat in her house for 5 minutes or so then went to Alphonse’s house.  I walked while the rest drove and we gathered quite a crowd along the way.  The family was incredibly gracious, and we felt very welcomed.  Mom and I were both amazed by the number of children gathered next to the door, just staring at us. John said (his English was quite good) that for many of them, this was a once in a lifetime experience to have a Muzungu in their village.  We gave the gifts from Alphonse and a few others and then shared some cokes and fantas (a highlight for JI).  We spent some time telling them what a great son they had with Alphonse and that I could tell they were great parents.

We then ate a fabulous lunch - I wish I could have fit more in my stomach!  Everything was delicious.  The time passed too quickly, and after 2 hours it was time to go.  We toured the farm, saw the cows, and then received some final gifts of fruits and baskets - very gracious.  Of course, the highlight was when the youngest boy (Gustav?) delivered a LIVE CHICKEN to John Isaac as a gift!  Boy was that exciting!  The hardest part was trying to explain that we could not take it back to America with us - they would not let it on the plane.  But I think they understand. I told them that we would leave it there and that it would be our chicken at our home in Rwanda and that we would eat the eggs if we returned again. Maybe they might even name it after us?

After gifts we took at least 1,000 pictures with everyone, which was much of fun as well.  I think we could have taken pictures the rest of the day, but we loaded in the car with John and Alphonsine (who rode to town) and left by 3PM.  I was sad when Alphonsine asked us to come to her house as well, as it was time for us to return home (and the driver needed to get back as well).  Maybe another time - as it would have been an honor to see her new home.  She showed us pictures of the wedding and they were spectacular (we have a few to give to Alphonse).  Quite impressive with the dress and the ceremony.

The return drive was a delight as we were able to see more of the beautiful Rwandan countryside.  So comforting.  I’m glad it worked out for us to go.  Definitiely the highlight of the trip so far!

This morning we went to a church in Byumba = first time i'd been north.  The drive was pretty amazing and the city was spectacular, as it is built right on top of a hill.  i must say, however, that the church service was a bit too long for all of us:  FOUR HOURS!!!!!!!!  Which was followed up with a lunch and another mini-sermon.  It was a long morning.  We were asked to visit other homes afterwards, but we declined (I said my mom was too tired - and she didn't mind.)  It was tiring, but it was still a fun experience.  Right now it is "Raining Cats and Dogs" (though Mom noted that she had not seen a cat here yet, and only two dogs) - and the sound on the roof is quite comforting.  I broke down last night and had my american fix - as I went to a local restaurant in the evening and watched an American movie and met other Americans working in the country.  Fun time!

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