4th of July!
It is liberation day here in Rwanda, too, so today we will walk up the hill to the school for some ceremonies, and work with the girls on interviews in the afternoon.
It is so good to be back in Africa! I knew I was back when we rode in a wildly painted van, with the slogan, "My God" painted all over it, with cheerful African music blaring and the smoky sweet wind in my face.
We are all well, after a long trip on Ethiopian Air. 13 hours to Addis Ababa, then a long hot wait in Addis, and short jumps to Entebbe and then Kigali, Rwanda.
We are at the Dereva hotel here in Rwamagana, Rwanda, and you can see that on line if you look up its website.
More later! Time to run.
I think the short time we were here miraculously stretched, as we have formed some great relationships with the girls and staff at IWE. That first morning we sat in the dormitory eating/gathering room, and I was amazed to think that Ally and Ellie's book bought many of those red bricks that surrounded us. The government had issued a long statement in Kinyarwanda, which one of the teachers translated for us. It reviewed the history of Rwanda since the liberation of the nation following the genocide. The translator was very careful not to even mention the names of the tribes involved in the troubles, but still outlined the changes, improvements and challenges that remain for Rwanda. I took notes (partly to stay awake, due to jet lag!) and also because the government statement was the basis for the troubles that individual girls at the school have suffered.
We walk from the hotel along the busy tarmac road here in Rwamagana, and then up a hill of rutted red clay roads, past homes and fields and dozens of beautiful children who run out to meet us and follow us part way to the school. It is a good walk, and slow, as we stop to greet everyone along the way and practice the few words of Kinyarwanda that we have learned. Amy is the linguist among us, and not a soul goes by that she doesn't greet with a beautiful smile! Lauren quietly greets everyone as well, and I can see her absorbing so much, and being moved by it all as she takes hundreds of great photos. Ally is multi-tasking all the time, thinking about language, greeting people and figuring them out, planning the next version of the book, and even thinking of future research projects. Diane is quietly loving all these kids, sharing deeper thoughts in conversation with girls who almost all lack a mom to care about their ideas. What a great team! I am so privileged to introduce them to Africa.
After the Liberation day celebrations, and a walk back down to the hotel for lunch and a very short break, we started our interviews with the girls. We entered a classroom of girls and I introduced the book we had produced when Ally was in seventh grade. They were fascinated, and many of the girls who had contributed stories by email in 2008 found themselves in the original book! I challenged them all to write another biographical story for us, and also to meet with us to tell their stories and answer questions. I have offered a reward for the best written story, and all who wrote are hoping that they will win the mystery prize. That first group started interviewing and taking pictures with the girls, getting giggly and friendly enough to drape Amy and Ally's long hair over their own shoulders, for a photo of how they would look with long straight hair! I continued on to each class with a translator, and could tell the girls were excited to take part in a newer bigger book. They were shocked at the amount people paid for one book and that $9,000 had been raised by the girls already, so sharing their personal and often painful stories with people in America, who obviously care about them, became an important act of courage that they wanted to do with us.
There is so much to tell, but it is time for breakfast and I HOPE a good internet connection to post all this for you. Thanks for praying!