Kigali Half Marathon

Someone (a Rwandan woman) recently told me that I was the most beautiful American she’d ever seen. She said she didn’t believe Americans could be beautiful until she met me. I tell you this not to brag, but to provide context for the day I tell you that I’m never leaving this country.

BB ran the half-marathon on Sunday. Freddy and I had fun watching him. It was a really tough run (according to BB, which is saying a lot as he’s a bit of a masochist when it comes to running). It was hot, sunny, no water (he purchased some along the route), and extremely hilly. He finished only slightly slower than his best times in Chicago so it was a great accomplishment.

P1030084

More than that, we enjoyed the cultural experience. The race was actually really well-run, and it was fun to see all the Rwandans running. Freddy and I watched him come by our neighborhood near the start of the race.

P1030090

Then we went to hang out at the finish. When I got to the stadium the security guard thought I was asking to run the race instead of just watch. He was skeptical that I could run 13 miles with a baby on my back.

We watched them setting up and enjoyed listening to strangely dubbed American rap music (i.e. leaving in some explicit swear words and dubbing out words like “lick”).

P1030091

Here’s a photo of the winner being interviewed. Rwandans have a different idea of personal space than I do.

P1030099

I got distracted at the end so I didn’t get a good photo of the finish, but here’s BB leaving his running mate just a few yards from the finish.

P1030113

 

Way to go BB! A good memory for all of us.

It is well

BB and I are in a big fight today because he wanted to take my computer to work, and I said I needed it.  Now I have to blog and upload photos and Skype with people all day to prove that I was right.  That’s marriage advice for you, free of charge.

I have the day off today because it’s Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.  As usual, it’s another gorgeous day in Kigali.

Maybe we are fighting because this week marks the one year anniversary of our trip to DRC.  About this time last year, we were waking up at St. Anne’s guesthouse in Kinshasa terrified that we were either going to meet our kids or that we weren’t going to meet our kids.  Tomorrow is one year to the day that we knew it was all over.

[Side note:  Almost every day since we’ve been here, we have broken out into gut wrenching laughter at the absurd things that the staff at One World Adoption Services told us about Africa.  Our favorite: they told us they couldn’t possibly get info about the kids background from DRC because there are no cell phones in Africa.  We knew that was ridiculous then, but it still makes me laugh.  I don’t think I’ve met an African who owns fewer than 2 cell phones since we’ve been here.]

Being back in Africa has stirred up these memories.  I was flooded with memories long-buried when we got off the plane.  I know it’s a different country, but the sights and smells of Kigali are not unlike the smell of Kinshasa.  It feels like the kids might turn a corner here and run into our arms.  I can still picture every part of them even though it’s been a long time since I studied their photos.  In fact, we actually found some of their photos in our luggage here – photos I hid in the suitcase when we were in Kinshasa. Funny how they continue to travel with us.

Here in Kigali, we meet a lot of families who have adopted.  I think Africa gets in your blood in a way that you can’t get rid of it.  If you’ve adopted, you are forever connected. If you’ve traveled here, you have to get back.  I love meeting these families, but the jealousy comes.  My heart is still raw.

Months ago I started reading Finding Fernanda, a book about corruption in Guatemalan adoptions.  I put it down because it was too hard.  Last night I picked it up, but I had to put it down again.  It’s as horrifying as you can imagine – stolen babies, duped mothers. How is it that we live in a world where millions of babies are aborted and then other babies are stolen from their mothers (literally from their wombs) and sold like a pair of shoes?  It’s impossible for me to not believe in the fall of man.

Thursday, August 9, 2012 was the worst day of my life.  The scary thing is there will be worse days to come – that’s just part of living.  Weeping and thrashing, unable to sleep, the Lord met me – through my husband’s embrace, through middle of the night text messages with friends in America, and through his promises.  Through our tears, we sang.

 When peace like a river attendeth my way

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say

It is well.  It is well with my soul.

Today we remember Chaty, Ivonne, Ives.  We pray that they are well and that we will meet them someday and thank them for teaching us to see God.

 

 

 

This city

I’ve read a lot about the red dirt of Africa.  I think my feet will be forever stained.  I hope they are.  It’s moments like these when I can’t imagine ever going back.  And I can’t.  I can’t un-know.  I can’t un-see.  I don’t want to either.

Many ex-pats call Rwanda, “Africa-lite” or “Africa for beginners,” and in many ways it is.  It’s clean, safe and well-run.  But there’s darkness here unlike any I’ve experienced.  There’s an oppressive weight on the shoulders of everyone who walks these red dusty roads.

This past weekend we visited two genocide memorial sites – two churches where thousands of Rwandans sought sanctuary while their families and friends were brutally slaughtered.  Tragically, there was no sanctuary to be found.  In one church, 10,000 people were murdered, thousands more in the other.  Over 50,000 people killed in this one small neighborhood outside of Kigali.

The churches remain virtually untouched.  When you enter, you see piles of decaying clothes – the clothes of the victims.  When you enter the crypts, there lie more skulls, pelvic bones, femurs than you can count.  A pile of necklaces, watches and wallets sits on the altars.

What struck me is that to the naked eye, a skull is just a human skull.  It’s not African, it’s not White, not Tutsi, not rich; it’s just simply, obviously human.  If my skull was split by a machete, it would look the same even though my upbringing and skin color are so different.

The tour guides are all survivors, open to telling you about their experience hiding in the bushes while their parents and siblings were hunted.   They speak the words with a haunting look in their eyes.  But they light up when they speak of their children.  The hope of new life bursting through the darkness.

This morning at our morning worship at IJM, we sang “God of this City.”

You’re the God of this city.  You’re the God of these people.  You’re the God                     of this nation.

Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this                   city.

It has to be true.  There’s no other option.

 

 

New Adventures

So BB has the greatest one liners, but I always forget them by the time I sit down to blog.  I remember this one though:

BB:  You know, babies are a lot cooler than people think they are.

Seven years ago, BB and I had the privilege of visiting our awesome friends S & C in Kigali, Rwanda, by far the most beautiful place we have ever visited.  Thus, our love for East Africa was born (we also visited Tanzania and Kenya).  When we decided to adopt, we knew it had to be Africa, and we sought to adopt from Rwanda.  Just as we were beginning, Rwanda closed to international adoption.

A few years later, here our hearts are drawn back to that small land.  Not to adopt, although we are still talking about adoption in our future.

Remember how I mentioned we were doing an even bigger purge of our belongings than the fast of 2012?  By July, we will have reduced our worldly belongings to a few suitcases as we will be heading out on a new adventure.  We are moving to Kigali!

I’ve accepted a position with an organization (more on this later) to do legal work, and we’ve committed to be there for one year.  After that, who knows?

This opportunity will allow me to serve vulnerable children, which was truly the reason we sought to adopt.  Of course, as with all such adventures, we know we will be blessed more than we will be blessing.

We are excited and overwhelmed.  We are sad to leave our families, but apparently all they care about is Fred.  They keep offering to keep him but don’t ask us to stay…  It’s a crazy thing to do in many ways, but not as crazy as adopting three kids, I suppose.  At least, not as permanent.  We can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.

The flavor of the blog may be changing, although I am really excited to learn more about how Rwanda is serving orphans.  They have been making that a priority and doing some great things in getting kids out of orphanages and into families.  I hope to blog about our life and my work and hope you continue to enjoy reading about it!

Who knows – maybe a picture of Fred with a monkey is in our future!