Sunday, September 30, 2007

sleep with enjoy dreams...

Another week passed. Another pile of stories...

There have been numerous requests for me to explain why, in fact, i am in Rwanda. And, while I would like to forgo the question for as long as possible, I supposed if I expect anyone to keep reading my blog, I owe them an explanation, however vague.

(by the way, does anyone know if laptops have the potential to give you cancer? The way it heats my legs seems particularly suspicious to me... I know female mosquito's have the potential to give me malaria. And, at this very moment, there is one buzzing around my head. Hmmm... which heath concern is more pertinent?)

So here goes: (if you feel like you already know this, skip to the **)

I am in Rwanda with an organization called "Friends of Rwanda". Look up for more info. My main job will be help out with the Saddleback PEACE teams that are coming over to Rwanda (PEACE is Rick Warren's plan to save the world through the work of the church... look that up as well). Rick and his ginormous church have a rare and extremely invested interest in this small country. They are sending over 1,000 volenteers in 2008 alone. So, as you can imagine, there is a lot of work to be done. I am working for a Rwandan named Eric Mynumana, who is pretty much a dream boss. I am his funtioning assistant, which really means everything and nothing. I have no idea how my work will play out in a practical, day-to-day manner, but I am certain it will be challenging and exciting. After the end of the year, the hope is that I will have gathered enough information to help Saddleback re-format their "mission to Rwanda". There seems to be a shifting paradigm for missions work in our constantly shrinking world, and I'm functioning, as an observer, to help discover what that might look like. My plan is to be here, with a couple interruptions for weddings and grad-school auditions, until next August.

In addition to this, I will be directing the first ever Musical (!) in Rwanda at Green Hills Academy, the local english-speaking school. We're still in the negotiation stages, but It's looking good. It's funny about Rwanda, everything you do here is a first.


I learned how to ride a motorcycle this week! Apparently the "scooters" I rode in Italy and Argentina didn't count (sorry, meredith:). This one had gears and a clutch and apparently that makes all the difference. Justin was kind enough to trust me on his bike and we rode an hour out of town. It was breathtaking. Every turn was a glittering valley below or a patchwork hill above. The villagers got a HUGE kick out of a white girl driving a bike with a MAN behind! Can you imagine? They couldn't. It was a great day.

I have recently been annexed by the Muzungu community in Kigali. There's probably more than 50 (i may be underestimating quite a bit) young people, from the West, in Kigali. Everytime I go to the (only) coffee shop, I see one ot them. Usually it's a bit awkward, because you don't want to introduce yourself to someone just because you both happen to have the same color skin (can you imagine doing that at home: "Hey, I couldn't help noticing that you're white. My name is Maggie, nice to meet you."? hmmm...). But we all find eachother eventually. Movie night was tonight (Sunday), friday night we have dinner at one of the many resturaunts in Kigali... it's enough to keep us all feeling like the ex-pats that we are. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming though. I miss the boredom and social limitations of Ruhengeri.

I'm headed home on Tuesday for my little sister's wedding. I will spend the month of October in the US attending weddings before returning to Rwanda.

I can't quite put in to non-cliche terms how GOOD it has been to be in Rwanda for the past month. I can't remember the last time I felt this much at peace and this full of hope. Funny that a country with such an ugly past can give so much hope...but it's in the air here... you can't help but obsorb it and soon it becomes the way you start seeing the world. There is a mark on this country. Everyone who comes here notices it. I feel lucky. Lucky to be here, in Rwanda, soaking up God's blessing.

To close, from the words of the famous poet, Aime (he's the young man who guards my house at night and gives me a scare every time he does his rounds and passes by my window. I think Aime is a saint--literally. I told him today that when he has a bigger mansion in heaven than I do, that I want to come over for dinner):

"I never forget you in my life. sleep with enjoy dreams."


Saturday, September 22, 2007

taking notes at a rwandan wedding

a few things my little sister should think about in regard to her impending nuptials.


have you considered having multiple photographers on stage, while the you and john are saying your vows? they should be stratigically positioned all over, and as CLOSE as possible! i think 8 or 9 (at least) people with point-and-shoot cameras would really capture the moment. oh, and don't bother turning the flashes off, it really brings an air of celebration to the event.

you should also look into buying a 4-octave keyboard (the silver ones with purple keys are the classiest) and have someone (anyone, really) on guard to play a few random chords in between every word spoken in the wedding ceremony. and i mean, EVERY WORD. it works best if you keep some of the chords hanging while you're saying romantic things, like your vows. it has the same effect as an alter-call on television. seriously, the key-board would be a good investment for your marriage.

lastly, in order to make a few extra bucks, you should really consider taking an involentary offering at some point during the ceremony. and, get this, the way you really get their money is to make everyone come to the front and put their money in the same basket, that way, if anyone doesn't want to give you money, they look stupid or selfish. it's really clever. and economical.

please know this sarcastic little instalment was writen with a large amount of fondness in my heart.



Monday, September 17, 2007

jogging in gisenyi

if you can imagine jogging topless through the streets of Manhattan... as julia roberts... that might be a reliable comparison.

every time i go running in rwanda, i tell myself it's not a big deal. it always is. i start out feeling awkward, and then it turns into extreme guilt. like i'm assaulting the country with something they've never seen before. like forcing a 7-year-old to watch the texas chain-saw massacre. a sweaty american girl, running from god-knows-what, i-pod (the value of their house) in hand, and long white legs, blindingly white legs...

inevitably, everyone on the street will stop whatever they're doing (digging, laughing, riding their bikes) and stare, open mouthed and wide eyed (quite literally) until the white legs have vanished from sight.

::yay for cultural exchanges!::

as promised, i am proud to say i just received my first ever business cards. made by "magic graphics" in down-town kigali. It only took 6 hours of waiting and 1 hour of leaning awkwardly over the desk, telling the guy where exactly to put the "f" in friends of rwanda, and promising an hour of piano lessons in return for his service. because of these 2x3 cards, i am officially purposeful in Rwanda. praise the Lord.

the other day, thomas and i got to ride with the Archbishop into Ruhengeri, where thomas has been left to work at Sonrise school. we were under strict instructions to meet the AB at his compound at 9am. now, given thomas' litany of instruments and the taxis that never come, we were running a bit behind. i called the Archbishop around 9:07 to let him know we were almost there.

ring ring

"Hello, Archbishop? This is Maggie"
"Oooohh! Maahggie! How is it with you!"
"Great. I was just calling..." to get straight to it
"How was your sleep?"
"Fine, Archbiship, how was yours?"
"Good. good."
"Good. We're coming..." I said.
"And your breakfast?"
"My breakfast?" I was disarmed again.
"Yes, what did you eat?"
"Um... I had some pineapple"
"And bananas?"
"Uh, no. No bananas."
"And PASSION FRUIT!?" He seemed particularly excited about the passion fruit.
"No, no. Just pineapple... Archbishop," I finally interjected "I just wanted to let you know that we're running a little bit late."
"Ok." There was a slight pause... "Sooooo, you will come around 11 or 12?" It was 9:12am.
"No, Archbishop, I will be there in 2 minutes"


It was another hour before we left the compound. We had to fetch Mrs. Kolini, who had to fetch us tea and show us all the pictures in the house and then fetch us to-go mugs for our tea so it could splash all over our knees on the windy road to Ruhengeri.

"Oh dear," Archbishop Kolini finally sighed as his wife retreated to the house for the fourth time.
"Bishop John is going to shoot at me."

hope this little installment finds you well and full of peace.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

clubbing in butare and business cards


It's been almost 2 weeks since i last wrote. I've sat down many times to write the next installment in my journey, but i always get a little overwhelmed. There are too many tastes, smells, moments where i've laughed out loud in the street when an unknowing rwandan makes my day and i think to myself "I need to tell this story to my friends at home." and then I think of my beautiful friends at home.... who have their own lives and continue to wake up and drink lattes, go to church and plan weddings, all thousands of miles away. what do i say to them? what part of this silly little experience matters enough to send it (albeit electronically) a thousand miles away?

it's intimidating, to say the least (david wright, i'm afraid, takes the proverbial "intimidation-cake" :) add that to to the fact that I just finished "The Kite Runner" and now my confidence as a writer is significantly diminished in comparison. beautiful book. read it, everyone.

But we all have a story to tell, don't we? Even if it doesn't exactly make sense? so, take a deep breath

:: aaaahhhhh::

...and move forward.

Hmmm. ok. bullet point version (always helpful in school):

Last week:

-Met Dustin and Vaughn, two young dreamers from california starting a bike company in Zambia (, here for the week to check out Project Rwanda (a similar bike project in Rwanda, started by Tom Ritchey: check out the video gallery!)

Highlight: the night we were having a fancy dinner on the hotel's patio complete with live entertainment. Dustin and Vaughn politely asked to borrow the mic (and the band) and sang a riveting rendition of Enrique's "I can be your hero, baby" at the top of their lungs while the crowd of upper-class rwandans cheered.

-Friday, we road-tripped down to Butare, a southern province of Rwanda, for the "Wooden Bike Classic"; a series of 3 races: an 80 mile road race, a coffee-bike race and a 10 mile mountain bike course. "Team Rwanda" cleaned up the medals. The afternoons were spent lounging like fat Americans on the patio of the only suitable restaurant in town. it was a motley crew, comprised of big-shots from NGOs, Olympics-gold-medalists and editors of big magazines (notice how i didn't mention any names. don't want to get into trouble) and those of us who were just there because our dads were. Good people, bad beer, lots in common. What they say is true about doing what you love and meeting people you love because their doing the same thing...? you know, something fortune cookie-ish like that.

-Saturday night, there was a huge dinner held for all those involved in the races (i was invited by virtue of being my father's daughter), complete with rwandan music and dancing. all the muzungus (the local word for "rich" or "white" person) felt left out, so we decided to take matters into our own hands and find our own venue through which to express ourselves. a crummy, hole-in-the-wall called the "safari club" which turned out to be the only place open after 9pm, no competition. to accurately describe the wonders of the safari club would take several pages of writing. suffice to say, the only drinks at the bar were straight-whiskey, banana beer (locally smashed and fermented) and warm coke, and the whole place reeked of urine... as if people were literally wetting themselves while dancing. sorry for the detail. but, as always in these situations, there is strength in numbers. we banded together and had a great time dancing long into the night.

Highlight: glancing over my shoulder to find my little brother thomas in a circle (holding hands) with 5 rwandan men, dancing a sloppy form of what i now call the hokeypokey-caberet with lots of flailing arms. and yes, i regret to say, the rwandans were totally copying him. ever seen the 80's movie "can't buy me love"? it was sorta like that, the guy who has no idea what he's doing appears like he does because he's "popular" or, in thomas' case "white". I finally had to pull thomas away from a gentleman who was dancing a little too close (to put it mildly) for my comfort.

(To tommy's credit, he interacts with Rwandans like a dream. He has enduring patience for the language barrier, doesn't mind the the cultural standards physical contact (male hand holding, etc.) and has only showered twice since we've been here. I think he'll do just fine. Tomorrow (sniff) he leaves for the Orphanage. He, in spite of his relentless clueless questioning, will be sorely missed.)

-the weekend's festivities culminated with a wooden bike race, which (here comes a passive-aggressive side-note) i regret to report i missed on account of justin being grumpy and old-manish. he made us leave early and i was so annoyed that, like a 12-year-old, i didn't speak a word the whole 2-hours' drive home (real mature, maggie).

ok, so those weren't really bullet points as much as huge paragraphs. sorry about that. and i didn't even get to the business cards... but don't anyone freak out. i promise to address the business cards in my next blog.

I still don't have anything close to confidence concerning my presence in Rwanda, but i'm beginning to be more comfortable with that posture as time goes on and i am being met by God in simple and beautiful ways. for instance, i am typing from the couch of my new "home". I've been granted asylum with a lovely couple from the states, Otto and Virginia Helweg. Otto won the equivalent of a Nobel prize for water. He's in Rwanda drilling wells. Virginia, when she's not bird-watching or cooking me food, spends her days teaching art classes and writing a book on the Song of Solomon. I'm so thankful to be here. we have have a beautiful view of the city from our balcony. Free room, board, broad-band, and all the mini-bananas i can eat; What more could you ask for? I'm not exactly roughing it... as they say.

but who cares what "they" say?

goodnight, dear friends.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

awake at 4:30am

So, i guess i'm not jet-lag-invincible.

After playing "Brick-Breaker" for the past hour on my phone, I figure it's time to do something productive with my awake hours.

In our hotel room. Tommy's trying to sleep (at about 5am, i caught him online looking at finger charts for a concertina, an obscure, accordion-like instrument, which he has yet to get his hands on). I'm trying not to type too loudly.

It's funny, at home, I don't have time to write, pray, think, blog... but in Rwanda, everything changes. The important things you couldn't fit in become priorities and everything else sort of fades away.

As long as I am in this Hotel, I won't feel like I'm in Rwanda. We're getting the red carpet treatment for the week because I'm here with a bunch of potential investors. The Rwanda they see (driving around in SUVs, eating at the best Indian restaurants, helicopter rides, gorillas...) is almost comical. It's great, but not the Rwanda I know and love. This afternoon I head back to the village where I lived and worked 4 years ago, which has since then changed it's name. It will always be Ruhengeri to me. I've been told it has changed significantly. Go figure. That stupid line "the only thing constant in this world is change" is haunting me. Sure, relationships are still there, the sun still rises and it still rains 20 minutes a day, but I am older, we are older. I don't have the same wide-eyed youth I came with last time. I am thinking about my life in a different way now, and that changes everything. I wonder why I am here this time. Who sent me? Or do I just think I was sent? Who's running this show anyways?

Not to get all existential on you... :)

Yesterday, for the day's activity, I set out to find my old friend, Justin. Justin is from Little Rock and was here the last time I was in Rwanda. We were each other's company for those few months at Sonrise. Suffice to say he is a dear friend. I knew he was back in Rwanda, but since I didn't want him to know I was coming, I tried to stealthily find out his coordinates over facebook messages. No luck. All I had was a phone number (which I couldn't call, because I love surprises) and a rough area of town. So, optimistic Maggie jumped in a taxi with a piece of paper with a few scribbled words on it, and 5000 francs (equivalent of about $10). I thought we could just, you know, drive over to that area of town and keep our eyes out for Living Water International (the org. that justin is working with). No such luck. About a half an hour later, after driving up and down all the main roads in Kigali, I finally asked the taxi driver to call Justin on my phone and ask where he was. The taxi driver agreed. But when the call went through, he simply said "he" and thrust the phone into my hands. Unwilling, at this point, to give up the game, I hung up. I asked if there was any type of operator or 411 number to call. He just looked confused. Stupid question, Maggie. They don't even have phonebooks. I saw a sign for a guest house "near-by" so I said "let's try going there and see if someone can help us". The guest house turned out to be 2 miles away on a treacherously bumpy road. Like, 2 foot ravines running through the dirt. We finally arrived and I went in. There was a sweet man behind the desk who agreed to call Justin. I found out later that he made up some story in Kinerwandan about wanting to come for a meeting about water. Very clever, very kind. We were back on the road with the name of the building. After another 10 minutes of driving, we came to the "Ministry of Infrastructure". This must be it. I ran up the steps only to find a totally deserted first floor. "Does anyone know where Living Water International is?" No, they didn't. The security guard didn't, the 7 people milling around by the side door didn't, and all the doors were locked. Great. But then came a woman in high heels carrying a brief case... she looked promising. Sure enough, she knew how to get up to the second floor. I went up to the second floor. Again, does anyone know where LWI is. Nope. I asked a woman behind a desk for someone who spoke better english. "Yes" she said, but didn't move. "Can you go get her?" I asked. "Yes" she said "Wait". 5 Minutes later, a woman comes out. I ask again. Sure enough, she knows that there is a white man called Justin who works one floor up. Stupid me, this whole time I was asking for Living Water International when I could have just been looking for Justin. So, I go up the stairs and, sure enough, there's Justin, talking on his cell-phone with his endearing southern drawl. If only I could have bottled his face. Suffice to say, he was surprised. It was well worth the pains.

Woah, sorry, that took a little longer than most stories, but, hopefully, it will give you an idea of how things work around here. That episode is an everyday occurrence here. So, when the questions arise about what exactly I'm doing here, I will smile, say something about the Archbishop and, in my mind, refer to this anecdote. Who am I kidding to make plans? As westerners like to say "TIA" (This is Africa). "Plans", in the western sense, don't really fly here.

I could say something now about our meetings with Bishop John and the Archbishop and where I plan to live and work etc., but I don't know much at this point and I'm afraid I've written too much already. If I keep up this pace, you'll all lose interest. Suffice to say, I am embarking on an adventure which (quite literally) only God knows about. It's a wonderful and terrifying place to be. Before leaving, I was prayed over by two trusted friends who both said they had a strong sense I would benefit greatly from God's word during this time and that this would be new season of experiencing God in a way I never have before. Please pray for me, if you want. There is much to be revealed...

and more writing to come...

Peace, all,

ps. Thomas is now playing his banjo in the corner chair. i hope the room next to us can't hear.

if there's one thing certain about this year, it's Thomas' music :)

Sunday, September 2, 2007

the time has come my little friends

hello, world.

Whelp, here it is... my first ever blog. HA! watch me do that thing that only "those people" do.


because the internet connection in Rwanda is much to volatile to trust the group email system. This way, when the electricity goes out because someone in the village used a hair-dryer, the eloquence is safe in the arms of google.

what a relief.

I don't have much to say because I'm currently at Frost Lake Day... enjoying the last few moments of family togetherness, but tomorrow I depart, and I can guarantee a few traveling goodies by next week.

So, now we are established. Blog, nice to make your acquaintance.