Saturday, January 12, 2013

the calm before the storm

We’ve had a whirlwind past few days and sincerely apologize for not posting sooner. 

I keep coming back to the theme of happiness, which is seen with a few examples:
Aimée, who is helping us with the conference, has overcome her own suffering to form a group that supports mental health and happiness.  She shared her insights on what makes people truly happy – family, friends, community, and respect.

The children at the orphanage where Alex has been volunteering live with very little but Alex says they are the happiest children he’s seen.

There were more moments of shared happiness at Khana Khazana for dinner on Wednesday.  Our group was Alex, Faye, Emmy, Steven, Paulin, Bona, Adeline, Sophie, Christian and I.  Steven, who five years ago was sweeping the streets of Kigali, is currently clerking in a law firm and attending law school.  He proudly told me that instead of jeans he now wears nice pants, shirt and tie.  The most striking change is his affect; instead of feeling hopeless and dwelling on his tragic experiences during the genocide, he is moving forward with great determination.  He calls me Mum, so it was a great pleasure to introduce him to my son, Alex.

Bona and Paulin were reminiscing about the six months they spent with us in Halifax.  Once they put the wrong kind of soap in the dishwasher and created a lake in the kitchen.  Paulin, brought a large supply of corn into Canada (clearly he got it past customs?) because he didn’t think he’d be able to find corn in Canada.  They were laughing about their first day in Canada when we were walking to the hospital after a large snowstorm.  Bona let me go first and was very careful to place his feet only in my footprints to avoid falling into what he assumed were inevitable holes in the sidewalk.  I guess he was willing to let me take one for the team.  

The evening at Khana Khazana was warm, touching, funny, poignant and magical.  We all stood out in the parking lot late into the evening, not really wanting to say goodnight.  There was laughter and many hugs.

Since then, I’ve visited the Gisimba orphanage where Alex is volunteering.  In the mornings he is teaching at a kindergarten next door to the orphanage.  My work is easy in comparison.  He has a room of 45 lively four to five year olds who speak little English.  It was great watching him teach the kids numbers and all of them singing, “if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”.

Yesterday we travelled to Butare to meet Drs. Jeanne, Theo and Gaston for faculty orientation for the SAFE Course.  We look forward to having more time with them soon.

We continued on to Nyungwe Forest in southwest Rwanda.  It is a beautiful rainforest that is over 1,000 km2 and full of a rich array of flora and fauna.  There are many hiking trails, including one that leads to a steel canopy above the treetops.  It is 200 meters above the ground at the highest point.  It is a most marvelous feeling to be in mid air looking out over the rainforest and mountains with the only sound being calls of birds or monkeys.  

We slept at a lodge near the tea plantation and hiked to the waterfall this morning.

Our time in Nyungwe was a badly needed break and chance for us to rest before we head to the Dereva Hotel on Monday to set up for the SAFE Course.

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