Monday, August 29

Itafari blog update

please check out our blog on the Itafari website,

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Photos from August 29th

 my friend Arthur's house, should be finished by November - sooo beautiful!
this is what I look like after a 10 minute walk home in the rain from the city centre to home

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Sunday, August 28

Sunday August 28th Photos

 Boys Choir from the Congo singing at church this morning
 My niece Tracy with her Grandma Vitsy and her new teddy bear
 My beautiful Rwandan niece Tracy with her new dress
 G'ma Vitsey showing Tracy how to use the flip video
 Self portrait with Susan in the background
 Tracy loving the video feature with Vitsy

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Saturday, August 27

Presidential Suite

 Living room (note the Summit Base water bottle & chocolate covered pretzels)
 dining room
 stairs to 2nd floor
 view from our balcony
bedroom #1 (note the Norwich University flag)

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Second Day in Rwanda – Aug 27th

Second Day in Rwanda – Aug 27th

Last night we had a fabulous dinner with our dear friend Arthur.  He became Vicky’s son 6 years ago when they met and so it only made sense that he became my big brother, since he is 9 months older than me J  Arthur and Vicky met 6 years ago when he was translating for her on her first trip to Rwanda.  I met Arthur 3 years ago this October on my first trip to Rwanda.  Arthur is a real go getter; he went to Belgium to get his masters in International and Development Economics a few years ago and now works back here in Kigali.  We had a great catch up with him and look forward to seeing him again on Sunday afternoon.  Samputu never arrived so at 10:30pm, we politely told Arthur we had to go to bed as we had to be up for a 7am start!

At 7am Vic and I met in the restaurant for a quick breakfast because at 7:30am we had to leave to go to a meeting about our Child Sponsorship program.  This normally would not be such a rush, but today is umuganda (In Rwanda, there is a mandatory community service day from 8:00am to 11:00am, on the last Saturday of each month called Umuganda meaning community service.  The day is called umunsi w’umuganda, meaning “contribution made by the community” which is designed to be a day of contribution and building the country by citizens themselves. By law all able bodied persons above the age of 18 and below 65 are expected to participate in volunteer community work. The start of this practice goes back to colonial times and is still practiced today. Participation in Umuganda is usually supervised by a manager, or Umudugudu chairperson who oversees the effectiveness and efficiency of community participation. On this day, business activity halts, public transportation is limited, and people are seen everywhere working. People participate in cleaning streets, cutting grass and trimming bushes along roads, or repairing public facilities or building houses for vulnerable persons. People with particular skills offer their services for free on this day.  For example, doctors may offer free medical examination.  The benefits of Umuganda are not merely economic.  The day is intended to build community involvement and strengthen cohesion between persons of different background and levels.   One such a benefit is that people can access authorities to articulate their needs and voice opinions on various issues.  The labour cost from Umuganda contributes to national development programs.  By reaping the rewards of the volunteer labor and by having more capital to invest in the country, Umuganda has contributed to the growth and development of the Rwanda.) So as you can see from that definition, we had to be OFF the roads by 8am!!  Along the way we were stopped twice by police who wanted to check our IDs and know why we were on the road.  Through Christophe, our Country Director, we were able to explain we were on our way to a meeting.  Both officers were very understanding and let us go.  (side note: last year when I was here I had booked a flight for the last Saturday of the month and learned how hard it is to get to the airport, we went through 7 check points, each time all the muzungus (white people) showing their passport and plane tickets in order to be allowed to pass)

We made it to the meeting on time and I handed over the M&Ms to Pastor Francis & his wife Dorothy to give to his four children.  They love M&Ms so I brought a large bag over for them to share.  Our meeting went for four and a half hours.  At which time Vicky, Christophe and I left to go to the MTN Centre to get some much needed lunch.  We enjoyed traditional African food, beef, plantains, rice, sweet potato, beans, carrots & green beans.

After lunch, we drove back home to the Iris, where Vicky & I rested for a bit waiting for another meeting which then got cancelled . . . neither of us wanted to admit it but we were sort of relieved, we needed an calm afternoon – Vicky took a nap and here I am writing blog post and skyping with Caylin and looking at Mies photos of her Spartan Race.  Gosh I love the internet and technology; I can still follow what’s going on in the USA even though I’m thousands of miles away!

Okay I’m off to take a few photos of our apartment which hopefully I will be able to upload later tonight so you can see how sweet our “presidential suite” is!!

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So I have to be honest, we've been in so many meetings and catch ups with friends I haven't been taking that many photos, but here are 3 taken over the past few days which I hope you'll enjoy....

Here is a view of the tv screen in the Brussels airport woman's bathroom . . . interesting place for a telly if you ask me

This photo's really just for Vicky, she loves apple juice when flying with me, but this time she was sleeping, so I got one in her honour & decided to document it . . . 

Lovely lunch today at the MTN Centre after a 4 hour meeting about our Sponsored Children's program.  clockwise we have green beans and carrots, beans, beef, rice, pomme frites, sweet potato, and plantain.

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Our First Day in Rwanda

When I was little I always dreamed of having a “princess bed” which in my mind would be a canopy bed with flowing curtains on all sides.  In case you’re wondering it never happened.  But on my first night here in Kigali, I was able to climb under my mosquito net and pretend I was in a “princess bed”.  Funny how a net which could save me from malaria can in my head turn into something royal, lol.

Vic & I woke up around 8am this morning, after falling asleep to the loveliest noises of rain on the roof last night!  We had breakfast here at the hotel followed by organizing the lap top for Christophe and making a few phone calls to set up appointments for this weekend, before our travellers arrive on Tuesday night.

In making phone calls we discovered that Vicky's dear friend, Charlotte's daughter, Charlene, is in the hospital.  So we immediately make plans to go to King Faisel Hospital.  Her daughter is 1.5 years and has been throwing up & had diarrhea since Tuesday, but the doctor doesn't seem to know what is going on - they suspect something viral.  It was very sad to see her looking so under the weather.  While we were there her son, Chelle (4yo) started to throw up as well, so I have to hope & pray that they both get better soon!  If they are still ill on Sunday we will go back and visit.

In the afternoon we went to visit with our good friend Rita who is the Executive Secretary of the Association of Micro Finance Institutions in Rwanda - very lovely woman and we planned to see her on Wednesday again.

Tonight we will see my friend Arthur for dinner, hopefully at Indian Kazan - I know it's not very Rwandan, but I LOVE this place & it's walking distance from our hotel, not that matters since he has a car, but still, Vic and I really love it there!

Then after that apparently Vicky's friend Jean-Paul Samputu (musician) is going to stop by for a visit. I've never met him but I'm excited to meet him.

I took a video of the guest house and our apt this morning and then when I went to upload it I learned that it was going to take 700 minutes, so I'm giving up on that and hoping that a few photos will suffice.  Of course I did not taken any of our lovely accommodations when it was sunny out, so you'll have to wait.

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Thursday, August 25

arrival into Kigali, Rwanda

Once again excited to report that Vicky and I are safely "home".  We were greeted at the airport by Christophe & Pastor Francis - how lovely it is to be welcomed back by familiar smiling faces & big hugs!

It is amazing that after 16 hours of flying on 3 different planes over 3 different continents and every single plane was on time and my luggage arrived safely as well - Gosh I <3 American Airlines and Brussels Airlines!!  Another great part about the past day of travel has been that since you all know how much I "love" flying with turbulence, is that every flight was super super smooth as well.  And super big bonus was the fact that the last flight from Brussels to Kigali, there were many free seats so Vicky got 4 seats and I got 2 seats (cause I had to have a window seat) and we were able to spread out and relax, even though Brussels Airline doesn't have individual tv screens!

We called John to announce our safe arrival then drove "home" to the Iris Guest House.  Where we learned we'd be staying in the presidential suite and that it is!  When you walk in, you enter our living room behind it is the kitchen, off to one side is the dining room and half bath.  Upstairs there are 2 bedrooms each with their own full bathrooms and a balcony.

We've been here for 4.5 hours, have unpacked, drank a Fanta L'orange, eaten some pomme frites,added minutes to our Rwandan SIM card, connected ourselves to the internet, and next step will be getting a good nights sleep.

Sara signing off from Kigali . . .

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Brussels, Belgium

I am happy to report that Vicky & I are safely in Brussels, awaiting our final plane journey to Kigali which should be leaving in about 1.5 hours. Vicky found me on the bus which was transporting us between terminals - timing is everything they always say :)

We've had a great time catching up & are anxious to get this last leg of the trip over and done with.  Though I cannot complain as many of you know how I dislike flying, okay it's not the flying I dislike so much as the turbulence, but I am happy to report first two flights were relatively bump free, making me a happy camper thus far.

I look forward to sending you an update later tonight from Kigali . . . that is if I can stay awake that long!  It's nearly 10am Brussels time which means on the east coast of the USA it's nearly 4am.  Thank goodness I got 4 hours sleep on that last flight or I might not be so chipper right now!

I will sign off now, feel free to leave comments - I love seeing who's following my blog :)  Oh and don't worry I've got my card reader so I'm looking forward to blogging with photos!!!

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Wednesday, August 24

Rwanda Revisited for Third Time

So tomorrow I leave for my third trip to Rwanda . . . I went first back in October of '08, then again in January of '10 and now in August/September of '11.

I will try to update daily with what we're doing, assuming that I have time and a strong internet connection :)

If you'd like to know more about the foundation for which I work for check out the Itafari Foundation

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