Sunday, January 30, 2011
First let me show you some pictures of the Gisenyi Friends Church that my friend Francis took during this morning's service :
There are about 30 families in the church, and many of them have young kids. There is lots of singing and dancing by almost everyone throughout much of the service, with about of a third of the church participating in one of the two choir sections.
I'm looking forward to our skype fellowship videoconference. Five kids from Gisenyi meeting will participate, and Etienne (the paster shown here) will translate.
I think for the structure of this first meeting, we can have each child give a brief (prepared) two-sentence introduction, which Etienne will translate. After introductions, we will have a child from one country ask a (prepared) question of the children from the other country, and we can have some answers. Then a question will come the other direction. If we have time, we can do two questions each direction, and then we can finish how feels appropriate.
Here is a youtube video showing how the conference will look if we record it right.
We're all very excited, and looking forward to seeing you!
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Thanks for your interest and support of my work in Rwanda and (hopefully) the Congo. I have been remiss for some weeks on blog updates because of internet and virus problems. So this will be a long entry - with a table of contents.
1. Discussions with Aimé, from a Congolese Quaker youth group
2. Plans for video conferences with children from Gisenyi Friends Church
3. My work with Gisenyi Peace Center
4. Gory details of my internet and virus travails
1. I have been talking with Aimé MUDATEBA KAMANZI, a law student in his final year at the Université Libre des Pays des Grand Lacs à Goma, DRC. Aimé has been an AVP facilitator twice, at a 3-day workshop in Kanyabayonga and in IDP Camp Mugunga, both in 2008. He speaks perfect French, along with Kiswahili, Kinyarwanda, and English.
He has been a member of Quaker churches for fourteen years. He began with CEACO Katindo, the first Quaker Church in the DRC, in Goma, and has also lived in Burundi and Kigali. Pastor Etienne Nsanzimana, my host here in Gisenyi, knows Aimé well.
Aimé crosses the border every week or so for various errands, and has been meeting with me. He is part of an energetic group of about ten young Congolese Quakers, who are interested in connecting to the larger international body of Quakers, and to other international and humanitarian groups as well. Aimé and his friends have some relevant and timely ideas on current peace-related initatives in the DRC and North Kivu. I will follow up on these extensive thoughts in my next post.
2. The 15th St. Meeting / Gisenyi Friends Church videoconferences
Thanks to the consistent and enthusiastic interest of many members of the 15th Street Meeting and Gisenyi Friends Church, it looks like this idea will finally come to fruition. On Sunday Jan 23 at 11:15am EST and 6:15pm Gisenyi (tomorrow), we will do a dry run. Then, the next week Jan 30 at the same time, we will run the our first call. Leading up to it, I will distribute the greeting cards from 15th St Meeting to Gisenyi Friends Church tomorrow. This will be exciting.
3. The Gisenyi Peace Center will be a one-story building with one large hall and a few small side rooms - about 12m x 28m overall. The foundation is complete and the brick walls and concrete support columns are about 70% done. The walls and columns, roof, and finishes are remaining. I will be working with Francis and Jean-Baptiste from the church to update the existing design, and plan the remaining work. This will include completing updated plan drawings, determining remaining quantities, finding updated prices, and planning a schedule for the remaining work. The drawings are currently in Kigali to be scanned.
There will be a 2-week AVP conference with representatives from Burundi, DRC Congo, and Rwanda, from Febuary 28 to March 12. We will be upgrading some of the current (makeshift) finishes of the Gisenyi Peace Center to support this conference. I have been working with Francis to review the existing items and determine what remains to be purchased.
4. I have soon to emerge from a frustrating bout with virus and internet problems. After using a flash drive on Friday Jan 15, my computer was suddenly slammed with nasty viruses. After three restarts and 15 minutes, every time I opened Windows it would abruptly shut down. Last week I took the computer around town and found Imam, an experienced computer and cellphone repairman extraordinare known throughout town. He fixed my computer and I bought Kaspersky Antivirus from him. One week later, my communications are finally functional again.
However, internet is a different story. I started my visit off by buying a MTN modem, but service is far too slow and intermittent to support scheduled skype calls, and especially not video. Typical download rates are 1 or 2 kbps. This is fine for email with image-downloading disabled on the browser, but hardly for anything else. This last week I tried to switch to Rwandatel which will be faster, but Rwandatel is having problems right now and cannot register any new sim-cards for internet customers. So I plan to buy a webcam to do this trial run on Sunday at an internet cafe, or else try to plug my computer into an ethernet cable at the internet cafe that allows that.
Eventually, though, I think that will be the best solution for the inter-church conferences in the long term, expecting the church to keep a laptop bug-free and available is a tall order.
Friday, January 14, 2011
these items in more detail in later posts.
- English-language church service in the morning. Service was by
Pastor Matt from the 'States, from the Evangelical branch of the
Quakers. I also met the other seven Quaker westerners visiting in
Gisenyi. I got a brief tour of Gasharu, and then rode to Gisenyi with
Dave Bucura. We had a great chat about the history of churches here,
and about things in general. Etienne come in late after helping
organize a 1000+ person "Crusade" in partnership with a coalition of
other churches here in Gisenyi. The posters for this "Great Great
Gospel Festival" are still up all over town. Etienne's sons Josh and
Elijah are using the posters as book covers for their notebooks.
- I visited the Gisenyi Peace center for the first time, and met with
Etienne and Dave Bucura at the Friends Peace Center in Gisenyi. They
had laid the foundations and partially built some walls, to satisy the
Rwandan government's requirement that property be used or built upon,
or someone that will use it will get it. Etienne showed me the limits
of the property and we discussed potential locations for buildings for
the finished state. I think it's probably okay at this point that
much discussion is in Kinyarwanda, as I don't want to be too active in
the planning yet as I haven't met much of the community. I also met
Etienne's wife Nyiransabuwite (spelling by Etienne's son Joshua.) I
have been calling her "Mama Timo". Mama Timo is wonderful, and speaks
primarily Kinyarwanda, so this is another big incetive to learn
Kinyarwanda. I will be quite limited in the scope of people I can
talk to as long as I am limited to French and English here.
- Met Zawadi Nikuze with Etienne and Dave Bucura at the FPC. Zawadi
runs a small local NGO which has five or six projects around the
region with various donors, many of them Quaker. The primary one in
Goma is the work with rape survivors, and the women's shelter
there. We will be working hard on figuring out how to get my visa so
I can get over there. Hopefully it will go through easily.
- I busted through four Kinyarwanda lessons today. The lessons take
me about 2 hours apiece, and there are 130 of them in the book. So I
can be mostly done with the book if I can do four a day. After
studying in the morning, Etienne had invited one of his in-laws, a
young man named Harora, to take me to see a football game. It was a
small 4-team tournament in the Coupe d'Afrique U17 league, including
teams from Mali, Cote d'Ivoire, Congo-Brazzaville, and one other team.
We watched the second match, between Cote d'Ivoire and
Congo-Brazzaville - it was an exciting game, with Cote d'Ivoire
scoring the tying goal in the last 5 minutes.
Inspired by the soccer game, I went for a 20min jog to the church and
back on Thurs morning, and then finished out some emails discussing
funding transfers with AGLI staff. I was lucky to visit with a
Congolese law student named Aime, who I will write more about later. I
sent an email to introduce him to Camilla Campisi at QUNO.
During this time, my laptop was also completely trashed yesterday by
an incredibly terrible virus. Half an hour and three restarts after
plugging in the guilty flash-drive, my computer shuts down abruptly a
few seconds after I login. This is re-inspiring me to be more careful
around other kinds of endemic problems - whether medical or in terms of crime.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
Friday evening after returning to the house, was the Christmas holidays family reunion for Rachel's side of the family. About four couples showed up in two cars, with a few teenagers and kids. Rachel, her daughters, and her domestic employee had cooked up a feast including ugali, a corn dish that is halfway between cream-of-wheat and Lao sticky rice.
Sitting in a ring of sofas and chairs, there was extensive discussion about culture, economics, and everything else. Just like with my uncles and aunts in the States... except 100% in Kinyarwanda. This is really motivating me to hit the books. Everyone spoke English or French, though, so sometimes when they told a particularly funny joke, it would get translated. Rachel's brother Fidéle talked about how fresh and tasty the food is in Africa - and why I should really stay here. Fresh avocados, mangoes, berries - you can just pick
the corn right off the plant. He is true. (A lot of people say "you are true" instead of "that's right.")
Much of this family is in the NGO-related fields. Habat is in college studying "development studies" and he talked with me for quite a while, with perfect French and very good English. His language story is amazing although relatively typical: he started college in Uganda without speaking a word of English. Many classmates complained that he was faking it and actually spoke English. However, he straightforwardly told them that he was really struggling and asked them to only speak English to him, even if he couldn't understand anything. And he clearly eventually succeeded.
Habat also did an internship with AGLI mentoring and helping about 20 young at-risk elementary and middle-school boys stay in school. Although some of them showed significant improvement over the three months, others were harder to reach. Habat was incredibly open with me, telling stories about tracking down the students defiantly playing hooky and worse. Despite its emotional difficulty at times, Habat loves this kind of work because he loves to get out of the office and work with people.
Saturday, Jan 8. Yves and I went back to the city center. I purchased a cellular modem for $37, and a power cable for the computer. I also made large-size map prints of the Kigali city. (1994-vintage declassified "For Military and Humanitarian Use only") Even with the map, it will be impossible to navigate the buses around Kigali without speaking Kinyarwanda. Yves estimated cab trips at US $9 for a 20min trip. I haven't tried that yet.
Returing to the house, I got to participate in a fellowship celebration with the elders of Dave Bucura's Gasharu Church. They are a young congregation, mostly couples in their 20s and 30s. As Dave was the first headmaster of a Friends' primary school in Kigali, many of this congregation remember him from when they were students during that time. In-between, Dave has worked for AGLI doing AVP and HROC, and received a Masters in Theology and Management at Nairobi International School of Theology. He has also spent much time at many meetings in the USA. (Look out for my next post on Dave's memories of a conference in Hawaii!)
One of the church song leaders named Baptiste translated me through the five-hour afternoon. This proved to be key, as Rachel had organized various pick-a-paper-out-of-the-hat icebreaker games, with about 3o people present.
When my turn came to pick a slip of paper out of a hat, I picked the most-feared question of all: to dance. Actually this wasn't half as difficult as some of the other questions like, "tell us your personal testimony in 5 min," which a young woman had done very gracefully. Instead of dancing, I sang a song I had learned during the plane flight. It is part of the audio lessons on SpeakRwanda.com. Here are the
Njye nzahora mpimbaza uwiteka / Umwami wange, Imana yange
Njye nzahora mpimbaza uwiteka / Umwami wange, Imana yange
Mugitondo - wo! / Karecyane - wo! / Nzaririmba: hallelujah.
Ndimurugo - wo! / Cyangwa ndyamye - wo! / Nzaririmba: hallelujah.
I will always praise the Everlasting / My Lord, my God.
I will always praise the Everlasting / My Lord, my God.
In the morning - wo! / Very early - wo! / I will sing: hallelujah
At home - wo! / Even while sleeping - wo! / I will sing: hallelujah
So that went over quite well, as it turned out to be one of the congregation's frequent hymms.
Friday, January 7, 2011
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Monday, January 3, 2011
Kristof's blog also led me to many very engaging videos of women survivors in DRC - on the rebound!
Kristof mentions the Panzi Hospital of Bukavu (South Kivu, DRC) as one of his favorite smaller-time humanitarian efforts. Dr. Lee Ann De Reus, a social sciences professor at Penn State University, interviewed survivors at Panzi Hospital in 2009 - here is her brief talk on NPR.
Kristof also interviewed Lisa Shannon, who is dedicating her life in a more entrepreneurial style to advocating for survivors in the Congo. Incredibly, Lisa was originally inspired by hearing Oprah's and Lisa Ling's 2005 show on the Congo.
Eve Ensler's organization V-Day has also been doing some impressive work. Here is a video of women building the "City of Joy," and an inspiring video of V-Day workshops.