Guest Post

While Tahlia was here, I asked her to write a post about whatever aspect of her time here that she would like.  Here it is, in her own words.

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I came to Rwanda to quench my desire to travel and also with the hope of discovering a little more about what I want to do in the future. I’m very interested in third world mission work so I came to see what life is like for a missionary. I appreciated having Mike and Amanda show me around and inviting me into their life. It was really encouraging to have Amanda around while attempting to vaguely plan my life. From experiencing “African time” to living 2 weeks without running water to doing a little preaching, I’d say I got a good taste of being a missionary.

I had many opportunities to hang out and play with the beautiful children of Rwanda. I spent a few days in Kigali with Mike and Tova helping with a kids program during the Genocide Memorial week. Photo 1
I also got to join Amiss in running a kids program one Saturday morning. Plus it was not uncommon to gather a parade of children when walking down the road. I have a heart for children so I am very grateful for any opportunity to put a big smile on a little face.

It was always fun to hop on the back of a well-used motorbike wearing a “one-size-fits-all” helmet.Photo 2 It’s the perfect time to enjoy the scenery, take in the sights and smells, like the green hills and red dirt, fresh air, boys on bikes with yellow jerry cans, babies bundled on backs. There are many amazing and unique things about Rwanda and any day I got to go out was a good day. I came to the heart of Africa hoping to get a heart for Africa. Photo 3It’s easy to love the Rwandese people and culture, but I really discovered a love for the team of people working here. It warmed my heart to see their hearts for the Rwandese. The friendships that have been the created, the connections made, the compassion shown.  Africa may or may not be where I end up, but the people here are meant to be. And it doesn’t take a miraculous sign to know that God is moving here.

Along with some gardening with Mike, I also got to join Amiss in going to support group and helping out with soccer. There were a few things I missed out on due to changes in plans and everyone here running on “African time.” But you just learn to say “ntakibazo” (no problem) like everyone does. Of course there are ups and downs to every trip, but there was running water and electricity majority of the time, great food, and even better company. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Of course I did do some touristy things. Our drive through Akegera National Park was successful. We had many wonderful animal sightings. In this particular photo I happen to be posing with the playful hippos.

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Baby’s first… parasite!?

It started with a bunch of red dots on Beatrix’s back.  No big deal.  After a couple days I started looking up measles, chicken pox, etc, to try to see if I might need to do something.  However, the spots didn’t match any of the descriptions, and she didn’t have any other symptoms except a sudden, really nasty diaper rash, so I thought I would wait and watch.

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one of the spots on her arm, pre-treatment

They turned into boils.  Yuck.  Well, one thing we know, is boils.  I was a little baffled at why she would have so many (around 20) all at once.  So I test-treated one with some onion overnight (we found it works well to help the boil as well as relieve pain).  The next morning, the good news was that after removing the onion, all the pus came right out.  The bad news was, Beatrix had a fever.  (This is one of the signs with boils that the infection has gotten beyond home treatment.)   We consulted with one of our colleagues who is a nurse, and decided to wait a little and try to treat the rest with onions, and see if that would make it better.  It is 3 hours 1-way on a “bus” (big, hot, uncomfortable van) to Kigali to see a doctor, and we were pretty sure that she would just be prescribed antibiotics.  (Which would be great if the infection is out-of-control, but unnecessary if we could help her fight the infection.)  So we applied onions and band-aids to most of the rest of the boils, and waited a few hours.  Again, the pus came right out!  Easy.  But on the second one I realized, it wasn’t pus coming out, it was WORMS!

I panicked.

You might be thinking something along the lines of, “Well, you are in Africa, these things are to be expected,” but Rwanda is fairly mild as far as scary parasites/sicknesses/bugs/etc go.  In over 3 years, I’ve never seen anything like this.

After a couple minutes, I got over my panic, and we realized it was too late to get to Kigali in time to see the doctor that day anyway.  So I consulted my best source of information on everything: Google.  I also updated the email we had sent to a doctor friend in Canada to ask for advice.  I was a little lost at where to start.  I was mostly afraid that it was something in her bloodstream, and that this was just a symptom of worms eating her brain, or something like that.  But after a bit I found something that looked promising (mango worms), and happened upon this blog post.
The description sounded familiar, and the treatment is to put petroleum jelly on, wait half an hour, and the worm will start to wiggle out: then you finish taking it out.  It sounded simple enough, and at the very least we figured it wouldn’t hurt.  And I had some petroleum jelly that a friend had given me to use

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The band-aids with the dots, had the worms removed and were covered with antibiotic ointment.  No dot= covered with petroleum jelly, waiting to remove the worms.

for Bea’s newborn bum (thanks again, Danielle).  Sure enough, it worked well, so I went ahead with my diagnosis.  We treated all the spots we could find, except one we left to show the doctor.  We felt terrible, squeezing the worms out of each spot – she protested a lot, and the info we read said it was quite painful.  (And remember she had a low fever all day long.)

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two worms on a bandage: the whole bandage is about an inch by an inch

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baby’s first haircut

I had to hack at her hair to get the ones on the back of her head (one snip at a time while she crawled around – she never sits still).  I was afraid she would be angry at us or frustrated after, but instead, when we were done, she was nearly the happiest I’ve ever seen her: she was all smiles and just crawled back and forth, back and forth, back and forth… over and over.  It was like she was suddenly feeling so good, and that was how she knew to celebrate.

We went to bed.  The next morning, the fever was gone, and we had gotten some advice from our doctor friend in Canada.  Beatrix and I hopped on the “bus” to Kigali anyway.  Although I thought I knew what it was and we were treating it, I’ve still never seen anything like it, and I was totally at a loss as to how she had gotten this, mainly on her upper back, neck, and the back of her head.  They mainly come from the soil (but she has almost never crawled around on the dirt) or when your clothes aren’t dried properly/fast enough.  It IS the rainy season, but mostly she wears clothes that don’t cover that area.  I was hoping he would look at it and say, “Oh, I know what that is, this is what you need to do.”

I was disappointed.

He didn’t seem to have much idea what it was, or what we should do.  He wanted to give antibiotics in case of infections, with all the openings (but it turns out that these parasites “keep a clean house,” so infection is unlikely).  And he was concerned about scarring.  I had to fight to keep my cool as I tried to convince him that the real problem was the WORMS IN HER SKIN, and I was hoping to treat that.  I was also thankful we had heard from our friend, so I had a little more confidence to make my case.  To his credit, he listened to my concerns, and gave me an ointment used for acne and skin parasites, as well as medication for internal worms, and antibiotics, just in case.

So, we put sulphur ointment on all red spots, several times a day, for several days after.  She sprouted 2 more spots with worms, which we dealt with easily.  She seemed to recover quite quickly.  I, on the other hand, took a little longer.  As thankful as I am for the internet, I was a little distressed that some of my best medical advice came from a blog.  I also started to become hypervigilant, since I had no idea where this had come from.

I had started to suspect the cloth carriers we use, since she spends a lot of time in them, and that is the right area, when a friend said the same thing.  When she said maybe it was time to wash them, I was so discouraged – we have been washing them regularly, and had recently washed one…  And then the light went on.  We had recently washed one, and I remembered putting her in it, thinking, “its dry enough.”

Apparently it wasn’t.

I felt terrible, but I’m sure it won’t be the last time my mistakes cause her difficulty.  I also felt so much better, because now I have some idea of the cause, and something I can do to prevent this from happening again.  (We bought an iron, and I’ll be ironing all her stuff during the rainy season to kill anything that may have made its home there.  Having an iron makes me feel like a real adult.)

Several weeks later, the red spots are still fading, and I have hopes that there won’t be much for scars.  Her hair is growing, and I’m sure she’ll be just fine with no long-term consequences.  And her parents?  Well, we have a new, gross, missionary story to tell around campfires.

 

Visitors (Or, The People Who Have Saved my Sanity, part 1)

 

In addition to actually doing stuff here, Mike & I want to be to facilitate exposure to missions.  We like to have people come visit us!  After staffing Discipleship Training Schools, I have wanted to be able to spend more time one-on-one with people, having them experience missions with us: spending time in our home, doing what we do with us, and facilitating opportunities for them to do what they are passionate about in a foreign context.  I’ve had a few opportunities to do that over the years, but having our own house has made it possible in a whole new way.

We have at least one person staying in our house for all but a few weeks since the beginning of December.  So far, we’ve had a total of  6 people stay with us, with one more visitor expected before the month is out.  A couple have been friends (currently involved in long-term missions) coming to hang out and be spoiled for a couple days with running water and chocolate cake.  The other 4 have been people looking to see what we are doing and/or learn more about missions.

Our first guest arrived before our guest furniture was even ready – so she slept on the couch for most of the time, and then happily helped assemble the bed when it arrived. P1020537 (Well, she was happy about it, anyway.)  She is the sister of our sister-in-law.  :)  When we heard she was coming to a neighbouring country for the practical part of an agriculture course she was taking, we said, “Come visit, and see what Mike’s doing in the gardens.”  She actually did!  It was great to have her here! She helped Mike with a few things in the gardens, including pruning back a mango tree that is flourishing now.

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This isn’t IKEA furniture, people.  If I remember right, there was a fair amount of swearing as they attempted to assemble, quit, then re-attempted and quit again, several times before finally drilling new holes and pounding it together.

So far, we’ve had a total of  6 people stay with us, with one more visitor expected before the month is out.  A couple have been friends (currently involved in long-term missions in the region) coming to hang out and be spoiled for a couple days with running water and chocolate cake.  The other 4 have been people looking to see what we are doing and/or be involved in missions.

Last year, we had two young women express that they wanted to come and stay with us for around 2 months each.  Tahlia we have known since she was small, and she plans to spend her life involved in missions somehow.  For several years now, we have been telling her she should come and spend some time with us in Rwanda, and so we were very excited to finally be planning her visit.  The other young woman, Tova, is a second cousin of mine, but I don’t think I’ve ever met her.  We were a little hesitant to welcome someone totally unknown into our house for a couple months, despite our knowledge of her stellar genetic heritage.  Some people have a very difficult time in a foreign context, and therefore take a lot of energy to host.  With a new baby, I wasn’t sure it would be a good idea if she turned out to be that kind of person.  Her parents assured us, “she is great, you’ll love her.”  (But they are her parents, of course they think that.)

Its hard for me to express how wonderful it has been to have one or both of them here for the last three and a half months.  If you read this post, you know that its been a difficult time.  They both fit quite nicely into our little family.  They helped cook, do dishes, and were just another grown-up person that I could talk to about the mundane, day-to-day things.  They have helped so much with Beatrix.  Beatrix adores both of them.

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We’re calling those kisses

She would get so excited each morning when she heard movement from the guest room, and knew that her friend was coming.  Our good night ritual can’t be the same now (she looks around, and I am sure she is thinking, “where are my fans to wish me goodnight?”)

They  both came up with creative

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building towers for Beatrix to knock down.

games and activities to do with her particularly at a time when I have not been terribly creative or fun, and she needs it.  They watched her develop and cheered on each new achievement with us.  They helped her learn things, like drinking from a cup, turning book pages, and climbing up onto the couch.  (Um, the last one I’m only partly pleased about.)  Tova also traveled to Kigali and spent the week looking after Beatrix so that I could teach in the Discipleship Training School.

 

 

 

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Beatrix liked this game.  I thought it was pretty funny, too.

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Beatrix mooching Tahlia’s breakfast

 

 

Mike and I did our best to get the girls out to do different things as much as we were able, so I think that it was generally a good experience for them.  (Sadly, Tahlia got to do less than we hoped because things kept getting cancelled or changed.  However, that in itself is probably a realistic experience of missions, particularly in a warm-weather culture.😉 )

I’m so grateful.  I’m grateful to God, who arranged for me to have amazing help when I so desperately needed it.  I’m grateful for our house, that allows us a good space to have visitors.  And I am so grateful to both of these girls, who cared for me and loved our little girl.

The haze of our lives

Sorry for my absence.  The last few months have gone by in a haze.

I tell people Beatrix isn’t sleeping well, and they nod, and say, “Yes, babies don’t sleep well,” as if I should have expected that.  But really, she’s been waking up every hour, every night, all night, since sometime in December.  (Sometimes she only makes it 15 minutes before the next wakeup.)  There have been a few nights where she only woke up 4-5 times, and those were Really Good Nights.

At first I thought it was just a developmental leap, and it would pass, but as the weeks turned into a month and more, I realized I was going to have to do something about it.

People, I have tried everything.  I have talked to people looking for tips & tricks, I have scoured the internet, I have bought books, and I have implemented Plans,… But every time we started to get somewhere, something happened to set us back.  Like, the exercise ball I was using to resettle her, to convince her that Mom is not an all-night diner, popped while I was bouncing on it.  (I can’t just run out and get another one.)  Or, she got a bad case of parasites (more on that at a later date).

I was reading a novel sometime in February, in which being woken up every hour was being used as a form of torture.  I think it would be effective.

So, most of my energy and the small amount of thought I have been capable of in the last few months has gone into just getting through each day.  But, I have a few more blog posts that should be coming soon (I’ve thought them through, and really, the brain power is the hardest part these days).  The good news is that she is finally napping better, that helps!  She is generally happy, easy, and cute, so that also helps during the daytime.  To make up for this lame post, here are some pictures🙂

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What I’ve been doing.

Before Beatrix was born, I looked forward to the challenge of doing ministry as a family.  As with almost everything, I was (and probably still am) overly idealistic.  I want her to be a part of the work we are doing, and to be able to carve out her own ability to contribute in a way that works with her developmental level and personality, instead of just being here because her parents are here.  I guess that means that I’m going to have to get over not wanting anyone to touch her because they might be carrying something she’s not vaccinated against yet.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out what kinds of things I can do with her at this age, needing at least some of my attention almost all the time.  So when our team has to get minor, boring things done like writing out a staff application, I jump at it like the overenthusiastic kid in the front row (“Oh, oh, pick me!”)  And I feel a little selfish taking all the easy, fun tasks.  But its been mostly things like that, that I have been able to contribute to our team the last months: things that can be done mostly on my own, often in small chunks as I have a free moment, and that don’t have a swift deadline.

Last weekend, I got to do something a little more.  I went into Kigali to teach for a morning.  So Beatrix and I went in together (she did pretty well on the bus), and she stayed with me while I taught.  It was basic teambuilding/icebreakers for the new DTS, so I wasn’t just standing in front of the class talking the whole time: there was lots of moving around and time for me to interact with her.

She spend most of the morning on my back.  We both like that a lot: its comfortable, she’s not too heavy to carry for long periods of time, and she sleeps quite happily there.  An added bonus is that its very similar to how most women here carry their babies, so it makes us a little less strange.  The few times I was at the front talking, she decided she wanted to talk too.  :)  She was excited to see all the new friends, but I did manage to convince her to sleep for part of the class.

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Photo credit: Joanna Hammar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo Credit: Joanna Hammar

I’ll be going back to teach for a week in  a couple months. (But we will have someone with us to help care for her, for the times when its just too much for her. HOORAY for visitors, and more on that at a later date.)   This was an encouraging trial run, and it was great to be able to take her with me.

Beatrix’s First Christmas

 

I wanted to get some pictures of Beatrix next to our Christmas tree.

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But of course, like all children, she couldn’t resist touching.

And she tried to open her presents early, the only way she knows how.

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But, as mean parents do, we said she had to wait until Christmas Day.

Papa helped her open presents:

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And Momma helped her open presents:

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And of course, after the wrapping paper, her favourite part was the box and she kept reaching for it:

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She spent the day being cute in her Christmas clothes.P1020842

P1020844I think she was as pleased with the day as she is with most days – and we were, too.

An Ode to our Blender

 

A couple of years ago, Mike & I decided we wanted a (very expensive) high-powered blender.  It seemed like an outrageous extravagance, but since we rarely just agree on anything, and we both thought it was a good idea, we went ahead and got one.

It was one of the things that often made me laugh: we didn’t have running water or stable electricity, nearly everything we owned was packed into the room we slept in, and we owned one kitchen appliance: a fancy blender.

There is so much delicious fresh food to work with here.  We’ve used it often for diet staples and for treats.  Most days, I make a fruit and veggie smoothie.  We use it regularly to create peanut butter, soups, hummus, butter, iced coffees, and to grind whole wheat flour.  I expect shortly we will be using it to make baby food.

However, the other day, our blender really and truly proved its worth.

Three years ago, we tried to make egg nog with our friend.  Due to several factors (including salty cream), it was a dismal failure.  The idea of consuming raw eggs on purpose makes me nervous, so I decided if we were going to do it, it had to be cooked egg nog.  I planned to make some last year, but the general queasiness of my pregnant stomach prevented me.

This year, I tried 2 times to cook egg nog on the stove, and despite my constant whipping, it ended up chunky.  But I didn’t despair, because I remembered that our blender can cook soups while it blends, so why not eggs and milk?

A brief internet search confirmed that it might be possible, and so, with high hopes, I began my third and final attempt at egg nog.

It certainly cooked, the first part was steaming – so no worrying about uncooked egg!  Then, the rest of the milk, the spices, and chilling it…   It was smooth, it was creamy, it was everything egg nog is supposed to be!

So, for the last week, we have had egg nog every day (some days including blended up with coffee cubes).  Its been a happy Christmas for us!

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