Archive for August 2009

Memories, Hopes and Photographs I

August 30, 2009

We slept in our own beds last night. For Debbie, Paul and me, it was an incredibly long journey home. Thursday morning, Aryn dropped us off at the airport in Kigali. We anticipated our flight leaving at around 10 am. We were told by a staffer at the Rwanda Air counter that our plane would not actually leave until 3 pm. We did not have Aryn’s telephone number. I tried calling Celestine, our colleague at KIE, in an attempt to discuss options and to get Aryn’s number. He did not answer. We decided that the best thing to do was to wait in the airport.

Rwanda Air would not permit us to check our bags early. We loaded the bags onto a cart and went off in search of a place to sit. At Kigali International Airport, the only comfortable seating area for departing passengers was the Bourbon Coffee seating area. We felt a little uncomfortable about taking up space in their shop without purchasing something, so Debbie had a coffee drink and Paul and I had Fanta sodas. We read and played cards. We had lunch, and the sandwiches carried price tags every bit as hefty as those found in the Portland airport. At 1 pm we proceeded through security and got in line to check in. After a long wait in line, while the Rwanda Air folks were taking care of our luggage and ticketing, we were cleared for departure. We breezed through immigration control and through security and watched English football while we waited to board. The flight itself, on a Jetlink aircraft, was uneventful. Paul asked if Rwanda Air was a company with a name only, and I started to think that myself, though we did see one jet parked on the tarmac with a Rwanda Air name on its side.

Entry into Kenya through the immigration counter at Nairobi was practically effortless. We proceeded directly to the head of a line, were well received by the agent, who was cordial in receiving our passports and previously-obtained visas. Perhaps that two hour wait we encountered after our arrival from Schipol was an anomaly? Richard, a colleague of Patrick, greeted us with a “Scot Headley” sign, and drove us to the Free Pentecostal Fellowship Guest House. The traffic coming from the airport was very heavy, with Richard telling us it was typical rush hour traffic. In one stretch, as we waited our turn at a major round about, numerous vendors walked the traffic lanes between cars. Men and women, as well as some children sold drinks and fruit, dvds, books and tools, and just about anything else you could want or not want. Mortor cycles and pedestrians snuck between traffic as well, and after a long wait and the experience of wading our way through Nairobi traffic, we made it to the guest house.

Our plane was not leaving until Friday night at 10. Patrick agreed that he would pick us up at 6 pm. So, we had a full day in Nairobi. We made a plan to sleep late, eat breakfast and then spend the day doing email, and checking messages, writing and reading. After three weeks on the road we were not eager to venture out onto the Nairobi streets. The power went off right before breakfast and so our plan to use the internet was dashed. This was a typical planned outage. In this part of Nairobi, the power is out 12 hours a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Folks learn to deal with it. Between reading and resting and card games, Debbie and I strolled the grounds of the guest house. We used the time to reflect on our trip. I developed a list of questions about our experience and asked Paul and Debbie to respond. I will write about our responses soon.

Homemade Burritos and Lively Friends

August 24, 2009

Yesterday was a wonderful day for us in Kigali. We had a full day of activities on Sunday. Interspersed between all the activity, I continued reading A Thousand Hills, by Stephen Kinzer. This book is the story of the rebirth of Rwanda, from the time leading up to the genocide of 1994 through 2007. The book features the role of current president, Paul Kagame in the transformation of the country.

Debbie and Paul and I met David Buchura at the top of the hill, by the Moto Taxi stop.

Kigali Taxi

Kigali Taxi

He took us to the small Friends church where I had visited the day before. We arrived about 0930 and a Sunday School class was going on in the building. We were ushered to seats near the front. At the conclusion of the class, we were asked to move forward, to the second row. A fellow from Maine was also there, and he joined us in this row. David had two young men sit between us to serve as translators for us.

The service was filled with music. Worship leaders led the singing, which was accompanied by a Yamaha keyboard, cranking out much more music than Paul used to when he used the same instrument while performing with Roy, during his college days. A children’s choir also sang, and several young people did solos. I only recognized one tune. Most of the songs were up tempo. People were quite energetic and there was a lot of joy and enthusiasm. I introduced myself and our family and gave a greeting from North Valley Friends and George Fox University. A young man, who was a graduate of George Fox School, preached. He was loud and forceful. His message was on faith. After the service, we stood outside and were greeted by many folks. A meeting for business followed the worship service, so most of the adults went back inside. David drove us back to the taxi stop. We were pleased to have been a part of the service, my second African church service. This one was in Kinyarwandan. In 2003, I attended a service in Okihandja, Namibia, which was in German.

For lunch, Debbie, Paul and I walked to an Ethiopian restaurant. We had a good meal, which seemed to be fairly traditional. My meal, a chicken in spicy sauce dish, was served atop a huge flat bread, accompanied by a hardboiled egg and some homemade cheese. It was quite good. Debbie had the same dish that I had and Paul had a beef dish.

Aryn drove us to the Friends compound and we joined the Thomas family for dinner. This is the first time that we had met David and Debby Thomas and their four children. David is the son of Hal and Nancy, who attend North Valley Friends Church with us (when they are not traveling around Central and South America). We got a tour of the missionary compound and learned some history of the family’s time in Rwanda. Debby and David are doing much work in transformational development, and so over dinner we learned quite a bit about the work. We had homemade burritos with guacamole and salsa, it was a wonderful meal. We were blessed to have had the opportunity to meet the Thomas family. I will write more on their work in a subsequent post.

Needy People Helping Needy People

August 23, 2009

It is Sunday morning in Kigali. I am reflecting on my day yesterday, and on the words of John Punshon, in Reasons for Hope; “Knowing God is like knowing a person, not like knowing a theory. Divine knowledge comes to those who know they are not self-sufficient, that they are in need, and that there is nothing they can do to help themselves” (p. 126).

My day was quite eventful yesterday, and was capped off by Debbie and Paul’s return from the north, where they spent three days touring the countryside and visiting gorillas. I woke on Saturday morning feeling refreshed and no longer feeling the ill effects of whatever malady had befallen me. Aryn and I had a good conversation about experience, theology and faith over breakfast. She shared with me some thoughts on students making adjustments in their lives and thinking upon coming to Rwanda and some of the beliefs that they bring with them when they come. The students that she will be working with this semester will be arriving shortly after our departure later this week.

After breakfast, I prepared to leave the house. I was to meet David Bucura at two o’clock, outside the national stadium. I wondered if I would remember him, or if he would remember me. I met David months ago while he was attending an FWCC meeting in Canby, Oregon, earlier this year. I had traveled to Canby, from our home in Newberg to pick up David and three colleagues who were attending an international gathering of Friends at a conference center there. David was reunited in Newberg with Verna and Hector Munn, who had lived and worked in Kigali at the George Fox Secondary School a number of years ago.

I left the house about 11:30 with a bottle of water and nothing else. I struck off on a walk through the neighborhood in Remera, where the Food for the Hungry guest house is located. The neighborhood is an interesting mixture of large, newer homes, all walled and gated; set side by side with older, simpler abodes, some of block, some of pieced together materials, all placed along heavily-rutted dirt streets along fairly steep hillsides. The area in which I walked was somewhat of a bowl. I walked from close to the top of the bowl around the sides, gradually descending as I found roads that wound there way back around and down. My descent was quiet, with no cars and virtually no people passing me. At the bottom of the bowl was a green space. This grassy space had trees and shrubs planted in it and also contained storm sewers for runoff. As I made my way back up the bowl on the other side, I began to encounter more and more people. I greeted many, and often people returned my greetings, usually not in English.

The large banks of lights of the national stadium served as my landmark for the journey. At the beginning of my walk, I had oriented my position with the stadium lights, and with the Sportsview Hotel, which was set at the top of the hill, right in front of the stadium. No matter where I walked within this bowl, I was generally able to find the lights or the hotel, and therefore keep track of where I wanted to go. I also kept a close eye on my back trail, just in case I needed to retrace my steps. I came upon a group of about a dozen young boys playing football in the street. When I greeted them, they stopped what they were doing and chatted with me. One boy spoke English fairly well and served as the spokesperson for the group. We talked of sport and fun and I admired their play and their laughter as I went on my way.

While I made my way gradually back up the side of the bowl, I realized that the people I met were quite interested in me. I tried to continue with my cheerful attitude and greeted those who maintained eye contact with me. I obviously was somewhat of a novelty here. The area I was in now had no large new homes, but was made up of a dense warren of smaller block structures. Small businesses were interspersed with homes. These included salons, bars, restaurants, and small shops. The closer I got to the top of the bowl, the more commercial establishments there were. As I came out on the top of the hill, I discovered that I had actually made my way directly adjacent to the Sportsview Hotel and right in front of a main entrance to the stadium. Many people milled around at the entrance and on the street that ran around the stadium grounds.

I had about one hour before David was to pick me up, so I set off on a walk down the street, with the intent of completely circling the stadium and arriving back to this main entrance in time to be picked up. Many people walked on the side walks on both sides of this street and many motorcycle taxis and cars passed by. People often returned my greetings, but virtually none initiated contact. I ran out of energy to say hello to everyone. In forty five minutes, I made my complete circle. I passed by KIE, where I had visited previously. I passed a number of other educational institutions, and various other government and NGO offices. With about fifteen minutes to spare, I found a place to sit down and wait. There were many more people milling around now, with many lined up to go into the stadium. A number of people walking were carrying bibles, and I suspected that they were Adventists returning from church.

Two teenage boys stopped to greet me. I knew that there was some big event occurring. In addition to the people, there was loud music coming from the stadium. Ally and Thierry were students at a local secondary school. Their English was quite good and I could tell they were enthusiastic about meeting me. They told me that the big event at the stadium was a concert and party to honor the fiftieth birthday of the Rwandan brewery which produces the brand Primus. We spoke of the US and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who they had high regard for as an actor. I told them that Arnold was no longer an actor, but a politician. I gave each my card and they asked if I would correspond with them via email. I agreed to this and each of them shared his email address with me. Last evening I sent them an email. I have sent several emails to Rwandans since being here, each at their request, but as of yet, I have not received a reply. After my two young friends left. I was joined by a young man who appeared to be a little shifty. He spoke no English and tried to converse with me in French. I made out that he was asking me for money to go to the concert. I told him no and he left. However, for the remaining time I waited, this fellow stood near me and watched me. I wonder if there were fewer folks around if we may have attempted to use force to take something from me.

David arrived at the stadium with his colleague, Bonheur. We drove to the George Fox Secondary School, which was situated on a compound which also included the yearly meeting headquarters, a church building, a primary school, David’s theological education office, a children’s peace library and housing for missionaries. Afterwards, we drove to another location where I saw another Friends church building, a school and housing. I was told that this was the place that Professor Dawn Todd had brought George Fox University students earlier this year. Bonheur told me that David was like a father to him. He also said that Hector Munn had been at George Fox Secondary School while Bonheur studied there.

David and Bonheur brought me back to the guest house and they had a chance to meet Debbie. We ate late, when Aryn got back from the airport to pick up her colleague, Dwight Jackson. Music and even fireworks continued into the night, which I assume was coming from the stadium for the birthday party.

Photos of the trip

August 21, 2009

Here are a few photos from our trip

Sportsview Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda

August 21, 2009

Last night, we had a dinner at the Sportsview Hotel, just behind the national stadium and very near to the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE). Linda, Aryn Baxter and I were invited to dinner by our colleagues at KIE.

We were joined by our host, Dr. Celestin Ntivuguruzwa, Director of the Center for Academic Practice and Development; Professor Wenceslas Nzabahrwa, the Dean of the College of Education; and the Vice-Rector of Academics Dr. James Vuningoma. We had met and interacted with these three men during our two days of meetings at KIE. Also joining us for the dinner were Dr. André Muhirwa, the Director of Academic Quality and Francoise Murerwa, the Director of finance.

We had an enjoyable dinner meeting and had fruitful discussion. I became somewhat ill upon arriving and was not that hungry. However, the food was good, and seemed to be French-influenced. My queasy stomach lasted into the night, though by now I am feeling quite a bit better. I had a fish fillet with mushroom gravy, which was quite tasty.

We discussed a number of possibilities and by the end of the conversation, we agreed that we would move ahead with formulating a memo of understanding. Linda reminded us that she would be responsible to discuss with our provost the possibilities and needs and I was asked to work directly with Wenceslas and Celestin on particular initiatives dealing with teacher preparation, academic leadership development and lecturer development.

Linda and I delivered a public lecture on Wednesday afternoon. We had about 100 in attendance, mostly students and some faculty members. Wenceslas hosted us and moderated the question and answer period that followed. Our lecture was on guidance and counseling at George Fox University. We spoke for about 75 minutes and then interacted with the audience for another hour. We received many challenging and thoughtful questions, including some related to politics and structural issues in Rwandan education. Other questions centered on theory and practice of advising and guiding students.

On Thursday afternoon, Linda and I presented a workshop on preparing educators and educational leadership. This workshop was presented to a cadre of lecturers in a post-graduate development program, sponsored by the Center for Academic Practice and Development. We had lecturers from KIE and the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology in the group. The group interacted well with us and we had many questions from the participants. I very much enjoyed our work. The Vice Rector gave some closing remarks, which were very gracious and complimentary. I presented a copy of Joan Wink’s book to Celestin, and I gave Wenceslas my copy of Democratic Teacher Education Reform in Namibia and a copy of our worksample handbook.

Linda is now on her way home, through Nairobi, London and Amsterdam. Paul and Debbie are in the north of Rwanda today, in search of gorillas. I am thankful to have a quiet day, collecting my thoughts and resting. I spoke with Brad Carpenter this morning and he left messages for me for Dave and Debbie Thomas, and for David Bucura. We hoped to meet them all on Sunday. I learned from Brad that he and his wife will be going out of town to celebrate their first anniversary!

Murabeho

If You Look at it Right

August 20, 2009

I ain’t often right
but I’ve never been wrong
It seldom turns out the way
it does in the song
Once in a while
you get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right

These words, penned by Robert Hunter in 1974 flood my mind this morning. It is 0430 in Kiglai, Rwanda. I am listing to The Grateful Dead perform Scarlet Begonias-Fire on the Mountain from their October 2, 1977 show at the Paramount Theater in Portland, Oregon. No, I was not at the show, but I did have the opportunity to see the Dead live a number of times in my youth. Thanks to the good folks at the Internet Archives, the show is preserved here for posterity. I have often reflected, as I think back on my life, about how I have been shown the light in very strange places. I suppose it really is all about the way in which I look. I now realize that I am just young enough to believe that the Light of Christ is shining through this amazing world, wonderful people, glorious landscapes, acts of creation and recreation, self-sacrifice, incredible beauty, and early morning rising.

God is good! And with Lou Gehrig, on this special morning I can make the statement, “…today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” And why do I make this statement? I will do my best to convey the answer to you.

I am a man who is loved by the Creator of the universe. Our Creator God has revealed the very essence of the nature of God’s own self in many ways to me. I recognize God’s working in my life, God’s will, God’s love, protection and purposes. While much remains a mystery to me, I will tell you that this morning, I can do nothing more than move forward in gratefulness and obedience to the call on my life. This call is one of service, investigation, commitment to truth, to justice, to bringing comfort and respect.

I am a man who is loved by others. I don’t understand it, but marvel at it. Sometimes I can barely accept that love, as I have continuously struggled with accepting and loving myself. Yet, I have a wife who loves me, and who has stuck by me for 30 years. This woman has been the model of care, service and love, not only for me, but for our children and for her community. I am so thankful for the gift that is Debbie. She has been disappointed and hurt by me many times, and she is still loving me and accepting me. She has made this long and challenging trip with me to Kenya and Rwanda. I am so pleased for her that she has fulfilled a life-long ambition to come to Africa and I am pleased that she is able to experience firsthand with me the joy and wonder that this continent holds.

I am a man who has children to be admired. My son Paul is here with us and I am so happy that he accompanied us on this trip. He is a fine man and I continually pray that God will bless him and keep him in God’s care daily. I pray that Paul might overcome the physical pain and disappointments of his past and be given the desires of his heart. And I give thanks for his love of his mother and his family. He has been a wonderful companion for Debbie on this trip.

I am a man who has children who miss him. Debbie called Ruth last night and we had a nice visit with her and the other girls. I am thankful that my children are safe and well cared for while we are on our trip. I miss my kids and look forward to being with them again soon.

I am a man who is blessed by his spiritual community. North Valley Friends Church is a community of Quaker ministers, making a difference in the world. I am so thankful for people who are seeking truth and love and justice together. No, the community is not perfect, but like family, to be loved and cherished!

I am a man who has meaningful, challenging and productive work to do. I have an employer that has permitted me to create, to learn and grow, to contribute and to support my family. For fifteen years I have worked for George Fox University and I am pleased to say that it has been a blessing for me to be employed here. We have had a number of changes in leadership at Fox since I arrived in the fall of 1994, yet we have maintained a commitment to our values and heritage which continues to serve us well. As a professor, I have been given the latitude and resources to dream, create, implement and amend programs that serve our students well. I have been encouraged in my service to the church, the community, to my profession and the world. The very fact that we are in Rwanda this morning is a testimony to the commitment of our university community to service.

I am a man who has colleagues that I admire and respect. I have departmental colleagues who work with one another, who care about students, who desire to do good work. I have colleagues who combine intelligence, creativity, humility and perseverance in the mission of delivering effective educational experiences for our students. I have witnessed, on this African trips, my colleagues’ abilities to be flexible and open in their approach to working with colleagues and participants in our workshops. We have dealt with a variety of challenging circumstances and in all cases, my colleagues have graciously risen to the occasion!

I have a dean that provides leadership that matters. It is such a blessing to me to have as our administrator someone who is trustworthy and committed to service. We are blessed to have had strong leadership in our school of education for a number of years. Linda has continued that fine tradition, providing for our School, the leadership needed at this particular time of our existence.

I am a man who is blessed through my recognition of beauty in this world. Whether it is Uncle Jerry playing tasty licks on Scarlet Begonias, or the sun setting on the Masai Mara; whether it is the delicate nature of the small flower on the Euphorbia shrubs which abound in Kigali or the remembrance of the evocative words of Chaim Potok in My Name is Asher Lev; I continue to be blessed daily by the beauty of creation.

Thank you God for this day. Help me to see the Light in all people, all places, all circumstances. Help me to be faithful to represent you and your love in this world. Help me to be courageous and just and creative in my dealings with others. Help me to reflect the light that comes forth from your heart for all today.

Food for the Hungry Guest House, Kigali

August 18, 2009

We arrived here last night. We have been away from an internet connection for a few days, as we left Kisumu, flew back to Nairobi and left on Saturday for the Masai Mara. I will describe the trip to the park and our adventures there in greater detail in a more complete post when I am able.

Aryn Baxter, of Food for the Hungry, picked us up at the airport on Monday night. She provided a brief tour of Kigali today, as well as a history and culture lesson today. We passed by the Parliment Building, which is still marked by bullet holes from the horrible events of 1994. We walked around downtown and also drove by the Kigali Institute of Education, where Linda and I present tomorrow.

Aryn and her staff are gracious hosts and we have been made to feel at home here. This appears to be a lovely city. it is quite hilly and seems so different than Nairobi. It is rather humid here, but not too uncomfortable. I had a treat for breakfast today, peanut butter on toast! We conversed with Nathan, who is managing a water reservoir, treatment plant and three rural water districts. His work is in service to the Rwandan people through the auspices of Food for the Hungry.

The guest house staffers are preparing for a group of American students who will arrive several days after our departure. This group of students will spend a semester in Rwanda and Uganda as part of the program called GoEd.

I am quite a bit behind in my uploading of pictures, and I regret that.  This is a very time consuming process, with the need to do some reducing of image resolution to reduce the size of the files and the slower satellite-based internet connections, the uploading takes a lot longer than I expected.