Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rwanda with the Wilkes

The other main reason that we traveled to Africa was to visit our friends Elder and Sister Wilkes, 
who are serving an 18 month humanitarian mission for our church in Rwanda.
So after a short 5 hour flight from Johannesburg to Kigali,
we were finally reunited with Brad and Karen.  It was so good to see them!
Can you tell that we are just a little excited?!
As you can tell, we didn't even get out of the airport parking lot 
without snapping a few pictures with our favorite missionaries!
 We hauled 2 large suitcases that weighed over 70 lbs., 
filled with dental supplies for the dental clinics and a few items for Brad and Karen.
Yes!  Here we are with some of the things that we packed such as 
Raisin bran, power bars, pie pans, cooking spices, sauces, file folders and hair products. 
And I had to spoil these two a little, so I brought them one of my favorite treats, 
the famous peanut brittle from the Davenport Hotel in Spokane Washington.
It's absolutely unbelievably delicious!
If you are ever in Spokane, I would highly recommend it 
or order it online, that's what I did!
Early the next morning, we drove up to Musanze.
This was our first opportunity to get a first hand look 
at what Elder and Sister Wilkes have been busy doing for the past 9 months.
Elder and Sister Wilkes giving the reading glasses to the hospital.
Dad, after checking out the glasses, came to the conclusion that they are pretty nice glasses.
Elder and Sister Wilkes discussing other needs of the people in this village.
A total of 300 pairs of reading glasses were donated to Musanze District hospital
 by Deseret International Charities (the LDS humanitarian organization.)   
These glasses will be given to those who cannot afford the cost of glasses
and/or the bus fare for the 2-hour trip to Kigali
in order to have their prescription for eyeglasses filled.
After we finished dropping off the glasses, we drove over to the Virunga Lodge
to enjoy the spectacular views of the Virunga volcanos and the lakes Ruhunda and Bulera.
It was a chilly day so we warmed up by the fire at the lodge.
And enjoyed a warm mug of hot chocolate.

They didn't really have a regular lunch menu at the lodge.  
They just asked us what we would like to have for lunch
and so at our request, the chef whipped up a delicious meal.
While the chef was busy in the kitchen, we just sat around the lodge 
and visited and enjoyed the gorgeous views.
Karen and I loved the stoneware that our meals were served on, which are made by local artisans. 
 Aren't they gorgeous?!  I wouldn't be surprised at all if Karen was packing a place setting or two
 in her suitcase when she comes home and I wouldn't blame her at all. 
The girls ordered the chicken and roasted potatoes.  Yum! 
While the boys had tilapia and rice with steamed vegetables.  Yum!
After enjoying a delicious lunch, we walked around the outside patio
 and enjoyed the incredible views of the volcanos...
and lake Rohundo and Buhero...
when we came across some locals who were taking their livestock for a walk.
We went on the gorilla trek the next morning.
This was truly one of the highlights of the trip!
 It was so unbelievable and spectacular to be so close to the gorillas
 that between Karen and I taking photos and Mark taking video, 
we have so much material that the gorilla trek definitely deserves a blogpost all on its own.
Since we were there during the week of the 18th anniversary of the genocide,
we decided to visit a couple of memorials on Saturday. 
 The red-brick church at Ntarama is the site where some of the most brutal killings 
of the 1994 Rwandan genocide took place.
 The church was seen as a safe place by almost 5000 people,
 many were Tutsi women and children who came there for sanctuary,
 to seek refuge but were later killed by the Hutus.
A gorgeous grove of acacia trees at the site.
The wall of names of those killed at this church during the genocide.
A view of the church where many lives were taken.
The victims bloodstained clothing that lined inside of the church walls.
The holes were caused by the grenades thrown at the church walls.
Karen and myself with Jen, our guide that day.
Jen was darling and at the end of the tour, Karen asked how she survived the genocide.  
She said, "I ran and hid in the bushes."
Karen then asked, "Did everyone in your family survive?"
She calmly said, "My dad and brother survived, but my mother and little siblings did not."
We then asked her, "What happened to your mother and little siblings?  Why didn't they survive?"
Jen calmly answered, "Because they couldn't run fast enough and the little ones cried and made noise."
It just tears at your heart to hear stories like Jen's.
It's hard to even comprehend how you go on and move forward from a loss like that.
Karen then asked her how can she reconcile with what happened and does she forgive the killers?
She said that she sees some of the killers because they live in her village but she has forgiven them
 because "the people of Rwanda have learned from the past, forgiven the killers and move forward to heal."
It's an amazing attitude and wonderful example of true forgiveness! 
The Rwandan flag proudly waves at half mass in front of the memorial.
More photos of the outside of the church.
Jen introduced us to her father and brother,
who were sitting on the lawn outside the memorial.
They were so friendly and wanted a photo with us!
Purple is the mourning color for Rwanda so throughout the week
most of the people were either wearing purple clothing like the one Jen's dad has on
or a purple ribbon or bow, like the one her brother has pinned to his shirt.
Really amazing to hear their stories and feel of their strength.
Next stop was the Nyamata Memorial Site, where over 2,500 people were killed.
Throughout Rwanda, you would see these purple sign hung in every village and around the city of Kigali
which say, "Commemorating the genocide.  Let's learn from our history to shape a bright future."
The entrance of Nyamata.
A look at the decorated mass graves at Nyamata.
The wall with the names of the victims.
Italian humanitarian Tonia Locatelli, who lived in a house next to the Catholic church, 
took to the international airwaves to tell the world of the starvation and suffering. 
“We must save these people, we must protect them,” she pleaded.
 “It’s the government itself which is doing this.” It was 1992. 
On March 9, a soldier in a nearby tree shot Locatelli to death as she stood outside her home.
 She is buried outside the church.
Once we arrived back in Kigali, we did a little grocery shopping 
at the local market, as Karen called it, her Raley's!
It was quite nice, small but nice.
As soon as Karen walked into the store, one of the young men came right over 
and grabbed her cart and followed her around, as Karen pointed to what items she wanted,
the young man would put them in her cart and carried it to the check out when she was done.
I could totally get use to that!!
We went to dinner and a movie at the restaurant Heaven on Saturday night.
We enjoyed a delicious dinner, then we watched a documentary
 about the genocide on the big screen TV.
Karen and I enjoyed a fruit smoothie together.
And Dad enjoyed his chocolate shake.
He and Brad were on a hunt for the best chocolate shake in Rwanda
and decided that Heaven made quite the chocolate shake.
On Easter Sunday, we enjoy worship together at the Wilkes apartment 
with about 20 members of the branch in Rwanda.
Brad gave a great talk about the Atonement on Easter morning.
He spoke about how we can use the Atonement to forgive others
and it can help us become a better person.
These cute boys helped Brad with his object lesson 
and pulled out these heavy rocks out of his backpack, 
which symbolized things like hate or jealousy that might weigh us down
and how the Atonement can help us get rid of this rocks and lighten our load.
It was a beautiful and powerful talk!
These cute girls loved the cinnamon rolls that Karen made that day.
Look at that cute face!  Adorable!
Karen and I with some of the ladies after church.
 That afternoon, we drove over to see the building where the branch used to meet at.
The church is not officially recognized yet in Rwanda.
Brad and Karen are working with church officials and leaders in Rwanda
and hope that it will soon be legally registered 
and once again the members of the branch can worship in this beautiful building.
Some of the young men, who are preparing to go on missions soon,
are working as guards at the building.
Brad and Karen on the building site.
What a beautiful view!!
This is Desire.  He isn't even a member of the church, yet. 
But he works as a guard and he also takes care of the garden behind the building.
He is a hard worker and is very proud of his garden!
This is the view right outside the Relief Society room.
Not bad, huh?!!
The views from this balcony are quite spectacular!
A beautiful quilt that hung in one of the rooms in the building.
 One of the things that we really looked forward to each day 
was going to dinner at one of the many wonderful restaurants
 that the Wilkes had picked out for us to try.
Karen and Brad had really talked up the Serena Hotel and we are happy to say
 that dinner at the Serena Hotel did not disappoint at all.
The hotel is amazing and the grounds are beautiful!
Standing out by the pool, you would have thought that we were in Hawaii!
 The beef medallions were so tender.
 And the local fish was delicious!
 And the desserts were so yummy too.
This cheesecake with a sweet fruit sauce was yummy!
Dad trying to be healthy ordered the fresh fruit plate.
Doesn't it look pretty?!
The next day we drove to the village of Rwimbogo sector to check on the water wells being built.
The water well which is under construction.
Brad and Karen discussing the construction of the wells.
What a great team!
We took a walk over to see where the villagers are currently gathering their water.  
And this is what we found, a waterhole which they share with the local livestock.
It was disgusting.
What a blessing it will be to these people when the water well gets finished.
It was a rocky road driving to this village.
This is the view from the backseat along the way.
 Dinner at another of the Wilkes favorite restaurants, Zen.
 We loved the vibrant color of the leaves on this tree.
The cashew chicken was delicious!
And the chicken satay was delicious!
Dinner was yummy and as you can see, 
the beverage of choice at almost every meal is Coke Zero.
One of the things that Mark was really looking forward to
was meeting with Dr. Moses at the Kigali Health Institute,
where Mark was scheduled to lecture and work in the clinic for a couple of days.
Here we are standing outside of the dental clinic at the Kigali Health Institute.
We were impressed to see this large sign with the 
"Four Diamond Steps to better Oral Health and Smiles"
in front of the KHI clinic.
Mark teaching the dental students and local orthodontists at KHI.
The students listen intently...
while Mark is showing them how to bend the wire.
Discussing one of the dental students' case with some of the local orthodontists.
We brought over 4 amalginators and many other ortho supplies
 to be donated to the local dental clinics and at KHI.
 It was a treat to eat dinner at Sakae after a fun day at the KHI dental clinic.
 We all enjoyed our meals.
 And we, of course, saved room for dessert!
tempura ice cream sundae!  Yum!
 Working in the clinic the next day.
 Dr. Holt and Dr. Moses working on a patient together.
 This is the student whose case they were discussing the day before.
Dr. Holt placed the brackets on that morning and he was so happy!
 Some of the Rwanda dental students.
Dr. Holt really enjoyed his time at KHI working with Dr. Moses and the dental students.
Here we are back at Heaven. 
 It was so good the first time that we decided to try it again!
 The views from this restaurant are gorgeous!
Gosh, we sure love these two and I love this photo of them!
I broke out my newest souvenirs that Karen and I bought that day.
 Karen and I wanted Brad, who was comfortably sitting at the table 
to take a photo of us with the view of the city.
As Karen and I are getting ourselves situated and looking cute,
Brad thought he would be funny and just picked the camera up, pointed it behind him, 
over his shoulder, not really even trying to get us in the photo 
and just as he went to snap the photo, I surprised him, jumped into the picture...
and this is what he got! Ha! Ha!
 That photo made him laugh so much that Brad finally got right up 
and took this photo, just like we asked him the first time!
At first glance, it may look like we are in a fight but really all we wanted was
to get a photo of us together with the gorgeous view of the city behind us,
so our waiter had us stand apart, hence the kind of awkward but endearing photo.
One of the items that we brought over to Brad and Karen 
was a magnetic Deseret International Charities sign for the Wilkes truck.
Mark put it on one day and made the truck look so official
 so we had to get a photo.
We visited the Kigali Memorial Center one afternoon.
One of the rooms had photos of the victims lined along the walls.
The center of the main exhibit houses six statues, which were crafted by a Rwandan artist. 
They are made from regional woods and carved and sanded by dedicated local craftsmen.
These statues depict the events surrounding the genocide in three themes:
before the genocide, during the genocide and after the genocide.
Mark listening to the self-guided tour recording.
 Here is one of the stained glass displays entitled, "Windows of Hope" 
which depicts the scene after the genocide and steps leading into the future.
A large photo of the orphans that are left behind after the genocide.
The view of the walkway to the burial place, where the mass graves reside.
The mass graves were lined with many floral arrangements with purple bows.
As I said earlier, purple is their mourning color, equivalent to us wearing black.
One of the many beautiful floral arrangements that was placed on top of the mass graves.
The wall of names which is an ongoing project
 which will eventually display the names of thousands of victims.
A large group of friends and family which came to show their respect
 to their loved ones who were lost in the genocide.
I was so glad that we came during the anniversary of the genocide and 
visit all the memorials so that we could have a greater understanding of the history 
of what took place in Rwanda and how the people of Rwanda have recovered
and become a better stronger people 
and how the country of Rwanda has become a better place!
The following are some of the sights we enjoyed on the road to Kibuye,
where we will be staying the night at the Cormoran Lodge on Lake Kivu
and visiting the the Kizibu Refugee camp the next day.
This picture just cracks me up!
We passed many villages where there we large groups of people... 
gathering at their community centers or churches to commemorate the genocide anniversary.
The people of Rwanda are wonderful farmers and as you can see 
they use all the land, terracing, planting and cultivating 
all the way up to the top of the mountain.
Brad and Karen kept joking that you can't stop anywhere along the road
without a group congregating around you, yelling "Muzungu!" (pronounced-Moozoongoo!)
They were right!  We stopped to take a photo of the view of the mountains and
within seconds these boys came yelling "Muzungu!  Give me money!"
So Brad listens but then replies, "You give me money!"
which totally confused the boy.
By the time I snapped this photo of the mountains...
there was a crowd gathering around Brad,
 and this kid was sliding down the side of the hill yelling, "Muzungu!"
Brad is getting a good look at the boy sliding down the hill.
The boys started singing for Brad and continue to ask him for money.
More boys appear and they begin to dance and ask "Give me money!"
 As you can tell, Brad is not too impressed. 
Instead Brad would rather build them a water well 
so they will have clean water or build them a latrine! 
That is what Brad does best!
As Brad is busy being amused by the boys, I snap another picture of the beautiful hillsides.
We passed this darling little girl on the way home with quite a load of sticks on her head.
Isn't she precious?!
Our first view of lake Kivu, which is situated between the border of Rwanda and Congo.
It is absolutely gorgeous!
 We have arrived at our destination, where we will be staying the night at the Cormoran Lodge.  
The views of the lake from our lodge are absolutely spectacular.
And the flowers on the grounds are pretty incredible too!
I love the colors in this photo!
Looking out from our balcony, we had to get a photo or two!
Our view from the dining lodge as the sun set over the lake.
Out on the lake, we can see someone waterskiing close to the shore.
Karen and I decided that since we weren't sure what was living or growing in that lake
 that we would pass on the waterskiing adventure.
A view of our own bungalow from the dining lodge.
Such a fun time to share with the Wilkes!
More gorgeous sunset photos!
Karen and I ordered the tilapia and roasted potatoes for dinner that night.
Mark ordered chicken and potatoes in a stew pot.
And Brad had the cheese lasagne!  Yum!
Dad is ready to dig into his chicken in a stewpot.
Actually, he is saying, "Please hurry and take the picture so that I can eat!"
The fishing boats have gone out on the lake.
You can see their lights on the three boats if you look closely.
The next morning, we drove on one of the bumpiest dirt roads ever,
to the refugee camp of Kibiza.  We loved our stay at Kibiza and it was worth the bumpy ride!
Here is the first view of the camp which is situated on the border of Congo and Rwanda.
We made it to Kiziba camp, which is the home to 18,000 Congolese refuges
 displaced due to the insurgency in the DR Congo.
Here is the place where the food is dispersed.
I love this photo of this man.
And I love these photos of the children waiting for the food to be handed out.
I love the looks on these kids faces!
Here's Brad explaining how the latrines work.
A look at the latrines that are being built.
A look at the old latrines that are being replaced.
Brad is explaining to the group about the advantages of having the new latrines.
The rain starts subside so all the kids come back out of their houses.
The road was slick and muddy but the kids didn't see to mind.
This scooter contraption really caught my eye...
and seemed to grab all the attention of the boys.
but as you can see it can also serve as a wagon to help carry the wood.
Some of the local boys at the refugee camp.
A view of the local market.
Colorful fabric which was sold at the market.
We had a great time at Kiziba Camp 
and so glad that we got to see the new latrines that are being built.
The view of the refugee camp as we drove away.
 We passed many young children along the bumpy road.
 Most of them were gathering wood and bringing it home for their cooking fire.
 Children can spend 4-5 hours everyday, gathering the wood or water, 
but they don't seem to mind at all.
A gorgeous view of the hills as we drive back to Kigali.
Dad wanted to try out one of the water wells that we spotted on our drive home.
One of the ladies across the street saw him doing it,
 so she came over with her yellow Jerrycan, to show him how it is really done.
Once we made our way back to Kigali and for our last meal together we went to Bourbon Coffee
which is like Kigali's Starbuck's, with a little bigger dinner menu.
Our time with Elder and Sister Wilkes had come to an end.
We are amazed at all the incredible things that these two are doing for the people of Rwanda!
And we are grateful that we were able to spend 10 wonderful days seeing the sights 
and meeting the people of Rwanda with two of our favorite missionaries!
We love you, Elder and Sister Wilkes!
Thank you for your wonderful example of love, sacrifice and service!

1 comment :

Brad and Karen said...

When are you coming back, so that we can do the other half of the fun stuff that's part of our routine here in Rwanda, that we kept as a secret from you!!!???