What this is about:

Tales and Tidbits about Community Development, Peacebuilding, and Bringing food for the hungry on a continent in my spirit and a world away.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

30-Second Answer

"How was Africa?"

It was really good. It's nothing like we think it is.

"What? What it is then?"

Uganda and Rwanda don't look like the Lion King at all.
There's grass huts, swollen bellies, along with savvy business
people, fashionable university students, an efficient
transportation system, cell phones and a lot of Muslims.
If the other emerging societies are like some of the youths
I've met in East Africa, there's hope for the world.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

And then they got nose piercings in this sketchy back room that was supposed to be a jewelry shop....

Some got them with a piercing gun
and others had "Manny" sent down to do it...
but that's a long story. At least it wasn't matching underwear. The things we do for GoEd solidarity.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Last Owning Poverty: Hunger

"The brokenness we see on the macro in the structural evils of this world find their origins in the micro in our own hearts. That interior landscape is equally as war torn. No one enjoys the feeling of being a charity case beggar with nothing to contribute, but if that is the truth, then we had better feel it. Yes, you say, but aren't Christians beyond that experience after saving. Grace? Going to that hard place of experiencing hunger, is an act of receiving grace from the God who fills us. He continually calls us there. While the world spends all its energies denying or reducing or escaping from the experience of realityy, we not only go there, but find life and health and peace. Christian discipleship is not a life of denial but is characterized with a heightened internal and external awareness of poverty and consequently, great hunger."
-Dr. Michael Pucci
In the beginning of this trip, I couldn't tell you what owning poverty meant. I could only make these seemingly profound, abstract guesses in hopes that I was slightly right on. I've actually always been good at doing that and just as long as people think I know what I'm talking about and it points me to future knowing, I keep the habit up. But I get this now. You say it and I get it. I understand the basis behind it deep in my soul, born out of the challenges of this experience. I thought this trip wasn't going to change me much but it has.

To me, poverty was this thing out there. I was blessed and they weren't, so I was going to help them. How magnanimous of me. I felt that there were a few similarities between me and them and that misfortune was the difference between my position and there's. What a shame. :tisks: It must be because we're in a fallen world. I didn't know that I was them. I didn't want to admit that I hungered and they hungered and we were all waiting to be redeemed.
I didn't give God much credit before now either. Deism was the way. Blargh, evangelical religious jargon. I hate hate hate hate hate it. I smite thee. "Praise God" this and "The Lord has been so good" that just made me flinch and mock your "praise report" with my people. Americans come from a Euro-hellenistic mindset and I supported this view: You found because you searched. You feel better because your hormones have shifted and your antibodies fought off that disease. I do this-this-this-this-and this will happen.
I'm a socialist and sociologist. That program is good thanks to good systemic infrastructure. Poverty can be eradicated if the government would get their policy together. You found that man to marry because he's in your same social class, race, neighborhood, and has your values. You want that particular job because you're going along with social trend--conventionality, individualism, prosperity, whatever. Not because God did anything about it.
But learning/doing development, I've learned that sometimes you do this-this-this and something else happens. Sometimes you do this-this-this and nothing happens. Sometimes you do nothing at all and miracles happen. And oddly, it has less to do with the greatness of your program. And oddly, it has more to do with something else.
Meaning is a gift given, not something that is harvested from the soil of a particular career. We'd like to think so, but I'm becoming less convinced that's the way it works. You can end up with no meaning at all as a social worker and all the meaning in the world as an accountant or media editor. Less about it, more about something else.
I’m not here because I’m a visionary.
I’m not here because I’m a saint.
Africa, Poverty, Social Change does not matter to me because I’m a bleeding heart.
I’m not a visionary, saint, or bleeding heart.
My pride's been widdled down to the point where my only motivation is to say thanks, God, for the compassion. Thanks for saving me from myself. I'm so pumped for the new world you're making.
All of this makes me sound really religious :flinch:, but....it doesn't mean its not true.
I cannot eradicate poverty. That’s not my job and I don't think that's a cop-out. However, that doesn't mean I don't try; joining the greater plan of re-creation is so exciting and revoluntary, man! Development is not something we put on people; it’s something we participate in. I didn’t get it before but I get it at this moment. Much needed sobriety..and now I want to go out more than ever. Anywhere.
To say thanks.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Three Things.

On the way home from Gitarama, a man crawled onto the bus into the seat in front of me. His shoulder lay bare from the heat of the day and he held his dusty jacket on his lap. He sat next to Hazel and greeted her "Muraho!" slightly interested that he was sitting mext to a Mzungu. His shoulder was the shadow of a whole shoulder. It was gnarled and small from the many blows of something sharp. Up his neck and the back of his head were the healed scars of that same sharp object. Whatever had happened had handicapped him in a way that he couldn't walk on his feet anymore--he had to move on his cushion-covered knees. The man across the aisle stole disturbed glances at him every now and then.
That man knew what it was from.
It's something you just know.

It's moments like this where the existence of Genocide comes back to you and you wonder, confused, about the phantom-like skill this event utilizes for cover, in a country so beautiful, in a country that says it has moved on.
TREE OUTFIT Day/Thanksgiving was SOO much fun. All of us were feeling kind of poopy and putting on our best this-day-doesn't-really-matter-to-me-faces because we honestly didn't know what to do with the absence of turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and someone familiar for Thanksgiving. There were no greens, for gods sake. I don't even like pumpkin pie; but seeing some would have been comforting. We had to admit it: we were corporately kind of homesick.
But then we put on our tree outfits (brown on the bottom, green on the top), took pictures and became each other's family. We filled in the spots of absence by sharing our creativity and intentional joy, like we did for Sarah's birthday. I never laughed so hard.
We enjoyed ourselves in our weird little creation of a holiday because it took our minds off of ourselves and directed it towards being together; being ridiculous together. No one will ever understand how much we love those photos and how hilarious we think they are (because admit it, tree clothing holidays are kind of weird but Hazel's face in the family photo is .so. good); they mean a lot to us. We meant a lot to each other that day. We mean a lot to each other now---this is why we have to tell the rafting story nothing short of five hundred times and will continue to tell it to others in every future form of communication. I wasn't even in their raft. My feast table voiced our thanks about this semester and sang annoying Sunday School songs about joy, with hand-clapping of course. And then we watched "It's Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown" to finish the evening.
I had one of the best Thankgivings of my life without collard greens and macaroni & cheese. [Beware, banality coming] I didn't need them. I had my family.

First day of Advent reading: Isaiah 42:1-4

Here is my servant, the one I support. He is the one I chose, and I am pleased with him. I have put my spirit upon him and he will bring justice to all nations. He will not cry out or yell or speak loudly in the streets. He will not break a crushed blade of grass or put out even a weak flame. He will truly bring justice; he will not lose hope or give up until he brings justice to the world. And people far away will trust his teachings.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am thankful for

hopefulness & expectation.

I really am.
learn about Thailand.
mourn with Mumbai.
pray for Congo.
They need some of ours.

"a change is gonna come. Oh, yes it will."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No, We Will Not Run Around In Our Birthday Suits.

Together: "Haaaaappy birthday, happy-happy birthday. Haaaaaapy birthday, happy-happy birthday! Hey!"
Megh: "Do we have a birthday here?!"
Mob:"Yes, we have a birthday here!"
Megh: "Birthday where?"
Mob: "Birthday here!"
Together: "OOOOOOOH!"
"Haaaaappy birthday, happy-happy birthday. Haaaaaapy birthday, happy-happy birthday! Hey!"

I was being greepy. I was greepy because Becca and Hazel had come up brilliant idea of coming up with a birthday rap for Sarah at 10:00 o'clock the night before and had chosen to put my name in it because I wouldn't help them. And I quote: "Roe is being greepy like the dwarfs grumpy and sleepy". Grant it, I spoke the idea of rap into existence but I was not going to participate: if it went wrong, I didn't want to be affiliated with them. It had words like yo, slammin', sista, holla and the phrase main squeeze in it somwhere. The plan for the finale was a choreographed dance to Will Smith's "Jiggy Wit It." Yes, please. I almost peed my pants laughing, it was so bad. They were determined to perform it for her though. I kept my eyes down and tried to finish writing my Japanese birthday greeting.
Sarah was turning 22 and this hilarious GoEd group wanted to make it really fun for her since birthdays overseas can be hard for expats. Coming together in the dark hours of the night (while Hazel and Becca perfected their lyrics) we overhauled the Gitarama FH meeting room and made birthday paper cranes, birthday cards, birthday signs, a birthday crown, a birthday canopy, and a birthday walk to 22 leading to the seat of honor: a go-ed shirt draped throne. Elizabeth and Katie blew up birthday ziplock bags. Birthday balloons, you see. We used lots of masking tape and sewing thread. We are hilarious and resourceful.
"Sarah's going to be up soon! So we should all gather soonish." Kirsten announced, bounding, greeting the day. I shook Hazel's birthday leg and made my way to the birthday table to meet the others. The canopy and sign had stayed up. I mused about the times where one couldn't birthday sleep you were so excited for the friends you'd get to play with the next day and the cake you'd get to consume and the presents you'd eventually tire of that'd you'd get to open. Meghan taught the 10 of us the Red Robbin Birthday Song and we erupted in loud cheer and jubilation as Sarah strolled down the walk to 22, clapping on key. Mbish was a great camera man. She looked birthday regal in her birthday crown underneath her birthday canopy and we spent the morning having honorary breakfast with her! I was in charge of pressing the youtube play button for Jiggy Wit It and Hazel/Becca mowed the crowd with their birthday rap, and everyone was pulled up for a hip hop dance party at the end. Hallelujah--it was still as funny as last night.
A lot of us took birthday naps, while others went to buy pottery. In the late afternoon, we took Sarah out on a birthday hike in a Rwandan village behind Gitarma town, in the hills. It was SO pretty up there and it felt good to be out under the sun, even though people stared at the strange Wazungus following Mbish and I. On the way up the hill, passing tiled dwellings, we picked up a mob of excited children and a man with 6 fingers (on each hand!) who only understood the word Obama and happily wanted a picture with his cow. What else have we got to do today? So we followed this man to his house, emeshed in a mob of children, to take a picture of hm with his cow. He looked dignified. It was a nice cow...ahahaha. And we kept walking trying to think what in the world we'd do now. We all took hands of children, singing rwandan songs, and walked to a school. At the school we stopped to sit and rest and about 30 children surrounded the Wazungus while I took pictures. Kyle started a game of duck-duck-goose and they thought that white people running around was the most hilarious thing that ever happened. It was so fun watching them play; some village members enjoyed how unusual this all was. On the way home, a funny drunk man put himself close to Sarah's face, demanding her name. It had become a birthday day for everyone.
"SURPRISE!!!!!" Our distraction worked. She had no idea about the birthday picnic we had birthday planned all week. "You guys!" The home team cut up Hazels' green appples, brought out the nutella and cracked open the Crystal light-on-the-go packets. We listened to the Across the Universe soundtrack and had enough unhealthy snacks to wire a kindergarten class. Nice cookies are our friend. We cracked jokes, talked, and watched Meghan impromptu interpretative dance. Again--yes, please. The day was out of control. We easily came together and created such a celebration!! I can't get over how fond I am of these folks. In the evening was a mini-feast and we birthday watched a re-cap of the Office. Her mother would be proud of us.

Facebook Status seen the next day: Sarah hearts her most hilarious go.ed group ever.
Mission accomplished.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"National Hug a Kenyan Day"

"It's been sweet."

It's November 21st. You should definitely go hug a Kenyan.

The ride out to the fields puts the whole world in perspective. The schema I had about this planet and the actual world is not the same. Steep, green lush hills ringed with banana crops, beans, cassava, and mini-cultivations dominate the landscape for just about as far as you can see. Nothing but hills. Rwanda's rural country is what I imagine the terraces of India resembling. Assumptions have not been working out. I'd like to add traveling to India to see them on my list of things to do. I'm this little student being bumped up and down a sloping, dirt path, in a Landrover that's taking my team to its research site. I smile (1) because I'm enjoying this group research thing, (2) because the children are yelling Komera to us as we pass, and (3) I still feel like an idiot for thinking all of Sub-Saharan Africa looked like the Lion King.
Reality checks are so good.
Social Context for Development class has been killing us conceptually in order to prepare us for our case-study. Katie: "I feel like a very small fish in a very very big pond." Preach it, sister. Well, our research is here. We arrived Tuesday in Gitarma, a town one hour south of the capital, to do 8 days of action research in Cyeza (chay-zuh) district. FH is going to use our reports to petiton for government funding and help Rwanda with their Vision 20/20 economic plan (kind of a smaller version of the Millenium Development Goals). Our research question: How do the people of Cyeza self report community variables that contribute to or hinder development in their community? We break up in groups of four and go out in an area of about 6,000 households to do as many interviews as we can to gather information about structural, contextual, environmental, and transformational concepts. As a group, we come together every morning, go over our successes, our critiques on questions, re-translations of changes into Kinyarwanda, and inputting our interviews for interpretations when we return to Kigali.
What I've learned about group field research

*I love it. It's the polis exemplified.
*It's still overwhelming, er, just... less overwhelming. And hard. I should admit it's still hard.
*It's much more fun to input data with a team member than braving an endless spread sheet by yourself. It also helps to have music on.
*I'm grateful for the questions my teammates come up with.
*Haha, You have to be strong enough to have your idea shot down in group debriefing time.
*Having three people rotating the roles of observation, interviewing, and recording is incredibly effective. Covers all bases and helps each person focus on their task.

*You can learn a lot about a social situation and values through observation.
It's been sweet. I enjoy this.

As a group, I think we've grown. The other day I looked on with maternal pride at dinner. (We get fed very well in Africa. We really do, however) Dinner last night was boiled eggs, hot dog bun loaves & sweet bread, nutella, cubed cheese, pineapple, and tea; and not one of us uttered one word of mal intent. In fact, we loved the stuff and ate until we were full. Every day, our cooks work soooo hard for us . It wasn't Olive Garden or the most balanced meal but we've come to the point where just about everything is a blessing.
Speaking of meals....next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Bizarre. Home sickness won't be an issue since since college has kept me in the midwest for this holiday so I've gotten used to it. I just hope we have greens! I will be happy to be a sea away from Black Friday and shopping ads. There's a really good article in Sojourners about it that you folks might enjoy. I think all of the comments make very good points. Never fear, the links is at the end--b
ecause I don't know how to embed...
Komera in Kinyarwanda is loosely translated into "stay strong". You'd be heartless not to be slightly melted when the children run alongside the car yelling "Komera, Komera!"... when we wish them the same. Most in this district work hard cultivating subsistence crops against the weather, walk up to forty minutes for water, have to tie up their animals in their sitting rooms to keep them from theft, and sleep on straw mats laid on mud packed floors. I'm a pansie. I couldn't live a week in those conditions without complaining. They wish us, "Komera" with such good will. -sigh- And we wish them the same. We wave back, matching their vigor, because to not return their hospitality, their wave, their greetings, would kill a bit of our souls.


article link: http://www.sojo.net/blog/godspolitics/?p=4014&title