A long overdue update

I’ve been hearing a lot of complaints about my lack of blogging recently, but a combination of factors have contributed to my lack of writing. On main reason is the lack of reliable Internet here in Rwanda for what seems like an eternity. All of East Africa is connected to the rest of the world by three cables off the coast of Kenya. Apparently a ship dropped anchor on one of them severely reducing the service to Rwanda. The company claims that Internet speed has only been reduced by 20% but here in Rwanda you can go all day only being able to check a few emails. It’s like it’s 1994 and I’m using America Online again. Anyway, it’s nearly impossible to upload  photos, check up on the news and keep up with the endless stream of email correspondence that goes with this job.

Another reason I’ve been off the map is that I just haven’t really had time to sit down and write something out. Jenny and I have been incredibly busy this year. As you know we spent some time in London, and I came back just in time for my birthday and to meet the group from Jackie Chan’s Dragon’s Heart Europe foundation for their first official visit to our Center. I only had a couple of days after that to get back to my routine when Ron, the president of ROP and a good friend and his wife Caryl arrived in Rwanda. This was Ron’s first visit to the ROP since he founded it in 2006, so those of you who know the where we came from and where we are now can imagine the changes he witnessed. Ron and I spent a lot of time together and I was able to get to know him much better than I knew him before, and I must say I have incredible respect and admiration for the man. I was also thrilled to finally have someone from the board of directors in the U.S. come and see firsthand the results of all the labor Jenny, myself and the staff have put in over the last couple of years.  We hope that he and Caryl left with plenty of photos, stories and memories to take back and share with everyone in the States.

Another visitor we recently had wasn’t quite so welcomed. One night I was in the bathroom when I heard a strange scratching noise coming from the bathtub. I figured it was probably just another massive disgusting cockroach but when I peered behind the curtain I nearly crapped my pants when I saw this monster.

After some research I discovered it wasn’t the spawn of Satan but rather a harmless mole cricket. Even today I harbor feelings of regret for spraying it with roach spray and washing it down the drain when all he wanted to do was escape our tub and burrow into the ground somewhere. Sorry Moley, next time I find one of your kin I’ll transport him outside where he belongs.

Jenny had her 30th birthday on February 4th, and to celebrate Jen, Cat, Zack, Robert, Anne and myself drove out to Gisenyi for an overnight holiday at Paradis Malhide, one of our favorite places in Rwanda. As we’re all pretty broke rather than staying in the bungalows we camped out in tents on the grass in front of the lake.

We spent the day swimming, sunning and hanging out on the small stony beach and after dark we made our way into the restaurant where we sat around the fire drinking and eating and enjoying the traditional Intore dancers and drummers, who at one point made all of us stand up and have our own go at Rwanda’s traditional moves.

Robert, who is Rwandan, made the rest of us look like stupid amateurs.

Then the staff of Paradis gave Jenny a surprise treat. Somehow they knew it was her birthday (I’m still not sure how) and since they remembered her from previous stays they wanted to give her a nice birthday gift. After the dancing they presented her with a beautiful hand carved platter in the shape of a fish along with a hand carved wooden knife an fork set. Jen had loved these items since our first stay there two years ago so she was thrilled to receive them as such a generous and thoughtful gift from them.

Next it was time for the birthday cake and some champagne. Before we left Kigali Zack had spotted some Chinese “fire candles” in a shop and we decided to risk everyone’s lives by using them on a cake Cat had made and brought along for Jenny. They said, “Do not use at face” but one only turns 30 once so we figured it was worth the risk.

If you’d like to see all of the photos from Jenny’s 30th Birthday Bash you can click here.

Shortly after Jen’s birthday our Italian housemate Anne celebrated her own. We celebrated hers on Pancake Day, something I’ve never heard of but apparently it’s a big deal, at least in England.

Everyone took their turn flipping pancakes (Zack was the only one who dropped his on the floor) and after the pancakes were finished we sang happy birthday to Anne, but since we had no cake we had to improvise.

Yes, that’s a pineapple with candles stuck in it.

On a more somber note our good friend Zack has departed Rwanda to return home to California after spending about a year with us. Aside from being Cat’s boyfriend he was also Kilio’s personal chew toy.

We’ll miss you Zack!

Kilio continues his reign as center of the universe. When he’s not chasing people and jumping around like an idiot…

…he’s still trying to chew off people’s fingers.

Our long time housemate Janno received good news this week. He has been offered an amazing job in Ethiopia. He will also be greatly missed but at least he gets to travel to his new job in a spaceship.

We have a new addition to the ROP. A couple of new baby goats were born about a month ago and one of them is strangely people friendly. The photo below shows one of them, and when I was taking this photo they asked me what the young goat’s name was.

May I introduce to the world, Ryan.

So I think that about sums things up for now. I’ll try to be better about keeping the world informed of  what’s going on on my side of the world, so stay tuned!

Thanks for reading!

SJ

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