Monday, December 9, 2013

Visiting Eleanor Roosevelt at 'Home'

     So I've done some 'home' visits before.  This can be confusing.  "Wait, aren't they orphans?" some friends ask. Yes, or selected for extreme vulnerability, (remaining parent is sick or unable to give care, extreme poverty, abuse in the home.)  Also Rwanda's social system is very different than the US.  Everyone has some guardian, assigned by the government. It might be an uncle you hardly know, some distant cousin, a stepmother.  This guardian might be pretty unhappy you've been assigned to them.  Or not.  Maybe they care for the student the best the can.  Regardless of the situation everyone has to leave the village during school vacations, so they maintain some connection with where they came from, and so they have somewhere to go when the time is up. This stresses me out, seeing them going back to vulnerable situations they were selected out of, However, for some of the kids just being in the village and having other people call to check up on them can improve how their guardians treat them, or how they are perceived for the future.  If you think your house boy is going to turn into a well educated earner you might be a bit nicer to him.  So it's possible the situation they are returning to isn't quite as dire as the one they left.
     Some of my girls live entirely alone, or only with other siblings.  Some live in homes with a surviving parent who has remarried.  (In Rwanda its pretty common for this new spouse to be openly hostile to the previous union's children.  This of course seems crazy to me, but is cultural.)  Some live with Grandparents or 'Granduncles'.  Many live with aunts or uncles that have plenty of their own children to care for.  Many work as house girls / domestic servants for their guardians during the break. 

After the *end* (brief break? halftime?) of Application Boot Camp, I went to see everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt I hadn't been to see yet. 9 more girls.  Every visit was wonderful.  All the girls were glad to see me and I was always shown Rwandan hospitality and treated like royalty.  Below are a few photos and a few notes from the visits.  For some of the longer visits, I was afraid I would get lost and took Yvonne with me as my tour guide.  She was amazing and is the best travel companion one could ever hope for.

Agnes, Me, Her Mom
Visiting Agnes was nuts! We took a bus two hours south to Nyanze.  Then a 1 hour moto ride to Busoro city.  Then asked around for her at the local government because she does not have a phone and her mom doesn't have a phone.  We finally found someone who knew where she lives and took us to a bike taxi to take us, for another 1 hour ride.  When we got there she was so surprised. She said she didn't think we could ever find her. It was great to see her.

Travel team starting a journey in Nyambugogo Bus Park

Friend and Ornella
Improbably, on the way to visit Josiane, we bumped in to Ornella in Remera bus park with a friend.  Doesn't she look all grown up with braids in?

Josiane's family and Me

Josiane lives in Muthenderi, in the East, not too far from Kibungo.  I met her mom at the baptism recently at ASYV. She has two younger brothers and a younger sister. It was a long journey to find her and there was no mobile phone service, so Yvonne had to work extra hard to track down where to go by asking anyone nearby.  When we finally arrived it was great to meet the whole family.

Brother, Cow, Me, Adelphine

Ancient Granny, Aunt, Me, Adelphine, Brother

Adelphine lives with her aunt, 2 brothers and an ancient Grandmother who insisted on walking me up the steep train back to the dirt road they live off.  Her family was super nice and super generous.  Her brother had set up a solar panel so the family could charge their cell phones.

Solar set up in Rugobabgoba

Violette and her Family
 That same day in the afternoon I visited Violette. Her aunt had a little baby girl named Chance that cried a lot.  This photo is Violette's aunt, self, Aunt, cousin and laughing Grandmother. Violette showed me around her village.  She took me to a community animal share where these pigs are starving.  The photos are terrible, they were moving constantly and the light and angles were all wrong, but trust me starving pigs look weird:

This is a pig,  In Runda.

Yvonne and Josiane sample the fresh cassava root 
Yvonne and I travelled to Butare to visit Josiane, who lives alone mostly or sometimes with her half-brother when he is around.  I met her neighbors and saw the fields she cultivates.  She harvested some cassava root for me right there and we ate some fresh from the ground. Yes, she is wearing a Plaisir shirt, one of two competing condom brands here in Rwanda.  Okay, this didn't delight me, but I do support condom use.

Chantal, her Brother and some kids who live nearby
Chantal lives in the Western Province, in a house alone with her brother who is 1 year older than her, Placide. They do have some aunts and uncles nearby.  After a 2 hour bus ride to Ngororero, a 30 minute moto ridge to Gatumba, she met us near a market.  Then we hiked 1 hour straight up to the house where they live.  Mountain goat style.  The house is adorably decorated and impeccably kept.  It's hard to imagine what this house would be like with two American teens living there on their own.

Chantal, Yvonne, Placide and a friend, about halfway up to their house

Noeline, Her Aunt, Uncle, and 4 boy cousins

Noeline and 2 cousins in front of her house

I visisted Noeline in Cuminagatanu (15) about 20 minutes outside of Kigali town center.  She lives with her uncle, aunt and their 4 sons.  Her uncle is an interesting guy who told me Anne Heyman could not really be a woman because she was so intelligent. Thanks.  Noeline was so glad to see me and made me a special card.

The visits were all bitter sweet because it was so good to see the girls, and also for most of them this will be my last time seeing them, at least until I come back for their graduation in 2016.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Courtney - wonderful to read this account and get a snapshot of the girls at home. Sounds like an amazing trip.