Sunday, November 27, 2011

One Week

Today marks one week until I leave Rwanda.  Saying goodbye to this amazing country and to my wonderful boys is going to be one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.  Knowing that I will never see some of the faces that have become a part of my life, ever again is really unfathomable.  I want to share the story of one little boy who has changed my life.  He has taught me what it really means to love unconditionally.  I have changed his name to Spiderman (not to be confused with the comic book character, though both are super heroes) to protect his identity. 

There are people in this world who shine so bright that their presence can be blinding and impossible to ignore.  Spiderman is one of those light. He is changed me in ways I cannot explain and forever left his footprint on my heart.  
He caught my eye the first time I saw him.  A huge toothy grin, and scars on his face, a wisdom in his eyes.  There was just something about him.  The first thing I learned about his case was that everyone was on his case, the toughest in the center.  In his first few days he ran away several times and his little body has a hard time dealing with withdrawals.  He told Rafiki his father's occupation was to beat him and many days he sat alone, away from the other boys.  He struggles in school and cannot retain information very well, a possible side effect of his early drug use.  Some days are quite hard on Spiderman.  I am no doctor but I believe he suffers from PTSD.  Joseanne told us his whole story one day after she spent hours comforting him.  It goes like this:
One day Spiderman returned home to find his father's dead body.  He had been murdered.  He sat and cried and cried for help but no one came.  He worries the same people will come back for his mother.  He told Joseanne that he would rather they take him instead- he loves his mother so much.  He loves his mother so much because she loves him so much.  She would tell Spiderman to behave so that his father would not beat him.  Spiderman remembers his mother telling him that when his father beat him it was like she was taking the blows because he is her heart.
Spiderman has suffered so much in his short life.  He has seen things his young eyes never should have seen and he bares the scar.  He has days where he can clearly not handle it all.  Tears well in his eyes and he cannot form a smile.  These days kill me because his light should never be dimmed.  But then there are the days when he takes me by the hands, his big eyes gleaming, and says, "I love you."
A lover and a fighter my Spiderman is.  I wish for him to know his greatness everyday of his life.  His face is imprinted forever in my mind, his hand will never leave mine, and his heart is now part of my soul.  He is a being unlike any other and a little boy who makes living in this crazy world bearable.   

Monday, November 21, 2011

Live 2 Break

Happiness. Joy. Hope.  Those are the words I would use to sum up the last 10 days at Les Enfants de Dieu. 

If there is one thing my boys love more than anything else in the world it is to dance.  Sun up to sun down they will dance.  As soon as they get the chance the boom box is rocking and they are grouped together in synchronized routines.  Many an afternoon, I have spent twirling in circles, shuffling from side to side, and getting down with the boys in our dining room as the music cracked in and out on the sketchy stereo.  So much joy has come to the center through dance, a language and an understanding that needs no words.

So of course if they had one wish it would be to have real dance teachers, not just the pirated music videos they watch to perfect their skills.  Thank god for Catalyst Rwanda and the Live 2 Break Crew who came and spent the last ten days teaching the boys to pop, lock and drop it.

As I watched the boys transform into break dancers this last week I felt so happy.   Their smiles never faded and their eyes lit up every time Pervez (the break master) tied his bandanna on and showed them a new move.  Each time Kate or Bret (the rest of the crew) slowed down to help a boy until he got it, I saw that glint of pride radiate from his soul.  This week the boys saw that they mattered.  The Live 2 Break crew had come all the way from London just for them because they are just as important as any other child.  They will never forget those ten days, they will treasure them forever-- just as I will cherish the moments I got to sit and watch them smile as they spun in circles and hopped back in forth.

There are not enough thank yous in the world but it's all I have; so thank you Pervez, Kate, Bret and Nicola for making my boys know how special they really are!

The Live 2 Break Crew

Elena and I "breaking it"

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Heads or Tails.

Driving through the hills this weekend in our rented Rav4 on the way to Nyungwe National Park (one of the only rain forests to survive the last ice age) I couldn't stop thinking about how I was sitting in the front of a car while all around me hundreds of people were climbing up hills in bare feet on their way to market or their terraced tea plantains. What made it so that I was the one sitting in the car not the one out in the elements?  And I realized so clearly, maybe really for the first time, that life is determined by one thing, that one thing is chance.  It really is left to a coin toss it seems.  Because I was born in America, in a hospital to a white middle class family, I am able to drive my Rav4 through the hills of Rwanda but the people we passed on the road were born in homes in southern Rwanda and so they spend much of their lives living and working  and walking the land of their birthplace. It is all rather funny to me that the conditions in which we enter this world can be so different and based on nothing at all.  I am feeling quite conflicted about it, what right do I have to receive a university education and live a privileged life--while my brothers and sisters here spend their days in the fields and fighting to afford an education? What makes me different? I am no different than my Rwandan countrymen but I have been born into a life where I have more opportunity and choice and complain when I do not get what I want, but why???

It was hammered home ever more today at work when I sat with one of my boys and listened to his concerns and hopes and fears.  He is in secondary school and time is coming for him to return home but he is worried because there are problems at home. His father is very poor and unable to work and all this boy wants to do is to help (because family is everything here) while continuing his education.  He is brilliant and he must continue to study (which the center will pay for) but there may not be food at home and his father has no means to support him.  This boy could very well be in the United States or the upper-class of Rwanda where these problems do not exist but chance has landed him here; with hopes and dreams but a seemingly impossible road to reach them.  He told me he wants to be a doctor.  He is smart and hardworking, more than students I've encounter in the states.  He is determined and strong-willed, more than anyone I know.  But I couldn't help but think that this dream could very well not be possible, with the demands of his home and with very little to make this a reality.  It broke me.  In the US a child wants to be a doctor and so he becomes a doctor, but because the randomness of human existence put my boy here, where life is layers of complexities and circumstances, he may not become a doctor.  Even with my tinge of doubts, I turned to him and told him he would become a doctor.  He will be a doctor.  I have to believe this because if I don't have hope how can I except anyone else to and hope is what keeps us alive. 

Our world is complex and diverse and random and I'm just trying to make sense of it all.  Ha! Who am I kidding, I suppose man has been trying to do that since the beginning.