Tuesday, July 18, 2017


When I think back to our Rwanda trip, there are so many cherished memories.  The blog posts that I wrote definitely highlight a lot of our experiences, but there are so many things that didn't fit into a neat category.  I decided to write one more catch all post with the odds and ends that helped make this an unforgettable adventure.


I'll break this down in some large bullet points for us all.

▪️Celebrity Sightings:  While in Amsterdam the first time, we actually recognized CeeLo Green who was headed to a concert in Latvia.  He was kind enough to take a picture with John and Violet. 😂


Not 30 minutes later, John thought that he saw Harrison Ford boarding our plane.  We thought he must just be in celebrity sighting mode after seeing CeeLo, but no, it was actually Harrison Ford boarding our flight to Kigali. 😳🤣 We ended up going through customs with Harrison and his wife, Calista Flockhart, who did get to witness the twins having meltdowns and gave us commiserating looks.  It certainly felt like we were living in an alternate reality.

▪️People who Helped Us:  The house where we stayed was very nice, but the best thing about it was the people who were there to help us.  Shauntel cooked our meals and kept us fully stocked on fresh juice. She also swooped in to help clean up a potty-training accident, which was kind and amazing, and I would regularly find her playing with the twins.


Shaka acted as our security guard and helped run errands and also was often playing with our kids.


Epimaque was our driver, and we were in such capable hands.  These people were each SO KIND to our children and seemed to genuinely delight in them, and they made our time in Rwanda that much richer.  I cried when it was time to hug them all goodbye.


▪️Genocide Memorial: We did get the opportunity to visit the Genocide Memorial, which was a powerful experience, even the second time.  I wrote at length about it last time, but it should be noted how much that marks the country.  I am always amazed at the resilience and courage and forgiveness on display in Rwanda after such extreme tragedy.


▪️Being a Spectacle: It goes without saying that we stood out as a group.  🙈😂  One afternoon, we were in need of getting out of the house, and we decided to take a walk to get some cold drinks.  We ambled up the road a bit with our 8 kids mostly walking, sometimes being carried, along.  Once we made it to a shop, we turned into a display with people taking photos and videos, including us.  But, we got our cold Cokes and Sprites and got to see a little more of Rwandan life.


▪️Low Points: Obviously, with a bunch of children in tow, there were bound to be some tough moments.  Thankfully, these were mostly pretty minor, and I am still thanking the Lord for the hand of protection that he had on our group.  No one got seriously ill.  We did have some pretty bad nose bleeds from the twins, including one that spread blood all over the floor in a play land, and Violet did throw up as we were boarding our flight out of Kigali. The other low point was anytime a child had to take malaria medication.  For us, this was once a week, and for the Heads, it was once a day. 😱 Trying to get your child to understand that taking the medicine is better than getting malaria is a difficult task indeed.  It did get better by the end of the trip, but I am not sad that we don't do it all the time.

▪️Local Markets: It's always fascinating to me to shop in local markets and see what people's daily lives and foods look like.  We got to shop a couple of different times and also bought pineapple off the back of a bike on one occasion.  Joel said it looked like really good pineapple. 🍍 When asked what the tip off for "good pineapple" was, he said, "I just know." And that pineapple was 💯.  So good. Most pineapple in America is really only hoping to be Rwandan pineapple.


▪️Adoption Education: I was really curious about what it would be like to take our multi-cultural family on the road.  In Rwanda, adoption has not historically looked like what it looks like in the United States - often children that would be taken into the home would not be considered full family members.  Especially when we were in the airport, we were questioned about William and Violet and whether or not they were actually our children.  I didn't take offense at this, but it did make getting through security even more taxing.  One security guard asked me to explain it all to him and then thanked me when I did.  Interestingly, Joel and Annie said that people actually asked them if William and Violet were darker white people, because they are much lighter than Rwandan people.  It is fascinating to see how people are viewed differently throughout the world.


▪️Cultural Differences: Courtney and I got to spend a wonderful morning with Annie.  We talked about many things, but one of the things that was most fascinating to me was about appearances.  In Rwanda, women talk about gaining weight the same way we American women talk about losing weight.  They trade ideas and tell each other of stuff that works to be able to put on more kilos.  There is also a skin lightening industry there, and I got to explain that in America, we white women like to try to get our skin darker.  It was striking to see how beauty is perceived so differently based on what is valued and to realize how easy it is to be dissatisfied with whatever it is we have.


▪️Traveling with Friends: Having this adventure with dear friends is something I will never forget.  The Heads were fantastic travel buddies on every level, and we had so much fun!  It is a true gift to have friends that can run the spectrum of emotions and experiences with you and be able to laugh about it at the end of the day. 


▪️Traveling with 8 Kids: Though I am not in a hurry to book a huge international trip in the coming months with 8 children, I will definitely consider doing it again in the future.  These kids did so well so much of the time.  We asked a lot of them, driving literally from border to border of the country, keeping an intense schedule and going on not enough sleep.  There were hard times FOR SURE, but there were really good times to.  I will never forget having a Moana sing-a-long with all the kids knowing every word to the songs and being absolutely thrilled with it.  It was one of those moments where life felt so incredibly sweet, and I'm so grateful to have those memories.


I can't believe this trip has come and gone, and I'm so thankful for all that is represented for our family.  Thanks for reading along!