Saturday, June 29, 2013

wrapped up

Coming to work at the center on my last day
there were bundles to open.
It is good to have presents to open before work.
The coreopsis blooms smiled at their marks on cloth.
 Anna Marie had chosen to dye her scarf in cochineal the
day before but after seeing the bundles unwrapped
she decided to add leaf prints to her piece.
Faina is so beautiful in her cochineal dyed wrap.
Heads together and wrapped up.
Alphonsine helped me with my wrap.
Every Friday the ladies practice yoga at days end.
The room is packed. Lots of slow breathing and
'ahhs' at good back stretches.
After yoga Katie and I
wanted to teach the ladies a traditional American dance, the hoedown.
We showed them three moves, the do si do, promenade and swing.
Then we put the music on and everyone swung a partner. It was
great fun. After which, with Simon translating, I thanked the group
for all they gave me this week. In return, they asked I not forget them, help them find ways to
earn money, and come back to visit them. I promised all three.
We held hands in a circle and prayed.
The goodbyes were one by one with hugs and kinyarwanda murmers.
I will miss each and every one.
Not everyone was present here but all are in my heart.
Now I need to set the promise in motion from afar.

Monday, June 24, 2013

bundles and blue

Katie and I traveled the rocky road to work with the ladies as usual.
 I began by teaching how to build and manage
an indigo vat. Until their seeds grow for Polygonum tinctoria and woad
they will work with Indigofera tinctoria that I will supply.

I brought silk pieces for each of the 35 ladies so they could make
head wraps from the colors we had created during the week.
We spiced up the dyepots from the day before and gave the ladies
a choice of dyeing a solid color, which many chose. They love bright colors and
the cochineal, weld and onion skins were options.
A happy lot we are.
In the afternoon,
scarves emerged from the dyepots to dry on the far line
with baby Sandrine in the middle of things, enjoying the bustle.
Eucalyptus is one of the plants the center dyes with
and there is an abundance of it here.
So I gave the option of learning leaf bundling
which 8 or so ladies wanted to try. The coreopsis flowers and onion skins
were used with eucalyptus leaves. Many of the ladies wanted
to use just the flowers.
Meanwhile skeins started to emerge from the indigo vat.
We overdyed cochineal and weld skeins and plain white skeins.
The week's palette grew.
Bundles piled up which we boiled up
after the ladies left for the day.

Today's lasting impression is how lovely
it is to work with such a large group and everyone is thankful,
loving and happy with what transpired. No one looking for
more, or is less than satisfied. Blissful dyeing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

komera komera

There is no doubt in my mind that I have felt more welcome being amongst Rwandans than any other country in my memory. They are respectful, reverent, generous of spirit and heart even in the midst of their dark struggles. Katie has introduced me to many of her Rwandan friends. They lived through the genocide, barely. They are still hungry, suffer from the bad water, barely have enough money to eat each day. Some are working on their college and masters degrees at the expense of eating. One of the Kinyarwanda phrases that is said over and over to each other is "komera komera" which means "be strong, be strong". There is no way to appropriately convey how strong these people are.
There is no feeling of entitlement here. There is no automation, electric tools, tractors and mowers. I have seen two tools that are used, a hoe, the other a machete. There is pride in their land. All of the grass is cut with a machete, even at 6" tall. Leaves are picked up one by one. All of the fields are hoed by hand. If a farmer has a field that needs to be planted the neighbors pitch in to get it tilled. Rwandans function collectively, individualism is unheard of. They suffer in silence yet collectively they support each other.
Each day this week when Katie and I arrived at the center we would greet each lady. A hug with three or more 'cheek to cheeks' and a hand hold at the end. Eye to eye contact, many Kinyarwanda words said back and forth then onto the next lady. At first I thought, "oh Lord, how will I get through all 35 ladies." They patiently taught me the phrases and words, slowly pronouncing them as I would recite them over and over. By weeks end I was communicating. They would smile and hug some more.

Today I feel blessed. I have lived Rwanda. I have walked the dusty roads covered in volcanic rock that make each step difficult. I have been prayed for, prayed to, sung to, sung with and danced with these beautiful people. I will miss this place. I will return.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

hope springs

Day two the dyework began in earnest. Simon interpreted my instructions for Virginia, the dyer,
so she can proceed after I leave with a full understanding.
We started by soaking the madder roots, which were already ground to make for
a quicker extraction of the dye.
Then we extracted the dye from the cochineal bugs.
Between the translating, which is naturally slow due to the new information
being absorbed, and working with the tools that we had at hand these two processes took until after lunch to get to the point we could start the actual dyeing.
The rest of the ladies, some 28 of the 35 in the group, took their places
to do their daily fiber work with us as a background to watch.
Many times the ladies have things outside they need to do first such as selling vegetables from their gardens, and also doctors appointments so it's rare all 35 will be present at one time
In the afternoon, there was much curiosity as the dyeing started.
We got the madder, cochineal and onion skins finished and
then started the weld dyepot.

We were entertained by baby Sandrine who loved to say
"bite' (beetay) which means "what's up".
Virginia was very clever and efficient.
I felt she could save the madder root to reuse again so she went and
tore banana leaves from the trees and laid the roots out on them to dry.
Virginia hung out the skeins to dry. I suggested they
let the skeins cure for a day or so before washing as less dye will wash out.
She hung these skeins and turned to me with a big smile and a thumbs up.
No language barrier here.
My pictures aren't as rich and bright as they were in real life but left to right
cochineal, onion skins, madder, weld.
Katie and I got back to her dear home about 5:30. It is dark here
by 6ish each day and the sun comes up about the same, year round.
It is customary for families to have house help. There are three familes that live in this
compound, Katie, the landlord, and another family. Each of these families have cooks/house help.
Katie does not. We cook, do dishes, wash our clothes and sweep and mop. Nothing new!
This is the cooking house and Charlotta is preparing dinner
on the tradition imbabura which uses charcoal from eucalyptus trees or other
types of trees for the heat source. They wash all the dishes outside in tubs and of course the clothes
as well. They work hard and are lovely to be amidst.

It was a very good day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


It's been a week now that I been travelling Rwanda. I've met those in utter poverty and chronic sickness, the middle class and the wealthy. Most of the time has been with the poor and it is hard to express the juxtaposition of their complete faith in God's salvation and the endless knowledge of no way out.

These beautiful ladies greet me each day with a hug, lots of smiles and love. They say "yes'ashimwe" to me and I reply "ahimbazwe". "praise Jesus", "let him be praised". They believe in their heart of hearts this is the best way to give and have hope. And their lives are in a cycle of constant battle on every front. They are sick in the belly from bad water, some have HIV, most are always in a state of feeling ill. Charcoal pills take away the belly aches for awhile. The poor are fighting for their lives.

I am an Anglican and so their undying faith is not foreign to me. I feel His strength in my own life and that goodness will always come from difficulty and sorrow.

As I scrubbed my clothes tonight in a tub and felt the ache in my back, it was tenfold for their ache. My stomach aches because theirs do. My heart is full because theirs is for our being together.

This is Diana, she is sick today. Her throat is swollen and she has a headache.
She's on antibiotics and will improve.

Thanks for thankful.

throw down your heart

A large part of my trip to Rwanda is being with these woman to help open up some new color options in their dye work. It is a collaboration with True Vineyard Ministries, a counseling and support system that works with 35 woman who come to the center each day to process, by hand, naturally dyed yarns from their small flock of sheep and in turn they get paid to support themselves and their families. I have brought seeds for them to plant for their own garden which you can see in the background. Until the seeds grow we will dye with the raw dyestuffs such as madder root, weld, indigo and cochineal. For the dyes they can't obtain I will provide and hopefully get others involved with donations to the project. They are presently dyeing with eucalyptus, coreopsis and herb plants they also use for stomach illnesses.
We started the day with an introduction to the week's work.
Simon, to my right who is the country director for TVM, translated for me from English to Kinyarwanda.
Faustin, to my left, is the farm manager.
The ladies all welcomed me with a singing prayer that was beautiful.
Here the ladies are looking at what cochineal bugs look like.
Their days are spent like this.
Washing the raw wool, picking the dried locks, carding into rolags to spin,
spinning the yarn and then dyeing it.
It's a peaceful place that will also burst out in prayer, song and dance.
The ladies are struggling with a number of issues; poverty and sickness always
run throughout and there are tears for the fears.
At the end of the day the ladies wanted to dance and so did I.
Virginia, the dyer, took my hands. They sang a welcome song.
A wonderful start to the week.
This morning the dyework begins.
There are lots of hugs, smiles and warmth from the ladies.
They always find the strength for that. Amazing.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

heading north

We had the good fortune to be guests at a traditional Rwandan wedding.
On the street outside the host home it was a mix of guests and townspeople.
Most exciting for all.
The fashions were elegant


I made friends with this group of young ones as we waited.
There are three parts to a Rwandan wedding; this day takes 4 hours.
It is acted out as a play with family members taking the parts to reenact
the course of events beginning with the fathers agreeing to the marriage, traditional dances, the cows owner and shepherd singing, playing flutes and dancing, right though the bartering for how many cows the grooms family shall give the bride. It was a marvelous play full of laughter and love. We were served Fanta soda as we all sat for the 3.5 hours. Then there was a feast of rices, potato dishes, roasted bananas with beans, meats in delicious sauces and more.
The beautiful bride and groom.
 Katie and I left Kigal's heat and bustle and headed
north to Munsanze, Ruhengeri specific.
The taxi drive took about two hours and wound up through
the rugged terrain of central Rwanda. The land is
full of crops and farming, goats, cooler air and less congestion.
 A common way to transport anything and everything.
This is dried wood that will be used for cooking sources.
This fellow is holding on to
the back of the truck to hitch a ride up the hill.
Further north 
Croplands are tiered to avoid erosion. At the base you can
see brown crop squares. There are water channels that divide the squares
that are beneficial for watering the crops.
Along the way I saw a farmer standing in a trench bucketing water
onto one such plot. 
We got settled at Katie's home, complete with a sheep who grazes the yard outside our door, a beautiful yellow lab, a hen and many food gardens.
We then walked the 20 minutes to market to get
fresh produce and necessities. With a very dark sky looming
and two most heavy shopping sacks we opted to catch rides with two motos back to the house(motocycle taxis, see them in the 1st photo above).
Great fun and the most efficient way to get around.
There is a driver and you take the place behind,
strap on the helmut (the law) and off you go. 5 minute ride, 300 francs or $0.45.
Life is good! The dyeing begins this week.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

waking up in Rwanda

My first days in Rwanda have been beyond words. It's a beautiful place full of color, heat, warmth from the people I have met yet also incredibly jarring. Katie and I are staying outside Kigali for a few days at one of her dear friend's farm. Our first morning we awoke to early singing as the women sift the chaff from a crop of dried beans.
The great aunt, who is blind, still does the work as well.
The crops that are drying, which are common to the area,
are sorghum (shown here), beans and soy beans.

Today we joined Katie's colleagues for a home visit to 
a client in the hills of Kigali. International Justice Mission is partnering
with the Rwanda legal system to intervene in child sexual assualt.
This was a view along the way.

This little one greeted me when we arrived at our visit.

There is a goodness is joyful yet incredibly heartbreaking.
This journey has just begun.