Monday, September 8, 2008

New Old Friends

I recently enjoyed a wonderful day in New York City. The purpose was to meet up with one of my student friends from Baltimore who is working in Connecticut for the summer and a couple of my ooze buddies. The Ooze is a website ( that I hang out on. My Standing in the School of the Dead post was on the articles page. There is also a message board that was designed to discuss emergent religious stuff, but there are a lot of general discussions as well. This year a bunch of the ooze folks were gathering at the July 4 holiday in Defiance, Ohio for a chance to meet each other, eat, and fellowship. I was not able to that gathering, but I met up with a few oozers in NYC before they journey to Ohio.

Heather is from Colorado and we have yakked online for a few years. Liz lives in New Jersey and is a newer acquaintance. My buddy Victoria, who spent the summer as a nanny in Connecticut joined the party as well. I took the Amtrak Acela to NYC early in the morning. I was able to have a nice leisurely breakfast at an outdoor café while I waited to everyone else to show. The plan for the day was a trip to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Victoria was excited because her boss drove her into the city in his Maserati. Liz’s aunt is a member of the museum, and she let us borrow her member’s pass. We were able to bypass the lines and walk straight in free of charge. This was my first time at the MOMA, which is a large facility. We started toward the top with the impressionist. We all took pictures next to Monet’s Water Lilies.

The most interesting exhibit for me was a special presentation on Dali and film. The showing included excerpts from Hitchcock’s Spellbound which had a Dali inspired dream sequence. The museum had the full sized set pieces drawn by Dali that were part of the film. Dali also worked with Walt Disney on a short film that was made in 1946vand only just released a few years ago called Destino.
Heather and Liz (with Liz’s mom) had to head out to meet some other people, so we said our goodbyes. Victoria and I spent a few more hours exploring the museum. She had seen most of the pieces before. My favorite piece was my Henri Rousseau.

After art viewing we head for lunch at the Modern which is a restaurant at the MOMA. We ate in the Bar area which is a scaled down version of the Modern. I started with a cava then we shared a bottle of an alvarihno. We both had a wonderful garbanzo soup with feta cheese before moving to the main course and of course dessert.

After lunch we window shopped along 5th Avenues nicer shops. We stopped in at Prada; Tiffany’s and even visited Trump Tower for its marvelous public restrooms. Victoria was really excited to visit some private art galleries that had some interesting works. One artist really had an obsession with wax flies. We strolled to St. Patrick’s then said our goodbyes. I took the regular Amtrak back to Baltimore which was running 45 minutes late. Okay, that was annoying. Otherwise, it was really a great time with some old and new friends.

The bar modern

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Something That Works

One of the interesting organizations that I was introduced to and was able to see their work up close and personal was called REACH. The name is an acronym for Reconciliation Evangelism and Christian Healing. The goal of the group is to enhance local capacity for healing, reconciliation and peace-building in communities deeply affected by violent conflict.

One aspect of the program is providing training for healing reconciliation and peace building and to make a positive contribution during the process of genocide prisoners’ reintegration to the community. It is really amazing to see people standing together telling their stories when some were the victims and others were the victimizers. Women spoke of seeing their families killed and fleeing the violence. Another woman had been in prison and her husband was still in prison because of the roles they played during the genocide. Now they had been brought together. Released prisoners built shelters for survivors who lost their homes.

Counseling service for suffers of trauma HIV/AIDS is another part of Reach’s mission. One of the atrocities during the genocide was the rape of Tutsi women by men who were known AIDS carriers. That act was considered crueler than the more direct killing. Another component is peace education for children to ensure that increasing numbers of children in our target areas have access to educational opportunities that promote peace, tolerance, reconciliation and human rights.

These goals are achieved by The School for Peace-Building and Conflict Transformation. The school develops a human resource base of peace-builders with the knowledge, skills and qualifications required for facilitating effective action and movement towards peace and reconciliation at different levels of society in Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region of Africa. I attended a graduation ceremony for 40 women that finished the program.

The organization was founded in 1996 by Philbert Kalisa, a priest with the Anglican Church. Philbert was born in 1966 to Rwandan parents who were exiled in a refugee camp in Burundi due to the killings and other serious human rights violations against Tutsis which started in 1959. While he was pursuing his BA degree in theology at Trinity College Bristol in 1995, Philbert finally got a chance to visit his home country of Rwanda, which was then still in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. He was shocked at the devastation of his country and learned about the great suffering of the Rwandan people who were confronting enormous difficulties as they were trying to rebuild their lives. He also observed signs of deep trauma, hopelessness, fears and hatred among the people whom he met during his visit. This home visit inspired him to seek ways through which the process of healing and reconciliation could be advanced among the citizens of his native land. He then conducted research for his dissertation on 'The Ministry of Reconciliation in Rwanda after the 1994 Genocide' through which he explored the role of the Church in bringing about healing, reconciliation and unity among Rwandans.

After the completion of his studies in UK in August 1996, he came straight to Rwanda with his family in order to establish an independent NGO working for healing and reconciliation among Rwandan people. Responding to his request for support his friends and other Rwandans from different Christian denominations assisted him to set up REACH/Rwanda and establish its constitutions and other governance policies. The organization then began to develop contacts with various denominations in the country so that the ministry could become an interdenominational ministry. Since 1998, the organization has trained 3,680 people including local religious and government leaders as well as women and youth who belong to different Christian denominations or a Muslim community. There are 15 associations or 'Unity Groups' being set up with about 200 members. These groups are engaged in various social, economic and cultural activities such as sports, music and dancing, bible study, group savings and different types of income generating activities (e.g. craft making, animal rearing, crops trading). The Unity Groups have inspired other members of the local communities through their activities based on the spirit of unity and reconciliation.

One of the dancers with REACH. Some are part of the Rwandan National Dance Troupe

Drummers providing music for the dancers

The group I was travelling with.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Standing in the School of the Dead

From the front, the building looks new and modern. A new school built in 1994, waiting for its first students. Standing outside is an old man. You can see the indentation on his skull from a bullet wound. His eyes are hollow and he doesn’t smile. He has come here every day for 14 years. This is where his family rests. This is home. This is Murambi.

Murambi is a hill that is about a 30 minute drive from Butare, in Rwanda near the Burundi border. On April 6, 1994 began 100 days of hell. The plane crash of President Juvenal Habyarimana sparked a violent action aimed at eliminating the existence of the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority. The violence came fast and furious. The order came over the State run radio – Kill the cockroaches. (Cockroaches was the slang term for the Tutsis.) Make it look like they never existed.

On April 16th 50,000 people gathered at the then new school. They were told they would be safe here. They were told to stay inside and wait. They were set up. The electricity was cut off, they could not leave, and there was no food or water. On April 21st the Hutu militia came in and began the slaughter. They had been trained by the French Army to hack the ankles with machetes so the people could not run. This way the soldiers could move through the masses quickly and return later to kill those who were maimed.

The old, the young, men and women, children and infants – they all had to die. You see them at the school. Skeletons laid out on display for all to know and remember. You see the hacked ankles. Women died holding their babies in their arms as they were hacked to death. Nearly all were killed in a day’s time. The old man’s name is Emmanuel and he lost his wife, children and all other family that night at Murambi. A bullet hit him in the head and he fell down, covered in blood and the bodies of people shot after him. When he came to the next day, he crawled out from under the dead and crawled into the nearby banana fields to hide. Eventually he made it the Burundi border and the bullet was removed from his forehead. He is 50 years old but he looks 70.

The French army supposedly secured this area to stop the killing. Yet the French troops mysteriously disappeared in the days preceding the massacre. The soldiers returned with earth moving machines to dig the mass graves. The bodies were dumped in pits and covered over. The soldiers erected a volleyball court on top of the grave sites. Nothing happened here. There are 7 known survivors.

The site is now a museum. The corpses have been treated with lime to preserve them in a mummified state. Each classroom is filled with the bodies. There are 1800 exhumed bodies on display. The smell of death permeates everything. Room after room, bodies are everywhere. It is a surreal scene. How do you react to this? What mental gymnastics are happening in your mind? How can this happen? The curators of the museum, who are survivors of the massacre, encourage you to take pictures—to wade into those rooms and smell the astringent odor of lime and decay, so that you won’t ever forget what happened here. They ask you to bring the story inside your camera to others.

What does this Emmanuel think as a group of mzungu (white) foreigners sit under a tree and sing and pray. Does he wonder why we are here? Does his soul receive some solace because of the reaction of strangers? He sits in our circle. He stands and observes our meditations. He accepts our hugs and words of amahoro (peace). A dark cloud forms over the memorial site. As we leave on our bus the rain begins. God cried.

Monday, June 2, 2008

I promised you pictures

This is Hotel La Palisse where we stayed for most of the trip.

We had a full moon the first night in Kigali.

This is the view from the balcony of the hotel.
Here are some links to blogs of others who went on the trip.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Home Again

I am home from my Rwandan experience. I need some rest and to catch up on some stuff. Tomorrow I will fill in the blanks about the trip and add the pictures.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why I am in Rwanda

Ahh, some free time to put thoughts and ideas together. Below is an explanation of the organizaton that I am travelling with. The website is

Amahoro is a word of traditional African origin meaning peace. Although used widely across Africa, it has particularly deep and significant meaning in places like Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo, where violence and genocide have inflicted unimaginable pain and suffering. When people from various tribes embrace, shake hands or kiss, "amahoro" is used as a greeting to express a deep hope for peace to come into their world. Too often in the colonial era, Christian missionaries in Africa spread a message of grace and forgiveness for life after death, but did not integrate that proclamation with the profound Biblical message of justice, peace, and reconciliation in this life on earth. Many spoke longingly of amahoro in the afterlife, but missed Jesus’ ultimate point: peace enters our story now, not just in the far-off future!

In recent years, innovative Christian leaders around the globe have been observing their world and reaching a similar conclusion: the modern colonial world is giving way to an emerging postmodern, postcolonial world. The methods, values, ideas, strengths, and weaknesses of modern Western Christianity have dominated for many centuries. One of the most damaging effects of modern Christianity has been the idea that we don’t need to learn from each other.
Many of us are realizing that a new day is here - a time for emerging leaders from South, North, East and West to learn and work together in unprecedented partnership and dialogue. Together we face a new world - full of new problems and still riddled with old conflicts, but primed for fresh vision, new questions and a season of true promise. We need to summon new ways of thinking, connecting and moving to forge ahead and ignite transformational change in our communities.
Around the world, a conversation has been growing among an emerging generation of young Christian leaders - often encouraged by thoughtful and forward-thinking older mentors. This conversation isn't just about exploring ideas; it is also about considering new frameworks, building relationships and creating networks. That's why Amahoro exists. We seek to encourage and facilitate a conversation and network of friendships among leaders engaging with the postcolonial African world in the name of Jesus.


At Amahoro, our overarching mission is to motivate and accompany the local church, both in its development as a community of the Kingdom of God and as an agent of transformation in its African context. We seek to walk together to prepare the way for the local church to be a manifestation of the glory of God through love and justice in our African societies.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Return to Civilization

After several days in the Rwandan countryside, I am back in Kigali with internet access. I am bone tired, so I am not going to post much at the moment. Because our schedule has been jammed packed from morning to evening, I have not been able to keep up with the writing that I wanted to do. I am having a blast and promise to write about everything, it just might happen after I get back on Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Food Musings

Well, I found a time that the wireless service works a little better, 5:00 am. I am up early because I went to bed really early. My malaria meds make me very sick to stomach and dizzy so I went to bed at 8:00 pm last night. So now I am sitting in the bathroom using the toilet as a desk for some quality computer time ( I don't want to wake my roommate up).

The first night of the conference was more of an introductory thing. Most people were dead tired and could barely function.

Being a foodie, I will talk about the food. I was suprised at breakfast with the western influence in the food. Eggs and pancakes were part of the buffet. I asked one of ladies I met from Kenya about the food. She said that hotels in these parts of Africa tend to service a generic type of food that does not represent any particular country or region. It is not the food you would have if your were in someone's home. It reminds me of hotel buffets at home. They usually offer a variety of food that is not really good, but not really bad which is the result of making large quantities. There are lots of bananas and passion fruit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Well, I wanted to start showing some pictures, but the wireless is too slow and won't make the connection. So, I guess that I will start talking without the visuals.

First, the people here are so nice. I was sitting on the floor of the balcony area of the hotel while connecting with the computer. A member of the staff brought me out a table and chair without me asking. Everyone has been so pleasant.

This is my first trip to Africa. I believed I came with realistic expections. The interesting thing is the area is so nicer than I expected. One could easily believe that they are in a remote area of Europe. One of the pictures that I will add later shows houses on a hillside. The scene is extremely similar to Northern Portugal. The homes are built on slopping hill similar to the ones that vineyards are planted on. The size, building materials, style and colors of the homes are reminescent of Pinhao. I had this mental image of row after row of tin shacks which are common in many areas including some we flew over in Ethiopia. But these are made from masonry.

Our group is haveing a dinner wit hte Mayor of Kigali that starts now, so I am heading down. Spell check will not engage so forgive any errors. Hopefully I can add more later.

slow internet service

I have lots of things to talk about. but the wireless connnection at the hotel is really slow. Hopefully I can download some pictures later today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jet Lag

Sunday morning I left the house at 7:00am to begin my journey to Rwanda. Our 10:05 flight left Dulles at 11:30. This was the beginning of a long day(s). We had an 8 hour flight to Rome to refuel and change flight crews. Then it was another 7 and a half hours to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. That was the worst landing ever. We hit the ground hard and bumped and shook before finally stopping. In Ethiopia, we changed to a smaller plan and had a 2.5 hour trip to Kigali.

Kigali has a very small airport, but we got in and out real fast. By the way, the we I keep talking about are the conference participants for . There were about a dozen of us on the flight out of Dulles. The conference will have 200 participants, 160 from Africa and 40 from the US and Austraila.

Because the flight time was so long I spent more time that I usually would standing and talking to other people. I only had a total of three hours sleep and that is starting to catch up with me. Rwanda is 6 hours ahead of the east coast. I think I am going to have to seek out some hot tea for the caffine.

My roommate is an older lady named Wendy from Austrailia. I have not had a chance to get to know here yet, but she seems nice. The weather is very pleasant. I am sitting on a balcony at the hotel with a wonderful ccol breeze blowing. It is about 70 degrees. The conference program starts at 8:00 tonight. I have started taking a few pictures and will start posting them later.

Friday, May 16, 2008


People have been asking for pictures of my tattoos - so here they are. The peacock is a classic Sailor Jerry design with some additional color work done. I got this one a couple of months ago. It is on the top of my thigh. I really love the colors and the intricate work that was done.

The butterfly is on my back. This was a collaboration between the artist and myself. I like the use of the cross in the center as opposed to the more common 'bug body'. This one was done in 2003, a couple of weeks before I turned 40.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Falling in the Rabbit Hole

Hello world. I have entered a techno place that most of you have already visited. I will be posting some pics and notes from my upcoming trip to Rwanda soon. After that, hopefully I'll still have something to say.

Now, I need to learn how use that digital camera.