Hikes and Home visits: A forehead hug

*Make it to the end of this one, it’s where the goods are.

There came a day in Cyimbili when Jeff and I were so tired of the rain and the porch sitting, we took off in reckless abandon. It had cleared for a split second, I put on warm clothes, and we started hiking. Fifteen minutes in, the sun came out, and it was instantly unbearably hot. We had not put on sunscreen. Daggers! After a quick u-turn, a change of clothes, sunglasses and SPF, we again set out on the open dirt road.  We would hike somewhere. Anywhere. We grabbed rain jackets, too, because we have learned, finally, to take the raincoat everywhere no matter what the skies look like. We are on our way to learning this about the sunscreen, but my peeling neck, arms and ears make me feel a little bit brain-dead.

We hiked a giant hill that afternoon, trailed by 35 kids collected along the way— one or two at a time, a little face peeking around the corner, an excited muzungu!, one more kid added to the single-file procession up the hill, all the way to the top. This little (out of focus) bebe was very last and very angry the older kids kept leaving her behind.

bebe

Other kids

At the very top, we were escorted by a couple of teenagers to a footpath that led to spectacular views of the plantation and Lake Kivu, where the skies immediately opened up on us—thunder, rain, the works.  We ran down the mountain, and felt very proud of ourselves when we got home. We told others we had hiked to the top of the hill. Yes, they said, smiling.

View

Imagine our surprise when, two days later, we set out to visit one of the supervisors we had interviewed the day before. A 30-minute walk, they told us. No biggie. We climbed that hill yesterday!

We began walking in the direction of the giant hill, and as we turned onto the dirt path that led up the hill, I thought to myself: Wow, the supervisor must live on this hill. What a steep walk to work and back every day. If only we had known yesterday, we could have visited him while we were just here…

As we walked past all the houses on the hill heading toward the very top, I thought: Wow, the supervisor lives on the top of this hill? So far! And he walks the hill every day? Yesterday we were so tired and proud to have made it. Silly us.

Then we walked over the top of the hill and down the other side toward a village. I looked back at Jeff and thought: No way! He lives up the hill, over the hill, and in the village on the other side? So far! I can’t believe he walks this every day…

Maybe you’re sensing the pattern. Maybe you also wear sunscreen and always carry your raincoat.

As we walked through the village on the other side and continued down toward the main road, I started really wondering. He walks up the mountain, over the top, through the village on the other side and down to the main road?! I can’t believe this.

But then we continued on the main road, past a little girl wearing a Packers T-shirt and another kid pulling a cut-up pill container on bottle cap wheels, onto a steep dirt footpath, and I was like: Whaaaat? He lives up the mountain, over the top, through the village on the other side, down the main road, and up the next ridge? Omg. Where’s my water?!

Packers

toy

When we walked up the dirt footpath, up the ridge and through the next village, I was sure this would be it. But we kept walking…

Three ridges, three valleys, three villages later, lots of kid-trains and muzungu squeals, over an hour from where we started, we arrived at the supervisor’s home! We were promptly greeted with chairs and Fanta, and in our cartoon lives, they were fanning us with giant leaves, wiping our sweaty faces.

We spent time with the supervisor and his wife along with all the neighbors packed into the tiny, but clean and welcoming house. Over and over, each person shared how excited the village was to welcome us—many muzungu had visited the coffee plantation, but none had ever gone walking to the villages! Especially not one so far!  Many had never seen muzungu before in person, right here, they said! They hugged and prayed and smiled and offered us more Coke, saying they were so encouraged and blessed by our visit. They insisted we take their greetings home to our families, and we shared greetings from all of you to them.

Spv house

In the most simple display of connection and community, we were all just happy to be sitting there together each enjoying the other’s company.

This supervisor and his wife have been married for 15 years without kids, he had described in his interview the day before. They had been to various doctors through the years, but could not find an answer to their infertility. Here in Rwanda, like so many other cultures, infertility is viewed as a curse, and often leads to isolation of the woman by others. We shared with the supervisor the day before how our own experience had been so difficult, how we would commit to praying for each other, and we sent him with hugs for his wife.

When I found myself face-to-face with the wife that day, she greeted me with a more intimate but familiar greeting of three hugs and cheek touches—left side, right side, left side—but then there was also something I had never been included in until that moment: forehead to forehead, eye to eye, and we rested there for a moment. It was more than a hug. It was like the insides of her soul reaching out to the insides of my soul, through our eyes and foreheads. She and I, in that moment, the same.

Wife

Yes, we will pray for those two- these who have put at least two orphans through school and help support several village “moms”- and we believe they will pray for us. We offered each other peace and truth in spite of those blasted ancestors…

Aaaaaaaand then we hiked the hour-and-a-half home at sunset, back through the villages and the valleys and the ridges, collecting another muzungu parade of kids, just like the supervisor does every day to and from work, rain or shine, and I think his quads are probably ripped!

Sunset

For the entire photo album, click here!

But in the meantime, how about some cute twins who were terrified of us?

Twins 1Twins 2Twins 3happy twins

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