Showing posts from 2013

Day 9/10: The End

I have been meaning to write this wrap-up post for our trip for a few days... not sure why (or what happens differently,) but some days I can pump out a ton of words in no time and others... well... I can get hung up editing my first sentence for a half-hour.

At any rate, Sunday dawned in Kigali and after an hour or two of hard-core packing (I was bringing home some Rwandan beer for Dan and needed to make sure it was well-cushioned!) we ate breakfast. We had been served eggs for breakfast every single morning of the trip, and for the few among us (ok, it's Kathy and I) who aren't fans of eggs, it was really no biggie-- we simply opted for toast with jam and lots of coffee or what they call milk-tea (delicious chai tea with milk and sugar.) The kids (who at home eat cereal or oatmeal 90% of the time) were thrilled to have eggs.... but by day 9 were a little over them. I told Shami they were used to eating cereal and peanut butter sandwiches every day, so this had been an adjust…

Day 8

Our day started rather lazily (except for Shami, who was in the lobby of the guest house by 7:30!) due to it being the day for mandatory 8am-12pm nation-wide community service projects. (The last Saturday of every month is community service day, and you cannot drive anywhere or leave your home except for community service. They take it very seriously.) Shami beat the deadline and so was able to hang with us for the morning. We mostly uploaded pics to Instagram (the guest house was the only place we had internet that week), watched European premier league soccer game reruns, and talked. The kids made up strange games and entertained themselves.

At noon we went to a craft cooperative (I'd promised the kids all week that I'd let them get a souvenir before we left the country) and spent some time "shopping". It was a fun experience... Em had just changed a bunch of money for me that morning and the guy was short on big bills, so I had a literal brick of 500 franc bills i…

Day 7

We were all pretty beat from our long day traveling home from Uganda, so we slept in (at least we tried to) and relaxed a little. Alezah made an amazingly fast recovery (thanks Cipro!) and woke up feeling nearly back to her normal cheery self. We all (still!) wonder exactly what it was that hit her... Mysterious. We all ate the same food at the same places and I bit my cuticles more than anybody (ie: if it was germs, I should have gotten them...) Who knows!

Before lunch, we headed out to a village where World Relief has a water filtration project going. Basically how it works is... there are volunteers who fill these big containers with layers of different sizes of rock, gravel and sand. There is one filter for every 4 village families, and because the water is pushed through the filter by gravity (meaning it is very slow), the families filter water around the clock.

Anyway, it was very interesting to see the process, and the volunteers were super excited to see us, and greeted us wit…

Day 6

We got up early-ish, ate breakfast and set out for Kigali (hoping for a less-than-10-hour drive on the return trip... but not expecting much success.)

The trip was uneventful. I again rode with Shami, and played the role of the awkward family member asking the annoying questions about him and the girl he is interested in (who happens to be my sister...) Anyway, he (thankfully) passed all my "tests" with flying colors and we had an enjoyable ride to Mbarara. This was where, of course, we planned to stop for lunch (samosas)... and Emily and Shami (the locals) wanted essentials like peanut butter and cereal. (Due to the exchange rate, stuff like this is much cheaper to buy in Uganda than Rwanda.)

Ok wait... I need to back up. At breakfast, Alezah had showed up looking like her usual perky self. Five minutes later she was bee-lining it back to her bedroom where she lay with the fan blasting her in the face (I'd been in charge of fan placement, and thought somehow this would …

Day 5

My notes from today read: "Got up at 5:30 for the Safari. Lost a tire on the way, finally got there and saw lions and a leopard. Came home, visited the very high end Mweya Resort across the street from our hostel and then went on a boat ride up the Kazinga Channel in Lake Richard. Home for dinner and early bed for kids. Adults stayed up late drinking wine, eating chocolate and talking."
Ahem. Allow me to elaborate/ correct myself on a few things. (For starters, the lake was Lake Edward. Not Richard. There was also a Lake George in the park. I think the whole british king theme threw me off. Anyway...)
We got up at 5:30 (waking the kids was a blast...) and met our driver and guide by our safari-van. They were having trouble getting one of the sliding doors to close properly, which (of course) our giddy group of tired adults turned into a joke: "Great timing! On a safari with lions all around and the door won't close! No big deal..." We started driving the bumpy ro…

Day 4

This was the day we planned to drive 6-ish hours to Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda to go on our safari. We were up early, ate breakfast and hit the road. Shortly after you leave Kigali, which is developed and modern, you get into what people think of when they traditionally think of Africa: villages, rice paddies, red dirt roads. Really beautiful.

After a few hours on the road, we got to the border. The crossing is fairly simple, but time-consuming: you have to fill out exit forms for Rwanda, cross the border on "no man's land" on foot, get your passports checked halfway, and then fill out entry forms on the other side for Uganda. Emily and Shami also had to purchase car insurance for Uganda and SIM cards for their phones. This all went relatively smoothly. Funny story: when we were crossing the border on foot and stopped to show our passports, the customs guy pointed at Olivia and said, "She's our daughter." I didn't understand what he meant a…

Day 3

Life thankfully slowed down a little after we arrived in Kigali... but don't worry, there are plenty more adventures ahead.

Emily and Shami drove us to our guest house. And holy cow, people, my sister drives like a BOSS. Think of driving in Haiti at 3 times the speed (or maybe LA?!) and imagine my sister, down-shifting, darting in and out of traffic, on and off roads, off the shoulder, back on the road, around buses and construction trucks... all while holding a pleasant conversation. Kathy and I compared notes later and decided after three "OH MY GOSH I think I'm going to DIE" moments, you pretty much just adjust.

So we got dinner and crashed that night. It felt so good to just lie in a prone position (though maybe not as good as that soft marble had been...).

The next day we were up and at 'em, headed to the local grocery chain Nakumatt (you will see this becoming a theme) to get Rwandan coffee and tea. The locals drink "milk tea" which is basically h…

Day 2

I'm guessing you were duly impressed by last entry's airline shenanigans, as were Kathy, Alezah and I. Not to worry... it gets even better from here!

Our flight from DC to Addis (we found out when they announced it over the PA system) was to be 12 hours and 50 minutes. Somehow in all our rush, none of the three of us had actually confirmed the flight length, and were all making an "educated guess" of 8-10 hours. Nope. Thirteen hours it is, and with leaving DC at 10:15am, that's a good solid full day of 4 kids awake on a plane.
The flight itself was actually pretty uneventful. I passed around lollipops and when the first meal came out (my kids' first ever airline meal) the boys in particular were extremely excited. In fact one of them loudly declared this to be the best airplane ride ever in his entire life. There were a few minor teary melt-downs (after 11 hours I was feeling pretty stir-crazy myself) but thanks to a few dozen movies and bathroom breaks, all …

Day 1

Dan and I made plans about a year ago to go to Kigali, Rwanda, home of my sister, the fabulous Emily Haas and her amazing boyfriend Shami. About two weeks before we left, Dan was informed he had training for work in Pittsburgh and had to bail on the trip. We (crazy) 7 decided to go on alone.

My sister Emily works for World Relief, has lived in Kigali for 2.5 years and is completely fluent in Kinyarwanda, the local language. Shami is the marketing director at a bank and is a really great guy.  I admire them both greatly!

Our journey to get to Rwanda was EPICALLY crazy. Take it from someone who has traveled a fair bit... it pretty much doesn't get any crazier than this. Hang on to your seats. ;)

Our traveling team of me, 4 kids, cousin Kathy, and friend Alezah were scheduled to fly via United from Philly to DC, and then via Ethiopian to Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia) and then after a stop in Entebbe, Uganda, on to Kigali, Rwanda.


We spend the night at a hotel by the airport..…

Home and tired...

So... our little 7-man African travel contingent made its way out of Dulles airport Monday morning... maybe around 8am. After driving to Philly and dropping off my two erstwhile adult traveling companions, I managed the 2-hour trek home... just me and the kids. Yeah, that was a little rough, especially coming off 24 hours of travel.

I came home, unpacked, started laundry, and fell asleep at 6pm for a solid 11 hour night. Yesterday was slightly better; I made it to 7:30 before Olivia and I fell asleep together for the night.

Tonight my goal is to make it 8:00. I think I can, I think I can... 
I have notes from my trip that I thought I would turn into a blog series... over the next week or so. If and when I can scrape together the time. All in all it was a GREAT trip and I am SO glad we went. Seeing Emily on her home turf was basically the highlight of my year. I am so stinking proud of her and the life she has made and is making for herself in Rwanda! She's amazing.

summer loving

I saw a "back-to-school" display at the grocery store today and almost choked.

Keep that nonsense FAR away from me please!

Selina left today to go home to NYC and, since we got home from 4 days of camping in NH yesterday, today was full of mundane things like laundry and grocery shopping. Not the most exciting of ways to spend a hot summer afternoon... but needed to be done. I had literally no fresh food in the house at all. And no one wants to walk around in dirty clothes all day. Speaking of clothes, both boys irreparably tore their swimsuits while in NH... hopefully I can find more on sale before all that "back to school" stuff takes over. -___-

Fresh Air Fund Update

Our family is hosting a child through the Fresh Air Fund for two weeks. The kids come from low-income neighborhoods in NYC, and host families in the country give them a kind of "camp" experience!
We picked Yan Lin up last Tuesday from Gouldsboro State Park. She was wearing a Dora ball cap and a sundress. I had the idea to ask her if she had a nickname on the drive home, and she informed me that her American name is Selina! 
Ever since then, for 9 days now, she has been enjoying life in the country without one bit of homesickness, undesirable behavior or problems whatsoever! Her English is improving every day (she mostly struggles with pronouns (his/her) and verb tenses (is/are, etc.) Not too shabby! She speaks only Chinese at home and her friends all speak Chinese as well so although she's been here two years, her English really only gets used with her teacher at school.
This is from our first day at the lake. She had never been swimming before and had NO sense of balan…


SO I thought since I am now officially and FINALLY done with school, I should blog about the rest of my life. Cause my school was actually like 1% of my life. But it took over my blog.

Summer is officially upon us! Kids are signed up for nature camp. They are also going to "Cousins' Camp" (that my fab mother-in-law hosts for her six oldest grandkids) for a week in August.

We have family coming to visit on Monday for the week -- Dan's brother Joel and his family, INCLUDING baby Norah, newly home from Haiti! Yeah!!! I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of cornrow tutorials. ;)

Also next week we pick up Yanlin, our Fresh Air Fund kiddo who will be with us for two weeks. I called her today (she in a Chinese immigrant who has been in the US for two years; she speaks heavily accented English... her mom speaks zero English) to ask her what kind of food she likes. She immediately replied, "Oh, yeah, I like watermelon! and mango! and fish!" and ... on an…


After 12 years and 4 kids, as of tomorrow, I am finally FINISHED with my B.A. in English!


For my final project, I designed a family-friendly guide to the city of Philadelphia.

Here's the link if anyone wants to check it out.

And here's to me: no more homework! :D

ETA: I did not post this the other night but I actually struggled greatly in this class with my grades. I have thus far in my academic career been a straight A student; with the exception of a B in A&P and a [proud] C in College Algebra [hence the English major,] I have never had to worry about failing a class. Well, fairly early on in this class I realized after getting a 20 (!) and a 30 (!!!) on two pieces I'd submitted for my final project that I was clearly not understanding what my prof was looking for. I'm a hard worker and not afraid of doing what is needed to earn a grade, but despite my careful perusal of …

end of a chapter...

Today I started my final class for the English BA I've been working on (off and on) for the past 12 years.

I can't believe today is finally here.

I still have 3 months of classwork (and two gargantuan papers) ahead of me. I estimate I have roughly 55 pages of research papers to write with lots of "little" 3-5 page papers sprinkled liberally every week or two for the next few months.

I am thrilled to be this close to the finish line but to be honest, it all feels a little overwhelming and daunting. Where am I ever going to find the time for that much research and writing? I do have a life after all... what did I get myself into? But then... I remind myself I've come this far... 10:00 - midnight has been good to me for for seven months running and I have no reason to believe that will change now. One step at a time, one deadline met after another and I will suddenly find myself the recipient of a crisp diploma. At least that is the plan! (With lots of coffee and En…

breaking the silence...

to post a bit! I was writing on a discussion board for my american lit class tonight and I thought... I should post this to my blog! So I am. Enjoy. :)

I live in a semi-depressed old coal mining area in northeastern PA.There are several higher-end spas around that my friends go to to get their nails done, but I personally like the little stripmall "LA Nails" place (when I go like twice a year to get my nails done. haha). 
It is cheaper, but I mostly go there because it forces me out of my comfort zone. Of course it's easier to pay a bit more and sit and chat with the nail tech about local sports or the weather or the latest mall store to open. It is a totally different ballgame to have a slight asian man working on your nails, answering your (hopefully) friendly queries about his life. The man I saw last week has been in the US for one year. In his mid-30's, he was a high school teacher in Vietnam; he taught psychology. Here (he's married with a son) he works doin…