Thursday, June 16, 2011

By Domenic Frapolli
So we had a long day today. We woke up around 7AM, took a shower, got ready and went to breakfast. We had a delicious breakfast as always, and then we had some down time before we had to go to out for the day. In our down time in the morning we played a card game known as KEMPS. To summarize the game, you play with a partner and you have to signal them when you have four-of-a-kind and they have to yell KEMPS in order to win. Now we have kept partners the same the whole trip. The main rivals are Domenic and Darby vs. Emily and Lindsey. While Domenic and Darby have gone undefeated in every game, they lost for the first time today, due to bad luck and some cheating by the other team. But so after, Jen K. came to us and piled us into the van and we were off. The day's plan was to go and visit HIV+ people at there houses, and bring them food and soccer balls for their kids.  We went to the market to buy food for the people we were going to be visiting today. Once we got there, the 12 of us stayed in the van while Jen K, David, and Alice went to go get food. We sat there for about a half hour, with kids walking by, curious to look at us and talk with us. We soon left the marketplace after we packed all the food in the back of the car.
We parked on the side of the road next to a large hill and filed out of the car. I went to the back to get some of the food and picked up a bag of food that weighed around 50 pounds. I thought the house was a little bit up the hill so I gladly picked it up and said I'd carry it. David told me he'd help me carry it, and even though I didn't think I needed it, I was happy to accept. By the time we crossed the street the handles we were holding the bag by snapped off, causing there to be holes in the top of the bag and no comfortable way to carry it. Still thinking the house had to be near by, I told David I'd be happy to carry it. So i wrapped my arms around it awkwardly trying to stop it from spilling and began up the hill. Now I was wrong on many levels. I was wrong that the house was close, I was wrong that the hill was THAT steep, and I was wrong that it'd be pretty easy. We ended up hiking up an extremely steep and bumpy hill, with ditches and potholes we needed to jump over and ledges it felt like we had to shuffle across. Now the whole time I kept telling myself, "Any minute we will be there, any minute.." but that minute didn't come. So finally, sweating as I waddled up the hill i stopped for a breath. David saw me and told me he would take it for a while. So I handed the bag to him an continued up. Best decision. Ever. When I handed it to him I thought we had to be within sight, but in reality we were probably half way, and the half we had already finished was the easy half. I began getting increasingly steep, with more narrow pathways. About 3/4ths of the way up, I took the bag back from David as he needed a break. Finally, we reached the top. I stumbled into the small, hot house and placed the bag down. By this point I was sweaty, panting, and felt like my muscles were Jello. To put the cherry on top, I looked up to see a group of Rwandans staring at me, partly in confusion, and I think they found some humor in it. Nevertheless, the greeted me and talked as we waited for the rest of the group to reach the top. Her house was very small, and I couldn't imagine living in there by myself, yet she lived in their with all her kids. Her house was simple and plain, and it really made me reflect on all the amazing gifts that I am blessed with. Once everyone got into the house, we found out that the woman who lives in the house wasn't there, and we could not locate her. So we prayed for her house and her children, and made our journey down the path. Once we reached the bottom we found out that that she was not feeling well so she walked the long path down the hill by herself and went to the hospital. This amazed me even more, and was something I spent a lot of time thinking about on my way to our next house.

It didn't take too long for us to reach the second house. We were able to have the van follow us most of the way to the house on a dirt road, so we didn't have to carry anything far. This hill was also not nearly as bad as the first so that was a relief. On our way up we drew lots of attention as always, but the people were very friendly, most would wave and smile, maybe call us foreigners. The kids would run to meet us and shake our hands and say hi, then giggle amongst themselves Some followed us as we continued walking up the hill. We reached the house in no time, and walked in one by one. This house was bigger than the last, but by no means was large. When we walked in, three of the five kids that lived in the house came to greet us. They were all boys, ages 11, 12, and 13. We started talking to them while Jen K. went in to the other room of the house at was divided by a curtain hanging from the ceiling. Jen then came out and said that the mother, Nancy, was too sick to get out of bed. Since we all couldn't pile into the small dark room she was in, we went in in groups of 3 or 4 to see her. She looked very sick, but she said she was filled with joy when she heard we were coming, and that she felt her enemies already breaking. She then she was very grateful for the gifts we brought, and we prayed for her. I was taken back when I heard everything because I thought to myself, "If I was in her position, would I be able to say that truthfully, and would I have the faith to trust that God will heal me?" But we then all went back out, talked with the boys, asking them what they like to do, then they asked us what we like to do. Doug tried to ask them how far they have to walk to get water, and while we didn't get a direct answer, it got the feeling it was a long walk. So then we went outside the house with a group of kids, gave them the soccer ball we brought for them and began playing with them. After some laughs we headed back to the van to head to the third house.
We went to the house of a woman named Denise next, and like the other two woman we visited she was also part of Ubuzima. Her house was much larger than the others, but still in America would be considered a very small home. She talked with us about her life, sometimes directly as she knew some English from being a business woman earlier in her life, and other times David translated for us. She told us that she was HIV+ and that she was having heart problems as well. She got out her photo album and went through, sharing with us her life. She talked so casually that you would have never guessed what she was saying. She told us of how her husband died in 1999, and how many of her friends and family were killed in the genocide. She'd point to their picture in the photo album and tell us what they were doing then and then tell us of how they died. Her acceptance of it all was shocking in my eyes, as she seemed to be at peace with everything that happened to her. And so after going through her photo album we said our good-byes and left.
After we went to lunch, then back to the guesthouse to relax for the night. Some of us went down with a soccer ball and met our neighbor, Eugene and spent some time talking and playing soccer with him. That was really fun, getting to play soccer, but also talk to Eugene and learn about his life. After that it was dinner and debriefing. So another day finished, but I thought a lot was learned today about AIDS/HIV in Rwanda and just general Rwandan life. We learned yes they are able to still be joyful, but they have many hardships that Americans can barely fathom, and they do need help to get through them.


  1. Domenic, looking forward playing KEMPS! You are an inspiration to me. Thanks for being you. (Dad/Carlo)

  2. nick! I miss you! I don't want to leave younglife but I'm excited to be home. remember everything so you can tell me and get pics of the little kiddies love on them for me. , we are all praying for you! and I hope they beat you in soccer ;) your doing amazing things, ove you -tori

  3. I appreciate the honesty of your thoughts. Some people choose not to think about difficult topics and never get to the level of self awareness you are already on. I pray you are able to call upon these experiences, summoning physical and mental strength you are exhibiting now, when, for whatever reason, you face the challenges of our lives here. Again, thank you for sharing!

  4. Domenic:
    For some reason my posts have not posted--but you all need to know how much we appreciate the insights of your experiences. And you thought carrying 24 bottles of water fro Costco was a burden!
    You may beat me at KEMPS but I still challenge you to Scrabble!

    Stay safe and We look forward to your blogs!!


  5. @Herb - Your posts are coming through just fine. Maybe your browser just needs a "refresh"

  6. Doug

    Thanks and I think that fixed it! Gosh you guys should start a Geek Squad in Rwanda. I think you've mastered the technology.

    Is Skype there yet?