I was two years old when I got glasses for the first time. The story goes that when we left the eye doctor wearing my brand new glasses that I pointed at the trees and said “Mama, look. The trees have leaves.” I do not remember this but I believe it. I know what trees look like now with my contacts out, a lot like shapeless blobs.
Apparently in 1977 glasses for little girls did not exist. My father drove to every eyeglass store in town but only dark brown frames could be found. I was young enough I didn’t care. Growing up I had two very minor eye surgeries. I remember after one of them, my doctor put an eye patch on my teddy bear so we’d match.
A mean kid in junior high thought it was funny to call me fish eye. I’m not entirely sure what that meant. I think he wanted to be mean but didn’t have a large enough vocabulary to come up with something more creative. A year later a friend and I decided it would be cool if we got matching glasses. Odd I know but that’s middle school for you.
After about 18 years of wearing glasses I’d had it and contact solution became a part of my daily life. I cheered the first time I got to wear sunglasses. I wear a pair now almost all the time in the car partly for sun glare and partly as a continued celebration.
I’ve thought about getting lasic surgery but the cost and hassle are barriers I haven’t leapt and doubt I will. I’d like to and I’m grateful to have the option if it ever becomes a priority.
Very few people in Rwanda wear glasses. I don’t think its because their eyes are all better than mine. Medical care is limited in Rwanda. Glasses, hearing aids or braces are luxuries. I think the little guy in this photo is just playing around. He probably was just mimicking the Americans who had descended. It is not that he’s a child who can’t see. I hope so. This perspective is the kind of thing that makes you see…better than brand new glasses.
I went on a date today. With my husband. Semi-regular dates are one of the reasons we smile when we tell people we’ve been married eleven years. It was time for a date. I was gone for 17 days on a mission trip to Rwanda and then we spent the two weeks since I got home getting our house ready to sell. We’ve scrubbed, painted, hauled, boxed and sorted. We were tired. So today we went to church and then spent the afternoon doing nothing together.
At one point, we ended up at Peet’s Coffee. I had a gift card so we had a guilt free drink each. Its hard to come back from Rwanda and pay $5 for coffee. It’s also hard to keep my mouth shut. In the sermon this morning, our pastor mentioned that upon returning from Rwanda his tolerance for complaining is very low. I experienced this at Peets. The lady in front of us in line was returning her iced coffee. If you’ve ever seen a preschooler refuse to eat lima beans you have a pretty good idea what this thirty something woman was acting like. Her nose was scrunched, her voice was at a high pitch whine. She stuck out her tongue. She actually said yucky. Turns out she didn’t like the ground up coffee beans in her drink. The girl behind the counter deserves a raise for her tolerance. She made her a new non-fat, sugar free, bean free iced mocha. I said “You know the problem with people…. and my husband quite wisely shushed me. This is another reason we’re still married. He has the uncanny ability to tell when I’m headed to disaster and can frequently stop it.
I huffed out of the store with my drink talking about how that woman needs to learn about gratitude and she should try drinking the dirty water the Rwandan’s drink and she should be ashamed of herself for the example she’s setting for her daughter who watched the whole thing. Next door to Peet’s is Ulta. I marched in there and bought a bottle of leave in conditioner still fuming about the coffee woman. The lady in front of me at Ulta spent $214 on shampoo. By now I was on a roll. $214 goes a long way in Rwanda. The average skilled laborer there gets paid about $1 a day. Before I even thought about telling this to shampoo woman, my patient spouse hauled me to the car.
I was ranting about how our country probably spends more on beauty products than the entire economy of Rwanda spends of food. This is a completely made up statistic and has no basis whatsoever in reality. However, with those thoughts running through my head and the experiences in Rwanda still close to the surface I felt pretty self righteous.
Its an ugly place to be.
The truth is that Coffee woman and Shampoo woman probably both need an attitude change. But I needed one more. We could probably all spend less on frivolous things. I know I should. We could also all stand more gratitude and less pickiness. I need to quit complaining if coconut shows up in a cookie.
On the way home tonight, my daughter told me that she doesn’t want to be like Jesus. I asked her why. She said “I don’t want to grow a beard and turn into a boy”. I swallowed a laugh and assured her that wasn’t the point. I explained that really what God wants is for our hearts to be like Jesus. That’s what I want too.
I am grateful for grace that forgives my bad attitude. I’m grateful for sermons on truth. I’m grateful for dates with a husband who makes me laugh and reigns me in. I’m grateful for clean water, a warm house, and food to feed my child. I’m grateful for the courageous and graceful Rwandese people. I’m grateful for generous and creative Americans. Tomorrow I’m going to try and go complaint free. Want to join me?
I did not take this photo but I love it. It’s a little girl in Gisenyi, Rwanda who has used a crayon to draw on lipstick. My daughter came into my bedroom last night with cherry chapstick smeared all over her upper lip and chin. Her smile looked exactly like the one in this photo.
I love the innocence that is expressed in girls who want to be women.I’d like to hold both of these girls and tell them not to hurry to grow too soon.
I’d like tell my daughter that as she gets older I get to pick what she wears and who she marries. Clearly that is not going to happen and I have to just pray that we build enough character into her when she is small that can carry her through adulthood. I pray that she looks for a husband like her dad and her grandpas. I pray that she learns to think before she speaks and that she learns to trust people…but not trust them too much.
The little girl in Rwanda is harder I think. I hope that she has clean water and enough food. I pray that she gets to finish school and that her innocence is not stolen from her. I pray that both of these precious girls get to be children as long as possible. I pray that they both grow to be Godly women. I hope they both get to show their daughters how to put on lipstick.
The bees here are bright neon green. The butterflys are bright orange and huge. The bugs actually aren’t that bad (except for Eileen’s centipede).The birds, oh my, the birds. The crows here are black and white, they look like they are wearing tuxedos and they work perfectly as alarm clocks if 5:45 am is when you want up. The bats are gigantic. They aren’t birds but they sing like birds and you can hear them any time you are near the lake. We went to dinner tonight at Hotel Stippe. It was amazing. Manicured lawn, cactus trees and flowers. The biggest birds I’ve ever seen. The cards our kids make actually frequently depict these birds. They look like cranes but they have red crested crowns on their heads. They are about five feet tall. When they get startled they spread their wings and run across the lawn. Gorgeous.
You can treat Scabies with a good rub down of permethrin. Scabies hangs out between fingers and toes and they love ankles. They. Yes. Scabies are bugs that burrow into your skin and colonize. I learned you can make a baby smile by rubbing their toes in Rwanda just like in the US and that permethrin is a lot like baby lotion. One treatment does the job and people no longer have the itchy, cracking skin caused by Scabies. I learned that a 39 year old woman can have scabies and that she can stand with dignity and grace while people who don’t know her and don’t speak her language help spread the goo. I learned that you can hand someone a new skirt and an old t-shirt and make their day. I learned why nurses smile while they are dealing with every possible body fluid. I learned why doctors study and why Jesus spent so much time healing. Great joy in the clinic today.
Driving across Rwanda is a combination of exhaustion, terror and awe. The exhaustion comes from 5:00 AM starts and 11:00 PM bedtimes. The terror comes from windy, narrow lanes, huge tour buses, delivery trucks, bicycles, tons of people and people who change lanes on the corners by very large ravines. The awe comes from the red flowers in the trees, the banana leaves drying on adobe houses, the children who smile and wave, the women who scale mountainsides with heavy loads on their heads and the mountains…oh the mountains. God did a great job when He created Rwanda. It’s gorgeous. The four hour drive from Gisenyi is a good time to reflect and consider what it means to come home and what it means to leave children whose home is Rwanda.
On Friday we had a little patient. His mama brought him in. He wears a black t-shirt with a batman logo on it. He is probably 18 months old. The little one was dehydrated, suffering from vomiting for 4 days according to his mom. He clearly needed help. His veins were so dry that it was extremely difficult to get an IV in. Plus, it was getting dark in the clinic. We don’t have lights. So picture Lori working to find a vein with the help of a head lamp and some twilight from the window. It took four pokes and Tracie K, Alexandra, Brittany, Mama and me all holding down his body, arms and legs to get it done but Lori is a confident nurse. The IV pumps would not drip and so we then all sat there while she hand pushed in saline, 300 ccs of it, 20 ccs at a time. Brittany sat and kept a log of each syringe to make sure we kept track. Lori also gave him some anti-nausea meds and he should be feeling much better. He is supposed to come back today for follow up. His mama is a strong woman because she did not flinch or cry. Perhaps it’s because life in Rwanda is so hard, there aren’t tears for just an IV. Perhaps it’s because she knew we were trying to help. Maybe she cried later. I hope it’s not that she has already given up. The nurses tell me that this little guy will be fine, that the fact that he was struggling was a really good sign. They say if the babies don’t cry or struggle that’s when you worry. Pray for this boy and his mom. Pray he’ll be healthy and that she will continue to struggle because it’s a sign of hope