Monday, July 21, 2014

When The Kids Are Away. . .

. . . the parents will play.
Yesterday was so much fun!  Andy and I had a date day with no kids and it was the best!  We rented a jeep and went all over the mountains.  We made it to Telluride--Andy had never been there--and had a great lunch.  We explored the mountains, saw waterfalls, I may or may not (may) have had a panic attack at one point on the crazy mountain roads.  We laughed.  We enjoyed one another.  It was much needed and I loved the day with my man!  I'm so thankful for this time without the kids this week!
Timer pic gone wrong when my camera fell off the jeep!
Andy didn't want "another normal" picture.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

K1, UC Berkley & Raja

Maggie, Tiki, Dax and Gabby are all at K1.  They're having a great time (it looks like they are).  I dropped them off after flying straight there from Kigali and I'm sure they were exhausted.  But I know they are having the best time ever and I'm not the least bit worried that jet lag is getting them down.
I love this group of pictures because Tiki is with his cousin from Arizona, Peyton.  Those two have the greatest relationship!  They love each moment they get to be together and they get to be together for four weeks now!
I love the middle picture.  It is Tiki, Dax and Gabby with their cousin, LillyAnne.  I love that they all four found each other the first night.  The pic isn't great (couldn't the photographer have said, "hey you four, look at me and smile!"  Oh well.) but I love that they are all together!
This may be my favorite group of pictures.  This is Maggie truly happy.  Her smile is so genuine (especially in that middle picture on the right) and that makes my heart so happy.  I love when my girl is truly happy!
Meanwhile, Hays is at UC Berkley at an engineering camp for the week.  He is going to learn so much!  I am so excited that he gets to meet other kids who love to do what he loves and then the "professors" he will have (one is a big wig at NASA) will leave a lasting impact.  I cannot wait to hear all about it!!!

And in other news. . .we came home from Rwanda to a cat with a broken femur.  What?  Poor thing has been limping around for three weeks, so I took him to the vet yesterday and sure enough, he shattered the head of his femur.  Surgery?  Yep.  What in the world?  I am a dog person.  How do I have a cat (that should be the real question) who has to have surgery?  Oh my!  So, surgery for Raja on Wednesday.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Rwanda: Day Twenty-Two

I can't believe this is our last day in the Land of a Thousand Hills.  It has been the trip of a thousand dreams coming true.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity and for the way God worked every single detail out.  His hand was so evident from beginning to end and I am truly grateful.

I have so many thoughts flooding through my mind.  I'm so thankful that my kids got this opportunity.  I hope they have been able to realize the following things (and more):

  • Rwanda is a beautiful country
  • The people of Rwanda are a beautiful people
  • Traveling internationally isn't scary...it is fun & exciting
  • People who are different from them are the same in many ways
  • Catching public transportation is an adventure
  • Go see the world every moment you get a chance
  • Don't be afraid to explore
  • Make new friend--even if there is a language barrier
  • Try new food
  • Appreciate other cultures
  • Say hello and thank you in "their" language
  • Dare to live a dream
Of course there are so many lessons I hope they learned from this trip, but those are the dozen right off the top of my head at this moment.  I've been so proud of them on this trip.  

Watching Hays get an internship and catch a moto to "work" and today catching a cab for us and getting us where we were going.  He isn't afraid to adventure into the unknown.  I can't wait to see how this trip plays a role in his life later one.  I think one of the things I am most excited about for him is that he got to meet a neat role model who is a "cool" guy working for Samaritan's Purse helping with disaster relief.  Hays now knows that a job can be following disasters around the globe and making the world a better place one broken community at a time.  I think Hays for sure got the most out of this trip and I think he will be the most surprised over the next five to ten years about what he is actually bringing with him from Rwanda.

Maggie is a gem.  She had the hardest job here.  She was mom to three children who took her for granted and pushed every one of her buttons.  But she was a patient mom who pressed on even when most thirteen year olds would have quit.  She over came her fears of being in a different country and she did it.  I'm so proud of her!  I love that she got to meet neat and fun girls who are living their adventures in Kenya and Afghanistan and South Africa.  I'm thankful that her summer break didn't include texting and walking around downtown Durango.  She grew up this summer and I didn't even think she could any more.

Tiki saw his home country.  A country which held only painful memories of dirt and mean people.  He now knows the beautiful side of Rwanda.  He has positive memories of the orphanage.  He loves the people here.  Of all of us, he connected the most and he yearned for more connection.  He absolutely loved playing with the young boys his age.  He was in his element and he was happier than I have ever seen him.  I think he'll be back to Rwanda one day for more than just a month.  I'm not sure what all he will take away, but at least he'll have these memories.

Dax enjoyed Rwanda.  He was comfortable and relaxed.  He loved the pace.  He, too, enjoyed the local boys (but not like Tiki did).  I'm not sure what all he will take away from this trip, but I know he'll know that I want him to follow his dreams.  

Gabby is a little sad today.  She really had her heart set on finding her mother.  I'm sad for her--even though I knew it wasn't going to happen.  She clang to that hope.  She is very happy in this family and doesn't want another one, but I think she longs for her roots--she longs to have a story she can attach herself to.  I don't know what she will remember of Rwanda.  I'm not sure how many memories I have from when I was seven.  But I hope this will be a bright spot in the fogginess some day.

I love this country.  I've loved this trip.  I know I'll never get another opportunity quite like this and I'm glad that I wasn't too intimidated to take it!

Here are some pictures of our Rwanda (kind of a bicycle & home version)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rwanda: Day Twenty-One

Wow!  Yesterday was long and ultimately great!  We woke up at 4:30 and began our adventure!  After having to push-start our car, we headed to Akagera Park in Rwanda's Eastern Provence.  Upon arrival, our hopes of a quick and easy safari were dashed when we found out that due to the season, we wouldn't see animals in the main part of the park and we'd have to drive for about 4-6 hours before they were spotted.  Almost immediately all attitudes went downhill and the monsters who had been woken up at 4:30 in the morning started to surface.  I put on my "everything is going to be awesome" happy face and reminded them that in order to save an apology letter later, it would be best if they tried to see the bright side.

So we drove.  And we drove.  And we drove.  (Mind you, we are squished in a car with no air condition and the road conditions are terrible.)  As we were driving we noticed that maybe the animals were MIA due to the recent brush fire--the brush fire that took up our first four hours.  By the time the fourth hour came to a close.  I was frustrated.  The day was awful.  That was my conclusion.

But then we came to Hippo Beach where we decided to eat lunch.  Our day brightened--even got fun and exciting and brought laughter!  We hopped out of the car to the sound of several hippos grunting at us and a hungry croc waiting for the baby hippo to get separated from the group.  We were so excited!!!!
 From that point on (the next 3 hours of the drive), there were animals galore!  It was so much fun!  Zebras and warthogs and Kudu and Antelope and GIRAFFES!!!!  We were thrilled to see the giraffes!
Mom, this snake picture is for you.  It was longer than the car!
All in all, our Rwandan safari was a raging success.  The kids loved it--even enough to forget that we were in the car a total of 14 hours yesterday.

After the safari, a worn out Braner Bunch headed to eat with a new friend, Justin, and his wife and baby.  It was perfect.  They were so hospitable and the kids got to be in a true Rwandan home.  Justin is going to help with the Gap Year in the future and I am so excited for his vision!
Justin's daughter didn't want to have anything to do with the muzungus in her home, but she quickly warmed up to Dax (and only Dax) and life was all good--as long as the rest of us stayed away!
Day twenty-one was super!