Blog Book | Rwanda

*This post is NOT sponsored. I paid full price for this book. While I wouldn’t turn down a free one, I’m simply sharing because I enjoyed the company! 

Cory and I have made very few purchases in 2015 {as in three or four} in anticipation of our kitchen renovation, but after working on this little project for weeks, I couldn’t resist the temptation to get my Rwanda blog book in my hands. Every day, I checked the mail in anticipation that it had arrived early. I just love every single one of these faces, pictures and stories and couldn’t wait to have them printed forever.

Blog book

A few months ago, I started looking into a way to print my post about our trip to Rwanda. While I’d love to have my whole blog printed by year, I really wanted to do a book for just our trip.

At first, I thought about just doing a picture book but so many of the pictures only tell half the story. Plus, Cory and I worked so hard on those recaps!

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After trying out a couple services that pulled directly from my website, I realized that, due to copyright laws, they weren’t going to be able to provide me with the customization I needed like being able to leave off the signature or change the layout of the pictures. So I did a little research to see if there was anything that would fit my needs and what I came across was this post and decided to give Lulu.com a try.

blog print

Lulu differs from other services in that it’s an actual book publisher and doesn’t just replicate your blog post. They have a formatted Word document that you download and then copy and paste your blog post in to. For me, this seems very tedious to do a full year’s worth of posts, but I didn’t mind it for the dozen or so about Rwanda. We’ll be using this book to share with future team members, sponsors, churches, etc. so I wanted it to look more like a book rather than my blog.

printing your blog

Rather than selecting a date range and then taking out posts I didn’t want in the book, I was able to copy and paste the individual posts I did want.

blog printing Lulu.com

I chose to do a 8.25 x 10.75 casewrap hardcover in full color. It is cheaper to do black and white and if I wasn’t printing this for presentation purposes, I might have opted for that route.

Blog2Print

What I liked most about Lulu was the customization it offers. I knew I wanted to keep my page numbers as low as possible {because 300 pages is a little intimidating} and I really liked the fact that I could rearrange and re-size different pictures and save on the pages. I also changed the font and the font size as well as going for full pictures on both covers. I wasn’t able to do any of this on the other services I tried.

Even though the customization was one of my favorite parts, it was also the most difficult part of the whole process. BUT it really wasn’t that difficult! Really, it was more time consuming than difficult. I wanted to make sure that every post started on a new page and there wouldn’t be just a few lines on the last page of each post. It took me a couple of weeks to get everything right but I would just work on it every now and again, when I had to time to fool with it.

book blogs

I was worried about the quality of the pictures since I was copying and pasting from my blog but I was really impressed with how well they look. It does help that my blog pictures, especially for those recaps, are pretty large.

publishing a book

The quality of the book was also really impressive. It reminds me of a small yearbook with a sturdy binding and thick pages. It’s just the right size to hold its place on one of our end tables, (if we ever finish this kitchen renovation) but light enough to take with us when we share about our trip.

blog printing

But, my favorite part about using Lulu.com, is the price! With Blog2Print, the total rang up at $126.57. Ouch! While I easily would have paid that much to have these memories printed forever, I was hoping to find something better. After I finished the customization, I was a little worried that I had just spent weeks working on it and it would be way over my budget but when the total popped up, I was shocked.

$43.40

That’s a 66% savings from Blog2Print, y’all! It totally made the extra time spent customizing it worth it to save that much money and get what I wanted.

blog to print

Of course, no post is complete without a puppy bomb.

print blog

I’m so glad that I went through with this purchase and will definitely be using Lulu.com again for future books. How cool will it be in 10 years to be able to look back each year and see all the different trips we’ve been on and memories made. Makes my heart happy!

Have you ever had your blog printed? Which service did you like the most?

Silly Faces of Rwanda

Catch up on Part 1 of our Rwanda trip here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here Part 7 here, Part 8 here, Part 9 here, Part 10 here 

And you just thought I had finished my Rwanda recaps! I completely forgot that I planned on sharing some of the silly faces we saw while in Rwanda.

Now, before I start, I want to be clear that I’m in no way poking fun at the children in Rwanda. If you can’t tell by now, my heart longs to be with these children every single day and I love them so incredibly much, silly faces and all. As I look through these pictures, they fill my heart and put a smile on my face.

Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

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You will notice that many of the children have a very serious look on their face. And by serious I mean evil.

I mean the kids aren’t evil or anything but until they warmed up to us or we finally learned “seca seca” {which means giggle or smile} we got some seriously mean-muggin’ shots.

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Then once they got warmed up to us, they got REAL warm! Had to fight them from getting up in the camera lens.

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Those brows, y’all. He had this expression on his face every time we saw him.

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Same with him. I’m not sure we got one picture of him smiling.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way, ’cause that is one seriously cute serious face.

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On the other hand, Mr. Cool stepped right up and posed for his picture.

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Patrick was not very fond of us, at least at first. He eventually warmed up like his classmates!

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Nope. Not gonna happen.

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Holy smokes! That’s definitely the meanest lookin’ mug we got!

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If I remember correctly, Gaudence was behind me trying to get this boy to smile and was probably acting crazy with her hands on her hips. And this is what I got. Well if I can’t get them to do “sweet” then I guess I’ll take “swag”.

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Eyeing Jarrod and praying he doesn’t come near him acting all crazy!

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Now this guy had it going on in every single picture. It’s like he made up his mind to make an awesome face every time the camera was out.

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You talkin’ to me?

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And his pants {which were actually shorts for an bigger child} were too big and he had to stand like this just to keep them up.

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Hi. 

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What you lookin’ at? 

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Done. Just…done.

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It was only a matter of time before a bunch of kids went from wholly unfamiliar with a camera to making crazy faces into one!

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Check out the boy behind Jarrod in the striped shirt. His eyes are so big!

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Don’t even think of taking her passion fruit. She’ll cut you!

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Breakin’ it down. In the middle of the road.

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These kids came up to the window while we were on the side of the road while Cory was being chastised by a police officer. We thought they were being friendly. They were probably making fun of us for getting pulled over.

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Muzungus are scaaaaary.

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Still not sure about hanging out with us.

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This is Paul.

Paul is cool.

Ice cold.

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Silly face for anybody else…normal face from the hubs.

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Stuck in the mud, in the middle of the National Forest, sinking like quicksand, mud on our face, pulling ourselves off the ground, and saving my camera from the mud, while the guys were pushing the car out of the mud.

It was a rough few minutes.

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All three of ’em. They all make me giggle.

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Cory is normally pretty patient with people. That patience was stretched about as thin as it goes with the lady in the airport on our way out, when we were already running late. That guy in the background looks like he was watching everything go down to see what he’d do!

Okay…I think I’ve officially shared everything about our trip to Rwanda but I just couldn’t leave out all these sweet, silly faces!

Final day in Rwanda

Catch up on Part 1 of our Rwanda trip here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here Part 7 here, Part 8 here, Part 9 here

I can hardly believe that this is my last Rwanda recap. It doesn’t feel like we’ve been back for three months (almost four} and it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s time to start raising money for our 2015 trip.

I frequent these recaps more than any other post on my blog because seeing these faces and reliving our trip just makes my heart happy and so full. I truly hope y’all have enjoyed them just as much as I have.

Our final day in Rwanda…

SATURDAY | September 20th

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We were so spoiled, y’all. This was laid out for us every meal.

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Jarrod and his porridge.

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Love this little guy and the Christmas card he sent us :)

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Sweet Josephine!

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Our final car selfie on the way to the Genocide Memorial. I don’t think anyone wanted to leave later that day.

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In 1994, Rwanda suffered an unspeakably horrible genocide that claimed the lives of nearly 1,000,000 Rwandans. A century of ethnic tension between the Hutu and Tutsi people groups erupted in an indescribable wave of massacre and bloodshed, as the Hutu army and the Hutu militia formed death squads, killing every Tutsi man, woman, child, and infant in their path with machetes, clubs, and bullets. By the time it was over, the country was in ruins.

Rwanda today could not be more different. The country has reconciled and made pacts with one another that violence such as the 1994 genocide will happen “Never Again” as the many memorials and bracelets say. The nation is one of peace and love–but they will always remember. The horror of the genocide is still fresh in the national memory. In order to memorialize the victims, and to remember what happened so that history can never repeat itself, Rwanda has built a Genocide Memorial in every district; the largest of which resides in Kigali.

We visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the concrete slab mass graves of thousands of innocent Rwandans are visible in the beautiful gardens, and toured the museum on the grounds where the broken bones and skulls of the dead, photos and belongings of loved ones who were lost, and last words of children who were killed are on display to emphasize the both the reality of the genocide and the evil that the country has sworn to prevent from rising again.

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While inside the memorial, you couldn’t take pictures but I didn’t even think about my camera one time. After spending nearly two weeks in this country, it absolutely broke my heart to see the suffering they had been through. And in reality, 20 years ago wasn’t that long ago, so I guess I should say the suffering they are still going through.

Even though I’m thankful we went because I feel like you need to understand what the people of Rwanda have been through to fully appreciate their love and kindness, the emotional toll it took, on top of the emotions we already had from leaving, was a lot to take in one day.

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After we left the Genocide Memorial, teary-eyed and depressed, it was time to get down to business. As Cory can tell you, I do this thing where I picture what I want, and whether it truly exists or not I will go on this crazy shopping madness until I have found it. Well I had my mind set that I was going to find this certain type of traditional dress for Gracie, and although we had been to several co-ops and shops, I still hadn’t found the one. I described it to Josephine, who called a friend in downtown Kigali who owned a co-op to see if she had one.

VP took us down to her shop in the middle of the busy city, and while she had a ton of cool stuff, she still didn’t have what I was looking for. She told us to follow her to her friend’s shop which we thought was right around the corner. Well she ended up leading us through alleyways and twists and turns, weaving through crowds as thick as Times Square on New Year’s Eve, practically sprinting because she had left her own shop unattended and leaving us behind. We desperately tried to keep up with her and not get lost, because VP had gone to pick something up for Josephine and we had no clue where we were! Y’all, I don’t want to say I was ever afraid in Rwanda, but that had to be the closest thing to it.

And I still didn’t find the dang dress!

We ended up going back to a co-op we had visited a few days prior and found one that was close to what I had wanted.

Risked our lives running all over Kigali for nothing.

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We went back to Ben and Josephine’s for some much-needed rest and to finish packing before we had to be at the airport and Gaudence was there to spend the afternoon with us.

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So sweet. Jarrod kind of surprised us all on this trip. He’s such a funny guy but was so wonderful with children of all ages.

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We showed Ben our videos from the national park because he had been at a conference the day before. Funny story, we all knew he was gone Friday night but it wasn’t until Saturday morning that we realized he had flown to another country for this conference when his flight delayed and ended up driving like 8 hours home.

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You may have noticed in some of the pictures in previous posts, but in Rwanda, babies are always carried on the back and tied on with a big wrap. Mothers work in the fields digging potatoes all day, big sisters go to school, nannies cook and clean and fetch water, all with babies tied to their backs. I had asked Gaudence earlier in the week to show me how they tie them on before we left. Well poor little Michaiah woke up from her nap just in time to be our guinea pig.

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I was shocked to find out there was no complex contraption keeping the babies on but will definitely need some more practice.

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I just had to get a few pictures of Ben and Josephine’s beautiful home before we left.

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And of course leave it to Jarrod and my husband to not be packed yet.

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We had our last Rwandan meal and said our “see you laters” to Michaiah.

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Somehow, even with all the spare time we had that day, we were still late getting to the airport and had to rush all over the place. Josephine even had to take our money to get it changed back to dollars for us and then send it in to Cory with a stranger while we went through security! We didn’t even get to tell her goodbye :(

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Cory has made a lot of friends in Africa. The lady at the check-in counter in the Kigali airport is not one of them.

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Our last sad selfies as we boarded our plane!

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And it was photobombed by our muzungu friends from Seattle.

The whole trip, I had been trying to get a photo of the lights of nighttime Kigali and could never get a good one. As we took off, Jarrod looked out the window and said “there’s your shot of the lights”. And I lost it with the realization of how much I truly fell in love with Rwanda. Last year when Cory boarded his flight for Rwanda I thought sending a piece of my heart around the world was the hardest thing I’d ever done. Little did I know that just over a year later I would realize that the hardest thing I’ve ever done was leave a piece of my heart there. I started bawling and telling Cory we had to get off the plane. I was so not ready to go…if Einstein and Hampton had been there I wouldn’t have left.

I told Cory that we needed to get off the plane and just stay. He said “Honey, we have two other people that we have to get home. If we don’t get Jarrod home, Michelle will kill me.” If they hadn’t been with us, Cory and I might still be in Kigali.

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We had a stop in Uganda {that we didn’t know about} and it kind of freaked us out when they started talking about landing 45 minutes into our flight. Thankfully, we didn’t have to get off the plane but all the lights were on so we couldn’t sleep either.

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So done with flying by this point.

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French is one of the languages spoken in Rwanda. The only French word Jarrod knows is “croissant”. Which he pronounced, loudly, “KWWAA-SAWNT!”

The day we were coming back was Jarrod’s birthday and I had secretly bought him a birthday card at Nakumatt one day while we were grocery shopping in Kigali. When Jarrod went to the restroom in the Brussels airport, Cory went and bought him a KWAA-SAWNT and a cookie and we sang him happy birthday!

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24 hours after leaving Kigali {and 17 on a plane} we finally made it back to America and had one more flight home.

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I wish I had filmed the crowd waiting for us when we came through gate. Jarrod’s kids had made posters and Michelle had the sweetest little gifts for us all. My parents and grandparents were there and Jessica and Matt made the trip as well! We immediately forgot how tired we were and all started sharing stories from our trip.

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The weary travelers posed for one more photo before we grabbed one last meal together and went home with our families for some rest and sleep in our own beds!

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Or our own chairs.

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Hampton and Einstein were just as excited to have us home as we were to be home.

Rwanda Day 9 & 10

Catch up on Part 1 of our Rwanda trip here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here, Part 6 here Part 7 here, Part 8 here

THURSDAY | September 18th

Our Anniversary! In case you missed this post, we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary in Rwanda. Ben & Josephine urged us to take the day off and spend it together, and offered to call off all of our missionary-ing for the day, but we politely declined. We didn’t want to waste any time while we were there and could celebrate our anniversary when we got home.

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Cory and Jarrod went back to Kane to work on the house, cutting down trees on neighbors’ property to form the “studs” for the walls.

And Vianey climbed a tree.

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There’s a bunch of hard workin’ men and it was so hot that day!

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Oh my gosh you guys, we got so hooked on this stuff! It’s called Agashya Pineapple Nectar–the ingredients of which are “Water & Pineapple Squash”! No joke! Pure, pineapply, sugary goodness in a bottle.

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While the guys were slaving away in Kane, Amber, Phiona, and I were at the RCRI office in Kigali, just outside downtown. Benjamin had been telling us how much of a mess everything was and he wasn’t lying! The closets and files were a big mess, but you can’t blame him because it’s just too much for Ben to handle to keep everything going and organize the office as well.

After we cleaned and organized all the closets and file cabinets, Ben and I sat down to organize his computer files and get his new expense register spreadsheets set up. Finance Degree, activate!

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The guys arrived and brought lunch when they finished their work for the day and VP met us at the office. Cory and VP fixed the broken hinges on the closet door. At least I think it was fixed. Maybe.

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Apparently celebrating a special occasion any other day than that day is a big no-no in Rwanda–all of our friends chastised us for even suggesting that we would celebrate our anniversary when we got home. VP, always a master of words, blessed Cory out and told him that he was not God to be changing the dates…a date is what it is and you celebrate that date for a reason!

And while Gaudence and VP tried to plan a party at a roundabout in the center of downtown with a big fountain where VP would serenade us, serve us cake, and call the local news station, Ben and Josephine insisted on taking us out to a nice Italian dinner.

We had strict instructions to be at the house, ready to go at six.

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Isn’t this just the sweetest picture of Jed! He fell in love with Jarrod and is seriously the sweetest kid.

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The restaurant had a gorgeous view, but it was so hard to get good pictures with the differences in lighting.

Anyway, after our meal we were served some dessert and a song was sung to us in honor of our anniversary.

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My best attempt at group picture! Like I said, the camera had a hard time adjusting to the dim lighting in there and it was hard to explain how to use my camera what with the language barrier!

After taking a few more photos from the balcony, it was time to head back home and get some rest for our big day at the national park.

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FRIDAY | September 19th

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Benjamin had really wanted us to make sure we took a day out of our trip to go to the Akagera National Park, which is this enormous wildlife preserve (one of the largest in Africa at 1200 square kilometers) and is a Rwandan national treasure–he also said to make sure we budgeted plenty of time because it was a long drive to get there, a long drive through the park, and a long drive back.

So we got up bright and early Friday morning (and still ended up leaving an hour late…?) to begin our journey.

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Every kid in Rwanda knows how to make a soccer ball out of string, rags, and paper. Cory had been saying the whole trip that he wanted a real live soccer ball made by a kid on the street, so he told everybody to keep a lookout for kids playing with one.

As we got near the park, that pavement ran out and we started down a long dirt road past some small villages. All of a sudden, Jarrod yelled “STOP! SOCCER BALL!” and pointed at a group of kids playing by the side of the road. VP pulled over and asked them whose ball they were playing with. The crowd parted and all the kids pointed at one little girl. Cory asked VP how much was appropriate to pay for the ball and the girl agreed to sell it. As they ran away from the car, the little girl was clutching the money like she was rich and all of her friends were hugging her and patting her on the back. It was heartbreaking that such a small amount of money as that was such a huge deal. And a little bit heartbreaking that Cory took their ball away!

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After what seemed like forever, we were finally there! Right off the bat, the scenery was incredible! As we entered the park and paid the admission fee, there was a small gift shop and museum that we stopped to look through before heading in to see the animals.

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We hadn’t made it into the park a half mile with our guide, George, before a troop of wild baboons walked out in front of us!

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The park is teeming with all kinds of wildlife–monkeys{I could never get a picture!}, baboons, zebras, dozens of species of antelope and gazelle, crocodiles, birds, giraffes, elephants, and even hippos and warthogs {called pumbaa!}. It was a good thing we opted to take a guide with us, because George knew exactly where to find each animal. He asked us each what animal we were most excited to see, and did his level best to make sure we all got to see what we wanted.

We asked VP if he liked the park, and he said that he was reserving judgement until he had seen a giraffe.

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HIPPOS!

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BALD EAGLES!

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ANTELOPES!

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ZEBRAS!

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The park forms the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, and in the distance you can see Tanzania on the horizon.

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Cory with his bare feet! I swear, you can’t take him anywhere.

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This spot wasn’t the real highest point in the park, but George said it was more picturesque than the real highest point, so we got our group shots there while it was still sunny.

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CAPE BUFFALO!

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We stopped at an area way up around the actual tallest point where there’s a shelter and a camping area for those who wish to spend the night in the park. Um, no thanks. I’ve seen what lives there!

VP got out to, um, stretch?

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You couldn’t help but reflect on God’s creation when there were sights like this just right outside the window. It’s incredible to think that the same God that created all of this also loves little me and cares about my life. How gorgeous and majestic is the work of our God!

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When VP stopped here, and our car was caught in the center of a herd of wild zebras, we all fell silent and VP said, “God is a good painter. These zebras are well painted”.

Well said, VP.

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PUMBAA!

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We stopped here for lunch and in hindsight, it was probably NOT safe to be this close to hippos.
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And finally, when it seemed like all hope was lost, (we had been driving for around six hours) George found VP his giraffe!
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As we were getting ready to leave the park, we saw a herd of giraffes but VP was going so fast, my camera wouldn’t focus.

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So the park is about an eight-hour drive, and that’s with VP driving like a maniac at 65 mph on a rutted out, tore-up dirt path. All day, it had been threatening to rain but the rain was always ahead of where we were, and we were thankful for that. Until we got to a long straight hill where the ground had been reduced to sloppy, slimy, slushy mud that the SUV we had rented that day couldn’t get through.

At the top of the hill was a car full of German and Austrian students who had just fought their way out of the Mud Pit of Sorrow, and when they saw us they walked back down with their guides to help us push our truck through the mud.

Danke, der kameraden!

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It wasn’t just the car that had difficulty moving through the mud! It was so slick you could barely walk, and we sure weren’t going to walk on the swampy sides and get bitten by a black mamba!

So of course Amber fell and I dropped my camera in the mud.

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After passing another car full of muzungus and giving them the heads-up on the mud pit and a firm “abandon hope all ye who enter here”, we were headed out of the park and back to Benjamin and Josephine’s house to get ready for Josephine’s family Bible study at their house.

And there were kids in a tree.

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How can you not adore those pouty little lips!? Michaiah is sooo cute and sweet and I miss her so bad.

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Josephine’s family meets every Friday night at someone’s house to have a time of testimony, prayer, Bible study, and worship. They chose to meet at Josephine’s house that week so that we could be a part of it as well. When they all arrived, we ate a big meal and got to meet everybody.

Unfortunately, Cory was in the bed with a fever, wearing about 17 hoodies and feeling like he had been run over by a cape buffalo. After a while, he emerged from the bedroom, looking much better and wearing only a t-shirt. When the time came for everyone to share testimonies, he told the group that he had prayed for God to heal him of the fever, even if it was just long enough to get to be a part of the small group time. He fell asleep, and woke up thirty minutes later with his fever broken and no sickness, and ready to sing and play! God is so good and He answers prayers!

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It’s hard for me to express what that group time was like. The Holy Spirit was so present and so heavy in that room as we worshiped together. Josephine’s brother, Innocent, is a worship pastor at his church and he led us in a deeply spiritual time, singing songs that we all knew, that transcended borders, oceans, nationalities, and race so that we could worship our God together. It was truly a life-changing experience.

Please excuse the off key voice you can hear in the back ground. I stuck out like a sore thumb with this talented group of people.

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After our time of Bible study and a lesson from Innocent, we sang some more songs and got to just hang out with Josephine’s family. They were some of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met! Her parents even said that anytime we come to Rwanda, they will be our grandparents. It was so sweet and felt so good to know such love from people we had just met a few hours ago.

The family is also crazy! All the brothers and sisters started a dance-off in the middle of the living room that got out of hand in a hurry!

I can’t believe the Rwanda trip posts are almost over–it’s been nice going back over everything and getting it down so I could remember it all, but it’s very bittersweet knowing that there won’t be any more of these after the next one…until next year!