November Recap.

So if you read my last blog, you are aware that one of our hoops broke completely off at the court in Kayonza.  Well I am happy to report that we got that fixed; although it was a challenge working with so many youth with only one hoop and only four basketballs. The kids were great and very patient and understanding through it all.

We had more games in Kayonza and Rukara.  With the youth numbers increasing daily and never having the same kids at practices that show up for games, it was a challenge doing games for my inter court league in Kayonza.  One problem I like to see – higher participant numbers – so I am not complaining, just being observant and taking pride in the fact that the numbers are growing every day.

I had the unique opportunity to participate in a ‘Dialogue in the Dark’.  The entire conference was done in the dark so that all participants experienced life as others with similar disabilities handle everyday tasks.  I was happy that I was able to pour a cup of tea without spilling it.  I cannot imagine having to do all my daily tasks in the dark.  It was definitely an experience I will never forget.

I participated in a community service cleanup project in Umuganda. We picked up trash and swept the court area.  It feels good to give back to the community.  I hope everyone reading this does the same in their community.

The community I have been so blessed to have become part of is so welcoming and giving.  My neighbors invite me over for dinner and just to visit several times a week.  And I cannot forget to give a shout out to the youth that live in my neighborhood as well.  They come to visit me every day just to say hello and see how I am doing.  But last week a group of them came over and insisted on helping me sweep and mop my floors.  I told them no, but they would not take no for an answer.  So as a thank you, I cooked them rice and they put spaghetti sauce on it.  Although I thought it was a strange combination, it didn’t really taste all that bad.  So to all those youth in my community who are always there to help without being asked, THANK YOU!  I appreciate all that you do and I am grateful to be part such a welcoming and caring community.

We had a coaching clinic last week.  I was a bit hesitant at first because I didn’t think it was planned out smoothly but as the week progressed, things seem to come together well. I think we all did a great job.  Our coaches here in Rwanda are fortunate to be learning from one of the best:  Bob Hurley.  We are using techniques Coach Hurley uses in his basketball camps.  There’s no better way to become the best than to learn from the best!

I thought it would be hard being away from home for the holidays.  No matter where I found myself in November, I always found my way home for the Thanksgiving.  And a tuna sandwich and rice and potatoes are no substitute for Turkey and stuffing and gravy.  However, I have realized there are more important things in life than not being home for the holidays – one of the great lessons I have already learned from only being here for two months.  I can only imagine what I will take away from this experience once the sabbatical comes to a close after the ten months have passed.

One of the moments I was most looking forward to with this journey took place this month… we gave the sneakers out to the children.  They were excited to see all the different styles that they had the opportunity to select from.  It was great seeing the excitement on their faces.  On behalf of the youth that were beneficiaries of the sneaker collections, I would like to give a special thank you to all of my family and friends that donated sneakers.  Thank you very much and I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Intro into December…

What better way to start the month off than with a celebration to recognize the coaches for their participation in the Coaches Clinic.  Certificates were presented to the coaches along with whistles and shirts.

I was fortunate enough to celebrate my birthday in Rwanda.  This made for some memorable moments that will be carried with me for the rest of my life.  Kayonza Coach Christian and his siblings, brothers Thierry and Toussaint and sister Gloria, got me a card and everyone signed it.  One one my players in Kayonza even drew me a picture that says Happy Birthday to you coach and it has a rose and a basketball drawn on it.  I thought that was very special.

The youth of Kayonza sang happy birthday to me in a couple different languages on the bus ride to Rukara for games.  I tried to get a Spanish version going but that didn’t work out so well.  The boys in both age groups from Kayonza won their games in Rukara.  Great job everyone!  The youth sang to me again on the way back from the courts.  This time they not only sang Happy Birthday, but they sang a lot of random songs in Kinyarwandan.  Then they asked me to teach them a song.  I taught them John Jacob Jinglehiemer Schmidt and Bazooka Bubblegum.  They liked John Jacob best as they enjoyed the “Na na na na na na na na” part best, but then again, who doesn’t?  Then Matt got some of the youth from Kayonza that didn’t go to games in Rukara to sing Happy Birthday to me on video. Also in Rwinkwavu we had a little celebration for my birthday, they made pizza and cake for me.  It was all good, but the pizza was amazing!  Thank you to everyone that made this birthday most memorable for me, that includes everyone back home that sent their well-wishes and love as well.

Saturday was tournament day, our first big event.  The day started out a bit crazy but once we got started things started coming together and ran smoothly.  Then the rain came and delayed the games.  Thankfully, we were able to get back on track and play some games. It was great to have girls’ teams playing as well as boys.  What better way to keep their interest in playing than to have them participate in these tournaments.  Nymirama boys and girls primary won the 5-on-5 tournament.  Kayonza boys won the secondary 5-on-5 and for the 3-on-3, Kayonza primary won and the Agahoza won for the secondary and girls.

Congratulations to the winners and to all the players and coaches for making the tournament a huge success.  I can’t wait to have our next event, hopefully with less rain. 🙂

Sorry there are no pictures with this post, I was having issues uploading some. I will try to edit it and share some pictures soon! 🙂



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