Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chicago - Day 4


In the morning we all met at a thrift store called DISCOUNT VILLAGE. The Rwandan girls were given some spending money, and they bought shoes, tops, bottoms and purses as gifts and for themselves. The group leaders bought a few suitcases for them to bring their haul back home.

CORE Center

Then it was time to go to The CORE Center. First we ate some lunch. And then we showed the Rwandan girls the mural that we already had started here in Chicago. Doing the second mural came much easier. Not just because we already finished one in Rwanda, but the mural at The CORE Center is a bit smaller and we also had all the tools that we needed. And even if we had a little crisis, we could go to the store and get what we needed.
Many media outlets came and interviewed us, as well.


That evening we were scheduled to go to Summer Dance in Millennium Park. But it would not have been a real Chicago experience if we would not have had any weather delays during this trip. It was raining pretty hard. While waiting for the rain to stop and figure out what to do next - we all sat down together to chat and get the air out of a few soccer balls for the girls to bring back to Kigali.

Later we decided to skip the Summer Dance and we went to Dr. Mardge's house to have some dinner and relaxing time together. When the rain stopped we went to the lake. The Rwandan girls were pleasantly surprised to see how beautiful Lake Michigan is. Quite a few of us took a nice and refreshing dip in the water.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chicago - Day 3


In the morning we all met by the beautiful gardens next to the group entrance of the Shedd Aquarium. First we watched the dolphin show all together and then we had some free time to explore the aquarium with our pen pals. We saw the Caribbean Reef, lizards, penguins, Beluga whales and many other sea creatures. At the end we explored the souvenir shop until everyone gathered together for our next adventure of the day.


Our next stop was Northbrook Court Mall. We were divided between a handful of cars and we were on our way. Some people got there on time, some got a bit lost and were a bit late. But everyone ultimately arrived at the DiPescara restaurant for a wonderful lunch. After pasta, chicken marinara and finally ice cream for dessert we were on our way to the tour of the mall. First we stopped at Flash Digital Portraits where we all got photographed as individuals and as a group. Then we went to Aveda where we got some relaxation tips and free gift bags. We also were warmly welcomed by the staff of Stuart Weitzman. They gave each of us a fabulous pair of flip flops. But the biggest surprise of all was the incredible gift bags that each of us received at the end of the tour. We got SO MANY GOODIES!!! ;) Just to name a few things - we got a Juicy Couture key chain, a pink Coach wallet, a Teavana tea set, wonderful products from Sephora, some Ralph Lauren lotion, a Lucky Brand Jeans tote... We all were on the verge of crying from happiness!!! :)


After having the best time ever at Northbrook Court we were on our way to Bonnie Lubin's house that was not far away. After a snack we had some time to talk and reflect on what this journey has meant to us. The discussion turned out to be quite emotional, to say the least. I think that talk changed all of us and we became much closer. Then we had a wonderful dinner all together around a big table. Later we had s'mores by the fire pit. Making s'mores was quite an experience for the Rwandans.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chicago - Day 2

Official greeting

The day started at the Chicago Cultural Center where we were greeted by representatives from Mayor Richard Daley's office, After School Matters and other civic institutions. Each girl received an official City of Chicago Resolution presented by Alderman Vi Daley, signed by the Mayor and the City Clerk. After the official welcome, Miriam gave all of us a quick tour of the beautiful Cultural Center.

Gallery 37

Then we walked across the street to Gallery 37 were we had planned to have lunch. We went down to the basement to meet Sonja's sister who is ateacher in the culinary department of After School Matters this summer. We tried to help out with things that needed to be done in the kitchen, but after a while it was obvious it would be better to leave the cooking to the professionals. So we had a tour of gallery and all the programs they have this summer. We saw the photography and printmaking department, we heard wonderful songs from the singing department and we visited the dancers as well. Since we were on a tight schedule we did not get to see everything that Gallery 37 has to offer. So it was time for lunch. We went to the patio and had hot dogs, bratwursts, hamburgers and deep dish pizza with cookies for dessert. Real Chicago food!
We had a surprise visit from Mayor Daley's wife, the First Lady of Chicago. She was very kind and talked to all the girls and welcomed them to Chicago. Maggie Daley is no stranger to Gallery 37 and After School Matters. She visits the programs and students every year.

Art Institute

After lunch we had a quick discussion about how all the girls are feeling in Chicago and how the experience has been so far. Then we walked to the Art Institute where we had a guided tour of American art by a friend of Miriam's - Phyllis Neiman. She was the nicest person ever. On our way out we walked through an exhibit of artifacts from Nigeria.

Millennium Park

Then we took a little break at Millennium Park. We cooled off by the Crown Fountain while little kids were running around and splashing in the water recklessly. We took tons of photos by the Cloud Gate (The Bean). And Miriam told us a little bit about the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

Welcome dinner

After a short drive in cars or taxis, we arrived at The Latin School for a welcome dinner. At 7 pm, family and friends of the Chicagoans started arriving. There were many guests and supporters there, thanks to many of whom this trip was made possible. We had some food and then the ceremony began. All the girls were wearing traditional Rwandan outfits. We introduced ourselves and danced the Rwandan cow dance, which was followed by the Cha-Cha Slide.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicago - Day 1

Double Decker Bus Tour

We all met at The Field Museum. As soon as the bus arrived we went up to the second level right away. Our first stop was Navy Pier. All of us girls were so excited about the Ferris Wheel and seeing wonderful Lake Michigan full of sailboats, from up so high. The Rwandan girls were mesmerized by Chicago's architecture. Many of them had never seen a skyscraper before. We took a ride down Michigan Avenue and our next stop was Water Tower Place. We got off to visit the Hershey’s store nearby. We all know how much Rwandans love chocolate! Our tour tickets contained different coupons. One of them offered a free Hershey’s chocolate bar without any purchase. Yum! We also saw the John Hancock Center, admired the Sears Tower and we got off at Millennium Park next. There we visited the Park Shop where we used another coupon and got either a free t-shirt or a cap. We rode through The Theatre District, passed The Art Institute and returned to The Field Museum.

The CORE Center

Then everyone got into separate cars and drove to The CORE Center. After we ate lunch catered by Wishbone, we continued our work on the mosaic mural there. This was the first time the Rwandan girls saw the place where the mural would be located in Chicago. Since we already had started it before we left for Rwanda and the mural here is a bit smaller – there was less anxiety. After finishing the mural in Rwanda all the girls felt like experienced mural artists and finishing another mural in one week did not seem impossible.

Lillie Ann’s SPA

After a hard day of work and a long flight we were all glad to find out that Sonja had prepared a very relaxing surprise. We all went to meet her friend Lillie Ann who owns a therapeutic massage and stress reduction center. Each of us got a 10-minute massage that felt divine and we also learned how to relax our mind and body after the stresses of everyday life.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rwanda – Day 6


We visited a local market to buy some groceries to be able to cook a traditional African meal for the welcome dinner at Félicité's house. The market in Rwanda is more like a farmers market in Chicago. Except for the chickens. They sell live chickens at the market (about $8 - depending on how good a bargainer you are! :D). The customer chooses a chicken and then it is killed. Live chickens are cheaper, because all the plucking and cutting is done later by the customer. Latrice and Yonetta ended up saving a chicken. They bought a live one and took it to Henrietta's house where it would live with a couple of hens she already had. We all petted the chicken and held it in our laps - locals were laughing at us because they don't usually pet their dinner. ;)

Welcome Dinner

When got to Félicité's house, each of us was assigned a task. Some made the salads, some made fish or chicken. It took a couple of hours for the meal to be prepared. At about 4 PM friends and relatives of the Rwandan girls started to arrive. When the official welcome started we introduced ourselves and our pen pals and we did a runway show with our wonderful new African dresses. Than we did the traditional Rwandan dance about the cows in traditional gowns that were rented. And the Chicagoans sang a song about family. Kigali girls danced again and we later joined with all the family members.

We also surprised Linda with a birthday cake that Henrietta made. Everybody sang Happy Birthday in 3 languages! ;)

Dancing (or not).

Then we were ready to go out and have even more fun. But that didn't last for long. A couple of the Rwandan girls were underage. And when finally it was decided that just some of us would go, we all got carded and the fun night was all done.