this train is bound for …

prelude

Since we have left Rwanda on November 15th, I have revisited this blog in my thoughts quite a few times.  Before going we purposefully named it TTIBF: this train is bound for … key being the …

It was named this so that after our time in the Peace Corps we could continue to use it as a means of mass communication with family and friends, or merely a place to unload into the cosmos. So today I am going to write about my/our current thoughts, not as a finale to the Rwanda blog, but as a transition into the … of our lives.

cha cha cha changes

I have about 4 pieces of clothing that have survived the past 2 years start to finish. There are 2 tank tops, black and olive, a teal cardigan, and a purple blouse that left Kansas City in October 2010 and returned in January 2013. When I see these pieces, I get a stomach turning emotion of what I can only define as admiration. They are warriors. They have survived hand washing, wear and tear, weight-gain and weight-loss, dirt and dust, trades, give aways, being lost or stolen. They survived and then were chosen to enter my suitcase and travel home the other way around the world, surviving 9 more countries on the way.

I can’t help but look at these warriors in awe at all they have been through, all they have seen, and that they still live on. Symbolically, of course, these clothes could represent Aaron and myself. But they don’t. Not yet anyway. We have been to the same places as these clothes, seen the same things, and endured it all together. Yet, when I look in the mirror I don’t see a warrior. I see more freckles, but no other emotions are invoked. That being said, there are some noticeable things that have changed in ourselves, but also in the ol’USA.

changes in the US

-Keurig coffee makers [what?? Since when?? How?? Why?? Oh, I get it now, and I love it.]

-Clouds [icloud, the concept, etc.]

-Netflix/Hulu +

-Pandora has commercials:(

-Pintrest

-food photos [thought that was just us!]

-gluten-free [yes, it can be a disease, yes it can be an intolerance, yes, it can be a diet: anyway you look at it, it is still a recent and colossal fad]

- traffic cameras! So many!

-college tuition increase like whoa

-frozen yogurt shops! Never in my wildest dreams did I think something I loved so much would become a nationwide fad. Loveee it!

-greek yogurt! Once a secret of foodies and health nuts, now in my mother’s fridge

-babies: many people are with child.

-angry birds/bejeweled other smartphone/tablet games

-it being socially acceptable to use said smartphone/tablet anywhere at anytime

-cupcakes! So many cupcakes!

-lipstick

-more ethnic food restaurants

changes in the us [get it?]

Self-confidence: as a teacher to a group of 10-40 wide-eyed girls, spouting off lessons on Self-Confidence, Trust, Love, Peer-Pressure, Gender Balance, etc. I was faced with questions of my own self-confidence, where it lacks, where it is non-existent, where it thrives. I was talkin’ the talk and I best start to walk the walk. As I watched these girls transform I, too, transformed into one who is more confident. One who has envisioned a project, dictated these thoughts into proposals, enlisted and received help from peers, led peers, completed projects, assessed projects, and finished happy. I stood in front of a room full of 100 strangers and gave a speech in a difficult second language. I danced in front of 300 girls, to show them it is ok to look goofy. I taught those sweet girls how desperately important it is to be confident in every aspect, I seamlessly became a more thoughtful and confident person myself. And I can say I am proud.

Language: Kinyarwanda was hard, but we learned it. We conversed for hours at a time. We traveled cross-country using it. We laughed with it and cried with it [or because of it]. To know another language creates a new space in your mind, one, which requires constant logic and multi-level thought. “how can I take the words I know, and the words I think they might know, to express my idea and then listen to their words and put them together in a meaningful way to derive an answer.” I had a dream in 90% Kinyarwanda last night, and again felt proud.  

Gained ruthless bartering skills: just try to scam Aaron or I, and you will get SCHOOLED. Want $10, make it $2. No? you want $8? I said $2! *walk away* ok fine, $2. That’s what I thought!!!! Proud!

Simplified: that might be a word to summarize a new change in us. It is a little bit annoying for others to watch as we try to make cookies using as few utensils and dishes as possible. But in most ways, we lived a “simpler life” there. It is something we tried to do before we left, and now are doing more naturally. We are very conscious of our trash.

*optional funny sub-story*

In Rwanda there is no trash service. You must dispose of what you consume. We had 1 bag for burnable trash [paper, foil etc.] 1 box for bottles to give to our local banana beer brewer to use. 1 box for reusable plastic jars/bottles that we can use or give to neighbors, we composted all food waste for use on our garden, and then had 1 bag for… all else. Pieces of plastic wrap, weird plastic, shaving cream bottles, razors etc. So the question was: to burn or to bury? You might [not] be surprised that there is not much research on environmental impacts of burning vs. burying plastics. Both are bad. Put them in your trashcan and they will magically disappear every Tuesday. So at the end of our service, that “??” trashcan was growing increasingly as our house emptied. We got in a “fight”/heated discussion about whether to burn or bury, one last time. In the beginning we decided on burial, because impact would take longer [like over a lifetime] to really begin seeping into the earth, and after all landfills are what most of the world has decided on. So we filled the land also. But this last bag was so full, that it would have been a monster hole. As we were “fighting” we stopped, and started laughing, and realized that this fight would be our last over this matter. That some problems we simply will not have again. Ever. Pretty hilarious how quickly a perspective change can occur.

So if you’re on the edge of your seat wondering WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TRASH!!!??? DID THEY BURN OR BURY???

Ultimately with all of the options, what got us was the thought of people finding it later and digging through the “muzungu” trash. For them to see all of our waste [1 white trash bag in 6 months… not so bad looking back] was too much to think of. So we burn, baby burned. From midnight to 6am it burned. And I was not proud this time. [But still kind of proud because I was the one who actually lit the flameJ]

*sub-story over *

In a sense we have simplified and are more conscientious. We use less water, or at least think about it when we do use a lot. We will air dry our clothes, because it feels good, and why not? We pack lighter. We generally have less. And have seen what it looks like to really really have less. And we are proud.

Empathy: My empathy was challenged in Rwanda. I am generally a very empathetic person. I give people the benefit of the doubt, I defend the underdog, and I will like you unless you are mean/arrogant. And even if you are, I will probably still love you and want to fix you. But my empathy was challenged because it felt like [in general!! not always!!] people had less empathy for me. Yes, I was an observer looking upon poverty in a healing country. I should have had immense empathy. And I tried. But it was sympathy at best. Because when you are living as not an observer but participant, and are subject to the adverse affects of poverty and post-conflict, it is impossible to remain objective. So I wish I could say I had a lot of empathy for Rwandans, but I didn’t. The specific cultural things that I should have felt empathy towards ultimately made me angry and cold. I, luckily, am not so cold that I can look upon the experiences with logic and derive an artificial empathy/understanding that makes me feel okay. And I did gain loads of empathy in a new area: towards immigrants, foreigners, tourists, and minorities. I was one or all of these, everyday for 2 years. My heart will forever be soft to those who are far far from home, and to those with a different skin color/lifestyle/who are generally odd. And I am proud of that, at least.

Car-sickness: nearly AVERTED! That’s right folks. I have defeated car-sickness. Now, if only I could get in an ocean without instantly vomiting.

 

Ok, I think this is enough for right now. I hope this was a light-hearted insight into our current state of mind. We are processing, debriefing, reintegrating, whatever –ing you want to use. It has been hard. Some residual effects from our life abroad, are still making themselves known [ie: social awkwardness, trouble making simple decisions, trouble making big decisions, panic attacks, trouble sleeping, anxiety traveling at night, flashbacks, reverse homesickness, lost conversation skills, unmet expectations of home] We are struggling, but happy as clams to be struggling HERE with our loved ones.

In terms of our current lives… Aaron has been accepted to ALL grad schools he applied to. CONGRATULATIONS! We are waiting to hear about the scholarships/financial aid before making a decision. Currently in Colorado, enjoying time alone for the first time since November, but still with family in heart and mind.

“We are happy we did it, but happy to be back” ß magic 1 sentence summary of the past 2 years.

love & peace to you all,

d&a

the shortest summation yet

Let’s not dwell on how we may have dropped off the map and dive into
the shortest and sweetest update I’ve ever done! [do you believe me?]

July- THE BIG WITZKE’S CAME! That is how our sweet friend Jerome
refers to Ron & Jan. It happened! I think our perspective of the tripwas quite different from theirs, but in all it can be looked back upon as a grand shared time. We traveled a lot which to us is utterly exhausting. We had a short amount of time to cram in a synopsis of our lives but we tried. They were understanding, open, flexible, and really just troopers throughout the trip. I was not only reminded how lucky I am to be with Aaron, but to have his family as well. They let me in really easily, share with me, and love me well. We are so thankful that we were able to share our lives with them here.

Highlights: We ate brie cheese and black currant jam on crackers
whilst watching hippos emerge and submerge into a big lake. [also saw a TON of other safari animals!] I did traditional Rwandan dance in front of a restaurant in Gisenyi. We cooked a real Christmas Morning Breakfast Cake, on our charcoal stove. Igi was sweet. We had an invitation only ceremony in our village, for our friends to meet A’s parents but also to say thank you to them for their kindness to us. Danced the night away. Ron sang the Lord’s Prayer, which literally stopped people in their tracks. It was a thoroughly special night. Ended with being trapped in a rainstorm, as all good Rwandan nights should. After a beautiful and restful trip to Kibuye we found ourselves once again in South Africa.

South Africa: We enjoyed 2 days in Joburg with the Witzke’s. Barbeque, crafts, art, gelato, apartheid museum, hot tub, rootbeer. Then we said good bye. But this time it was significantly less daunting. We knew home was coming soon.
Then A & I went to Cape Town again. It was our first time traveling to a foreign place alone, and was a lovely respite. We were feeling quite on top of the world and just enjoyed our own company. In 2 years living in our mud home together atop a mountain, we have still found more and more reasons to love each other. And we still enjoy spending time together. Huzzah!

Aaron went on a commercial fishing boat which caught 574 fish that
day! Hand lining! We found the Farmer’s Market blessed by God again,
and fully partook. We were able to stay in our favorite B&B again and enjoy the peaceful ocean view. For the last 2 nights we stayed with our new friend from last trip, Emma, and her family. It couldn’t have felt better. We cooked great food, watched the Olympics, and just felt normal. We love SA because of it’s beauty, it’s history, it’s future, but also because we feel normal there. And we like that.

August: Main agenda, GLOW Camp! Our first camp ever in our district. A & I were 2 of the 3 camp coordinators, and so we had a lot of work leading up to the camp. To try and recap it is difficult but I can say that we left it feeling full of life and proud. It went so so so so well. I hope to make a picture blog of it when I return with captions which can highlight it better. Girls enjoyed it, logistics went smoothly, lives changed all around. Next, we ventured south west to visit a dear friend who lives quite
far out there. From our home it would be a 14 hour 1 way trip to see
him. We enjoyed seeing his way of life, the rice paddies, the kiddos, and THE HOT SPRINGS! That’s right folks. The witzke’s happened upon a hot spring lake, and embarked in the delightful relaxation. Hit Kibuye one last time before school began, and even paddle boarded. Ready set LAST TERM!

September: Bam! Last term ever! We are ready! Teaching is going fine. We have a new headmaster who seems good. He says yes more than no,which is appreciated.

GLOW Club: gosh it’s good! We started two routines which have kept our attendance regular and high. First, we sing a song: “The more we GLOW together together together… … … the happier we’ll be.” Very cute. This alerts straggling girls that it’s club time and they’d better hurry. Then we take attendance and if a girl comes to 3 clubs she gets a GLOW notebook! I have had 55 girls in the past 2 terms, and 30 are coming consistently. Finally. We have had ceremonies at the end of each term which ALL girls are invited to, so we are sharing our lessons to a wider audience. ANDDDD we started a club at the other school on our hill! We are commandeering. Lesson Plans of this year so far: Welcome to GLOW Club, Self- Confidence, Encouraging Others, Goal- Setting,
Peer Pressure, Love, Love & Relationships, Sexual Relationships,
Women’s Health: Puberty & Menstruation, HIV/AIDS Facts & Myths,
HIV/AIDS Transmission. We will finish up with: Gender & Culture,
Women in History/Other Cultures, How to be a good leader?, and Trust. I am compiling all of the lessons as well as some appendixes to give to my girls and for other PCVs to leave behind to their clubs.

English Club: surprise! Trying to write and perform a musical in 2
months was hard. So we are finishing it this term! They are so
excited! Right now it is more of a play than a musical, which is a-ok with me.

Other news of Sept: We found out we are being replaced! We are really excited that our work will continue. We are really lucky to have a new volunteer coming, many from our group are not so fortunate.
We generally just feel good. The fact that the end is so near makes
all of the small things more tolerable.

The future: We finish our service November 15th. We will fly to Kenya to spend a few days with our newlywed friends who are now working there. Then we are going to India, Nepal, Singapore, and Thailand! We are booking the tickets this weekend and will be able to give more details. We will return to STL on December 22nd, just in time to be with my mom & dad for a few days before my personal favorite day of the year- Christmas Eve at G&G’s. Pea soup, we’re coming. Shortly after we will join the Big Witzke’s and Sister Witzke in KC & then begin our quest to visit EVERYONE! :] we will go to CO, OK, MS, WI, and maybe even WA/OR. Family and friends, consider yourselves warned. Hugs are coming your way.

Finale
This was as short and sweet as it gets from me folks. Sorry! My heart is full, and I want to share it all. But it shall wait for another day. Hot beverage or snocone in hand, face to face.

We are really feeling the sting of being away for so long. Events have come and went without our participation, people have found love and stepped away from love, people have been in and then out of hospitals, babies born, people are living people are dying. The world spins madly on, with or without our consent. We are ready to jump back into your madness again, full throttle. We are really ready.

much peace, love, and hope being sent from us to you.
d, a, and calmer than before but still a pup igi.

the umukozi dilemma

Hi friends & fam, sorry it has been frightfully long. here is a quick read we thought you might find interesting. Aaron & I wrote an article for our PC Rwanda newspaper “SOMA” [which means "read"]. Enjoy! Questions & comments always welcome.

THE UMUKOZI DILEMMA

As a preface, this debate signifies a longstanding conversation we have had in our time here in Peace Corps- whether or not to have a house worker. We have both gone back and forth from side to side and have landed in a place where we both feel comfortable and happy. We choose to organize our discussion through an Oxford style debate, in order to make the read more enjoyable and also to show the sometimes extreme views of both sides. Neither I nor Aaron agree with everything in this article, but are merely presenting the arguments.

The Motion: Peace Corps Volunteers should do their own domestic work in Rwanda.

Opening Arguments

For the motion
For most Americans the thought of having house help was initially off-putting. Most of us were bred to abide by hard work, sweat, blood, tears, and take pride in their lack of superiority. An American authority can sweep their own floor, clean their own clothes, and cook their own food with out a second thought. We are taught to viciously contest inequity and to embrace differences while eradicating divisionism. As PCVs entering Rwanda, many were shocked to find the widespread use of house help and were brought to face a dilemma- to hire or not to hire. I believe the answer is not to hire, here is why.
As PCVs we are called to integrate into the culture while simultaneously sharing our own culture. Choosing to do one’s own housework is a simple way share something positive about America- that we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty and that we are capable of doing anything. It can be empowering for a Rwandan to see a PCV working hard at domestic tasks, especially cross gender. That is why we are here, to challenge others to see a new meaning of equality, of social strata, and of their own beliefs. Hiring an umukozi also solidifies the classism that already exists and continues to separate rather than enable those who are of a lower disposition. The umukozi feels inferior to most others in their community, and hiring them solidifies their position as invariably lesser. The people who are often hired as umukozis are generally undereducated and stagnant on the social ladder. Hiring them does not give them new skills, new ideas, or upward mobility: it gives them temporary monetary growth, which will unfortunately be gone in two years when service is finished.
Finally, I fear moving this too far into an ethical realm, but it is an evitable part of this argument. Hiring a domestic worker can create pitfalls for volunteers within their homes. One of these pitfalls is viewing another person as less than human. Volunteers with domestic help become accustomed to giving orders and them being followed. They are constantly in a position of power. This can build an unhealthy sense of entitlement that can seep into other relations with HCNs.
All volunteers are faced with the paradox of adapting to a new culture while holding true to their own. We all know how to clean, cook, do laundry, and work for ourselves. From our history we know of the harm division causes. Vote for the motion: that volunteers should do their own domestic work.

Against the Motion
The question of whether or not to hire an umukozi is one that many Peace Corps Volunteers wrestle with when they first arrive at site. More than likely, they have been exposed to the labor intensive work of daily household tasks (cooking and washing clothes in particular) during their pre-service training. There is also a pretty good chance that the host family to which they were assigned had a domestic worker despite their economic standing. I would argue that these experiences gained during their first 3 months in country is more than enough to make an informed decision about whether they will be doing their own domestic work or not. I will also argue that that decision will and should be to hire a domestic worker to accomplish the strenuous tasks of daily life in the village.
The old adage that ‘time is money’ is one that holds true, even in a country that has different views of time and how it should be spent. As volunteers, we seldom see an employed Rwandan doing their own housework. And it is not because they are unable, in this country people see doing their own housework as a waste of time. In general, the rule of the culture is that if you have the means to hire someone, you should. Not only is it seen as a waste of time (even here) if you don’t, one might even be viewed as “selfish” or “miserly.” This is yet another reason to hire a worker, aside from the fact that a volunteer could be spending 3-6 hours a day cooking and cleaning otherwise. Those 3-6 hours a day – a conservative estimate in my view – could be better spent doing what we as volunteers were brought here to do, which is give instruction and work in positions where help is needed. Arguably, the American government did not send us here to sit in our house for a majority of the week struggling to cook for ourselves and ineffectively wash clothing. Some volunteers may choose to navigate this problem by eating peanut butter 10 times a week, but I for one think the choice is clear: hire an umukozi; vote against the motion that volunteers should do their own domestic work.

Rebuttals

For the motion
If PCVs are tasked to integrate with all people in a culture, is it really possible to connect on an equal level with someone to whom you give orders, who washes your dirty clothes and sweeps your floor? Is it possible to view them as equally human while you sit on the couch as they do your work? In the states equality is a standard we all fight to keep. By hiring someone to do your work you are by definition superior, and thus not equal. You mentioned that the time could be better spent doing other tasks related to primary or secondary assignments, but an important secondary assignment is cross cultural sharing. By not hiring an umukozi you are sharing an American ideal of humility and hard work. It can be very thought provoking for a Rwandan to see an American hoeing their own garden or washing their own clothes. It provides a simple opportunity to provoke new ideas and even debate. 2-3 hours a day is worth that [which is a generous estimate in my opinion].

Against the motion
Let me first address the rebuttal, as I disagree with the premise that we are tasked with integrating with all people in the culture. Female PCVs are not “tasked” with integrating with the many chauvinist leaders here. I can leave it at that without turning this debate into a “what is integration” discussion. I would only say that in many instances, a PCV’s umukozi is often his or her most constant friend in the village. Having an umukozi is an opportunity for friendship, an opportunity to polish kinyrwanada, and a vital link to the inner workings of the community around you (and yes I’m talking about gossip, or more politely, the news).
As far as the pitfalls and superiority issues, I leave that to the individual volunteer to manage. The risks far outweigh the benefits in my opinion, as the community surely won’t see a volunteer as a shining beacon of hope for a world devoid of class. What WOULD make more of an impact would be the community seeing a volunteer treating a domestic worker as a person, with grace and respect for the help they are being adequately compensated for – which I trust that a volunteer would do. The American ideal of hard work and humility can be shown in the workplace, where it will have a far greater impact on those around them.

Closing Arguments

Against the motion
In closing, a vote against this motion is a vote for a realistic perspective of volunteers and their work here. We are not here to change a culture by dismantling it in one fell swoop, in my view if we are to bring about meaningful change, whether it be in the realm of inherent inequality or classism or another aspect, we must do so little by little. Not only “slowly by slowly” but with much thought and consideration as to the effects of our actions either way. I believe that I have made it clear that there is no real harm to hiring an umukozi and by association not doing your own household work. Vote against the motion, thank you much.

For the motion

In speaking of classism, fixing the problem little by little implies that it should be accepted in some circumstances. Hiring an umukozi is perpetuating inequality, little by little. By not hiring an umukozi you are making a small change that will ripple. How we treat all people, including our neighbor’s umukozis, the women at the market, the umudozis and shoemudozis, our colleagues, the mentally disabled, the old, and the young will all be noticed and could inspire others to look at their own behavior. How volunteers choose to spend their money will be noticed, how they dress will be noticed, if they carry an avocado on the road one day it will be noticed and spoken of for weeks. All of these behaviors are considered. We are by no means here to change a culture in one fell swoop, and perhaps not at all. We are here to learn from Rwandan culture and learn more about our own culture and engage in thoughtful respectful discussion, in which we hope change occurs in both ourselves and our neighbors. To promote equality, humility, and new ideas vote for the motion.

our daily bread

Hello!

I thought it might be interesting to post on food in Rwanda. One
obvious reason is that we love food, we love cooking, we watch food tv
[even here because we downloaded all of Anthony Bourdain and Top Chef]
and love eating. Maybe we are foodie nerds, but we thought you might
be curious to know what “bush meat” or “bush fruit” is like, so here
we go:

day to day
We live about a 10 minute walk to our town-center, which includes a
daily market. It is small compared to other Rwandan markets, but I’d
rather have a small daily market than a twice a week humungo fest any
day.

Please remember that big events mean a totally different thing to us
here. It means: new people, crowds of new people, swarms of children,
group-think, and exhaustion. All things we avoid. We are physically
different than everyone for miles and miles and miles, and so when
there is a big event- we stand out. There is also not a lot of
entertainment here, so we quickly become just that. It is culturally
normal to create a crowd and stare at something/someone new. Needless
to say, we avoid it.

So, we go to our market about 3 times a week- sometimes more or less
depending on our schedule, mood, and needs. The market is run
exclusively by women. They have created a cooperative to share their
successes and work together. They all know us by name, and are
thrilled to see us when we arrive. But not too thrilled, that’s key.
They show us what vegetables and fruits look good that day, and we
make a decision based on that. This is a bartering society, and
usually market trips ensure a big debacle over onions being $0.17 or
$0.25. But not in my village. They know us, and love us, and will
barter with each other in order to give us a good price. Here is a
list of our market prices, it is currently inflated a bit because it
is the harvest has not come yet. On a typical day this is the produce
at our market:

Murunda Market Prices
1 kilo potatoes: 20 cents
3 big tomatoes: 17 cents
~6 passion fruit: 17 cents
1 kilo carrots: 50 cents
1 pineapple: 8-25 cents depending on the size
1 tiny banana: 1 cent, usually bought in a bunch of 10- thus 10 cents
3 small onions: 17 cents
3 small green peppers: 17 cents
½ kilo of hot spicy peppers: 25 cents
1 bundle of leafy greens [we don’t have this exact vegetable in the
states, it is gross raw, and bitter cooked- but it’s green!]: 8 cents
3 huge avocados: 17-25 cents, depending on your bartering skills and
the scarcity
~6 limes: 17 cents
1 big head lettuce: 17 cents
[seasonally there are PUMPKINS! And occasionally transported
cauliflower, both about 50 cents]

Here is a list of other food staples we can find in our village:
1 egg: 17 cents
1 kilo rice: $1.15
1 kilo sugar: $1.15
1 bag of coffee: $6.60
2 kilo wheat flour: $1.15
1 sambusa [small fried wonton of meat]: 17 cents
1 large bread bun: 17 cents
1 kilo salt: 65 cents
1 liter vegetable oil: $1.65
1 liter vinegar $1.15
1 jar mayo: $3.30
½ kilo small dried fish [igi food]- 66 cents
1 bag pasta: $1.15
25 tea bags: $1
1 small can tomato paste: 50 cents

Now let me give you a price bracket for what we spend in Kigali and
bring back home, because a lot of our meals depend on these additions:
500 grams oatmeal [not a lot] $3.30
½ liter honey: $3
1 liter olive oil: $11.60
1 bunch garlic: 30 cents
1 jar peanut butter: $3.30
1 jar spice [almost anything]: ~3-5 $
1 Chapati [flat bread/fried tortilla] : 17 cents
1 block gouda cheese: $6
1 block small mozzarella [500g]: $7.50
2 sticks butter: $3
1 apple: 50 cents [imported]
1 bunch spinach or lettuce: $1
1 butternut squash: ~ $1 depending on size
2 kilos lentils: $3
2 kilos chickpeas: $3.50
2 kilos wheat berries: $3
2 kilos brown rice: $3
2 kilos popcorn kernels: $1.15
Mustard or ketchup: $4
Can of Tuna: $3
Soy sauce- medium: $4
Balsamic Vinegar: $6.60
BBQ sauce: $6
Those are the things we deem affordable/necessary/good and typically
bring home. We can also find green beans, peas, and egg plant at the
market in the big city nearest to us [2hours] and try to keep those on
hand.

how & what?
We have said before that we cook on electric and on a charcoal stove.
We have moved from 5 out of 7 days charcoal, to 5 out of 7 days
electric. It is of course infinitely easier to use the electric, but
also 98% of Rwanda is run on hydroelectric power so we feel it is
slightly more eco-friendly.
For breakfast we usually heat a pitcher of water in our water heater
[I guess it is like a coffee maker, but it boils the water only] and
drink tea or coffee. We eat oatmeal, bananas and peanut butter, or
fruit salad. We teach from 8-9:40 and have tea break with the
teachers, which includes milk tea and hard boiled eggs. So even if we
skip breakfast, we will get something.
For lunch we the standard fair, with the teachers. Beans and akahunga
[which is made from corn flour- it is like the texture of stuffing or
mashed potatoes]. Usuallly within the beans are some carrots, cabbage,
green vegetable, or local egg plant. Depends on the day. Then there is
usually another starch option- mostly potatoes, but on “special days”
plantains, rice, or fries. We are really tired of this food right now,
but it is free and a time to bond with our colleagues.
For dinner, we go home around 4:30 from school and begin to prepare
dinner around 5. It is a 1-2 hour process, more if we are using the
charcoal stove.

Here is an example of some meals we cook regularly:
Bruschetta on garlic toast
Omelets
Lentil soup → lentil burgers → lentil potato hash with fried eggs
Grilled peppers/onions with guacamole and chapati [flat bread]
Pasta with tomato sauce or olive oil, garlic, and basil [from our garden!!]
Tomato avocado sandwiches
Stir fry with ginger root, honey, and soy
Cream of veggie soup [a small mix costs $1] + carrots and homemade dumplings
Carrot cake pancakes [healthier, no oil+ lots of veggie!]
Cole slaw or potato salad

Those are our standard affair quickie meals. Some specialty we make
are: biscuits and mushroom gravy, chapatti pizza, hummus and pita
chips, curries with paneer, wheat berry risotto, deviled eggs,
tabouli, stuffing + mashed potatoes, pumpkin curry or pumpkin soup,
French toast..

“going out”
Here in the village going out is to a local cantina, a resto-bar with
plastic patio furniture and little gazebos. They serve beer [$.50-$1]
and Fanta [$.50], goat kabobs [$.50 for 1], grilled potato kabobs
[$.40], French fries [$.75], grilled whole rabbit [$3], and sometimes
omelets [$1.65].

“going out in a big city”
This is where our money is depleted. We like to treat ourselves to
anything but beans and rice when we travel. In Kibuye we generally
spend $8-12 for both of us. In Kigali, it is closer to $20-30. When
you are making as little as us per month, those costs add up rapidly!!
In Kigali we can find itallian, indian, chinese, French, burittos,
salads, ice cream- most things you’d want. You just have to pay for
it.

food culture here
In watching an episode of No Reservations, Bourdain said something
along these lines: “When I find myself in a landlocked country, with
bad transportation- I find it is difficult to eat good food and
generaly have a good time.”
Unfortunately we have found this to hold true here regarding food.
First, it is bad culture to eat food or drink in public- so there is
no street food, no snacks, no rushing from here to there with a banana
and cup of coffee in hand. None of that. Second, there are no spices
grown natively here so everything has only salt and hot spice.
Rosemary is grown, but is only cooked with meat- and we don’t eat meat
at site so it is relatively worthless to us. I can’t fully portray how
unflavorful everything is here. Meal times are about nourishment, not
enjoyment.
An example: Aaron, trying to make conversation, asked a group of
Rwandans what their last meal would be. One said it would be a sin to
take a meal if you knew you were going to die- because someone else
could eat that meal.
Reality check.

to end
Usually, I am talking about our lives so it is easy to present a grand
finale to our blogs. Here I could end with stories about food ethics,
eating locally, farmers, fair trade or something. But, this about us.
Sharing our pride and pain about the food here. If you know us, you
know food is a big part of our lives, and so now you are a little
closer to our hearts here. Yes GLOW club and teaching are important,
but so is our daily bread.

 

A&D and Igi

an overdue summation

friends and family and potential other readers, it has been a long time.

Let me be frank for a moment and delve into the various reasons why:

  1. We have been unimaginably busy.
  2. We have been unimaginably busy, and traveling every weekend for the past 2 months. [that is a 6-12 hr round trip, depending on where we are going. This past weekend was a 12 hr one-way trip!]
  3. The more potent- we are homesick. and it is easier not to think about it.

Some days it really feels like we are on the Dark Continent. In many ways we have found it to be not so dark, and in fact a lovely place full of beauty and growth. It is dark, because it’s far. It feels dark when a twinge of homesickness hits at the strangest place. There are very few days where my brain has the time or desire to focus on my friends and family at home for the entire day. Rather, it comes as a shooting stomach-flopping instant and passes swiftly leaving feelings of emptiness and daze. I’m facing it and I’ll say it now. I miss you.

I miss hearing about your afternoon picnic, your new recipe, your Frisbee game, your walk in the park, your new pair of shoes, the spring birds, the job stress, the lattes, the new music artist you’ve found. I miss the trivial and the vital. I miss it all.

Maybe you don’t know what to say. Because you think my life must be interesting than yours, or that I should be the one sharing, or that what you have to say is menial, or that it will make me homesick, or that I’ve forgotten about you. Madam and sir: none of those things are true. I miss you and I love you.

On to the other reasons, and the objective of the blog: for me to share what is happening here!

By golly gee, can I say a lot!

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

  • COMMUNITY ENGLISH CLUB: from 4 to 8 members!
  • TEACHER’S ENGLISH CLUB: more women participation!
  • GLOW: going fine, my membership is overwhelmingly younger girls, which is fine but I want some older ones to be role models. We learned about peer-pressure last week. We are having a GLOW CAMP this August in our District!!!! Aaron and I have a big leadership role in the camp [numbers 2 & 3] and I think it is going to change lives and benefit the western part of the country. More to come.
  • ENGLISH CLUB: also great. Good membership, consistent. However, guess what? We are going to write a musical and perform it in 1.5 months!!!!!! *insert circus music. It is ambitious. Especially in a country where theatre doesn’t exist and my kids have literally never seen or heard of a musical. They do love corny songs, dance, and skits- so I’m anticipating perfection.
  • CURRICULUM PROJECT: wow. Finished. A 500 pg document of lesson plans, resources, and an organized cohesive path towards English in the ordinary level. Finished! I am proud because it was a dream [and I am great at dreaming!], which I accomplished [which I am not as great at]. It was a big project, and it is imperfect, but I think it will change the way Ed PCVs in Rwanda work [now all of that time spent lesson planning can be used for secondary projects investing in their community] it will change the way Rwandan English teachers work [they are field testing our lessons, and using learner centered methodology, differentiated learning, content-based lessons, and a variety of teaching techniques, many for the first time] it will potentially change the Rwandan National Curriculum [we took the document they made in 1999 and adjusted it to flow more fluidly] and will potentially go to other PC countries, so they can adjust the material to their country’s context, and will potentially get to the Rwandan Ministry of Education! Those are goals, and unfortunately not ones I will see achieved. Originally we wanted to take the document to the Min of Ed when we finished it, but we want all of the lessons to be field-tested first- which will take 1 full school year. I have passed on the project to the new Ed group of PCVs, and they will perfect it next year. It is hard to describe the work that went into the project, and unfortunately it isn’t something my neighbors or people I pass on the street can see- but it is something that will benefit the country and PC and I am quite pleased with it.
  • JUDGES: We are still teaching the judges and court staff of the Western Province once a month. I think I have mentioned it before. It is a big deal, but difficult to explain.

NEW NEWS

  • THE HOSPITAL: We have started teaching English at the hospital, finally. They are very appreciative of our lessons and it is also widening our range of potential friends. 
  • SPORTS: Last year during this time there were a lot of sports. We seem to have forgotten that. Aaron is a superstar here in Murunda! He has been invited to play on the teams of the hospital, the parish, and both school’s teacher teams! It is a really great sign of being integrated into the community to be invited by all arenas to play. We played against the district mayor too, a big-wig, who personally congratulated Aaron. Some imagery for you- imagine a sea of black faces in the crowd and on the court, and then Aaron. Tall. White. Aaron. It’s a moment in which our differences and similarities are starkly apparent. And it’s wonderful.
  • PC NEWS: We have a new country director- or big boss. So, that is going to change things up a bit. We will miss our old CD but are also impressed with the new one so far.
  • ITALY: Prego! We went. and it was sooooooooo blissfully delicious and delightful. Num num num. Please everyone, save your money- and spend all of those savings in Italy. Forget a retirement plan, go to Italy and you will gain 5 years of life. The food is outrageous and plentiful. The wine, a treat. The gelato, heaven-sent. And the buildings. Every detail is deliberately fascinating. The window panes, the alleyways, the colors, the roofs. And turn the corner and greet the Parthenon! It’s there, amid the shopkeepers and street artists. It is all there. And being with my mom was so comforting and good! It was easy to snap out of volunteer mode and enjoy Italy with their kind generosity. We also went on a hunt for her husband, Steve’s, family, which resulted in some fun translation enigmas, beautiful scenery in Sicily, some great food, great wine, great people [the Itallian norm] and some free limoncello! I could go on and on and on, but the important thing is that we were with family and we found some rest.
  • GORILLAS: Aaron got slapped by a gorilla. That is all.
  • GORILLAS [cont.]: It was awesome. We went to Virunga National Park in the North Western Province to trek for gorillas. It is one of 2 mountain ranges in the world this is possible on [the other being our neighbor the Congo]. They were incredible. They looked like clumsy people in gorilla costumes, jumping around, playing games with each other, resting, eating, cuddling. In our gorilla family we saw about 15-20 total. 3 silverbacks [larger than imagined, beautiful, powerful] several mommas [also larger than imagined, beautiful, and powerful] many adolescents, and even some wee babes. We were about 2-7 meters away from them at all times, but in one instance a gorilla separated from the group and on his way back Aaron and I were in it’s pathway and rather than walking around us he slapped Aaron in the back to move him out of the way! Aaron had a muddy gorilla handprint on his raincoat. Not many people can say that. It was fascinating to be in a natural habitat like that, and also fascinating to be in a completely different ecosystem in Rwanda- so near to our home. It was full of bamboo and thick vegetation, and tall canopies of trees.

UBU INGUBU [the now future]

I think there isn’t much more to say. questions, curiosities? send them my way and I try my best to answer promptly.

[just read through this, and it’s wordier than usual and compressed a bit. Sorry! I promise for a better read next time. This was a catch up.]

love always,

deanne, aaron, cute little igi

umuganda

[pronounded like it is spelled with, u as in super:  umu gan da]

this blog is dedicated to umuganda, something that I love about Rwandan culture but haven’t spent enough time examining in this blog. 

imagine in the tone of a 30′s radio show:

Americans, can you imagine a day when everyone both young and old, rich and poor, educated and undereducated, minorities and whites, everyone worked side by side to better the community? Can you imagine a time when this country was a better place because we worked together to make it beautiful? Sounds wonderful right? WRONG, it’s socialism. it’s and infringement on your right to do nothing for society, and your right to be okay with that. beware! bewareeeee! 

 That is kind of how I felt when I first heard about umuganda, something that sounded okay to me but would likely not translate well over in the states. We aren’t living in a socialist state, or a full on democracy- obviously by the fact umuganda exists. And that the police can give you a fine if you don’t participate. 

 Umuganda literally means pillar, or essential support- like a cornerstone.However, the word is used as a title for the community work day on the last Saturday of every month. I think that is a beautiful depiction of what working together can mean. A cornerstone for a society, without it everything will diminish. On this day all Rwandans get out of there house at 8, or 9, or 9:45 … to work together to complete a necessary project or a beautification project in their area. All of the shops close down, there is no public transportation, virtually everything haults until noon. At noon there is usually a small scale community meeting where they decide what the best project will be for next month- and is also a good time for community leaders to come and make announcements or decisions with the public.  

This sounds nice, and it is, yet as with most things there are a few kinks. One is that often there is no plan of action, and so this work doesn’t begin until 10am or so. It is a flaw in the education system here that students are taught to obey rules to such an extreme that their ability to make judgements on their own is impeded. So students go to the location they are assigned [the road, the walking path, the stairs, the soccer field, the classrooms] and stand around for about an hour until some adult tells them what to do. Initially this drove me insane, and I was assigning students to pick little weeds between cracks and begin machetting [a new verb] grass. Now, I think it still drives me mad but I find the morning to be a bit more enjoyable if I am not fighting an institution that has existed for years, but just let it flow. Another kink is specific to schools, it seems the teachers are more supervisors rather than workers and this also bothers me. Granted, I am not exactly cut out to ho chunks of grass and transplant them for 3 hours but I was raised to work hard and find something to do if there is nothing to do. Supervising seems kind of dumb to me so I try to work for a little while to prove my worth and then slump over to “supervise”/chat with other teachers. 

Many things are accomplished in a short time. They built stairs from the classrooms to our house- which is in the rainy season. A new bridge was built on our walk to the market. They transplanted about 15 sq meters of grass, which will be more impressive if it actually grows. All in about 3 hours! 

laundry

a special edition courtesy of Jim’s question: “How do you do laundry? I know water is scarce and a long walk from your home, but I imagine you don’t have a machine much less a dryer?”

You’re right, water is not available at our home and we do not have those machines. Laundry is our least favorite Rwandan chore, and here is why:

First water. Water is a problem for many people in Rwanda [one of our volunteers couldn’t find a jerry can [or about 20 liter container] for a month. In general though, Rwanda is a rainy country so the areas in the North, South, and West are not lacking in water. However, transport of water is a problem. Many women have to travel miles to fetch the water for their family in the morning. They carry the jerry can on their heads and use it sparingly. We have water at our school running 90% of the time. We also bought a 250L tank to store water in, so that we always have water on hand. This was a genius move by Aaron, and I have to give him full credit. Also, he sprung for the more expensive mattress [no pun intended because we don't have springs- just thick foam] and having a comfortable bed was worth the extra 15 dollars.

So, getting the water to our container is sometimes difficult. During the rainy season we collect rain off our roof into buckets and have more than enough, but in the dry season we have to go down to the school and bring the jerry cans up to our house. One of our PCV friends makes a 30 minute round trip to get her water every morning, but our round trip is maybe 7 minutes. What we do most of the time is use it as an opportunity to support poor students at our school or a poor member in the community who needs work. We pay 2 people 1000 francs [2 dollars- but probably 1/16 of their normal monthly salary] to bring 10 jerry cans total, which fills our 250L container and will last us about 2 weeks. Now, it is the rainy season so we have an abundance. 

I don’t like having someone work for me, I really hate it. This is a huge dilemma for me living in this culture, because everyyyyone has a houseworker. And no one educated does much manual labor. If you have a job, you have someone helping you at home- maybe 2 people if you have a baby. They wash your clothes, clean your house, cook all of your meals, take care of home and yard upkeep, shop for your food, and take care of your children. They generally live with their boss and are able to eat food there. It is mostly poor girls who couldn’t afford school fees and dropped out of school to support their families. Some are boys who had the same situation. It is a really hard to adjust to this mentality- that you can pay someone to do virtually anything for you. Don’t want to clean your toilet- pay someone. Don’t want to carry your bag up the hill- pay someone. When people see an educated person doing manual labor they are astounded, and want to help- even for no money. For example, A and I have started teaching community members English at our friends bar [yay!]. We carried a chalkboard down the hill, which was obviously a show. On our way back up some guy demanded he help us carry it back. For nothing. So for the students to see us doing all of our work, especially when Aaron is working, is a strange deal and hopefully a cross cultural learning experience. I don’t feel like having a houseworker is a human rights violation but I do feel it is a dead end job that prevents upward mobility and creates division. If our schedule were a true 8-5, and we didn’t have electricity and we had to travel on a weekend, it would be close to impossible to complete all of these tasks- even with two of us. It still sits funny with me, and I have made it my objective from the moment I discovered this situation to be extraordinarily kind to all houseworkers, to show them dignity and utmost respect, and to never treat them as less. I tend to get along with my neighbors houseworkers better than with them, even though they are educated working women. I love the umukozis [maids] and communicate best with them.

 ALL of this to say. Laundry. How do we do it? The question is now, how did we do it? but I will get to that. 

Laundry is done by putting your clothes in a basin, adding water, and letting it soak for a while [this isn't how I was taught, but I think maybe some magic osmosis sucks the dirt out that way]. Then you get comfortable [as comfortable as bending over a basin can be] and begin scrubbing with your hands and a bar of laundry soap. Afterwards you put those clothes in another bucket of rinse water, and then hang them on the clothesline to dry. It is hard work, and extremely time consuming. I am proud to say that Aaron and I did this for 1 year and 2 months about 3-5 hours once a week. 

Then, we went home for Christmas we had the talk. We wanted to have it outside of this environment, in hopes that we could be more objective. We decided that getting an umukozi would benefit our mental health immensely and also we are just kind of bad at washing clothes this way! It’s hard. and they never feel clean when you know you aren’t doing as well as your neighbor’s umukozi who has been at it for 15 years. Laundry was a big stressor and it is not anymore. We had some requirements- we wanted a girl with another job that would come once a week, so our money would be supplementary income. We wanted her to be someone who needed help, and would be open to learning skills from us that could help her move on in her life. We have a sweet girl named Seraphine who comes every Thursday in the morning to wash our clothes. It is a big relief, and she definitely does a better job. She is going to join our community English lessons this week, along with our neighbor’s sweet umukozi- Jean. We still wash our sheets and our undies- because it is not appropriate to have someone clean those for you. A small price to pay for everything else.

what’s up:

English club had a huge welcoming ceremony to the new members last Friday night. The entire school attended, and there was song, dance, poetry, and skits- all in English. A girl did an awesome rap about the problems of prostitution, and though it was in ikinyarwanda she said the “you reap what you sow” verse in this really crazy deep rapper voice. It was pretty impressive. Jonas, my favorite English club poet made a great line about allies and foes [big vocabulary for a 7th grader in his 4th language].  

The prostitution rap got me motivated to work harder on bringing up more difficult topics to my glow club this year. It is difficult for me to talk about complex subjects in kinyarwanda, and them in english. but, I am not going to shy away- even a little bit. GLOW is my passion and a life force at times, and I am looking forward to our planned schedule for this year.  

Teaching teachers at the small school is going well. They love Aaron and are so appreciative of the lessons. We are teaching together this year, in hopes that my involvement will interest more women. 

We started teaching in the community! This is a huge goal that we finally have met! We had 4 students meeting in Jerome’s bar writing dialogues with greetings and introductions. We hope this will provide them more opportunities in the future [all of them are kind of stuck where they are right now]. 

Edissa, [my first girl friend in the village, who then got pregnant and now is a mommy] is going to university!! When we first met she told me that she didn’t want to have a baby yet, because she thought she might die if she couldn’t continue her education [dramatic, but deep]. I asked her if she was doing anything to prevent it, and she said when you are married it isn’t culture [and it reallllly isn't. if you don't have a baby within 1 year of marriage the country as a whole thinks you have big problems and either pities you or mildly shuns you]. I was heartbroken when 2 weeks later she announced her pregnancy to me. I thought her goals were crushed. But, surprise! She has started going every weekend! But, her English homework is out of this world difficult. So I am tutoring her now, and am obviously excited as you can see by the !!!!’s. 

WE PLANTED A GARDEN! wow. hard work… not a lot to show for it, but when the spinach blooms we will be rejoicing. we have spinach, zucchini, cucumber, 5 kinds of herbs, tomatoes, strawberries, and maybe squash.

This may not have been mentioned before, and may be boring- but it is tooting our horns a bit. Two weekends ago, A and I both had meetings for the PC committees we are on. Aaron is our elected VAC [volunteer advisory committee] representative for our region. So he takes any problems volunteers may have and brings them to a staff meeting with our country director, quarterly. I am our PSN [peer support network] representative which takes the emotional needs and problems of the volunteers into consideration quarterly. We are doing a lot of work on projects with both departments to make PC Rwanda a better program.

 My curriculum project is going swimmingly! We have volunteers writing every lesson plan for all 7-9th grade with a final date of March 1st. Then we will edit the lessons and hopefully distribute them to volunteers electronically by the end of April break. Huge resource!

Speaking of April break- we are going to Italy!!!! In about a month we will be together with my mom and Steve drowning in gelato and marinara. We are flying into Rome for a few days, then going to Sicily- where Steve’s family originates, then going to Florence and Naples, and back to Rome. A whirlwind of beautiful things and family comfort. so stinkin’ excited! 

I think that is enough. We are still missing you all so much, but we are really feeling hopeful about our ideals and projects this year and are also feeling really close to being finished. 

 Rwandan time is a lot different than American time, and I really can’t explain it well enough without you coming to visit [so do! tickets this month are 1,200 round-trip down from the normal 1,500-1,800!]. We are much more patient and flexible now, but also are living less in the moment than ever before. We have to plan our weekends months in advance. We know exactly what we are doing up until April 13th. And we probably will know beyond that within a few weeks. 2 years feels intimidating and impossible. 1 1/2, the same. less than a year- that we’ve already done once before, a cake walk. We know how to deal with the problems we will face here better. We know how to counter homesickness better. Not that this year hasn’t been, or will not be full of trials. But it is doable, and I couldn’t confidently say that before. 6 months until our COS [close of service] conference and then 3 short months before we finish. Get ready, we’re coming home [in African time]! 

love you all.

thanks for reading,

d, a, and igimonster

 

never have I ever, until Rwanda

Since our arrival, and especially upon returning home for Christmas we have noticed some personal behavior changes. There are the obvious things like doing laundry by hand or using an outdoor latrine but some other changes have been more subtle yet still surprising.

 -Only in Rwanda would I eat a plate of rice, pasta, boiled potatoes, fried potatoes, and plantains and consider it a nice complete meal.

 -Only in Rwanda would I find French fries to be a pleasant addition to an omelet. Now when I get an omelet with no potatoes I am a bit disappointed.

 -Only in Rwanda would you avoid going outside because there is a cow being slaughtered on the basketball court 20 feet from your house.

 -Only in Rwanda could I overcome carsickness. In the states I would be sleeping approximately 30 minutes into a long road trip. Here, by necessity, my body has adapted to the winding roads and bumps.

 -”Only in Rwanda would I eat a sausage off your foot” –direct quote from Aaron after a precious piece of sausage fell from his sandwich and was caught by my foot.

 -Only in Rwanda will you wait 3.5 hours for a plate of pasta at a restaurant.

 -Only in Rwanda have we become so unperturbed talking about bodily functions. When dystenary and bacteria lurk, it becomes an ordinary topic of conversation between friends.

 -Only in Rwanda would a woman give birth on a bus, without anyone knowing. This, fortunately or unfortunately, is not our story to tell. A friend was sitting on a bus next to a woman carrying a bag, nothing strange. At one stop the man behind noticed blood dripping under the seat. She lifted up her igitenge [cloth that goes over a skirt] and there was a baby and umbilical cord! They all got off the bus and a woman helped her clean the baby up a little. They all loaded on the bus again and rushed to the nearest health center and the woman just walked off the bus, baby attached! She did not make a sound while giving birth!! In this culture expressing emotion is essentially forbidden, even for women, and so childbirth is usually an inaudible process.

 -Only in Rwanda would a man dance fervently with another man, and be straight.

 -Only in Rwanda could you get a fine for having dirty clothes. Our neighbor warned us that we needed to “do hygiene” to our yard [machete cut the grass] because the sector was having inspections. You could get a fine for bad grass or dirty clothes. [This is an interesting parallel with America where we demand freedom and scoff at this notion, but have passive aggressive neighborhood committees doing essentially the same thing.]

to appreciate

         All in all our time in Rwanda has taught us a lot. Some things more life altering like observing and participating in how another culture lives. Others are to a smaller degree of transformation, such as French fries being the last step to omelet excellence.

      One thing that has surprised me is a new found appreciation for my own culture and country. In general I find myself having the same conversation over and over again explaining why America is not perfect and how the grass is always greener on the other side. I try to tell a story about a goat eating grass in iKinyarwanda but the metaphor usually doesn’t shine through. Here I am frustrated by the inferiority complex and by the Westernization of Africa. I want them to see the good I see, the things I love here in Rwanda and be proud! But then I realized it was rather hypocritical because as much as I love my family and friends I have never exactly considered myself proud to be an American. I have always been thankful, but not quite proud. However, being here I have found a few things, beyond my family and friends, to be proud of:

 1.Jim Henson. Easy! The muppets are altogether fantastic, wholesome, hilarious, and timeless.

2.The Wisconsin Senate/Supporters + Occupy Wallstreet- My generation has been rather apathetic, for many reasons justifiable and not. Despite the media’s portrayal and the bad eggs, I think their objective is noble and the fact that people are off the couch is a good sign for our country. They are bringing a different conversation to the dinner table, and I am happy about it.

3.The Organic Foods Movement. I think I just assumed this started in Europe because we are generally behind them in progressive areas, but not so! This has been a US specific movement starting long long ago. Granted our mass production of vegetables and animals, additions of preservatives, additives, and corn syrup to everything is what sparked it but I am proud nonetheless.

4.Culture. In the past when I heard American Culture I thought of overconsumption, consumerism, boisterousness, exceptionalism, and arrogance. There is mid-western friendliness, southern hospitality, east coast history, and west coast eclecticism but in general the global stereotype of the US is either negative or overtly romanticized. But now I have found many things to appreciate. Among them, live music, theatre, parks, libraries, appreciation of literature, poetry, and art, barbeques, and a culture of sharing emotions. These are all things I enjoyed regularly during my life, but I have a newfound gratitude for their presence in my life. I am also thankful to my family and education for making them a daily part of my life.

5.Emotions. Also I have noticed that in our culture not only are you free to express emotions, but also are expected to and scorned if you don’t. Here it is the exact opposite. You aren’t fully free to express your emotions, and if you do you are scorned. I understand both cultures, but coming from ours it is uncomfortable to be at a wedding where NO ONE is smiling. Especially not the bride. Our close friend explained that they are very happy inside, but from our stance it is so hard to register it. Neither way is good or bad, but I appreciate the freedom to share my emotions. Or to choose whether or not to share them or not.

6.Appreciation for food. And cooks! In America, we are a melting pot and our food reflects that. I know crab Rangoon and nachos grande were manufactured to meet our tastes, and reflect nothing of the originating country from which the restaurant claims. BUT. Our food culture is to eat DIFFERENT foods! Our palates may be saturated with sugar and salt, but we vary the vessels on which we eat it! I have heard friends who have visited Greece and got tired of olive oil, or India and got tired of curry [gasp!!] This information, in addition to our life here, has led me to appreciate the diversity in flavor we experience daily in the states. Even if everything you eat is Americanized, it still has a different spice, protein, or vegetable every night. And you have the opportunity to eat any cuisine you want. Thanks America. Thanks.

rewind → dniwer

let’s back it on up and discuss the time from Zanzibar until now. We had from the end of October until the beginning of January off. What could we possibly do to fill that time? Weren’t we bored? No, not even once. We are Americans. We excel at not relaxing.

happiness is…
As you may have noticed during the last blog [because I believe I said it] we were having a rough time at the end of last term. During our break we decided to take whatever control of our circumstances we could, fight the bad, and make things that are good a priority. After exhausting discussions of exactly how to do this we compiled a list of things to do, but made it slightly different and perhaps slightly pathetic. Instead of “go visit someone in their home” we said “try to visit someone in their home” instead of “make 2 new friends” we said “greet 10 people while walking to the market, ½ past amakuru [how are you?].” Almost overnight our perspective changed and we felt the world was a little brighter.

One monumental morning we went down to get tea and bread [which really was purely to be good volunteers, the tea is sweeter than any you have ever imagined having in America- even in your home, even at McAlister’s, even in the south- I guarantee it and the bread is white and big]. Afterwards we had some errands to run and so we greeted about 40 people and plenty past amakuru. Then I saw a friend who had been on maternity leave, and my cynical side said she was just bragging in front of her sister that she knew a white person but after a minute I realized she was genuinely excited to see us [and she has been every time, that is what negativity does to you]. She invited us to her baby naming ceremony- which is a really neat Rwandan tradition and a huge honor. That weekend we were BOOKED solid. It was nothing like the previous weekends of fail after fail.

Additionally as we heading home and walking up the hill and I looked back down and saw something white at the market tables. I have hallucinated food before. I’m not going to pretend I am above that. I thought a pineapple was a jar of cashews. But this was white and whatever it was, it was different than the norm. So I ran. I ran fast back down that hill, dragging a protesting Aaron behind me. And there it was- a head of cauliflower, angelic in the afternoon sun. The market ladies were laughing to see me so excited about a vegetable. They hadn’t seen me that happy since the pumpkin of January 2010. I paid, probably way too much, 400 RWF [70 cents] and galloped back home. Little did they know I would have paid almost anything. That cauliflower was more than a vegetable. It was the dawn of a new era. An era of hope.

So the week between Zanzibar and camp was happily BUSY, setting up meetings with people, visiting friends at home, meeting for omelets at the bar, and bonding with our neighbors. I also wrote the entire manual of lessons for the camp, which was time consuming.

GLOW/BE CAMPS [girls leading our world & boys excelling]
I will try to summarize the 2 weeks of camp sufficiently and swiftly. Peace Corps Rwanda started up in 2008, and thus is a new program. We are the second education group in the country. Not much has been paved for us so our life consists of a lot of trial and error. In 2010 there was one set of GLOW and BE camps in Kigali. Peace Corps likes to keep things local and sustainable, so rather than having one huge camp they requested we do camps regionally. Aaron and I wanted to participate but our region was too small, so we joined up with the Northern region, in the land of volcanoes and gorillas. We were able to send 3 girls and 3 boys from Murunda. The camp was such a unique opportunity, because many of these students have never left their village before and have never been around more than 1 American at a time, and have never studied some of the topics we covered.
The logistics of running an American style camp in a foreign country with limited resources was often distressing but in general the camp was lovely and the kiddos learned a ton. Here are the topics we covered:
1. Goal Setting
2. Dream Journal
3. Trust
4. Self Esteem/Self Confidence
5. Peer Pressure
6. Love
7. Gender Roles
8. Affects of Culture Ideal Images
9. Facts and Myths- HIV AIDS
10. Transmission of HIV/AIDS /Immune System
11. Women and HIV
12. HIV/STI’s
13. HIV Prevention

Many of which were extremely difficult to teach [particularly gender and culture] but generally speaking the kids heard what we were saying and had life changing experiences. Each American was paired with a Rwandan teacher, and a young Rwandan who had been to the camp last year. Working with such motivated, caring, flexible and intelligent counterparts was a highlight of the camp for certain. My heart melts so often here, and it was happening hourly at these camps. I love meeting genuine people, and we really have had the honor of meeting some of the best there are.

Some highlights of the camp;
-talent show: so shamelessly corny and talented
-nightly dance parties
-the can’t funeral [we burned papers of things the girls were not successful at. Our MC was a evangelical Christian, even though this wasn’t a religious ceremony she occasionally got a little into it and said things like “in the nammmmmme of JEEEEESUS we burrrrnnnnn these fears. Amen amen amen.” It was cute.]
-during the gender lesson at BE camp a boy saying in the bible it says the women will do the dishes. In matthew.
-reading the affirmation wall [a wall of envelopes with the girls names, where you can put a note of encouragement or thanks]

the most wonderful time of the year
after BE we were exhausted. It was 2 weeks of sleeping on a table with a thin bed bug infested mattress living in fear of rat bites. [I mentioned the logistics weren’t exactly easy, or successfully taken care of- I was not exaggerating.] We spent one night in Musanze [the city closest to the gorillas, thus touristy and fun] and then went to Gisenyi to meet up with our newly engaged friends. We enjoyed Lake Kivu from Gisenyi and then made the trek back to our site. From Gisenyi the road is quite a bit worse than from Kibuye and about 40 minutes longer. That particular day there was a mud slide and two huge trucks were blocking the road. In short a 3 hour trip took us 7.5 hours. It was a rough end to a long 2 weeks, but we were very happy to be home. The next day Caitlyn and Joe [the engaged couple] braved the road and joined us for 2 days in Murunda. We spent our time relaxing to Christmas movies and Christmas music prepping ourselves for the coming holiday. Then we left for Kigali and were on a plane to our homeland.

I think it is needless to say that Christmas was absolutely wonderful and we were reminded of how many blessing we have to look forward to, for the rest of our life [people and hot showers are included in that list]. The Witzke’s greeted us at the airport with a “murakaza neza” sign [meaning welcome in ikinyarwanda] and strawberries, limeade, and dark chocolate. We went home and ate Christmas morning breakfast cake and pumpkin bread, and then journeyed down into the basement where it was awaiting us. Our California king sized bed with our silky sheets and plump pillows! We haven’t slept so well in quite literally over a year.
Our trip home was full of good food [barbeque, pea soup, chex mix, stuffing, pumpkin everything, sandwiches, coffee, sushi, gelato, salad] and good people. Such good people. My family and my extended family and my friends just cannot be beat. I am becoming teary just thinking about how we were treated like royalty and shown love in every way everyone knew how. We love you so much back, and hope our blog can give you a picture of why we are here. I promise, the first things you become accustomed to are the commodities or lack there of. I am not making a sacrifice there. The sacrifice we are making is being away from you; family and friends, and we appreciate your support and love.

I can happily go back and remember every detail of Christmas eve night at my grandparents house- the day I look forward to most out of the year. Christmas at my mom’s with 17+ people full of happiness and generosity. Two Christmas’ at the Witzke’s- both full of fantastic food, fun, and joy. I am remembering the details of conversations with friends picking up right where we left. It was the most wonderful time of the year. That’s really all I can say. It blew me away.

ubu [now]
We came back and were even more revitalized. We had our Mid-Service Conference in Musanze, and basked in the reality of that. Mid-Service. Over ½ way finished. It is an accomplishment. At the conference we made new goals for the term and enjoyed time with friends.

We are now back at site. The beginning of the school year is usually a time when “African time” shines and any sense of order fades. Luckily, we were prepared for this and have been taking it as easy as possible. Our schedule has changed 3 times, our classes and hours have also changed. But, again we are trying to take control over what we can- and the beginning of the year is something no one has control over. As of now, which should be correct, Aaron is teaching the same s5 and s6 [like juniors and seniors in high school] but I am doing something new. I am teaching Listening and Speaking for levels 1-3, whereas last year I taught all of s3. [s1 is like 7th grade, s2 is like 8th, and s3 is like 9th.] At first it was a frustration, but I actually think I am really going to enjoy it. There is less pressure for me to prove to the students I am a serious teacher, because I don’t really have to be! I get to teach the fun stuff, and honestly the stuff that will matter the moment they walk out of their s6 classroom. I am still teaching a little Reading, Writing, and Grammar but my focus is supposed to be on the other 2, but obviously they intertwine.

GLOW and English club are off to great starts! However, we are foreseeing some problems with teacher’s English club- because the ministry of education [mystery of education??] decided to implement a law that every teacher has to teach 30 hrs/ week [as opposed to a 24 average] so they are now overworked and not paid any more. They have less time now, so English club is being pushed on the back burner. We have 432892340 strategies to try, and are hoping that something works. It is really the main objective of throwing PCVs at these schools, so it would be a big shame if we couldn’t teach teachers.
finish

I think that covers the news of our hiatus. Now I will try to write some new blogs about fun things that aren’t large paragraphs of jumbled information. For continuity’s sake this was necessary and thanks for reading.
all our love,
d & a & i

the final term continued [literally]

preface: I have written 3 blogs from September until now. It was really a difficult time for us here. Everything combine made us ache for something consistent, familiar, something! I didn’t post because they all had a tone of depression which I didn’t want to send across the atlantic to our family and friends. This blog below is pretty straightforward, and because I am sending it now I can tell you despite the difficulties those few months entailed we left home for the states on a good note and are now doing extremely well. We are really really happy, and refreshed. Ok, read on:

If you are keeping up and read the blog “the final term” the next month and a half followed the same pattern almost amusingly. This canceled, this 6 hours late [as opposed to the usual 1-2], this surprise ceremony, this surprise test, this bacteria in your food, this strange conversation, more canceled, it continued comically and exhaustingly. We are pretty laidback flexible folk, but this term got the best of us. We ended downtrodden and ready for paradise.

But before we get there, lets give you a highlight reel of the term:

[I have taken the liberty of adding a * to the dates which involved us eating a mass plate of carbohydrates. Usually rice, beans, plantains, pasta, and a small chunk of meat with at least 2 fantas. I mean “don’t want to hold it in your hands because it’s uncomfortably heavy must set it in your lap” mass plate of carbs. About half of the time it will have a plop of mayonnaise in the middle just to mock you.]

September 17:          ULTIMATE FRISBEE TOURNAMENT IN KIGALI! The capitalization was not for formatting purposes, but to express the UTTER EXCITEMENT we have. We enjoyed playing with people from the states, Europe, and other African countries. It was a pleasant surprise to see ultimate developing across the world. The facts remain true, you can bet on it: ultimate players are 98% of the time extraordinarily cool people no matter where they originate from.

Sept 24-                     Regional Meeting in Kibuye- always fun

Sept 25*                     Ceremony to welcome the new headmaster and say goodbye to the old headmaster.

Oct 1-                          Trip to Nyanza and Butare. You may remember these names because they are our old stompin’ grounds from our Peace Corps training. We visited old friends, our host families, and old watering holes. Seeing my host father brought me much joy. It was strange to be back in Nyanza after living in such a different place. When we arrived it seemed poor, unmodern, and developing. Now, I see it as a metropolis full of wealth and goods. Poverty is a funny thing. It reveals itself in many ways. I thought of my host family as poor. They are both farmers with no supplementary income, their house is modest, their food was delicious but humble, and one night I visited them as a surprise and 3 hours later he mentioned they wouldn’t be eating dinner that night. But the poverty in our village is different. I don’t know if I am ready to analyze or explain what I mean, except that it is different.

Oct 8*                         English Club Final Ceremony: Too precious for words. My EC members worked hard to prepare a full party complete with skits, songs, poems, food, and dancing. My EC students are very serious about learning and were delighted by the opportunity to memorize some English songs and have a festivity to celebrate their accomplishments. As I was passing out certificates [which are a big big deal here] the students would stand with Aaron and I and say “touch it” so that in the photograph we were all together holding the record of their success. I can’t wait to get home to the states where internet is fast enough to post video. They sang “in the jungle, a weembaweh] soooooo wonderfully precious.

Oct 9**                        GLOW Club Final Ceremony: This was also a precious and wondrous occasion. During this last term our focus has been “Women’s Health”. We discussed self-esteem, puberty, nutrition, sexuality, STDs, HIV/AIDS, and prevention. During these lessons I had a question box for anonymous or difficult to answer questions. At our final ceremony we invited my friend and “neighbor” Kerry, a health volunteer and nurse, to come address their questions. The girls learned a lot, and when we were finished we had some speeches and enjoyed food and dancing together.

                                    Food. I’ve talked about Rwandan food culture and this story will provide you a shining example. My girls didn’t have very much money to contribute to the party so we were working with 300 FRW x 20 girls.  $.50×20= $10. I thought that rather than buying 1 fanta or 3 sambusa [like an indian samosa, or Asian meat fried wonton] it would be smart to buy in bulk. This concept doesn’t necessarily exist yet here. You buy 5 kilos of potatoes or ½ a kilo for the same price/kilo. You buy 1 case of Fanta to drink at home for the same price as buying in the restaurant. So while I was traveling I picked up 2 bags of popcorn kernels [3,000 total] and 1 big container of pineapple juice concentrate [2,000 total] This left 1,000 remaining for decorations, gifts, etc. My leaders agreed that this was a good idea and fully understood what I was doing. A few days before the party they ask for the remaining money and permission to go to Gisiza [the bigger town with a big market down our hill]. I asked why they needed it and they responded to get more supplies for the party. Though I didn’t think it was necessary, I thought it might be fun for them to get special permission and wanted to give them a break. They asked if they could keep the supplies here until the party and I obliged. They returned a few hours later with bags and bags full of amadazi [a doughnut but not fluffy or sweet. So fried dough.] and bread. I still have no idea where they came up with the additional money or if somehow there was a buy carbs in bulk special that weekend that I missed out on. Either way, our party meal consisted of a plate full of popcorn, with one amadazi and one bread roll on top with the pineapple juice. It is impolite to receive food and not eat it so, dispirited; I stomached 2 huge pieces of bread and a plate full of popcorn. I was trying to provide an example of a healthier but still fun snack. But the carbs won that day. They always do.

                                    During my GLOW ceremony, Aaron was participating in a day of sports. Our teachers played against a combination of the parish workers and other primary school teachers for 3 events. We lost in volleyball, but succeeded in basketball and soccer. [Aaron is our famous basketball player here. His presence makes winning possible. And he looks very cute in the matching Laker’s jerseys our team sports.] This ended with a ceremony, dancing, and yes a large plate of food. Notice the two stars I had today.

Oct 15*                       Holy St. John’s Day. John is the patron saint of our school, and thus we had to celebrate his day. Luckily this tied in well with some end of the year announcements and awards. I got to congratulate my S6 EC students [they are graduating from our school this year] and my GLOW leaders. The Vice Mayor [a strong female] was there and shook their hands.

Oct 17-21                   Exam week, and our 1 year in Rwanda anniversary!

Oct 26*                       Surprise Teacher’s End of the Year party- meeting at “8” which really was 3:30 [not kidding] followed by celebrations at a local pub.

Somewhere in that term was Teacher’s Day, a huge sector wide ceremony, that felt like the 4th Harry Potter of all schools coming together and performing their best magic or in this case traditional dance. It was cute, but long. And belated. And we ate a huge plate of food.*

 

            We really have a lot to share, and I regret not keeping this more cohesive during this term. As I mentioned, it was difficult, busy, and lacking in free time/motivation.

                                                                                                                                   

paradise found- our vaca to Zanzibar

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After all of the chaos of term 3 we decided a vacation was in order. We hoped on a bus and went 30 hours [yes, you heard that right. 30 hours in an African bus] across Tanzania got on a ferry and landed in a paradise- Zanzibar.

Stone Town is the first destination off the ferry. It is a town in which cultures interweaved resulting in extreme beauty and a lot of fun. We walked through narrow alley ways lined with decorative doors and beautiful people. It is how I imagine Italy. Our hotel [$12/night +breakfast] was full of antique ornate furniture and out our window we saw clotheslines hanging from windows with colorful clothes drying in hot sun and cool wind. It was fantastic. That evening we enjoyed a sunset in the sand and food at a night market. The night market is full of vendors with shell fish and sea food, meat, vegetables, crepes, shwarma, soups, desserts, everything. Grilled fresh for your eating pleasure. That atmosphere of good fresh food and families enjoying themselves is one of our favorites. There was also a signature drink of fresh squeezed sugar cane mixed with chopped ginger and crushed ice.  It was lovely in every sense of the word.

The next day we shopped until we dropped. Africa is known for their hand crafts and Zanzibar was full of them. At a significant discount from Rwanda. There is also a big middle eastern and indian population so there were some unique pieces that cannot be found in Rwanda.

Afterwards we went to Jambiani, a coastal village on the eastern side of the island. We and our friends rented a b&b right along the beach and enjoyed the easy life for a while. That beach. It defined white sandy beach. It defined the blues and greens you want to see in ocean water. It was breathtaking every moment. We could walk about a mile into the shore of the ocean before being submerged by the ocean.  We enjoyed local cuisine [which is coconut curries, coconut rice, great flat bread, and sea food], fresh fruit [brought to you island side by the guy who climbed the tree to get it] the sea, and our friends.

We snorkeled and saw all the cast of finding nemo minus nemo. We also swam with dolphins! [both combine price of $15]. It was impossible to feel any sort of sadness there, surrounded by extravagant natural beauty.

We ended the trip with lobster, cooked at our home, white wine, and a camp fire on the beach overlooking the sea and stars. A friend who went with us ate a lobster everyday. It was quite fantastic.

The 31 hour bus trip home was difficult, but ultimately worth it.

Beyond the respite, it was also really nice to see a different African culture. It borders Rwanda but has some significant cultural differences. It is a freer place. A perfect example is street food. In Rwanda it is incredibly bad culture to eat food in public. Even carrying your food home from the market out of a bag is unheard of. I have never seen a person eating in public, unless they are at a bus stop or on a bus. In the middle of our trip we stopped in a town to sleep from 12-4am. There were vendors cooking omelets and kabobs and drinking beer and soda right on the road.

Also, at the night market in Zanzibar it was really different to see families together having fun. In Rwanda husband and wife rarely walk together, because it implies they are being irresponsible and someone isn’t caring for the children. It is even more rare to see an entire family of 4-5 walking together. We didn’t think of it as strange until we were put into a context where it is normal to see families again. The subtle differences made us think, and ultimately have more empathy and love for Rwanda. This country was devastated in 1994, and really the 50 years leading up to it weren’t happy times either. The culture here is a bit dry [food is bland, emotions aren’t shared] and though it is frustrating to us at times we are trying to use it as a catalyst for our personal empathy and love to shine.

 

then  we did camps GLOW and BE [girls and boys leadership] and we went home for Christmas. Expect a blog soon about our camps, our trip home, and what we are doing now:] 

the final term

This term got off to a slow and strange start. We arrived back from South Africa, a little excited to be home but still a little lost in the post-vacation blues.  The first week of school is generally a blow off- the students return one by one. I had about 20% of students in the beginning and 85% by Friday, which wasn’t terrible. We just did activities to help them practice- like dictation, vocabulary games, and logic puzzles.

This term I was determined to be more organized. That way, I could know exactly what will be happening that week or day or hour, as opposed to the usual last minute scrambling. Something about me [Deanne] is that I thrive on time crunches and tend to meld into nothingness when asked to prepare something early.  My kids have been getting top-notch lessons but I have been a little insane trying to get there.

So week two- I’m ready as can be! I have all my lessons planned and a skeleton of the TERM!

Tuesday morning [my first day of teaching] 6am, text message: Today is the end of Ramadan [the Muslim end of their month long fasting] we are maybe teaching today. Several phone calls and maybes later we determined we will in fact, not be teaching today. This is typical, so we let it slide.

Wednesday I taught. But at tea break heard this: Yes, the new headmaster wants to give all students a practice National Exam to indicate where they need the most help and prioritize those classes. Ok, what day? This weekend.

Wednesday evening: Oh the headmaster asked me if you could edit this English exam. He needs it by tomorrow.

This is fine, last minute is fine. But, the exam. Ohhh the horrors.

Here are some example questions: [Remember these are 6th graders who have been studying English for 4 years from non-native speakers with no text books:]

  • What do you think these expressions mean? The goat with the broken leg. Always dressed to kill.

Fill in the blank with the correct vocabulary:

  • Every doctor must do the …. of the disease before giving medicines to the patient.
  • A ….. is a person whose job is to cure broken parts of the patient by massaging them.
  • Meat is specifically bought and sold in a …. and not in the shop.

[There was no word bank!]

Re write the sentences according to the instructions in the (   )

  • Every lady didn’t devote themselves to remaining single. (Start with None…)
  • I don’t know the length of Ngabo, I wish you told it to me. (Start with: How?)

Thursday morning: Oh sorry, the students are taking those exams today and tomorrow please don’t disturb them.

And a week went by. It gave us time to visit people in the community, and brainstorm new ideas for secondary projects. But no one likes to feel that worthless and powerless, even the best most flexible PCVs.

Sunday: As a kicker: My GLOW club meeting was postponed 2 ½ hours because church ran over! Can you imagine? And, we had dinner plans with friends that were canceled.

Secondary Project Updates and Brainstorming

Teaching Teachers: Aaron

He is still teaching at both schools on our hill and is off to a great start! He did a biography of Barak Obama, and even learned something himself. Did you know after he was born in Hawaii his mother divorced his Kenyan father and married an Indonesian man and moved the family to Indonesia!! He spent 10 years of his childhood there. They really appreciate Aaron’s lessons.

GLOW: Deanne

Off to a disappointingly slow but equally awesome start. We have only had 1 meeting in 2 weeks [this Wednesday it was canceled for a surprise all school choir practice?]

We are talking about Women’s Health this term. The girls loved our first lesson on Puberty and Intro to Menstruation. We are going to discuss STIs and HIV/AIDS, Sexual Health and Family Planning, Nutrition for Women, Mental Health, and maybe a few others if we have time. At the end we are going to have a female hospital staff come and answer questions from our Question Box.

English Club: Deanne and Aaron

Off to a better start than usual. Our school wide debate competition we had at the end of last term [did we tell you about that! It was a huge success!! The underdogs were the winners!] helped raise awareness about the fantasticness of our club, so we have more members and they are a little more talkative. We’ve done some “Whose Line is it Anyway: A-Z Dialogue”, a good poetry lesson, visited the library, and had elections for our new leadership team.

Brainstorming Ideas:

We’ve decided that teaching is neither of our fortes. It is difficult to have your primary focus in life be something you don’t excel at or enjoy all the time. I don’t get me wrong: I love educating people on the world, on life skills that will empower and help them, on history, on people who have actively or passively made the world better, and on change. But I really don’t like teaching English.

I know that English is what the school needs, and that to succeed in a global sense English is a shoe in. But I don’t like that. English being such a dominant language is just a reminder of the history [both good and bad] that led to such power. Languages are dying, frequently and entirely. Even Kinyarwanda may someday die and it is because of the global dominance and reliance Westernized countries have forced upon peripheral countries. So it’s hard to do a job that I don’t fully like or fully fundamentally agree with. [harsh!]

Now, I do teach life skills and history through English. But, my kids are accustomed to copying grammar and exercises off the board and working quietly and individually. They complain at my teaching methodology and content and don’t realize they are learning.

All of this to say, we need some other projects to pour ourselves into that utilize our strengths and will help the community in other ways.

[I’ll put the ones we are fairly certain/committed to doing at the top]

  • Mural: We are thinking of a reconciliation themed mural, with a mountain/tree motif and handprints of the students as leaves. We also have thought of making a World Map mural.
  • Hygiene Collaboration between schools: We have like 200 books about water safety and general hygiene, made for children, in our library. Our students can read it- but they have already been taught that information in school. The primary school students [pre-school until 5th] need it most, but can’t read English yet. So we want to have a reading program/collaboration of older students and younger students.
  • Internet Café: This project is quite a bit more complex. Our community has no access to the internet yet the biggest hospital in our district and a leading school. We want to unite 1. Our teacher’s co-op 2. The hospital staff 3. The church and 4. The other school on our hill, to create and run an internet café. It would have computers with internet, printers, photocopiers, and ideally some resource books.
  • Internet Lessons:  Then we would teach some internet lessons: social networking site, search engines, etc.
  • Yoga: I’m considering doing a Yoga club next year. I would LOVE to and start it in a heartbeat but I have three hesitations. 1. is that they would think I was godless and bringing some strange eastern exercise to the catholic school [but they do karate, so maybe it’s okay. It’s called KungFu!] 2. They are so stinking busy already that I don’t know if they would take the time. 3. Is the usual fears: language barrier, being laughed at, etc.
  • Genocide Support Project: This is really still entirely in the brainstorming process and nowhere near an “idea” yet. We have thought of helping start a victims cooperative [income generating activity], a peer-led support group, or making a beautification/memorial project for victims to participate in.
  • PTSD Training to PCVs: We are in no way certified to teach anything official about PTSD. But we a professor from WASHU who was here teaching some coping techniques to victims. I think as PCVs we are all put in scenarios we are not ready for in this post-conflict country, and I think we need some sensitivity training, some training on the subject itself, and on some methods of reducing the impact such as coping methods or relaxation exercises. Aaron is actually the one most interested in the subject, and has been reading a lot of books on PTSD; particularly how future generations are impacted.
  • Other less-thought-out ideas: An American-Cross Culture/Cuisine class for fun but to discuss business/professional differences. A business consultant type activity- again we aren’t certified but have some information and ideas that could help improve things.

the future

We are trying not to think about the future as much as we have been in the past. [that sentence will perplex you!] We have been living towards our next vacations and next visits to friends rather than fully living in the present. We are trying to make the internal and external changes necessary to live in the moment: appreciating where we are and what we are doing.

love and miss you,

Deanne, Aaron, and wee Igi