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.
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
4. Self Esteem/Self Confidence
5. Peer Pressure
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
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.
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.
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