Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Still Caring

It’s been an awfully long time but I am going to try to be more diligent with blogging. I thought the best way to break my year long silence here would be to write a snapshot of an average day here in the lovely albeit small town of Rukara, this is the story of yesterday. Yesterday started off like any other day. I woke up at 5:30 and scrambled to finish making a poster (more specifically 3 posters) with the lyrics from “Summer Nights” from Grease which I will be using to teach irregular verbs in the past simple to my S1 students. I know from the get go that today will be a doozy. Before I know it it is 7:00 am and I am nearly going to be late for school. I quickly scarf down some dried mango and chug a cup of coffee ( I know I will need it) and dash out the door. Now lucky for me it is the rainy season which gives us a most needed break from the scorching sun. The trade off however is about 5 inches of squishy, slippery mud everywhere. I delicately walk/ski/slide across the school property juggling my three posters, 500 different handouts for the day, a ball (for a warm-up activity), bag of markers, box of prizes, speakers, my computer and a large roll of tape. On the way I greet about 750 itty bitty primary school students. I pass one group of students who appear to be snorting cocaine. On closer look its really just dried koolaid…so I guess that’s better? I literally slide into class for the first lesson of the day: S3B. The topic of the day is Human Rights. This is exciting because I love doing lessons on content that actually matters as opposed to just drilling past simple irregular verbs. I have decided to print out the UN Declaration of Human rights for the lesson. This document, if you have never read it, is chock full of inspiring, fantastically delicious prose. This also, however, means that its full to the brim of very complex vocabulary. Needless to say I over estimated my ability to explain them in English let alone Kinyarwanda. To try and bring the idea that laws are different than rights and that rules should exist to protect rights and not to hurt them I have decided to try a demonstration. I announce that I will be implementing some new rules starting today. I tell students that from now on I will consider row one the good students, they will be the only ones to get books, dictionaries and special prizes from me (I give out pencils). The second row I have determined is no longer allowed to speak in class (they were concerningly ok with this) and finally the third row was declared to be the bad students. They would no longer be allowed to sit in class. They would receive punishment everyday. As well intentioned at the exercise what, it was a bit of a failure-well-in the first two classes at least. The students are used to being told what to do and following un-questioningly. I am not sure if they really understood the concept of an unjust law. Planting seeds right? After 4 straight hours with S3 comes the most anxiety inducing part of my day: going to the toilet. This event causes me daily anxiety not because of the germs-I am pretty sure I am immune to everything by now, not because I have to walk half a mile through a muddy field watched by 1,000 curious eyes- you learn to walk carefully, not because of the 700 flies that buzz around the hole or the fact that there is no toilet paper, water or soap for washing afterwards. No no no my anxiety comes from the fact that some engineering genius decided to put the lock on the OUTSIDE of the latrine and locate the teachers toilets in the middle of the Primary school playground. I desperately fear that one day some smart ass 5 year old is going to lock me in the toilet. Why do I fear this??? Because it HAPPENED the second day here at my home by a 4 year old!!! And it would be so much more humiliating at school. But fortunately for me that did not happen today, today I was safe from certain smelly, claustrophobic death. For today at least. Thus relieved I return to teaching. Now I have two hours with S1A. That lovely, precious, eager group of young minds who understand so very little of what I say. Today I am excited because we are going to sing “summer nights” and I feel confident they will love it. False. Do you know how many key changes there are in that song?!?! Things you just don’t think about when you choose a song for class. Additionally, apparently “Summer Nights” was too much of a jump in vocabulary and melodic complexity from our last song “Hello, Goodbye” by the Beatles. Yes, that’s probably true. I concede. But not in class I didn’t . Sigh. I find that I often over reach in class. I love challenging my students but there’s a delicate balance. A little challenge is good and promotes thinking and trying and growing, a lot of challenge makes students give up, check out and go crazy. Too often I lean towards the second. If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times: teaching is an art…no doubt about it…hopefully I am getting there. Anyways 6 hours of classes later the school day ends. I’m sorry you may have thought there that I meant I was finished…o contrare. After school a film crew from Kigali comes to my school to film me teaching yet ANOTHER lesson with 7 MORE teaching aids to a DIFFERENT group of students. This lesson is about current events. I am participating in a television program series here called SMART LEARNING in which I work with different teachers to prepare lessons that promote good teaching methods. This week no teacher would agree to do it so that left yours truly as the only candidate. I reel in the students who I have chosen to stay after school to be in the program. We arrange the desks, clean the floor, get our supplies situated and are just about ready to begin when….oh yes that would be rain you here POUNDING on the roof making it impossible to be heard. We wait for about 20 minutes and then the rain subsides enough that we can continue the lesson. I teach the hour and a half lesson, the students do their presentations, the film crew films and then it’s a wrap. The crew brings in fanta for the students, two of them get sick from chugging too fast (mind you they are 19 years old) and then I send them home. At this point I am FINALLY able to pack up my bips and bops and start on the treacherous 5 minute walk home. On the way I meet several students who have apparently camped out along my path to ask for various favors: chalk, to come running with me tomorrow, to check their homework, to come to GLOW camp (still 4 months away) you know, the usual. At 5:30, I FINALLY make it home and turn to close the door for the night when low and behold the door won’t shut because three wiggly giggly girls are holding it open with shrieks and screams of “YOUR HOME!” and I know that I am home. I sit down to collect my strength before sliding down to the floor to draw on princess paper with my girls (neighbors from my compound) and try to remember what my neighbor said about people being lucky if kids like them, that they will find blessings in their lives when kids camp out at their home. Damn I must be lucky☺ Around 6 I start cooking dinner only to find that the electricity has gone out. I give up that endeavor and decide it will be a trailmix and banana kind of a night and I sit down to finish preparing my lessons for tomorrow amid a pile of arms and legs and fingers in my hair (literally). At 8 pm I send the children out with wishes of “dreams of God” and I just about collapse. But not before a quick chat with that ever patient, ever loving, ever thoughtful fiancĂ© of mine. And that’s a wrap. Another PCV recently said to me, “Wow Caitlyn that’s so sweet you still care.” I looked at him blankly, trying to determine his meaning. What, I asked him sincerely, was the alternative? NOT CARING??? That seems like a revolting idea. I hope I always care, I hope I always try even when I am the only on (as it often feels at my school). The good news is that caring is catching and energy is contagious. I hope you’ve got the bug too and if not, share some of mine☺ Yours truly and ever caring, Caitlyn

Monday, May 30, 2011

Some thoughts on women: i.e. they are great

I mean come on, its just true.
When I look into the shockingly beautiful faces of the women here I just know in my core that it’s true. When I see a thin woman carrying a 50 L Jerrycan of water on her head with a baby on her back and a sack of potatoes at her side I know that strength comes from a different place than muscles. When I listen to my friend talk about how, after being impregnated by her teacher in her first year of high school, she never wants to marry but rather to continue raise her child herself and her sister and get a job in business, all the while smiling and laughing, I know that joy can come from a place other than your circumstances. Women are the embodiment of paradoxes, of strength and joy and sadness and passion and exhaustion all mingling together in an encasement of beauty.
Rwandan women are amazing. In the village, they literally do everything. They cook, clean, farm, bear, birth and raise children, they run informal businesses, and see their children through school. They are amazing.
Rwanda, like many developing countries (and developed ones too) has a long history of unequal gender roles. Girls education, women’s involvement in politics, in formal business and as leaders with a voice are all still fairly new ideas. These ideas take time to reach out to the village where old habits, customs and cultures die hard and men are reluctant to relinquish their power.
This can be hard to watch at times. Especially because oftentimes Rwandans don’t see it. The government talks about gender equality a lot and so many people just assume that now they have it. They see girls in school (though fewer than boys with lower scores on average) and women on TV or the radio and assume there is equality. But even though there is great progress being made there are still some frustratingly entrenched ideas persisting here. For example a girl is not a woman until she is married while there is a special word for young man and also a boy can become a man by virtue of age while a girl’s womanhood is directly connected to her husband. People here call Joe my boss, which is completely normal. Many of my friends call their husbands “Boss.” Also, women are often called upon to be the servants at people’s parties so that the men never have to get up but can have a woman continually refill their beer. I really don’t mean to sound accusatory but rather am trying to paint a picture for you.
And yet women don’t seem to be emotionally oppressed by this situation. They are resilient and often seem to accept that this is just the way things are, not desiring or seeking change. I rounded a bend in the path through the banana trees on a run the other day and was faced with a beautiful picture of sisterhood as 5 or 6 women of ages ranging from 12 -60 walked towards me with their arms around each other, hoes on their heads and at least 4 different kinds of fabric on each of them. It was such an image of beauty and vibrance it took my breath away. The great strength and resilience of women, however, does not justify the injustice.
Needless to say, things need to change. And things are changing, just very very slowly. The tricky thing about change is that you can’t just run out in front of a man sitting and drinking beer while his wife cleans, cooks, cares for kids and refills his cup and wave your arms to say STOP STOP! ARE YOU CRAZY!? Things have to CHANGE! No. And when I am asked to be the servant for a party of priests and prominent men and women in my town I can’t stick my chin out and say you can’t make me just because I am a girl in your eyes! You have to be patient, ask pointed questions, draw people’s attention to the inconsistencies and injustices. You can’t tell people they are wrong to their face. You have to help them see that and come to their own conclusions. And my gosh is that hard to do. But if you make people angry and defensive the change will not be positive.
In the name of change,
In the name of women everywhere,


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's been awhile but good news: forgiveness wins

Well I came to the end of my first term of teaching. I felt it is a good time to stop and reflect on what it is I have gotten myself into. ☺ My last few weeks of the term I felt kind of bipolar…thinking one moment that I am so happy and doing good things and liked as a human being and the next minute thinking that I am failing as a teacher, not liked or appreciated and lonely. I think the hurricane of emotions was do to the change in schedule that came with a week of exams and then a week of grading…i.e. more free time than I am used to (never have been good at resting). Now, one week after submitting my grades I am feeling very optimistic and excited about being a teacher and being in Rukara. So that’s a good thing☺

But what I wanted to write about today is not my emotional instability or worth as a human being. Rwandan schools take a break in April because it is their memorial month. It was in the month of April that the genocide began in 1994. April 7 was the national day of mourning and there was a powerful weight over this community as they began to commemorate the anniversary. They spent one week sharing stories, crying, comforting, and declaring “never again.” The people here feel a conviction and a repulsion to killing deeper than any I have seen. Reconciliation, however, is a longer road than some would like to believe. The government here talks a great deal about reconciliation and unity. No one is allowed to talk about tribes or ethnicity and every school is encouraged to have a unity and reconciliation club. In the villages, however, reconciliation is a slower process, but people are trying and there is now a whole generation that was not alive during the atrocities of 94 and they are helping reconciliation along while at the same time trying to understand their place, their posture towards a 100 day long horror that they do not understand but they see the effects of everywhere.

The Rwandan commitment to remembering and reconciling strikes me deeply as I look around the world and in my own heart where the need for reconciliation runs rampant. From the conflict in Israel and Palestine to families in America the power of forgiveness cannot be underestimated. But as the Rwandan people know, forgiving does not mean forgetting or just brushing over the issue. It means facing the pain, injustice and frustration in the face and wading through the muck to choose in every moment to forgive. Reconciliation does not say, “well what happened didn’t matter,” but reconciliation says, “man what happened was terrible and I know that and I feel the pain from that but I choose not to run away but to face you and work towards that which is good and true and shalom-filled.” The Rwandan people amaze me.

My challenge to you is to find someone that you need to forgive and don’t just move on or forget but embrace the hurt and the memory and reconcile. Not with guilt trips or self-pity but with strength that comes from the knowledge that Christ DIED for you when you were still sinner so that YOU could be reconciled to him. He faced more rejection and pain than most of us ever will because he stinkin LOVES you. In that truth we find strength, love and forgiveness for those in our life who have hurt us, for those in this world who have done evil. We don’t forget the evil but we overcome it with good. In Mere Christianity there is a brilliant explanation of why good wins. Good wins (God wins) because only God is truly creative. Only He can create something from nothing. The Devil (or that which is evil) is only ever a manipulation of that which is good-it is never something new, it is only too much or a twisted version of something that started as good. Our God is good. He has forgiven us and reconciled us to himself out of love. Thus we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that forgiveness and reconciliation is a more powerful force in the world than all at hatred and spitefulness can ever muster up. And that is good news.
He is Risen, team, just as he said he would.
Floored by the magnitude of our God, and the power of forgiveness,
Much love and shalom,


Saturday, February 19, 2011

things you may not know about Rwanda

Today is my four month anniversary. Its like that point in the relationship when you start to know each other well enough to feel comfortable with silences and establish routines. You also start to notice things you don’t like about each other that you hadn’t noticed before and some of the initial giddiness wears off. I would say all of those things are true for me right now. Four months into my 27 months of service I am settling in, feeling more and more at home but also struck by the reality that this is my life, not just a trip and that teaching is hard, hard work.
The last month has been full of ups and downs but they seem to balance each other out-if I have a rough day at school my time after school in the community is extra encouraging and if I have a frustrating day in the community with drunken men or screaming children, class goes well. So all in all I am doing well. I really feel blessed to be at my sight with really wonderful friends and a stunningly beautiful landscape. My s1 students finally came and I am beginning my third week with them. Teaching them has been one heck of a challenge because their language skills are SO SO low and they are just so young and do not take school very seriously. They are very confused and frustrated by all the new teaching techniques I use with them because my explanations generally go over their head. But buhoro buhoro (slowly slowly). Many days I leave class feeling very defeated but then there are those few moments where the students seem to get it and get excited about English and I rejoice! There was a stretch of days where I didn’t even teach at all because of surprise holidays, local elections (all the teachers just decided not to come back to school after voting), teachers telling me they needed my hours, and poop in the classroom that meant students refused to enter. Awww I am learning patience and not to be married to my plans that’s for sure. I try to work hard and be prepared for excellence but just let it go when things change…which they usually do. I am also learning a great deal about humility as day in and day out I am faced with the ugly reality of my pride. But my life here is a humbling existence so I feel confident that I am growing☺ just very very aware of my need for Christ.
One highlight of this last month was I had all the secondary school teachers (about 20) over to my house for dinner. They seemed to really appreciate that and start to realize that I am meant to be their collegue and friend and not just some outsider. Rwandan’s are a guarded people and they take their sweet time to warm p to you and decide if they will trust you or not. I think they are deciding to trust me. Which is a very good thing!
Buhoro buhoro. ☺
I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some things you may not know about Rwanda. There are many surprising and ridiculous and wonderful things about this country that you should know about:
1) IT IS BEAUTIFUL! I mean really. Rwanda is a very very small country but it has volcanoes, mountains, grasslands, rainforest, lakes, forests, and even an island! It is nicknamed the land of a thousand hills for a reason, there are SO SO many hills in every direction so that going for a bike ride is a very courageous endeavor. I am just about 8 km from a beautiful lake called Muhazi and goodness it is breathtaking. I went down to the water for the first time a few weeks ago to a little restaurant called Jambo Beach and kind of never wanted to leave. J
2) 1) Fashion is a very very serious thing here. There is this absolutely fantastic fabric called ibitenge which the women wear and it comes in about a thousand different shades and patterns. I seriously have to control myself from new fabric every week at the Wednesday market. The women here wear their igitenge with pride and flair especially on Sunday to church. But what may be even more surprising to you is that men’s fashion is an even bigger deal here than women’s fashion. All the rage this season is the half length tie and the long pointy shoes (that require the men to walk like peacocks!). Also very popular are the satin shirts and shiny pants. They don’t mess around.
3) Kinyarwanda is a ridiculous language (oh wait you may have already figured that out from my venting in other posts) haha ☺ I’ll get there.
4) Rwanda has an incredibly efficient and active government. There are so so so many initiatives aimed at encouraging development, creating a culture of advancement and supporting the poor. And Rwandans LOVE their local government. There are a lot of different levels of government: the umudugudu (or village), the sell, the sector, the district, the province and THEN the country. And all this in a country smaller than most of the states in the US.
5) Rwandans are really really good sharers. In fact, its pretty socially unacceptable to eat alone. I gave up on trying to eat dinner by myself. If I really want to cook then I do and just bring it over to Claudine and Chantel’s house to share and add to whatever we are eating there. A person with a job may pay for the school fees of 5 or 6 kids who aren’t their own and house family members in need. Homelessness is not a problem here and there are no street kids outside of the big cities. That’s because no one is without a family of some sort and people just take care of each other in a really remarkable way.
6) Rwandans have not been too creative with their food over the years. They are constantly weirded out by my recipes. They pretty much have two meals: ibitoke (plaintains) with peanut sauce (and maybe a tomato thrown in) and beans (maybe some cabbage) and rice. I am working on trying to start a garden in which to plant some new veggies like broccoli and spinach and herbs to a) introduce more nutrition and b) just add some VARIETY! If my little garden here at home is successful, the headmaster agreed to allocate some land on the school property to plant some new foods with the incentive that any kid who helps gets to take home the food. Hopefully I can find a few nutrient dense foods that Rwandan’s like and maybe introduce it to the community on a wider scale. All of this is again, buhoro buhoro. You can just dump new food on a culture and demand that they like it just because its good for them. Slowly by slowly☺

Well that’s all for now friends! I hope February has been a tremendous month for you thus far despite the SNOW (I think I would die in the cold at this point) and that Valentines Day was full to the brim of love☺
Much much love from me to you!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

called by name

I tell you what…the days here are crazy long but the weeks seem to fly by! I realized (from the questions of a number of dear friends) that I had not written since I began teaching! Well, I believe God heard the prayers voiced in my last blog post because the very next day I started teaching. It was certainly a slow slow start with a painfully floppy schedule at first but each week it gets better. For the last three weeks I have been teaching S2 and S3 students and it has been a lot of fun. The lessons have been kind of random since these are not going to be my permanent students (once the S1 students return on the 7th of Feb I will shift to teach them full time). Basically I have just been choosing random topics that I thought were interesting or fun to talk about and practice different kinds of activities. So far we have covered question words, letter writing (Emma and Tess can get excited since they have about 100 letters coming their way), advertising, futball vocabulary, a story called Police Chase and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Its been fun and I am starting to feel more comfortable in my position as a teacher. It is always difficult to find the balance between being friendly and fun with the students and being strict and authoritative, I think I am starting to find my stride. It will certainly be nice, however, when I have my own students so that I can start building my units, establishing procedures, and knowing students names etc.
Rukara is wonderful, it is starting to feel more and more like home. We are entering the hot, dry season which is a bit painful, and we have had a rude introduction this week with incredibly high temperatures and no water in the whole village.
My house is now all decorated (painted some scrap wood from a construction pile with sunflowers….I am so predictable sometimes) and I have a bed and bookshelves and a table which beats the heck out of having piles of stuff on the floor.
Today was the first meeting of a new club called G.L.O.W. club, it stands for Girls Leading Our World, which is VERY exciting. I am really hoping this club can be a safe place for girls to blossom. In Rwandan high schools there are far fewer girls than boys so as my training director in Nyanza liked to say the girls who are still there are the survivors who have resisted family pressure to drop out to work at home, have children or get married. Girls also fall behind boys in performance in school and it is just clear that they are (as a whole-obviously there are those standout girls in every class) more insecure and shy in class. As many of you probably know I LOVE WOMEN and that means I am super pumped at the prospect of encouraging, challenging and getting to know in a personal way the teenage girls in my village! I gave the girls a long speech about the purpose, method and ideology of the club and summed it up by saying the club is about fun, learning and serving i.e. its going to be a blast. My good friend and neighbor Floflo is going to help me with the club which is SO EXCITING! She is a lawyer and an orphan and is just an incredible example of a powerful, smart, independent woman who is quickly becoming a dear friend! She is not very involved in the Rukara community even though she has lived here for a year and she thinks I am way weird for the way I am always moving and talking to people but she puts up with me…hahaha. BUT she asked if she can be apart of GLOW! I about cried with joy!
Of course I am bubbling over with ideas but God has been faithful to give me patience to just be with people before I even begin to try and problem solve or implement my ideas. And for once in my short little life I am ok with that. I am actually having so much joy in taking it slow.
I used to say at Furman that I was trying to do so much that I was not doing anything with excellence but merely half doing everything. Well right now I feel I am in a season where I can actually do things with excellence because life is slow and I am surprising myself by really finding joy in the slowness.
My language skills are coming along and I am starting to feel like I have real friends here. Its also funny because my friends are real adults. Haha After being in school for so long is kind of funny to suddenly find that my natural community is adults-lawyers, secretaries and teachers. ☺
The people here are slowly starting to recognize me as a person rather than just a Muzungu, and the hollers of "Muzungu!" are slowly being replaced with calls of "Ket Ket" (their interpretation of Caitlyn) or "Gasaro" (my kinyarwanda name which means rare bead).
Isn’t it funny how there is just something about being known that just changes everything? It seems as though this desire to be known is one of the core, inescapable characteristics of human kind. It is why we have blogs and twitter and facebook. It drives our friendships and shapes even how we view ourselves. It seems as though people are scrambling to be known by any means necessary. But why are we scrambling? The Bible has told us that God has called us by name. We are known by him-completely and deeply known. This truth has become more meaningful to me in the last month. My heart leaps a little every time someone in my village calls out my name and not just muzungu, and yet the God of the universe has called me by name and I am his! I am blown away and humbled by this powerful truth and I pray that I would be more and more moved by this everyday. If the God of the universe has called me by name, whom shall I fear? Why should I scramble to be known or understood, accepted or proven worthwhile by worldly standards? I have been called by name. It is a journey and a process to really internalize and live out this truth and a joy that we get to do this journey in community.
I hope today you feel in your core that you are called by name-that you don’t have to scramble, that you are loved and that you have been counted worthy on his account. That truth frees us to love deeply and encourage one another on to good works for his Glory and not ours☺

Much much love and shalom

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Staying connected

Some other Peace Corps Volunteers and I opened a BP box where you can mail me things...not going to lie, a snail mail letter or care package can be soul reviving! So if the spirit should take you and you want to write address your letter/package as follows:

Caitlyn Griffith/Peace Corps Volunteer
BP 47

and believe it or not thats all it takes!
letter take about 3 weeks and packages can take about two months to get here via US postal service.
I promise to write you back:)

much love to you all


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

in the small things

Most of the wisdom I have to share comes from something I have read. A few days ago I read something most timely and thought I would share. Compliments of Ms. Katie Shultz, I have been reading the book Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Yesterday the devotional included a small anecdote about a lay brother named Brother Lawrence from the 17th century who learned to integrate passion for Christ into the mundane and ordinary tasks of washing dishes and keeping the kitchen. He challenged others to “do our common business wholly for the love of Him.”
Right now, my life is a bunch of common business, a collection of mundane and frankly frustrating at times, tasks. I must learn to live the small moments, do the menial tasks with great passion and zeal for Christ and his kingdom. Glorifying God in the small things. I mean when you get down to it, I guess that’s what its all about. Oswald Chambers writes a lot about the challenge of being a disciple in the in-between times. The human spirit is resilient and can get us through the tragedies and “big moments.” Its being radical in the small things and living it day in and day out through the small moments that is what really defines our disciple status.
Today is my one week anniversary of being at my site, my small village of Rukara. It’s hard to believe that I have over 100 more weeks here. I truthfully have not been in one place that long in over 5 years!
This week has been packed and the days have been long. There have been so many minutes both high and low and the emotional whirl wind of trying to get my head around what I am doing here has left me on the brink of tears more than once. A few highlights from the week have been: my craft projects as I have been making my two concrete rooms into a home (its coming a long….my favorite projects being the transformation of my metal trunk into a padded bench with fantastic Rwandan fabric on top and my makeshift pantry made from cinder blocks and scrap wood from the local carpenter that I painted bright orange and green); I cooked for everyone in our little row house (about ten people) Mexican fajitas and they loved it (or were really good at acting like it-highly possible because Rwandans are not too keen on new food); I have tried to go on long walks every day to talk to people and introduce myself and that’s been really fun and a big test of my Kinyarwanda; I made (sort of) kettle corn and had a movie night with my neighbors and 6 girls ranging in age from 3 to 30 climbed into one bed to watch Prince Caspian as I tried to (fairly unsuccessfully) translate for them; I have found a great running route that goes through a lot of very beautiful, very peaceful farmland; AND I had a wonderful visit with the nuns I stayed with last time I was here and I am going to go over there twice a week to teach them English, do crafts (and eat food with them-they have an oven!!!); also I have a new friend named Magnific who is six and practically my shadow-haha. Peace Corps recommended that we not let kids into our home but on day one that proved impossible as she made herself right home among my things and just kept saying over and over “ni munsi mukuru, ni munsi mukuru!” which means “it’s a holiday, it’s a party!” hahaha and she has barely left my side ever since. Sometimes I guiltily lock my door to get a little privacy and keep her out. The funniest part is that she seems to be under the impression that I am fluent in Kinyarwanda and therefore has a constant stream of words coming out of her mouth at a low mumble so that even the words I know I can’t understand! Hahah it doesn’t keep to bother her that I just make little ”mmm” and “ooo” noises instead of actually responding.
School started(ish) on Monday which was certainly noteworthy day even if not especially meaningful. Apparently school here only fake starts on the day it is publicized to start. We were warned about this but its just so much more frustrating to experience it! I showed up a few minutes to 7 (starting time) on Monday and found myself alone with the headmaster. He informed me I might as well go home and he would call me when things started happening. And slowly slowly kids started trickling, their mothers behind them. About two thousand of the 6 thousand showed up the first day. Now I think of myself as a pretty savvy muzungu-you know I have been to east Africa, I know how things work, I am used to being stared at and yelled at and answer pretty patiently to the name “muzungu” and the kids who charge you to shake your hand. But let me just tell you, two thousand kids charging you and screaming at you is another story entirely. Frankly I was terrified. I mean kids were getting run over and trampled! Madness. I now know I have to go around the primary school and not through it to get to the secondary school if I don’t want a high intensity, near death experience at 7 in the morning.
Second surprise is that the grade I am teaching-Senior 1-doesn’t start until February because the Ministry has not yet finished grading their exams from last year. So for the next month I will just be stuck in random classes to teach random, disjointed lessons. (does my tone let you know how I feel about that) and observing Rwandan teachers. Also I will be starting an English club, creative expressions club, teaching English to the other teachers, and teaching the nuns in theory in the next month but things just kind of move on their own time so who knows when these things will actually happen. I am learning, however, that I don’t have to wait to be radically loving and justice seeking until my official “job” starts. I am trying to be radical and passionate in the way I love the people in my row house, in the way I treat and talk to the umukozi (house help who cleans the other houses) and respond to irritatingly forward men in the town. There does not have to be this big divide between your Job and the rest of your life…in fact their shouldn’t be! I am here to serve and love people and hopefully make their lives better in the long term by my existence here.
Well Magnific is getting antsy watching me write this so I am going to go and take the (sort of ) chocolate chip cookies I baked in my makeshift dutchoven over to her aunt’s house to share them☺
So the moral of the story, team, is be radical in the small things, talk to your neighbors, talk to the town crazy, be kind in unexpected ways, make things beautiful-especially things that aren’t usually beautiful like concrete walls and sidewalks!
Much much love to you all and a happy, shalom filled and sought new year!