Tonight is our last night in Rwanda and I figured I should hammer out some entries about the last couple days of our stay. I’m very short on time so it’s going to be rather brief. Perhaps on my return I’ll be able to add more.
Saturday January 10
- We went to two different markets and I purchased most of my souvenirs for other people, I think that’s the hardest part of traveling – trying to figure out what to buy for each person. I’m pretty happy with my purchases, I think I found fitting items for everyone. They were markets though, so we had to barter and the sellers were very excited to have a buyer so it was rather hectic and difficult to sift through different stalls. I spent quite a bit of money… hoping I didn’t get ripped off too much. Yvan warned us about mzungu prices and advised us to offer 1/3 of the asking price and barter up from there. I felt too uncomfortable bartering too much so I gave up quickly, but oh well. Hopefully I didn’t spend too much! The items are so beautiful though, I think they were all worth the prices I paid. I actually picked up my outfit today (1/15) that was requested and measured this day – my skirt and blazer! They’re awesome and specially made to your liking. Can’t wait to wear my new teacher swag. Beautiful fabrics. The women’s dresses here are so vibrant and stylish and now I see why – they personally have them made to their choosing and size!
- The second market lost power – the sellers were showing their items via flashlight, quite an interesting way to shop. An even more awkward rejection when you decide you’re not buying anything. The power has been going out a lot here.
- We visited Inema Art Studio and performed our play and also had a theatre workshop afterwards. It was our first time doing the workshop so it was nice to be able to finally experience what we’ve been chatting about for so long. I can definitely see myself doing some of the activities in my own classroom.
- MR. CHIPS for dinner. Holy moly, me-oh-my! The crispiest fries and chicken I’ve ever had. Maybe because I haven’t been eating fried foods for three weeks, but deary me – this stuff was intense.
Sunday, January 11
- Went to church at the Zion Temple. I haven’t been to church in probably a decade but I’ve wanted to go for years, so I’m glad I finally did – even if it took a trip across the ocean to do so. The beginner was awesome, they sang music as they waited for the Pastor, and I’m glad they posted the lyrics so I could attempt to sing in Kinyarwanda. Very fun, and dancing was encouraged. The pastor’s speech was passionate… others felt it was angry but I felt he was just very forward in his speaking. One of his points was “----“ The church was welcoming to us, they singled us out in a crowd of MANY. Maybe because we clearly stood out, or because they were previously told. But they had us stand up and they whole church said a prayer for our safe travels and joyous experience in Rwanda. They gave us translator headphones for the songs but I loved listening to them being sang live by everyone in Kinyarwanda. Very moving. Supposedly this service was filmed for international viewing so I guess I can add another TV broadcast to my list…right next to Steve Wilkos.
- Returned to the markets and spent even more money… 30,000 frw… eesh. It’s ok. Just breathe. I saw these really awesome masks I wanted to buy, but they were hanging pretty far away. Yvan was with me so he was able to help me barter, and the seller and him kept mentioning to get both of them. I only wanted one, but I figured they were telling me I’d get a better deal for two so I bought both. It wasn’t until afterwards, outside of the dark market, that I realized one figurine had breasts and the other had a penis. Then, just in time, Drew said they’re fertility symbols. WOAH. And that touching them gives you good luck for conceiving. Oh boy. I was scared. Then, someone gave me a dove chocolate wrapper that told me to embrace love. THEN the hostel staff nicknamed me in Kinyarwanda as Keza …. Meaning pretty. Yep. I was quite nervous, I felt that a betrothal was in my near future. It’s been five days and I’m still single so let us all hope that I still have a couple years until this fate comes to fruition.
Monday January 12
- We had our first teacher training and the group was fantastic. Rwandans are generally very quiet and polite, so we imagined these funky loud theatre games would be out of their comfort zone, and it’d be difficult to break them in. Nope. Not the case. They were wild – wilder than some of us! It was so much fun. I don’t think I’ll ever forget “Jibberish-Island” – hysterical. The teacher trainers are people who used to teach and now share their skills, so most of them are much older. But, they were still bouncing and shimmy-ing about. Such a cool group, and I hope to stay in close contact with them when I return.
- I asked one of the teacher trainers for advice for a new teacher. He mentioned:
- Build Relationships
- Understand students’ backgrounds and differ ante
- Self-reflect on yourself before teaching – do not let your own personal issues or negative emotions in your life impact your teaching
- He was such a cool guy to talk to, he’s had so many jobs! Was in the military for awhile and started at age 12, worked in the media, taught and now trains teachers. He had such a lively and fun personality – but was still logical and concerning about how effective our work is. He’s one of those people that you’re happy to see in the teaching field.
- SWEETS – I paid nearly $5 for Haribo. Go me! Go imported goods! $8 conditioner? OK!
Tuesday, January 13
- Second day of teacher training. Had a lot of fun with them, and glad we got to spend two full days with them. The lesson plan we modeled after was about MLK’s speech and we had them read it out beforehand. Super cool to listen to Rwandans recite his famous speech, it was very meaningful. Afterwards we developed the abstract story of our created theme – Beatrice added a song she created “Amahoro, Amahoro, yeaaaa Amahoro” and it’s been stuck in my head for days! Great day – hot day, but well worth it. Talked to some more teachers, really hoping to stay in touch.
- That night we watched “Finding Hillywood” and “We are All Rwandans” – great films. Abuub from the first film was with us! He was wonderful and shared some information with us after the film. I feel so grateful to keep meeting all of these significant and wonderful people. I can’t believe it. He’s recommended several films for me to watch, I never watch films unless they’re recommended so I’m looking forward to it!
Wednesday January 14
- Visited Sina Gerard and they showed us many of their products. Their most well known is Akabanga – the super hot sauce they have here. I can barely use it, just one drop is enough to make my eyes water. Eeesh.
- Sina’s entire enterprise is so cool, you can see his dedication in his work. And even more so, his dedication to the community. He created his own school for the local children and pays for all of their education (it’s a private school) and this school has scored exceptionally well on all the nation’s exams. It’s so moving when you see business leaders care about children and their education.
- Sina plays music for his pigs. Yes. Music. He blasts music over the speakers because it makes them happier pigs. It’s so funny to see it happening, and I have some video footage of them seemingly wagging their tail or bopping their heads to the beat. Most are sleeping. But, it’s still really cool.
- Then, we visited the Rebecca Davis Dance Studio. This is a program created by an American woman who saw the need to help street children years ago. As you can tell from my story about Pacifique, homeless children are an issue here. Her studio involves academic courses and the dancing bit is used only as a reward – if the students attended their classes that week. They’re very strict about this and it keeps the children focused and determined to attend their classes. Children who were interested and excited to dance for us were turned away when they were reminded they didn’t attend their classes. What an interesting concept. You can see how much these boys love the dancing – they range from very young to maybe 14 years old.
- We performed our play for them after they danced. They had a lot of questions about for us (via translation), the first: “are there children like us in America?” What a sad question, and an even sadder answer when we had to admit that yes, we do have homeless children in America. They continued to ask about these children… here are the questions I can remember:
Do they take drugs?
Do they sniff glue? (Popular drug use in Rwanda)
Do they sleep on cardboard like we do?
Do they transit the children, like they do to us?
Do the cops take them, like they do to us?
Do the cops beat them, like they do to us?
- The last question really hit hard. The boys were so interested in learning about these children who are experiencing similar struggles. After the questions, we had our theatre workshop with them and then we danced about to some music. Super fun, we had a few dance circles and it was so exciting to be a part of it. It’s hard to imagine that later that day they’d be sleeping on cardboard in the streets, they were so happy in that room. They look up to their dance instructors, I’m glad that they have them as role models in case they don’t have a role model elsewhere. You can see that the instructors genuinely care about these boys.
Thursday January 15
- Today we went to the schools and worked with the children. So, we spent two days working with teacher trainers and now we actually got to go work in the classrooms. The teachers were getting involved with us and seemed to really like the games and skills we were teaching so I hope they do use some of them in their classrooms. The first class was the hardest, it was the kindergarten class, and it was difficult to keep them focused for the games – as the games main point is focus! It was still a lot of fun. We visited four classrooms.
- We had lunch with the teachers and it was very different experience to anything I’ve ever had in the schools’ staff cafe back at home. First, they welcomed us individually and then a man gave a prayer and a 7-8 minute speech about God’s wisdom. After that, a woman took over and also spoke for a few minutes about God. Then she asked for testimonials of how God has helped others in the room. THEN after that, she asked for struggles that the group can pray for later in their individual prayers. I’ve never experienced something like that and it was so sweet to see these teachers caring about each other and interested in helping each other. Most teacher café’s involve complaining about the students or trivial matters- but these teachers gave me an entire different experience.
- We had our final dinner at Zen – an oriental cuisine restaurant and it was delicious. A great farewell dinner. I haven’t tried much oriental dishes before so this was a first and it was yummy! Definitely need to try some places on my return to America and Rwanda
Very short and brief points but I felt I needed to get a final blog post in before beginning my long travels. Bon voyage! See you all very soon!