Part One: Learning about Rwandan Valentine’s day
Before I begin relaying to you what I’m expecting to observe on Valentine’s Day, I should talk a bit about the way Rwandans date. Because they don’t really date; not the way that most Westerners do. This is a result of the traditional Rwandan culture: a culture in which dating was virtually nonexistent. It’s becoming increasingly common to hear talk of “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” in the younger generations, but there is a definite divide between the older and younger generations here. Anyway, most people my age refer to “friends.” That’s not a broad term or anything, right? So, you can have friends (ex: me and Clementine) and you can have a “friend” (ex: the person you’re dating), and the only thing to really allow an outsider to distinguish the relationship is context. It’s a little tricky but I think this is due to the fact that the society here is generally discrete. While your business ends up being widely known (especially in a village) everyone remains rather discrete, and rarely do folks talk about their own personal business. However, the teenagers are certainly growing up in a different world. I think this is probably true no matter where you are- the youth today are experiencing a new sort of high-speed, highly connected, small world. This is the information age after all (is that right?... I’m gonna go with it). For me, this means that I have students that are modern and open-minded, and while they still have whatever sorts of societal norms and a certain Rwandan world-view, they are pretty “with it.” They know about what’s going on in the world (to some extent), they keep up with current music and they really want to learn (which is something I love!). So, how does this relate to Valentine’s day? Well, I have been charged with the task of teaching “creative performance” to the Senior 3 class at my school. What is creative performance? Well, I’m sure I’ve already mentioned it here, but really it’s turning into a “do whatever Allison wants” class. And it’s a lot of fun! This past week, in honor of the upcoming holiday, we talked about poetry and Valentine’s day and music... again, basically whatever I felt like sharing with the students. I absolutely love this class, and we always have a good time together. I taught them “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, And so are you” and they loved it. Then, I asked them to make their own version of the poem... what a great idea (because I got instant entertainment). They came up with a few really good versions, and a few that were absolutely hilarious! Some of my favorites included lines like: “chalk is white and so are you,” and “our teacher is white like silver.” Ok, race discussions aside, we all got a few good laughs out of those ones. The important part is that they were trying! So, they kept working on poems and I played some fun music for them (imagine head-bobbing with your students to some classic Outkast songs... so good) and I left them with a goal. I reminded them that Valentine’s day was right around the corner (“please teacher, it is on Monday”) and that they should make poems or cards and give them to their Valentines. “Maybe you’ll get a girlfriend... maybe you’ll find a boyfriend... maybe you can let your teachers know that you think they’re special..” Just a little shameless self-promotion. I’m excited to see if they write any sort of poems to each other! I will certainly be on the look-out. Also, I was told by Clem and K that here everyone wears red and black on V-day, and I plan to conform to that tradition for sure! I always loved making Valentines in the states, and I plan on adapting my crafting skills and continuing to make them here. There will be no glitter or foam or lace or doilies, and I don’t even have glue, but I have paper and magazines and markers and colored pencils and I am prepared to give it my best effort.
Part 2: February 15th:
Valentine’s day passed in a flash. If I didn’t have a calendar, I would’ve never known that yesterday was at all special. To be fair, I wasn’t in the most festive of moods. It was rainy and cold, I had a frustrating class to start my day (more details to follow) and I was tired! I didn’t see much card exchanging happening around school, and since the kids all wear uniforms, there was no visible display of holiday spirit. I indulged in some cake that a purchased over the weekend (yep, made with corn flour), ate some great fresh fruits along with it, and watched romantic comedies while the rain poured down outside for the better part of the afternoon. I did get an awesome valentine from my friend Clementine! She totally outdid me on the craftiness- definitely took me by surprise! Apparently in the bigger cities, you can see the type of holiday commercialism that we all know goes hand and hand with St.Valentine, but out in the village, February 14th is just another day.
PS: big shout-out to my #1 Valentine! Robin Talley gets to celebrate her 23rd birthday tomorrow... wish I was back in Tallahassee. I’ll be with ya in spirit, babygirl