Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why my headmaster may be the best in all of Rwanda

Today is one of those sorts of days when I want to share everything with you!  I want you to know the intricate details of my life here, and tell you all my stories.  Unfortunately, my fingers can’t keep speed with my mind, and even if they could, I doubt you would really want to read whatever encyclopedia resulted.
It has been a while since my last post, though I do have a few in the works.  Soon to come: Food (Rwanda Edition), Teaching (an attempt to hit the tip of the iceberg) and an on-going Wish List.  Being the selfish individual that I am, the wish list is likely to be first.  Only kidding... I’m not entirely selfish (please note: I first wrote “shellfish” then had to go back and edit) but I find it easier to be able to quickly throw together a wish list than to sit and ponder my teaching experience, methodology and student receptiveness.
On to the fun stuff.  Things at site have been going pretty well.  I was in a bit of a slump this past week- blame it on the Mefloquin, blame it on the rain, blame it on teaching troubles, blame it on whatever you’d like.  Really, I guess I’m just reaching the expected emotional period where I begin to question my effectiveness, question my methods, question my reasons for being here, and when the excitement of beginning something new starts to fade.  Nothing a good week of laying low, and a phone call from your mother can’t fix.  Oh, I suppose the moderately successful week of teaching and contact from some key fellow PCV’s didn’t hurt.  Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and the 100th year anniversary at that!  We were expecting to not have classes, but no official gave the go-ahead for this to become an official (albeit impromptu) holiday.  So, I began my day with a holiday mindset, thinking I would take a hike and make some delicious food... not so fast Ally, instead you get to go up to school and throw together some lessons for your favorite English classes.  That last part was true- the classes I had yesterday are my favorites.  Hell, you’ve caught me in a good mood- I favor them all at the moment.  Watch out, next week they may be little brats again... My mother offered me some great words of wisdom based on her days as a middle(?) and high school science teacher.  She said that everyday is different, every class is different, the same class will be different at different times of the week and year and that you can never really know what to expect.  Sorry for the inaccuracies of this quote, mommy, you said it more eloquently but I don’t remember the exact words.  Anyway, she’s absolutely right!  And I think that being able to acknowledge this truth is the first step to being able to use it to your advantage.  At the very least, I’m learning- a fact that I will keep returning to again and again (especially when I’m feeling low).
I want to walk you through a few wonderful moments of my day.  Let’s see... I’ll do this in a sort of bullet format in an attempt to have less dense text on this damn blog.
  • In the wee hours of the morning I wake up to the unpleasant discovery that my bladder is uncomfortably full, and I have to make my way to the latrine (outside and around the corner of the house).  I must have been having some sort of crazy dream because I remember that during that “restroom” trip I was conjugating the verbs to have and to want... in Spanish.  Yo tengo, tu tienes, tu quieres, ellas quieren...  The only good part about having to go outside to pee in the middle of the night is that it’s the middle of the night.  The village centered is silent (whereas at dusk you can hear it bustling in the distance) and the stars are out in full force.  It’s quite chilly, but the promise of a warm bed to return to makes it ok to stop and stare at the stars for a few minutes.  
  • Speaking of dreams, I’ve always been a vivid dreamer... but I think it’s true what they say about Mefloquin.  That drug gives you some pretty crazy dreams.  I think it’s a win-win honestly.  I get some good night time entertainment and I protect myself from Malaria. 
  • A few hours later (well, some amount of time later) I am woken up by some sort of noise in my house.  I hold my breath, anticipating the audial discovery of a rodent in my “living” room, but instead discover that it’s just an exceptionally noisy moth.  My mosquito net affords me a safe sleeping haven, so I decided to put on some music and go back to sleep.  I don’t know if other folks in Rwanda are experiencing this, but lately my house has had a plethora of moths in and around it.  And they are quite varied in color, size and shape.  I also had a huge praying mantis on my wall last night.  If my house bugs remain so friendly, I will have little to worry about (these are SO much better than the ubiquitous Floridian cockroach).
  • In class today, I taught my Senior 1 class “All you need is Love.”  I know many PCV’s here have done this song in their classes, and it was actually surprisingly successful.  Also, it’s a great way to shut your class up. :)
  • Yesterday in my Senior 3 class (the oldest and my personal favorites), in honor of International Women’s Day, we talked about the advancement in equality in Rwanda.  In response to my question about what life in Rwanda will be like for women in the future, one student said “They will be pilot.”  Not the most outlandish answers to one of my questions, but amusing nonetheless (not to mention true?).  
  • Today I discovered the real reason that my Headmaster won an award for sciences- I think it was something along the lines of head teacher of sciences in the country- and was sent to Switzerland for a conference.  He created this device that cooks food.  And it is able to do so b/c it’s wired to a telephone and you call this phone to send it a command to start the device and begin the cooking process.  Apparently there is a pan on the cooking apparatus (where you place the uncooked food), a separate container with water, the phone to act as a regulator (or whatever you would call it), a cord connecting it to a power supply (in this case, an electrical outlet in your home) and some sort of wooden frame keeping the thing together.  You call or text the phone, thee is some way to command exactly how much water gets added to the pan, and the device gets hot and begins cooking.  To someone who grew up tinkering with technology, this may seem like child’s play, but to me (and my fellow teachers) this seems like magic!  Well, if not magic, it at least seems like pretty advanced stuff.  All of the teachers are so proud of our headmaster.  Best part?  He totally fits the part.  He’s kind of like the quiet, goofy, crazy and unexpected inventor/ tinkerer character we see so often in kid’s movies.  I can’t wait to see his continued progress.  And since he’s always tinkering with something, I’m sure there is more to come!
  • As I was walking to the market today, Vincent and Mary (two Primary Teachers from my school and two awesome people) joined me for the second part of the walk.  As we passed the butcher, right outside of the town center, Vincent asked me if I liked ham.  “Well no,” I reminded him, “I don’t like ANY meat.”  After I explained that not only do I not like it, I don’t like the idea of killing another creature.  He didn’t skip a beat- his immediate response was “but God created these animals so that we could eat them... also, someday they will eat us.”  I think that last part was a little nod to the carbon cycle and circle of life, but the first part surprised me.  Yes, I realize that is a somewhat common take on meat-eating, but I was surprised that one of the top science teachers at school is such a subscriber to this sort of biblical ideology.  I just smiled and said “maybe,” which is my favored response to almost any question or statement here.  What’s better is that in Kinyarwanda, the word for maybe is “wenda.”
  • This morning I was not yet finished with my tea before heading off to school so I transferred it to my steel water bottle and brought it with me.  Every single teacher asked me if I was drinking beer.  It was 7:30am.  I got to get some humor out of this though, because after I explained that it was only tea, I added “with no sugar, and no milk.”  They were predictably aghast, and I was amused, and they were amused, and it’s always a fun time in the teacher’s room.
  • Everyone greets each other out here, so saying good afternoon "Mwiriwe" to countless villagers is just another part of the day.  But, the number of people (including complete strangers) who greet me by name is growing daily.  "Yes, good afternoon Allison!" echoes through the tiny village center as I walk past.  Call me crazy, but that will never get old to me.  
  • Everyone in my village knows I like pineapple and avocados.  It could be that I incessantly look for these easy to eat, delicious food items, it could be that when I'm asking for these things is when my Kinyarwanda is at it's finest.  
I think there is more I want to tell you.  I KNOW there is more, but for now I will leave you with only this.  Stay tuned for my next couple installments in order to get a more complete view of some of my life logistics over here.  As always, I welcome your questions and comments, and I miss and love you dearly. xoxo
PS: A big shout-out to all the wonderful ladies in my life.  You are wonderful, and though I say this in honor of IWD, it’s true all days.  Also, isn’t there a little song that goes something like “I enjoy being a girl”?  Well, it’s true, and being surrounded by other awesome girls (if not in body at least in mind) makes it even more enjoyable.  

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