Saturday, February 20, 2010

You gotta pay to be my husband

Howdie everybody!

On one of my recent travels I encountered a very stingy yet persistent ticket seller. At first, he charged me what seemed to be an outrageous amount, in comparison to previous trips (I later learned that it was the weekend price), and then he proceeded to skimp me on my change back. But it got better when he asked if I was single and when I truthfully if not foolishly replied that I was, he had the nerve to ask if he could be my husband!! In no uncertain terms, I turned him down. But it gave me a good idea for a blog title.

Last week I ventured out into the community a couple of times just to see if anything had changed since school had started. It’s still the same mountain village. The first time I went with some of my students who were practicing football (this is soccer everywhere in the world except the U.S, btw) out in the main field of town. You come upon an extremely picturesque view of the opposing mountain ridge and wonder how the kids can play without being distracted by the awesome backdrop to their game. But then I remember that they were born here and experience this beauty every day. What’s more interesting to look at is me- I’m the thing they like to stare at. So around we jogged, gathering more and more neighborhood children as the warm-up session continued. I thought I might trip over some of them or tag them by accident. Even worse, I thought the coach would come over and ask me to leave because I was causing such a major distraction!! Then I discovered that a) nobody really cared because b) the kids were having just as much fun mimicking the other girls too. We never got around to playing an actual game which was just as well because I was sorely realizing how out of shape I was.

On my second outing I only made it as far as the volleyball court located within the confines of the compound. Whew, that was a workout to follow the one I had had the day before!! The coaches instructed the girls to jog a few laps around the perimeter of the court and I promptly followed along. Not too bad, until the first girl in line hunched down into a squat and I knew I was in trouble. My thighs were already talking to me from the action they had seen out on the football field!! But I dutifully stayed the course. I mean, I couldn’t lose face in front of my very own students, some of whom were observing the practice as well as participating. After struggling through a couple of warm-up stunts, we started doing volleys and what I like to technically dub as the “serious practice stuff.” So I decided to gracefully step down and went over to some of the onlookers to chat with them. It was great watching though! The girls are pretty good. And I got to catch the stray balls when they came my way, totally earning some respect out there.

Finally, by the third day I satisfied myself by simply watching the handball game that was happening right outside of the compound. The bike ride I took early that morning had already sufficed as my daily “sport.” For those of you who may not know, as I did not before last week, handball is a blend of basketball and water polo. The players jump a few steps before either passing to a teammate or choosing to pummel the ball into the wooden goal post. Unfortunately for whoever is playing the goalie, there is no netting to said goal post which doubles the exercise in order to run after the ball. There is no fencing or walls either… so the goalie pretty much loses every time a shot happens. The guys were practicing when I walked up to observe. When they asked me to join in the game I looked down and pointed to my jeans and sandals, trying to explain that I was not prepared to play. However, my non-verbal excuse was in no way a viable reason to stand on the sidelines. They beckoned me to join but I insisted that the next time I came by I would be ready to jump in. Again, I found myself enjoying the scenic view laid out behind the sandy court equally as much as the activity in front of me. Seriously, it is exceptionally difficult to ignore the amazing vistas that award the eye here. Before I left the scene, one of the other bystanders asked me about my origins and my family. I gave him the ultra-fascinating details that I’m from the U.S and an only child, etc. Some of this was said in French since I have adopted this obnoxious (I can only assume it’s annoying for everybody else) habit of incorporating three languages into my conversation, English, French and Kinyarwanda. Anyhow, I told him that I was a l’enfant unique (means only child in French, I think) and he commented, “oh, like Jesus.” My reaction looked something like this :-/

Right, onto more pertinent details of my life: school finally started and so far so good. I’ve taken a different route as the one I chose in Model School and that is to actually teach some practical English points. But as any language teacher probably knows and hopefully acknowledges, grammar is such a crutch and a boring one at that. As that is the case, next week I’m setting up for some real fun. There will be colors and action and movement. No more board work. Ugh. How dull. Oh, but where will I find the time? Hmm, I guess I should use my 4 day weekend to prepare! Yup, when I sat down on the first day of school to find out my schedule I was astonished to see that both Thursday and Friday are blank in my timetable!! However, there is plenty to do during the days that I do teach. I am very excited to get these girls prepared for University where they will undoubtedly need to know near-to-fluent English. They already know quite a lot. The main problem seems to be my diction, or rather my accent. I don’t get it though because I’m speaking normal…even slow for me. But they are accustomed to a completely different angle of speaking.

After reading some of my students’ compositions describing their lives and their families I have come to understand that this is very much a farming culture. You may say, “well, duh, Avery,” but compared to the industrial nature of the U.S, Rwanda is almost entirely based around agriculture. So today I got a little taste of that lifestyle. Over at another secondary school in town I visited the man who has taken the land surrounding the school and made it into a wonderful, sprawling garden. He graciously showed me how to plant carrots and onions and then generously gave me some plots of land to cultivate on my own. Needless to say, I’m super psyched to see the progress, to watch my little seedlings grow into something edible!! In addition, he grows my absolute favorite food and probably the most essential part of my diet: garlic!! So basically I’m going to be rolling in garlic and keeping the vampires at bay for the next 2 years! It really is a great experience to get out and do some hands-on work though. As teaching in class only comprises half the week I think I know where I will be spending the other half!!

Other headlines: it is officially the rainy season. When the sky becomes a grayish blue, with a consistency similar to curdled milk, you know to take cover. Or rather, do as the Rwandans do and rest your head on your forearms, surrendering to the almost deafening tune of water pelting against a tin roof. Sometimes I think that it could be a hurricane outside due to that sound. And on that note, I think I will follow suit and go take a rest.

Au revoir, mon Cheries!!