Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Madness

Hey all,

Long time no write. Whew, things have been picking up around here!

Following a couple of weeks of what felt like non-stop grammar I decided to change it up a bit and let the students teach me. After their quiz (which I have to say, made me more nervous than them) the girls looked as though they would have gladly run through fire than take another quiz given by the mean foreign English teacher. In response I told them to stand up and stretch, jump around and shake off all the negativity in the post-test atmosphere. And that is when inspiration hit: as they begun to clap and sing, a certain rhythm took over which automatically called for more singing and dancing. Their homework was basically to prepare for a talent show the next week.

It worked. For the past several lessons, I have been entertained, serenaded and pleasantly surprised by their wonderful abilities to sing and dance. Most of all, I am amazed at their graceful willingness to present in front of their peers. I remember back in my day when nobody wanted to leave their seat to even give a speech and here are students jumping up to perform modern hip hop songs in English, pop tunes in Kinyarwanda and traditional gospel songs they learn in church. And even more exciting, for me, is that I’m starting to learn their names. On the first day of school I instructed them to write their names on a piece of paper which I then explained was their “nametag.” Little did I realize at the time that many of them share the same name—there is an abundance of Valentines, Claudines, Esperances, and Yvettes and they are multiplied by 39. That is the average number of girls I see seated in each one of the 8 classrooms I visit every week! Granted, it’s a 3 day week but trying to memorize or even remember 300+ girls’ names is difficult. Not as difficult as trying to recall the bare minimum Kinyarwanda that I used to know before I entered an all English speaking environment!! Whew, I can barely introduce myself anymore!

The other day I was asked the difference between to like and to love. Since that can be a pretty difficult concept to explain to a native speaker it means that it is double the challenge to clarify to someone whose language only has one expression to encompass both emotions: ndagukunda. In my most diplomatic, educator’s voice I tried to tell the inquisitive student that love is a much stronger emotion than like but when I only received a blank look I told her that she could use both terms but please, please refrain from telling a complete stranger that you love him/her. This has happened on multiple occasions since arriving in Rwanda—sitting outside conversing with a fellow volunteer when a group of people walks by, sees the funky white people and decides to impress them by confessing their love in English or the woman at the post office, sending you off with her endearments or even from your students, scripted into a rap song!! Talk about developing an ego! And in addition to professing their love for me, my students applaud my intelligence when I walk into the classroom. Well, they tell me, “you are smart,” which loosely translated means that I look smart, as in the outfit I have one at the moment. But I joke back with them by agreeing, “why yes, I am intelligent, thank you.”

Well, it’s one step at a time. And as I said, I’ve become somewhat busy around here. One minute I’m wondering what to do besides twiddle my thumbs and the next I find myself utterly exhausted and wondering when I will ever have a free moment. It’s as if there was article in the town newspaper that announced my presence and everybody snatched it up. I guess that’s how a small, tight-knit village works. There are multiple English clubs to help facilitate, in addition to helping out at the school garden and tutoring the priests every Sunday evening! Then there may be other projects in the pipeline that I have also been asked to be a part of. Naturally, there has been plenty of dancing too. A couple of weeks ago I ventured up to visit the local troupe of children who sing and dance every Sunday morning which was delightful. They are called “Abisunganye” which means we share our culture together. After they performed their traditional song and dance I contributed some of my own culture in the form of “Walking on broken glass” by Annie Lennox and Ne Yo’s “Independent Woman” for them!! Haha, needless to say, word got out that the crazy white girl was dancing around with the kids. I definitely made the village gossip that day! Along with being asked back to make a guest appearance in the annual Easter concert!!

There is one bit of sad news. A couple of weeks ago Mamie (the mother superior figure of the nuns) left for another convent. I found it extremely sad that she was to leave us but hopefully we will see each other sometime in the near future. Even though there was a slight language barrier between us she was my bud and we had some good times together. Here at C.I.C Muramba there is a wide variety of sports to choose from. The girls can be seen every afternoon playing one game or another all around the compound. So far I’ve managed to scout out at least a handful of said athletic activities and last week I finally discovered where the basketball court is located. After some protest and excuses I eventually jumped in with the girls, some of whom I teach, and played basketball for the first time in years! (aside from a brief stint back in training where some other volunteers and I played and lost against the neighborhood youth) It felt absolutely wonderful and I think the onlookers were entertained as well. At one point I took a fall and scraped my knee on the court made of concrete but bounced back up to give my audience a graceful bow!

Lately it has not been raining much which I shockingly find upsetting. I was beginning to grow accustomed to the daily precipitation and now I miss it. However, when it does have occasion to rain the ground inevitably turns to slippery mud, hence all of the strategically placed rocks in the middle of the road to assist with traction. Unfortunately, both the mud and rocks do not work well in concert for someone on a bicycle. Having recently had my bike repaired after the one tire was punctured by aforementioned rocks, I wanted to get back out on the trail and try my luck, again. This time I came back with both tires in tack but the bright white sports shirt I had donned was now a nicely decorated piece of splatter paint artwork, a reminder that it is in fact, still the rainy season.

Now that is nearing the end of the first term of the school year it is what we in the education business like to term “exam time.” As such is the case I must be off to go prepare the best exam ever!! Wish me luck!

And I don’t know if ya’ll got the message but I have two mail boxes now, and both are at least 2.5 hours from me so if you happen to send me something please let me know to which location! The first is good for letters and the second is better for packages. I will eventually make my way to retrieve my mail.

Avery Miles
C.I.C Muramba
P.O Box 85
Gisenyi, Rwanda

Or the same one as before:
Avery Miles
B.P 5657
Kigali, Rwanda

1 comment:

  1. Hi Avery, or should I say Nyampinga....I am Rwandan living in South Africa and happened to fall on your blog!! You're sooo funny and I could definitely see my people in your description, and for once they are described as simple as it is without all the negative stereotypes! Hope you're enjoying Rwanda! Thanks for what you're doing for our country!
    Be blessed....