Monday, December 7, 2009

"I Don't Enjoy..."

I took pictures of my house to post..but it's taking so long to upload each picture so I'm doing it a little at a time. In the mean-time, please allow yourself to cordially laugh at some of my recent mishaps, entitled "I Don't Enjoy...":

BEING COLD AND WET. I went on a two night trip to Lake Kivu this past weekend, and I got caught in the rain on the way back from the beach in Gisenyi...I was so close to reaching the place I was staying, but I was soaked and my books in my bag were getting wet too. So, I stopped in a tiny little shop to wait it out. I couldn't even try to use the few words I know to converse with the people in there cause the rain was so loud on the sheet metal roof. Eventually I got back to my room and thought a hot shower would be nice. water was the lady said she'd bring water...I was a little disappointed cause I take bucket showers at my house and I was looking forward to a shower shower. Guess what she brought? Cold water. A bucket of cold water. So then I got sick.

THE EFFECTS OF WINDING BUS RIDES. Last time I took a bus ride was coming back from Ruhengeri (Musanze) a few weeks ago when I went for a hike with a few friends. On the bus ride home, the lady next to me kept handing me her phone and bag so she could puke into her fabric. In addition, the lady in front of me got sick and it was dripping under the seat towards my feet...SO, on the way back from Gisenyi..we had almost reached Kigali City..I saw the big billboard that is on the turn to go to town...and the lady next to me puked. This time it got on me. It was down my leg, on the side of my foot, and my shoe. SICK. And this time, unlike the last trip, it smelled. Also--on the way back from Gitarama (Rubavu) a little girl got sick and puked..we had to pull over and the mom wiped fabric all over to "clean" it up.

BEING CULTURALLY INSENSITIVE. I went to visit Jeremy's family in the village (Mwishishiro) this Sunday. Jeremy is our houseboy. We didn't eat anything out of the ordinary, just ground nuts, pineapple, and bananas-but the big kind. Then, they wanted to offer me milk. In Rwanda milk is a big deal. I can't remember the exact ceremony, but its used somehow in a wedding to show they will always be blessed with milk in their home. SO, since their cows are literally right there in the courtyard of their house, I was nervous about the quality and pasteurization. I said I did not have thirst. (keep in mind I don't speak kinyarwanda well so its already been slightly awkward). Then I said it was ok, just a little.
I prepared for the worst: in my mind the worst would be very thick, warm milk with a strange taste since the milk here has a weird taste anyways. I was wrong. They began pouring. It was thick alright, with lumps...lots and lots of lumps. To my surprise it was I just prayed for the grace to handle this cup of milk, filled to the brim against my wishes. I know that His grace is sufficient, but the amount I was given at this moment just didn't amount to enough. The milk was a kind of sour I'd never experienced before. Sour, lumpy milk. I took a small sip. I took another sip. And then I took my final sip. Regarding the fact that it would be disrespectful not to take their milk, it'd be worse if I started gagging..and of course I realize that this milk could make me very very ill. So, I told the brother, who speaks some English, that I've never had this milk before and my stomach is not strong and that I'm very sorry. He translated and I heard him telling them my stomach was maybe that is nicer to hear or something. Their family was so sweet though...they gave me pineapples, bananas, and a clay vase. Jeremy's sister-in-law really wanted to give me eggs, but they don't have any there, hahaha. And before we left they wanted to sing me a song and was wonderful overall.

Hope you mildly enjoyed reading of my misfortune. I should emphasize that I have an incredible amount to share that I DO enjoy :) As you can see from the stories...I went to Gisenyi on a short but wonderfully relaxing trip. While I was on the beach I went water skiing!! In Rwanda! That is pretty astonishing. The boat wasn't incredibly fast, and I had to pay $10 just to go for a short loop...but that is better than $2/min like he started with!
Also, I had a great time visiting Jeremy's family. We walked along the road and then through the footpaths across a couple hills for about an hour to get to his house. It was absolutely gorgeous there! And his family was so gracious.

That's all for now..but the house pics are coming!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Reba ku Murugo Iwacu

I'm finally getting to that house tour! I keep wishing I had the rooms all set up and looking great before showing pictures...but I just picked up my camera and did it so I could finally put them up.
You can't see much of the actual house because we have a ton of trees! but, of course that's one of the best features of the house :)

The next one in my tour is of a gray concrete building and you can see Jeremy and our laundry line. This is basically our backyard..I didn't get a good pic of what its set up like but the next one is coming in through the backdoor. (I usually come in this way bc my room is just to the right of the kitchen.)

Alright, so as you come in the back door, you will be in our kitchen! We have a big fridge this year, and a stove/oven, and we finally got that table made so we'd have some "counter" space to set things on.

There is not a lot of space in our kitchen, but you can be assured it's no problem for my genius roommates who know how to cook! And they're awesome because they share!

Coming up next we have a picture of our pantry...which is AMAZING. When we moved in we didn't have the cabinets, but they were built within the first month and pretty much changed our lives...I don't know if it showed up in the picture, but the pantry is where our water filter is kept, and I just wanted to give a shout out to the Dolingers for giving it us because our agacupa collection was more ridiculous than you can imagine.

Alright--we've reached my bedroom!

This is of course where I spend a lot of my time...
It's hard to give a great tour through pics. My room is quite small, but I'm working hard to organize and have a place for everything. I keep thinking how ridiculous it is that I have my own bedroom first of all, and then I still don't have enough room because I own so many things...I think simplifying is a very difficult discipline. (mom, you can vouch for my improvement since the days I had a "collection" for everything!)

Here is a bathroom. The toilet was installed for us when we moved in because before it was one of those floor hole thingies...

And here is our lovely kitchen table! Sorry I didn't set it up cute for the picture. Shannon B and I sewed placemats with african fabric over the summer, and they are SO awesome on this table :)

This is my bathroom, and I share with Marissa. We fill up that red bucket about half way (with warm water :) so it's not bad) and dump cups over our heads.

Almost finished with our is the living room. It is pretty amazing. It's big and Cady and I bought a TV!! We only get one channel and its usually not in English, but I like it. To have other channels is possible, and its not that much per month for the subscription, but the set up cost is like $3-400 so its a no-go.

And we've reached the most exciting place!! this little door is off to the side of the back door. It has a padlock on it, so I figured it was storage from our landlord....well, to my surprise, it was a little room!! So, it's going to be turned into a little prayer room/office :)
We do have another little sitting area that separates the 2 sides of the house, but I didn't even take a picture because we don't have anything in there except junk we don't know where to put. Also, please notice the lamp in this photo (as well as in my bedroom). I have been searching for lamps for almost a year and I finally came across these-perfect!! I still have a lot of work to do to set up this little room and make it amazing..but it will be :)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Overdose- two in one day!

In an effort to keep my goal of shorter blogs, I’m posting 2 :)
I just can’t seem to get the goal of blogging more often to come to fruition.

KWISHURI- Students are back at school after it being shut down all of last week. “Why? Swine Flue.” (In the words of my principal). Yes, swine flu has entered the country of Rwanda, and we had a few cases among students here. While school was shut down by the Minister of Health, there was a testing site on campus so families could come in and find out who had swine flu. (I had a cold so I was a bit dramatic and went to get tested- came back negative :) )
In other school news, I’m supposed to hire and train 4 reading tutors in the next 3 weeks…pray for applicants.

MURUGO- I’m reading God Work by Randy Harris right now, and I just want to say how elementary school teachers and librarians can tell you that reading a book is like traveling to another place/time- it’s true! I spend the 15 minute Silent Sustained Reading time we have at school and I literally feel like I’m in Abilene, Texas. He’s not really describing the surroundings, so it isn’t quite a visualizing thing…it is more of a mindset. The thoughts I’m having and experiences I’m relating it to make me feel like I’m in a class at ACU again…it is such a “homey” feeling.

NDUMIWE! I’m shocked because I found something incredible. We have a small bedroom on our house we didn’t know about!! When I get around to the picture tour of our house it will for sure be included. I LOVE special “areas”…I’m kind of a spatial person…and I haven’t found any exceptional places in our house yet (especially because I can’t hang up the hammock! uhhh). So, you can imagine that after living in a house for a month I was quite surprised and elated to find this wonderful little room :)

UMUGABO- I’m still pretending that Alpha is my boyfriend, despite the fact that he doesn’t even know my name. He pantomimed for me to call him, so I’m sure it’s love. Now, if I can only track down his digits…

KURIRIMBE- I’ve partially joined an Anglican choir. For anyone who knows me, this is really ridiculous. My accomplice, ishumi Cady, is a full-fledged robe-wearing member. I’m what I consider a participant. We go to practices on Friday, bible study and practice on Saturday, and then early for service on Sunday…and honestly this doesn’t feel like too much commitment- it is the best part of the week! I don’t want to get up in front of the church and sing…so I offered to be a part-time power point slide clicker.

A Few Firsts

I’m going to write this first so that I hold myself to it- I’m going to take a picture tour of our house and post it. (I’ve been waiting until the house looks ready and we situate rooms how they will be, but I’ve just gotta go ahead and do it.)

I wrote an email to some of my friends listing some “firsts” I’ve had since being in Rwanda…so I’m going to include a couple of them here:

-Its my first time to have my own office

-I taught teachers for the first time a few weeks ago. Definitely there were mistakes made-like the fact that I covered way too much in way too short of time using way too complicated terminology and talking way too fast for people who don't
know English that well. But in other aspects it was successful. The electricity went out right before we were about to start and I was SO upset, but then it came back on and I was able to use the powerpoint I had spent a week putting together. Bonus first: using a chalkboard!

-A few weeks ago was "Teacher's Week" so we had soda and cake as a faculty.
They requested that the teacher who had served the longest and the newest teacher be the ones to cut the cake. So, that meant me! I've never cut a cake for an event before. Also, there weren't any cameras or anything, so it felt like we were trying to "create a moment" or something when it really wasn't a big deal. It felt good though- I felt like a part of the team.

-Not last and not least, I have had official quote from the head of the school that he will "make it a point" to introduce me to the First Lady :) That's probably the highest "First" there could be right!(She's on our school board and a very influential person in thecountry!)

-Another incredibly entertaining first is that I was on TV! (Ok- once in elementary school my figure skating was on the public access channel, but that doesn’t count.) A Rwandan won Tusker Project Fame, which is like American Idol for East Africa…and my friend and I went to the welcoming at the airport and a short performance. We were interviewed on Rwanda TV and East Africa TV and Contact FM Radio! Plus, I ended up in a music video too. It is so hilarious. The students and teachers and all my friends keep talking about seeing us on TV...So embarrassing, but fun too!
I also bought a second hand tiny TV with rabbit ears for $100, but it doesn’t work. And all that for only one channel!

That’s my news for now! Please pray for the right reading teaching assistants to turn up and for patience too.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Whole New World

I figure 3 weeks isn't as long as I went last this still counts as improvement!
I'm back in Kigali. Everything is the same, but everything has changed! On one hand, I really feel at home being back in this city. And on the other hand, I'm working at a new school, living in a new house, and starting over with getting used to things that are different.

I'm so happy to be living a less "muzungu" life this year. I'm able to interact so much more with Rwandan people and culture every day! Of course it makes a difference that I work with very very few American colleagues or students. But besides that, let me give an example by contrasting how I get to and from school each day.

Last year: my friend and I shared a car. We drove out of our gate, passing only minimal people in our unpopulated neighborhood. 8 minutes later we arrived at school, greeted the guards, and went to our classrooms.

This year: I walk up a steep dirt hill, pass a few small shops (too early for the PRECIOUS babies to be out! They run up and hug me every time!), pass a church building where people are singing, and as I turn the corner the bike taxis at the top of the hill start raising their hands and patting their seats. I walk up, checking my list of taxi #s (So I switch who I use) and call out the # of the day in kinyarwanda. I then hop on and ride about 5 minutes to "Sonatube" where I greet the MTN airtime salesman who is always standing on the corner in a ripped up yellow jump suit. (His name is Innocent). Then, I get on a bus! I usually read over Kinyarwanda notes or chat with another teacher for the approx 20 min ride to school.

Our house in Kicukiro is great. You might not think it after reading these descriptions: electricity goes out more often, bucket showers are about all I'm getting, it is basically a cockroach hotel, my bedroom is actually the "help's" room, and worst of all it is terribly far from the main road. However, it is wonderful. (I'm finally experiencing culture shock, and this is most definitely the "honeymoon" phase!)

Of course with so much going on, there is always more to tell...but for now I'll just ask for prayers because tomorrow I'm teaching a session on reading to primary school teachers. I was kind of thrown this job, or "opportunity", last week and have found it very challenging to attempt to teach "Reading"(vague!) to teachers coming from many backgrounds and that I barely know.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miracle at Woodbury Lakes

I'm going to write a story of little to no significance. But, I like it. You may think, "Of everything that happened this entire summer, is this really that important?" And trust me, it's not. I just feel like writing it...and I do what I want.

During the past year in Rwanda I've desperately wanted two(ish) things: 1) a pair of wedges 2) a hammock. While it might be expected for me to tell the glorious story of searching for months in every market of Rwanda and Uganda for wedges...nope. [although thanks to my patient brother at the outlet mall and a clearance in Maryland, I will be returning to KGL with 2 pairs of wedges :)]

So here is my story:
When I went to San Antonio, I kept my eyes peeled for a hammock. I can't buy a hammock with a frame or a stand or with wooden rods because, of course, it couldn't be transported easily. I literally took notes on hammocks I saw at Whole Earth, Dick's, and even Bass Pro. Of the "post-less" hammocks I found most were somewhere in the neighborhood of $45 and of significant weight and size. I kept my notes just in my notepad so I'd know what options I had found. I was looking for the perfect hammock...and I was getting discouraged.
Fast forward >>> to Minnesota, mid-summer. I was running a few errands, one of which was looking for a bowl...I had checked a few places and decided to just stop into Kirkland's Home since I was passing by. It turns out they didn't sell bowls there. And, to be honest, I was kind of overwhelmed with how decorative all this house decor was. So I just kept mingling and headed towards the door. When what should my wondering eyes should appear?! A little sign that said "SALE"...and BEHOLD...the sale item was- you guessed it- a HAMMOCK! They were thickly woven cloth and came in a cloth sack complete with a metal hook-thingy to hang it from 2 trees! The sale was a serious deal: only $15! Can you imagine my unutterable surprise when I looked down and saw not only the perfect design, perfect price, but also that the colors were the same as the Rwandan flag?!?! It couldn't be more perfect. Nothing short of a miracle.

Roommates: Start scouting our sturdy vegetation...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chigari On My Mind

I’ve been learning so much in Okotoks with the teachers of early reading intervention. I’m trying to soak up everything while I’m here so I can implement/tweak an effective model once I’m familiar with the students in Kigali.
I’ve been staying at a teacher’s house from the school I’m interning at, and I feel like an addition to the family…and besides the welcoming at this B&B, everyone I’ve met in Canada has been so friendly and helpful. Not a bad place to be, eh?

My mind has been on Kigali so much recently. And I’m looking forward to getting back and settling in again. (Thanks to my great roommates Emily and Marissa, I’ll already have a house to move into late Sept!)
This summer I’ve been so thankful for the precious time I’ve had with family and friends. No number of emails or calls could be traded for being in the presence of someone...although that is not news to anyone. It is a special thing when someone cares to make extra effort to spend time together, and especially when we can pick right back up where we left off even after missing over a year of each other’s lives. You don’t realize how important ya’ll are to me!

A few things I’d like to prioritize:
Being on top of my job: I want to do an excellent job at what I’m doing, so work will be top priority for where my time and energy goes!
Improved blogging: shorter and more consistently! **
Studying Kinyarwanda: (nzashaka umwarimu) If you understand than maybe it could be you! I’d like to spend a lot more time listening/hearing the language. I’d like to use concrete experiences too like going to the market and cooking a meal with someone.
Building friendships: It is too easy to get busy…so it will take intentionality about inviting people over, making plans, and being available for spending time together.
Concentration during prayer: Actually…shout out to Dr. Hood because I was frustrated that my mind kept wandering the other night and I remembered what she tells her Kindergarten Sunday school class, “Get your body ready to pray”…and what a HUGE difference!
Exercise: It seems to take much more effort to make time to exercise in Rwanda…especially when it gets dark so early in the evening…but I’m going to discipline myself somehow!
Getting sleep! This may be the most difficult task of them all...
Nyugwe forest: I think this is top on my list for places I want to go in Rwanda. I’ll be sure to let you know when it happens :)

I’m going to leave the list at that…because remember how one of them is more concise blogs? And I still have to make sure to mention that prayers have been answered for my roommate Cady- and she left for Rwanda today!! Praise God, this was a miracle!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

time flies!

It’s a pretty rainy day here in Minnesota…and I’ve been making lists, reading, and organizing in preparation for the upcoming year. (and drinking Rwanda coffee from Starbucks!) Before leaving Rwanda for the summer, I decided to take a new job at Green Hills Academy.
Green Hills is a school that was started by the First Lady just after the genocide. It is a Rwandan school that hosts nursery through senior 6 (high school) and has around 1500 students. Although GHA is a leading school in terms of the educational options for Rwandans, I will also say that there is room for improvement in educational instruction and, of course, resources. The faculty at GHA recognizes their influence and actively seeks ways to improve what they offer, which is why I am so excited to be a part of beginning a new special program at Green Hills-something that Rwanda hasn’t seen before! (I’ve been told that this will be a first for the country.)

My position at Green Hills is Early Intervention Teacher. My job will be very challenging, but there is strong and positive purpose behind it that will keep me going through difficulties. When talking many many months ago about how to put our passions to use in Rwanda, I shared with a few close friends that I wish I knew how to get involved somewhere to just help kids learn to read because that is something that I care about. Well, now I have the opportunity! When I return to Kigali in September, I will be setting up an intervention program for struggling readers in the early primary grades.

I want to thank all those who have supported me as I’ve been teaching in Rwanda. Your prayers and encouragement have meant so much to me. Also, you know how God has a funny way of reminding us that He is able to do more than we could ever ask or imagine? Well, my excuse in telling Him “no” last Spring about going to Rwanda (which I did for a few months) was that I was worried about finances. But, as you older and wiser friends could have told me before- when God calls, He also provides. So, it is almost humorous to me that as I start this new endeavor, with a year and a half ahead of me, I will continue to be supported through the gifts He provided last year. (this year is similar to last year in that I am working a paid position that covers the majority of my living expenses-just to clarify).

I will be heading back to Kigali in mid-September, and here are a few special prayer requests:
-pray for my great friend Cady who is awaiting treatment of a rare tumor here in the States before she can return to teach in Rwanda
-pray for the people I will hire and train to be the reading tutors because they will be the most influential part of the success of the program
-pray for my own spiritual development in Rwanda and that I will pursue Christ and His presence…and that I would listen to Him better.