As promised…I’ve got some more updates to share.
The end of the semester seemed to come quickly after Thanksgiving break. Although report card time is not as stressful for primary school teachers, I was still feeling the crunch at the end of the term. It was fun to talk about Christmas coming with some many cultures in my room. Each of my kids has had a different experience with “Father Christmas” or other traditions. I was not prepared to answer them when they asked, “Is Santa a real person?” or even how to respond to, “I think Santa and God must be cousins.” One of the best parts of the end of the semester was having parent teacher conferences. I don’t have a chance to talk to parents very often, and it was fun to show them what their child has done in class and to compliment their work.
The best part of my Christmas season was that my wonderful friend Shannon Buchanan came to visit!!! It felt so unreal that I was going to the airport to pick her up- but there she was! It was incredible to have someone so important in my life be able to experience parts of my new life with me. I got to show her my classroom and all our favorite places to hang out. We went for a long walk to the market- which is definitely a sight to see. It was actually emotional to take communion with her at my church here and to worship with her.
Also, our ACU friend, Serge, is from Rwanda and was here visiting at the same time. (I’ll be going to his relative’s wedding wearing traditional dress tonight!) On Sunday of Shannon’s stay here, Serge was gracious enough to take us to two genocide memorial sites. Nyamata and Ntarama are just two of the churches that people sought refuge in during the war. Of course they thought no one could kill inside a church, so they went there to be safe. On our way we crossed over a river that was famous for having bodies dumped in it during the war.
Nyamata was the first, and it was an open church building with rows of benches. Every bench was covered by stacks of clothing that was found on the people killed inside this church. It also had a case of skulls and two underground places (I don’t know what to call them). We walked down the steps and it was cool because we were underground and there were just caskets right there on the shelves. We were told that each one had many skulls inside, not full bodies. The next underground place had some caskets and then also just whole shelves filled with skulls. They weren’t in a case or anything- we were just standing inches away from people’s skulls. I just couldn’t stay down there, so I walked back out. It is strange because for me to walk away may be seen as a sign of respect or contemplation or understanding of the tragedy if I were at something like this at home. But here, people have had to see many dead bodies and limbs and then it just seems like we ‘can’t stomach it.’ So, after all they’ve seen and experienced, it seems like I should be able to handle just seeing some neat rows of skulls.
Ntarama was definitely an experience. This church was the place where Serge and his grandmother went to seek refuge. He said that if the faces were on all the skulls (there was another shelf of skulls) that he would recognize every one. There were clothes hanging on the walls, and a stack of foam mattresses people had brought with them. There was a shelf of items like cups and bowls and a shelf with only shoes on it. Serge showed us the place he sat with his grandmother when they came. He told us that he heard them coming and then when they attacked, his grandmother died, and he ran out the door and headed for the bush. He was being shot at as he ran away, and he was just 8 years old. While he was telling us the story, he was standing by the bench he had been at, which is just a few steps from the doorway. The doorway doesn’t actually have a door, its just an opening. And inside the church didn’t have any lights except for the sun coming in the windows. So to see Serge standing there in the dark church, with this bright doorway next to him that he escaped from was really remarkable. Although the church itself was not much larger than maybe the size of a school classroom in the states, there were around 5,000 people who were on the compound who were killed that day.
I have more to write about, but I think this might be a good place to break it up into two entries.