Saturday, January 28, 2012
When we returned from our jog, I went to the mess hall where the students shared some porridge with me. Porridge is more of a beverage than a meal. As I sipped it from a mug I imagined that I was drinking a liquid corn tortilla.
After breakfast was Umuganda, the required community service that takes place the last Saturday of every month in Rwanda. But on the way to Umuganda, I noticed a group of students going into a compound. I entered to see what they were doing.
As I stepped through the gate, I saw a field leading up to a large ramshackle house with a fireplace on its exterior. Two small cows grazed the property, which was bounded by a brick wall at its perimeter. In one corner stood a water tank; in another, stables for cows. I joined my students in exploring the area.
It was apparent that the house had been first-rate at one time. Someone important had once lived here. As we wandered through the stables, the courtyard, and the house, one of my students explained to me that the property was once owned by the man who founded our school. But now he is in prison in a neighboring country for crimes which he committed during the genocide.
Exploring the compound brought back memories of the disc golf course in Washington that I visited with my dad and brother-in-law just before coming to Rwanda. The course was built on the grounds of an abandoned insane asylum. The old buildings there had become legendary and a place for teenagers to explore and to scare each other in. This compound in Rwanda has its own legend. According to my students, the former owner buried a large sum of money somewhere on the premises before he was taken away to face trial, but it has never been found.
My community is littered with abandoned buildings like this. In my mind, it is a physical manifestation of a society trying to rebuild itself. I get a sense that, much like these buildings, many people here feel torn down. We are here to help them build themselves back up.
Some people call the subject of the genocide “the ghost in the room.” You might go about your entire day without noticing it. And most days you won’t. People do not talk about it often, but it is on everyone’s mind. Yet, I am so impressed with the ability of the Rwandan people to move on and take such strides forward in development after such a terrible event.
Walking through that old, run-down house reminded me of something my headmaster told me one night over dinner: “People were killed in this school during the genocide.” Great dinner conversation! And now I know not only that people were killed here, but also that they were killed by the very man who ran the school. What an abominable man! I noticed that the closets in that man’s house were the same style as the one in my room. It brings these questions floating back up into my head: Was anyone killed in this room I sleep in? Did anyone try hiding in that closet? But the fact that I still have to wonder is an indication of Rwanda’s ability to pull together the pieces that remain and rebuild them into something that only vaguely resembles the split society it once was. Turi kumwe. We are together.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
“Money makes a good servant, but not a good master.”
“A person cannot improve the standard of living of their family without money.”
“Man makes money, but money does not make a man.”
“A poor family has no respect.”
Saturday night, Club Speak had their first debate. The topic was “Money is more important than family.” I acted as Corrector, which meant that I sat between the two sides and listened to their arguments while taking notes on any mistakes that they made in pronunciation, sentence structure, or the clarity of their messages. At the end of the debate, I shared these mistakes with those participating and gave them tips on how to improve their English. I had a lot of fun participating in this event and I’m looking forward to future debates.
Even though they were speaking English, sometimes it seemed as if the debaters were speaking a foreign language. It is strange how people learning a language together can make sense to each other, and yet, even as a native English speaker, I was sometimes unable to determine what was being said. They use sentence structures and accents that make sense to each other, but not to a native English speaker. It’s almost as if they are speaking a third language, somewhere in between English and their native language. But that is why I am here: to expose my students to American English so that they can one day communicate with others outside of their country.
I was going to go to church Sunday morning (I swear!) but I had no water to bathe with, so I stayed home and cooked beans. Cooking beans can take half a day. I also read three books.
And I made tortillas and assembled some bean burritos! These babies are 100% hand-made. No measurements, no rolling pin. Now I’m cooking like my granny used to. She didn’t have recipes to tell her how much of what to use. She only had her own experience. Food is art!
Yesterday I was told that I will be teaching a class today. I didn’t have a lesson planned, so I just marched into the classroom and started talking to the students. I introduced myself and had them make nametags so that I could call on them by name when they asked me questions. I wasn’t planning to stay long since I didn’t have a lesson, but the hour was up before I knew it. By the last five minutes of class I found myself giving a crash lecture on marketing. I guess I’m more ready to teach than I thought I was! I just hope my students are this attentive for the whole term.
As usual, I have some photos for your viewing pleasure. Mostly of food, but you know where my priorities are. But my camera does not get out much because it is very conspicuous. But I promise one of these days I will sneak it out and get some more photos outside. Anyways, enjoy!
My electric water kettle, preparing some hot water for hot chocolate. I’ve got the perfect ratio down: 4 scoops Ovaltine, 1 scoop powdered milk, 1 scoop sugar.
Ramen noodles and orange juice. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I see no problem here.
A teaching aid I put together for teaching on giving speeches.
I was at the field one day playing football and one of the village boys came up to me and gave me a light bulb as a gift. The most worthless items become invaluable with a little sentiment.
Grease! My taste buds thank me, but my arteries hate me. We’ll see how my stomach feels tomorrow. The string beans reminded me of eating fried okra back home.