Friday, June 28, 2013

Random Reminisces of a PCV

Part of my job as a Peace Corps Volunteer is facilitating clubs at the school where I teach. This has required a lot of persistence. The goal of Peace Corps is sustainable development. That means that the work that I do should continue to have an impact even after I leave Rwanda. We want to enable host country nationals to develop skills that they can continue to use throughout their lives rather than make them dependent on foreign aid. So when I run club meetings, I always try to imagine how things will continue once I leave the school where I teach. Will the students continue to meet? Will they be able to continue doing the same kinds of activities that I prepare for them?

The most successful club so far that I am facilitating is the English club called Club SPEAK. We do many different activities to promote the improvement of English speaking and writing skills, but by far the most popular activity is debate. Rwandan students love to organize debates. Every time Club SPEAK holds a debate you can find a classroom packed beyond capacity and students crowding outside the windows to listen in. It's a great way for students to practice speaking English and it promotes critical thinking. And the topics have even matured over time. While the first few debates were over topics like "Fire is better than water", this year my students have debated more serious topics like the outsourcing of jobs and gender equality in education. I am proud to say that my students are scheduled to travel to another school to debate the students there next weekend. This debate has been suggested and organized primarily by students as I try to do as little of the required work as possible in order to push the students to take initiative. It has been incredible to see some of these students step up and take on leadership.

Another activity that has been widely praised is the school newspaper. All students in the school, and even the teachers and administrators really enjoy reading the school newspaper. However, this activity has its own unique problems, including the amount of time required which takes time out of other activities, addressing plagiarism, writing quality reports over gossip, and trying to ensure the sustainability of the project. As I said before, the goal is for this club to continue operating after I leave the country. This means that I have been making fewer revisions before publication and giving more control to students throughout the entire process. I have embedded the three issues released so far below. You can see the shift in quality over time, but I would say that it is still a very good student-run newspaper.

Now for some photos!

In Rwanda, students like to write messages to the teacher at the end of a quiz. I photographed some of the messages and posted them below. Picasa now uploads to Google Plus, so I am no longer able to make slideshows. Guess I should start using Flickr?

Ubugari is a staple food in Rwanda made from cassava flour. The cassava root is dried and pounded into a flour. The flour is then added to boiling water and stirred until it forms into a ball of paste. If you have ever had tapioca pudding or boba (bubble tea), you have had cassava root.

Ubugari is usually eaten with some type of sauce, usually beans or a vegetable cooked with peanut flour. I like to spice up my sauces. This sauce is made with intorgi (small, bitter eggplants), peanut flour and curry. To eat, you pull off a small piece of ubugari, roll it between your fingers, flatten it and use it to scoop up some sauce.

The cell office next door put up a Rwandan flag. It adds a nice touch to the already beautiful view at the end of the road leading to my house.

When you stay in a hotel in Rwanda they usually provide you with flip-flops (which they call slippers) for walking from your room to the shower rooms. These are the mismatched slippers that were in one of the rooms that I stayed in. I'm pretty sure they were made for little girls.

Some items from a care package. Yes, I know it's ironic to get alcohol, pretzels and M&M's in the same package with protein powder!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post. It's been a long time, so I tried to pack it with as much as I could!

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