It’s a small world after all. Though I’m not entirely sure why, I have a tendency to run into people I know all over the world, and in this small country, thousands of miles from New England, I ran my college friend Devin, in Kigali City Centre! Devin attended Bates College, and we have many mutual friends, as we used to compete in cross country. She was in Africa for a short time with her coworker Simone, so Emily and I hung out with the two of them for a while at Kigali City Tower last weekend.
Last week felt very long, as we slowly adjusted to the new routine of heading to Notre Dame des Anges daily. On Monday, there was a special Genocide Remembrance event, to which I will devote a separate post. It was in honor of the children who died, and there were many spectacular performances with thousands of children in attendance. Overall, the week was stressful and tiring as we attempted to figure out a curriculum with the teachers at the school. Both the Rwandans and Americans are experiencing an adjustment period for understanding each other’s cultures, languages, and curriculum methods. The school curriculum in Rwanda is rigorous and very well outlined, but the resources are scarce. After a lot of troubleshooting, we are hopefully making progress. The children, on the other hand, are still wicked excited to see us every single day! I’m wondering when the honeymoon period will end, when we will no longer be bombarded by hugs and handshakes in the school yard. Apparently there is no end in sight. I won’t complain though!
The most astounding observation so far has been the students’ enthusiasm for reading. Last week, I found three Berenstein Bears books for the P5 class, and the students automatically arranged themselves into three tight knit groups surrounding each text and excitedly took turns reading aloud. Yesterday Sr. Anna took us to Rwanda’s first public library. It was quite nice for a developing country, but relatively pathetic by US standards. It reminded me of a small university library, though the organization and card catalog system was appalling. For instance, I found Harry Potter books scattered throughout four different sections. (Dewey Decimal system anyone? Last time I checked Harry Potter was fantasy, not political science.) Miraculously, I found ten Magic Tree House books which my P4 classes LOVE! Four of the girls approached me at break today and asked if they could read the books during their recess. Talk about dedication…
Outside of the classroom we have been meeting many people and traveling! One of our friends from the Pallotti Centre, Prosper, invited us to his father-in-law’s place up the street for a party with some Americans. Upon entering the yard, I could understand why he was so adamant about bringing us to attend; we met 19 Americans, including a priest who had graduated from Boston College! Last night we attended a “Patron Saint Day” celebration for one of our priest friends, Jean Pierre. This party was slightly different than the first, and we were very obviously the only laity among a giant gathering of Pallotine priests, seminarians, and nuns. They gave us more beer than we ever could have wanted, and promptly helped us discern our vocations with questions such as, “Will you be a Pallotine nun? Will you marry a Rwandan man?” In true Rwandan fashion we answered as ambiguously as possible.
And speaking of Rwandan culture, I must add another hilarious note about the week… I introduced P4 and P5 to the concept of a debate as a potential way to practice English discussion skills. When we were brainstorming topics to argue, a common topic in many classes was “Dog vs Cow.” I’ve never heard that comparison before, but in a land where cows are valuable and cats are scarce, why not?