Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Absolute Favorite Thing in the World

Eleanor Roosevelt Sings:

Mana Nkuko Wafashaga

Mana nkuko wasfashaga
Niko natwe uza dupacha
Mumyaka iri mbere

Umuyaga wi shuhe ri
Uzatubere ubuturo
Budashira iteka

Ker abo kwiringiraga
Bari mumohoro
Tugupite ntitwifuza
Undi murengezo

Yes, I know you can't see anything.  This is the lighting in the village.  It's light without light.  I can't explain it, but Rwandans can see by it.  The point is just to hear it.  They sing like this a lot, especially before we pray and it's beautiful and amazing and easy and not given a care by them.  This is my favorite song they sing and I asked them to sing it to me on our last family time together as a family this year.  I cried and cried.

We also discussed some great memories from the year, and they gave me beautiful handmade cards and an incredible clock that you'll be sure to see if you are ever in my home.  The girls danced for me, and sang and gave speeches of thanks.  Everyone.  I gave farewell remarks as well, but I can;t remember what I was saying, only trying to talk through the tears.

It was a sad night, but my thinking on it now is that it's really great to have a sad night that was planned and expected and not a trauma of any kind.  It's life.  It's natural. Comeza.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Diva: Violette in the Fashion Show

Thanks to fellow cousin Isabel for these much improved photos of Violette at the fashion show:

Nothing on this is sewn. It is pinned together from flat sheets of fabric that will amazingly be whipped into the next dress when the pins come out.  The kids do all this themselves from pieces of plain, loose fabric.

Rwanda's Next Top Model anyone?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I'm supposed to feel like a car is running over my disemboweled guts, right?

There is a whole lot of saying goodbye going on.  (Some of the kids are leaving on Saturday.)

Is this what happens if you work in a high school at the end of the year, that you just feel like you can't breathe and the wind has been knocked out of you 100 times a day?  There have been a lot of tears and this is just the beginning.  I am thinking all the time of ways to stay here, ways to kidnap kids and smuggle them home in my carry-on.  Maybe I will tie myself to the mango tree.  I just do not know.  I am in a panic. 

Here's some pics from one of the goodbye parties:

This is Maxime.  You would not believe his back story. He is very lucky to be alive.  Now, he is first student in his class, the best traditional dancer in a troupe that placed second in the nation, a singer-song writer who won first place in the nation for his original song, the winner of a nation-wide young Entrepreneurship contest and the leader of the school Islamic group.  We talk business and music a lot and he is one of my heroes.  I look forward to working for him one day:

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet your future leader and his #1 fan

You might remember Fidele from the Tutoring Club Party fame.  He is also a badass modern dancer that apparently is not bound by the laws of  gravity.  Sorry about the shitty camera work.  I was freaking out because he's so amazing and because I love him so much:

Oh man, this is Julien and Jeannine (G9).  She is the point guard for the basketball team and third in her class.  Julien plays football and this is him at a party (note holding the econ book):
Julien knows how to party

Jeannine trying to get him to have some fun
He studies ALL THE TIME. He likes to tease me.  (I cannot tell you how rare this is in the village. )

This is Ferdinand Mundial.  He is an amazing rapper, modern and traditional dancer, traditional arts and crafts weaver and he started a program to teach science to other kids called "Did You Know?"  Mundial has me researching human trafficking in a lot of detail.  Lynn, can you let me know if Arts Together needs an amazing dance instructor and can sponsor a visa?
G9 and Mundial

Mundial, Me and Julien

This is a terrible photo, because everyone was moving quickly and it was dark, but my very own little Violette from Eleanor Roosevelt was a model in a fashion show.  She did not even look like the same kid. She was so poised and confident.  It was a long runway and she never broke her model glare or gait.

Rwanda's Next Top Model?

Final runway pass with an escort

This is Maurice.  I never had a little brother before, but now I do.  (Amy, he reminds me so much of Simon. You'll just have to trust me.)  Maurice is able to get under my skin more effectively than any child in the village. 

This is me and Serge.  (His rap name is O2.)  He is first in his class and in my heart (Serge does practice math SATs on Fridays for fun "to relax".  He is trying to build an ethanol lab that processes cassava.)
We were laughing so hard it took 10 tries to get this 'serious' one.

This is more like it. He might be the most considerate kid in the village.

This is the Smart Kids Speaking Lots of English Group that I formed.  We debated Syrian airstrikes and school uniforms among other things.  These kids are the future of ASYV and the future of Rwanda for sure.  Needless to say, they were articulate enough that the goodbye speeches left me crying for hours.  
Maxime, Brigitte, Henry, Eunice, Ornella and Eric

It's been a hard year at times, and it's far from over but it must have been amazing if I'm so sad to say goodbye to these kids that are leaving soon.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tutoring Club Year End Party

Sometimes I am surprised.  That's happened more here this year than usual.

So third term exams have finished and we're in the grading week.  Some of the kids will be leaving next Saturday.  (I CANNOT believe how quickly the year has gone, and I'm devastated I'll be saying goodbye to 6 Eleanor Roosevelt cousins in just a few days.)  Some Enrichment year and all of Senior 6 will be sticking around another few days for some exams.

There are many end of year functions to say goodbye for the year and farewell to the graduating Sr. 6 students.

This Sunday was the Tutoring Club Year End Fete.  I ended up having an amazing time. This was a surprise.

There's a lot of things I love about the village, but clubs are not in that set.  Clubs aren't really what you would expect if you think of high school clubs in the US.  Clubs here meet once per week. (Mondays from 7-7:50 PM) and kids don't choose the club, they get assigned.  So you end up with kids who don't really want to be there and who don't really have much at stake.  Compare this mandatory 50 minutes to my high school club experiences (debate and theatre) where I spent many hours with people I loved working on things I chose, and it's not really a fair comparison.  The tutoring club encourages studying, best study strategies and facilitates pairing kids who need help in a subject with someone who can provide it.  It is not that exciting as extracurricular activities go.  By the time you settle in to the meeting and take attendance, there's time for one or two items.  As a club we weren't exactly world beaters.  We posted inspirational quotes.  We researched modern learning methods and tried to explain them to the school (deep learning by making connections, not rote memorization).  We organized students into study groups. I felt sometimes like the club was not accomplishing that much.

That said, I now realize that some things happened that were great.  I had an excuse to meet with 16 Sr. 5 kids once a week and practice our English.  We had a topic to discuss (tutoring).  The kids got practice running meetings, setting agendas, reviewing action items.  The kids debated their suggestions and chose a course of action when they reached consensus.  Our president gained confidence in leading and in delegating. They are things maybe I took for granted.  These are just kids, and not kids who've had the chance to be in many different organizations before Agahozo.

This Sunday the club planned the end of year party.  There was a large event in the village (3000 trees were planted with hundreds of visitors from the Rwandan office of immigration).  That event ran over a few hours so when it was time for our party (3:00 - 4:00 PM) the kids were all still eating lunch.  At 3:50 or so when the president, Claire, came to find me I asked her if she even wanted to do it, or if things were to busy in the village.  I didn't think the party would be that big a deal and it was already way past the scheduled time.  She was adamant.  I went to the orange clubhouse and slowly things started to take shape. I brought juice and ground nuts (aka peanuts) to the party as instructed (that I had gone to Kigali to get the day before).

The kids had organized other refreshments (chapati and sambusas [with meat!] and we had the juice and ground nuts).  There was a strict protocol (of course, Rwanda!) with an emcee calling on the president to review the year, the former president as the guest of honor and even me to give some advice.  I was shocked that I was presented with a gift (a beautiful woven traditional trivet and a cute makeup bag from traditional fabric).  Last year's president, a kid I adore named Emmanuel gave a wonderful speech about what his time here at ASYV had meant to him.  There was a DJ.  There was dancing and good cheer.  The kids went around in a circle and all said one thing they learned from the club. Everyone had a great time.  I cried in my goodbye speech.

Okay so I can be a hard woman.  The club didn't cure hepatitis or build jet packs or change educational standards nationwide.  That wasn't the point of the club.  The club created some additional focus on academics in the village.  I got to know 16 kids I wouldn't have interacted with much otherwise, and we practiced English, how to run a club and how to cooperate.  I learned a lot more than I thought I did.

Here is about 1% of the photos taken at this event:

Fidele presenting me with a gift

Fidele, me, Julius and Emmanuel

Chipati & Sambusas  for the party

Fidel enjoys juice and chipati

Me, President Claire and Julius, the event Emcee

Emmanuel and Fidele toast with some juice

Patrick and Emmanuel

Aminudab, Me and Claire

Jackie, Emmanuel, Claire, Me andAminudab

Me and Fidele

Claire and Me

Claire, me and Fidele

Patrick and Me

ASYV 2013 Tutoring Club

Tutoring Club Ballers: Aminudab, Fidele, Julius and Emmanuel

Party breaks out

Monday, October 7, 2013

Activities Abound for the Enrichment Year kids at ASYV

It's been a busy weekend.  The Ishema Grade (Enrichment Year) put on their own village time.  It was great, one of the best village times all year. The kids danced, sang, performed poems, a stand-up comedy routine and a long fashion show.  Eleanor Roosevelt was well represented with Ornella & Adelaide serving as emcees for the event, Happyness singing a solo, Happyness & Yvonne dancing with the drama group and Alice and Violette modeling in the fashion show.

It is pretty hard to photograph village time because the distance and the dark and the speed at which the kids are moving, so this is what you get.  Sorry.

Happyness singing a gospel song with the preparations for the art show in the background.

Here's the whole drama group dancing to a gospel song, Yvonne is in the front in the orange and Happyness is in the black and white.  Happyness choreographed the whole dance.

Yvonne and Happyness zoom.  I love the shadows in the background.

Also, we had 3 baptisms in the family.  Happyness, Agnes and Josiane were baptized on Sunday in a Protestant ceremony.  There was a celebration after back at the village at our house and the kids who were baptized were allowed to invite guests.  Happyness had an aunt and uncle came, and Josiane's mom came, but no one came for Agnes and she cried and cried the whole day.  

Happyness singing in the Eleanor Roosevelt family house after the baptism
Here's Josiane and her Mom, who travelled a long distance to be at the celebration, and Yvonne to the right.

Here's Josiane small trying to comfort Agnes on a hard day

Here's Grace, Happines and Yvonne clowning around after the guests left the party.
I was in and out of the celebration with some kind of stomach spasms.  Thanks WebMD symptom checker for giving me 18 options from shingles to colon cancer.  It said it was most likely the flu but I haven't been sick with vomiting or fever, just crazy stomach contractions.  My guess is something from the movie Alien. I'll keep you posted.

Zanzibar Throwback Post

So, this is out of order (from August) , but I never told you about the cool old wooden doors in Stonetown.  These are on the fronts of most businesses and hotels.  They're only decorative now, but the story is that they were to discourage elephants from ramming in the doors.

Also, here's one of the saddest things I've seen all year.  I think you know how I feel about snickers bars.  They have been a major part of my survival this year when almost all the other foods I like are hard to find.  This is a photo of a *dedicated snicker's refrigerator* in the Dar Airport waiting area cafe.  Imagine my excitement upon seeing it (from a distance) and then my disappointment when up close I learn it contains 2 bounty bars and nothing else. Letdown central.  

You can see me taking the photo in the reflection of the empty fridge. That's my look of total disgust.