Let me start by saying thank you to all the people who have sent me encouraging messages this past week- I really appreciate your kindness! It has been a struggle but I am slowly getting back into my normal rhythm and feeling much happier. The title of this blog means “slowly, slowly” and is a common saying in Rwanda and applicable to my current situation. Transitioning back into my life in the village after my trip home for my grandmother’s funeral was much harder than I anticipated, but I finally feel like I have my grounding again.
It wasn’t easy and on one particular evening I spent almost an hour crying to my mom about how I wanted to come home. Earlier in the week I had another negative interaction with my headmistress, somehow managed to yet again transfer flees from my latrine to my bed, and my students were unruly and disruptive enough that I couldn’t imagine teaching for another six months. Luckily for me I have a wonderful mother who sat and listened to me complain and beg to come home and reassured me that my time in Rwanda was not yet finished. She encouraged me to make a list of everything I wanted to do before I left Rwanda. I made the list and it is extraordinarily long and I am not sure if I can complete it all in six months, which makes the time seem shorter. She also told me that I need to start doing things every day that make me happy, and even when I really want to stay in my house, that is the time when I need to find fun activities to keep my mind occupied. So that has been my big goal this week and it has been a wonderful few days. I don’t expect the rest of my service to be a walk in the park, but I do plan on making the most of every day I live in Rwanda. When I sat down to think about it I realized how incredibly blessed I am to have this opportunity and even on the worst of days I am lucky to be here.
I changed my lesson plans for the week to make them really fun instead of the normal grammar and conjugating exercises. One day we played charades to practice learning new verbs and even though it took forever to explain when they finally understood they loved it! I also had a reading hour and brought in books for the kids to read. Through kind donations from a college professor and my mother I have enough books for every child to have one, which greatly diminishes my stress level since they fight less, and they really enjoyed the class. I started each lesson by asking the class why they think that books are important. I called on students to write their answers on the board and to add to the experience I let them write in colored chalk, it was quite the thrill! The answers were all really great except the one that says, “going to the market it provide money.” No idea how that relates to reading but she was proud of her answer and I didn’t want to squash her confidence by erasing her contribution. Also keep in mind that the kids frequently substitute the letters “l” and “r” for each other and that is why one of the answers reads, “it helps to stole information” instead of “helps to store information.”
It was a really fun day and the kids especially loved the books about animals (sharks and wolves were the most popular) and the Olivia books caused riots of laughter. I guess the idea of a pig dressed as a little girl and going to school was just too much for them. One girl cried because she was laughing so hard. It was awesome. Here are some shots of the kids enjoying the books:
I have spent a lot of time visiting with Mama JoJo and cuddling with her youngest, Tom. I love his little feet in this picture! As my mom reminded me in my time of darkness, I am happiest when I spend time with babies and children so I have been trying to fill my days with kiddos!
The preschool class at the orphanage:
Spending quality time with Delphine:
It is sad that the orphanage lost a lot of kids but it has enabled me to spend more one-on-one time with the kids that are there. I recently took Delphine with me to the nearest village to buy phone credit. We held hands the entire way and she told me all about her school, her favorite subjects, and what she hopes to study in secondary school. When we arrived at the boutique I bought my phone minutes and gave her a small coin to buy some candy or crackers. She chose crackers and happily enjoyed them on the walk back to the orphanage. When we got closer I told her we could walk slowly so she could finish and in response she put a stack of the crackers in her jacket pocket. I asked her if she wanted to save them for later and she replied, “No, they are for Gemy and Zach.” It was so sweet that she was willing to share her treat with the other kids. It continues to humble me how caring and selfless people here can be, even a child living in an orphanage.
Some cute primary school boys I met on my walk home:
My goal for now is just to take it one day at a time and focus on being grateful for my experience, the good and the bad. Buhoro, Buhoro!