One of main goals of the Peace Corps program is to share American culture with your host community and the nuns frequently ask me about American music, movies, dress, dancing, and food. Even though I have never been a talented cook it has been a really fun experience to share American food with them. Since there is a large European influence in this particular congregation (there are even nuns from Belgium in Kigali) my nuns are particularly fond of chocolate and cheese. My first dish that I made for them was macaroni and cheese and it went over very well and they have since replicated the dish themselves without my help. My plan for yesterday was to make chocolate covered apples but it due to limited storage and cooling resources the recipe evolved into more of a fondue dish. Apples are pretty hard to find in Rwanda since they are imported and only sold in Kigali but I was able to track some down and for chocolate I simply melted candy bars (one pot of white chocolate and one with milk chocolate). I was feeling rather artistic when it came to arranging the apples and chocolate and the nuns were very impressed and now have the impression that I know much more than I really do about cooking- this could be bad or good- I guess we will see!
I feel so incredibly blessed to have this amazing community of nuns that are constantly offering me love and support. We have lots of fun together and they are always willing to help me practice my Kinyarwanda and French. One of my favorite parts of the day is walking to dinner each night around 7pm. The nuns are usually still in the chapel that is right next to my house and I can hear them signing as I walk to the area where we eat. I tend to get there early so I set the table and then sit and listen to them sing. The head nun caught me reading the Bible in French the other night and declared that it was my week to pray before dinner. It was a little overwhelming to lead the prayer session and read in French in front of everyone but it was a good experience and my prayer responsibilities are now finished for a few weeks at least!
The nuns had a big party on New Years Day that was pretty fantastic! They invited the 23 nuns from their congregation who live in Kigali (including two nuns who are from Belgium) and we had a great big party under a massive white tent in the garden. There were multiple moments when I sat back and looked around and really couldn’t believe that this is my life. One of the highlights of the party was the skit that some of the nuns preformed. One of the nuns from Belgium was even dressed up and Santa Clause which was hilarious!
There was lots of singing, dancing and wonderful food. They let me help some in the kitchen the day of the party but after I almost cut my finger off slicing potatoes they gave me little jobs like carrying dishes outside or adding salt to things. I wasn’t too sad because the whole method of cutting things here really freaks me out. They hold the item they are cutting in their hand and then cut until the knife hits their palm. The knives are relatively blunt but every time I attempt to cut like that I have images of me cutting my entire hand off and all that blood would certainly ruin whatever dish I was preparing.
I am getting nervous since school starts on Monday and I will officially be a teacher! I have spent the past few days preparing lesson plans and activities and trying to decipher the curriculum that the ministry of education published for the grade that I will be teaching. I think it is absolutely fantastic that they have a curriculum that all schools in Rwanda can follow but there are some issues with it that can be frustrating. For example, here are some of the goals listed for the level I will teach:
– Produce sound and sound combinations peculiar to English
– Listen consciously
– Develop the art of conversation
– Use the appropriate register
– Use figurative language
– Recognize idiomatic spoken language
– Use the correct stress, rhythm and intonation
– Sensitively perceive the relationship between sounds and meaning
– Sensitively relate sound to meaning in her/his own performance
– Judge and interpret the effectiveness of oral communication
– Improve reading habits
The curriculum can be frustrating to go through because it is rather vague and doesn’t really provide any helpful material to aid teachers as they develop their plan for the year.
Then there are even more specific objectives like this one:
– Increase reading speed from 200 W.PM. to about 300 W.P.M
This is confusing to me- does it mean I should be testing my students on how fast they can read when they struggle to use basic introductions? The one thing that I am sure of is that the first few weeks will be quite the adventure as I attempt to navigate my role as an American teacher within the Rwandan education system.
As I continue to explore my community I am constantly amazed with just how beautiful this country is! Here are a few pictures from my latest walk- they are not the best quality images because it was a cloudy day but I wanted you to get a taste of where I live.