I have to start with a story about the end of my day because it is just too fantastic not to share. Arriving home after 6 hours of teaching and a teacher’s meeting that lasted almost 4 hours I was so very excited to just get inside my room, kick off my shoes, and hide away under my bug net to watch Rent. Much to my dismay when I went to open my door part of the key broke off leaving me with a small metal stick that turned out to be a rather useless key. I was so upset with the turn of events that I tried desperately to open my door with this small metal stick despite the fact that I knew it wouldn’t work. In my state of delusional desperation I may have also tried to fashion a key out of a pen and a bobby pin that I ripped out of my tangled hair. It wasn’t pretty, or logical for that matter, but desperate times call for desperate measures. After a few moments of trying to open my door with a pen I admitted defeat and headed out to find a nun to help me. I would have called my headmistress but my phone was sadly locked inside so I walked to the common room and found another teacher, Sister Martha, who agreed to postpone her afternoon tea to come help me break into my own room. After taking a few moments to evaluate the situation Martha declared that the only solution was to go in through the window. I tried to explain to her that it might be a better idea to just find the convent’s handyman, but by the time I had finished talking Martha was already testing the structural integrity of my window frame to see if her idea was a suitable option. She seemed immensely pleased that the rotting wood didn’t appear to present a problem and promptly began to brake apart my wooden window frame. At this point my headmistress, Espérance, showed up and I was nervous that she would be upset with the fact that Martha was blatantly destroying convent property. To the contrary, Espérance jumped right in and ripped the screen off with her bare hands while also wiping away dirt and an obscene amount of spiders as if it was nothing. After the entire window frame and screen had been disassembled and scattered on the lawn Martha went to fetch a chair so that I could climb through the window. This entire ordeal was so ridiculous that we all couldn’t help laughing as I climbed through my own window, Martha holding the unstable lawn chair I was balanced on while Espérance called for the handyman to come rebuild the frame. I arrived safely inside and located my spare key and returned my worthless metal stick back to Espérance. While the men started to fix my window I sat on my bed and took a moment to reflect on just how easy it was to break into my own house- it was a little unsettling to think about! Luckily I live in the heart of the convent and I feel as though I am very safe and well protected (despite the fact that 2 nuns had just destroyed my window in under a minute) and I truly believe that I have nothing to worry about.
Other news- the teachers decided today that I am a philosopher and they now refer to me as “Suzanna the philosopher.” At the start of our teacher’s meeting we had bread and milk (although the milk was warm and chunky so I opted for a Fanta instead) and then proceeded to eat in complete silence. I was a little bored so I took out a notebook and was making notes about my lesson for tomorrow when I realized that the teachers were talking about me. They declared that the only people who have so many thoughts that they must eat and write at the same time are philosophers so I therefore must be one.
Here are some other highlights from the meeting:
• While in the midst of a heated debate (in Kinyarwanda) about how to convey objectives to students at the start of each lesson Espérance informed the other teachers that they could use me as an example since my lesson plans are perfect. She has only seen one of my lesson plans and I am sure that the other teacher’s loved having me used as a reference for perfection. Collette, a biology teacher sitting next to me, would lean over to translate things every once in a while. At this moment she informed me that while most the teachers mess this part up I am “the great exception” and everyone should look to me for help. This is pretty crazy because my lesson plans, while I spend lots of time on them, are often chaotic and disorganized. The Rwandan teachers follow a strict organizational system and it was really uncomfortable to have her use me as a shinning example for lesson planning when many of them are much better than me. To sum it up it was awkward and I just nervously laughed it off while all the teachers stared at me.
•Before the meeting started Collette asked me why I don’t try putting my hair in “many small braids” like one of the other teachers does. I said that it would not look very good on me but she informed me that small braids would actually look “quite lovely around my fat face.” I really wanted to slap her but she wasn’t being mean, it was simply a thoughtful recommendation. Resisting the urge to stab her with my pen I told her with a smile that I would consider the small braids and she was very pleased.
•Towards the end of the meeting the teachers got on the subject of our white coats. All the teachers at my school (and most teachers in Rwanda) wear white lab coats while they teach. They are actually pretty convenient because you can store chalk and pens in the pockets and it helps to keep the dust off of your clothes. As an added bonus it makes me feel more important and official. I am not sure what the original topic was pertaining to the coats but eventually the subject turned to the fact that I look like a doctor in my coat. After being told that braids would really look nice with my fat face hearing that I looked like a doctor was a very nice compliment indeed! When I mentioned to Collette that I actually planned on being a doctor when I returned to America she promptly informed the entire room. While they were initially pleased with this career choice the conversation quickly turned very serious due to their concerns that I would not have time to find a husband and be a doctor. The head teacher proposed that perhaps I should wait to find a husband before I start medical school because 23 isn’t really that young and marriage is a priority above all else. I assured him that marriage and children would happen eventually which seemed to make him feel a little better. At one point I sat back and watched with a mixture of amusement and slight annoyance as a room full of teachers (all of whom are pretty much still strangers) debated my future career plans and discussed how it really is so tragic that I am still single. I have always been pretty confident that I will eventually find the love of my life but listening to them discuss how I am hopelessly single for over 20 minutes made me a little paranoid that maybe I should start accepting some of their blind date proposals! Upon reflection I think I will wait it out a little longer and continue to pray that Mr. Right will magically find me. If you are single and looking to feel insecure and have your love life (or lack of one) scrutinized by 15 people during a formal meeting- Rwanda is the place to be! 🙂
As random note, my students have started a new habit of cheering and clapping when I leave or enter a room. I am not really sure what started this, and it is probably really annoying for the other teachers, but I kind of like it. As much as Peace Corps volunteers like to complain about being trapped in a fish bowl 24/7 it is also kind of fun to be a celebrity. My kids are slowly getting used to my style and today, as a reward for good behavior after a week of issues (these kids are seriously chatty and it drives me crazy) I let them listen to Justin Bieber. He is not necessarily my number one choice for music but the kids (and adults) here go crazy for him. It is really hilarious to see my older boys, who all think that they are way too cool for school, dancing around the classroom singing out, “Baby, baby, baby.” One day I will need to get a video of this because it is really the funniest thing I have seen in a while.
It also rained for the first time in a long time and it was wonderful! I forgot how nice it feels to have cooler weather- I am typing this story out in my little garden, surrounded by flowers and loving the breeze! I think that is all for now- hope everyone is doing well!