Today was a great day and I wanted to share it with you! I taught four hours that went really well and then returned to the convent for lunch and rest hour. At 4pm I headed over to the school for our first organized practice for girls volleyball. I was a little worried that I would only have a few girls but by the end I had about 25 students show up! They boys loitered around, begging to play and demanding to know why this event was only for girls. They did a wonderful job of using their limited English to explain how excluded they felt and made me feel sufficiently guilty until I returned to the staff room to fetch a football (soccer ball) for them to play with. Of course my headmistress informed me at dinner tonight that the boys are forbidden to play soccer at the school because they broke a window- it was good while it lasted. The girls had a nice time playing without the boys and are surprisingly aggressive and love to argue about the score and where the ball landed in relation to the court lines that are outlined in small rocks. A small girl showed up and watched us play for a while so I called her over to join us since we started with simple passing in a circle. When we started playing on the court I was worried she would get hurt so I gave her my whistle (Peace Corps gives us a beautiful bright orange whistle I keep attached to my keys) and she assumed the role of referee. I think I may have some temporary, or possibly permanent, hearing loss from her enthusiastic blowing but she had so much fun I couldn’t bring myself to take it back from her. We played until 5:30pm and then it was time for the students to go home so I packed up the balls and the little girl and I started to walk down the road. We parted ways at her house and I returned to the convent in search of water and to put the balls in my room. Since it was a nice night I decided to go for a run before it got too dark. I hid my keys in a flowerpot (and by pot I am referring to an old thermos filled with dirt and flowers) and embarked on my adventure. There is a hill behind the convent that leads to the primary school and has a really beautiful view plus it is nice for my confidence to start out with an easy path.
At the bottom of the hill there is a large field behind the football field where some men were playing soccer. There is a small boutique on the edge of the field that overlooks a beautiful valley. I could hear someone back behind the little boutique so I went exploring and found a teenage girl peeling plantains. We exchanged introductions (her name is Celestine) and I was slightly embarrassed when I told her my name and she smiled and said, “I know because I am a student at your school.” I felt really bad but she isn’t one of my students so it wasn’t that grave of an error. I sat on a stone and watched her work for a bit and she brought out some sort of potato treat for me. I am not really sure what it was but I would describe it as the equivalent of an enormous fried tater tot. It probably negated all the positive health benefits from the run but it sure was delicious! When she saw that I enjoyed it she promptly returned to the boutique and emerged with an entire bowl of them that I politely declined. I think a whole bowl would probably negate an entire week of exercise. She then brought out a chair for me and I watched her start the fire so she could start cooking. I would have offered to help but I am a really horrible at starting fires with the local matches so I helped her gather some sticks and then enjoyed chatting with her about school and watching the sun set. I think her little boutique might be my favorite new spot. I love looking out at the hills at the end of the day when you can barely distinguish the outlines of the different hills and valleys, especially when it is hazy after the rain. It was so peaceful to sit with Celestine, the crackling fire keeping us warm and the distant sounds of cows mooing and goats chewing complacently on their patches of grass. Eventually her older sister arrived to help cook dinner and I also met an adorable old woman who was walking on a small path behind the boutique. If you ever need a friend in this country you can count on the old women- they are always so kind, willing to chat, and declare you a complete genius for speaking a minimal amount of Kinyarwanda. We talked for a bit and then she headed on her way down the steep dirt path that led to her house about thirty minutes away- the women here are so tough. I really enjoyed my visit but by 6:30pm it was almost completely dark, and even though I was close to home I didn’t want to take any chances. I thanked her for my snack and shook their hands and they of course insisted on walking me home. We started up the hill and they eventually turned around so I decided to run the rest of the way home. There was a security guard on the road who greeted me and gave me some verbal encouragement, which is always nice when you are gasping for breath. I returned home and took a bucket bath, pulled on some clean pajamas, and headed for dinner with the nuns. We had sweet potatoes that were delicious and I have recently discovered the best dessert- take a cup of hot milk and add a vanilla tea bag and a little sugar and you have amazing vanilla milk before bed! At dinner the nuns informed me that one of the head nun’s students (she runs a vocational school for girls learning to sew) had a baby yesterday and they knew I would want to visit. In addition to this baby there are two teachers at school with new babies and two teachers who are pregnant- I am one lucky girl to have so many babies in my life! After dinner we all have our roles and after six months of living here I finally have defined chores for each meal. Originally they would all tell me to just go to bed but I really wanted to help out since I will be here for two years. Reading this statement my parents will probably be horrified to read that I am volunteering for chores since I was never that enthusiastic about them at home, but I suppose it is one of those things when you are better behaved at a friend’s house but drive your own parents crazy. After we finish eating dinner every night I wipe down the table, replenish the sugar bowl, and set the table for breakfast. It feels really nice to be in a routine and I am a big fan of my chores because I don’t really care for washing dishes.
I am now settled in bed, under the bug net and ready for sleep! Tomorrow I am going to visit the new baby and then we have a staff meeting at school in the afternoon. Stevie, my lizard companion, turns out to be quite the family man. I now have an abundance of lizards in my room but I much prefer them to the snakes and mice so I can’t complain too much. I think that is all for now!
Urote Imana- Dream of God!