Total number of hours: 10
Hours spent at church: 3
Hours spent outside:3
Hours spent eating: 1
Hours spent dancing: 3
Number of Photographs: 327
Fantas Consumed: 3
Glasses of Banana Wine: 1
Speeches Made: 25+
I can safely say that yesterday was the longest celebration I have ever attended. Our end of the year party started with mass at 9am that of course didn’t actually start until 10am. I left for the church at 8:45am with the religion teacher, Sister Claire, since we had both missed the memo that the mass was moved back an hour. I spent a peaceful hour listening to students sing and greeting the curious children who wandered into the church to gawk at me. Right before the start of the service my headmistress, Espérance, asked me to take photographs during the mass and rest of the day. I was fine with this except I already get stared at enough with lurking in the corners of the church to snap shots of people praying. I was really getting nervous about what to do when I noticed one of my favorite students, Yvette, sitting in the row in front of me. Since she already knows how to work my camera I figured she would be a perfect assistant to get all of the pictures Espérance wanted that I wasn’t comfortable taking. She did a nice job considering the lighting in the church wasn’t ideal and managed to get some great shots.
After mass I walked to the school with Alice, the biology teacher, her husband, and a group of adorable children from the special needs program at the convent. They love cuddling and holding hands and always make great company! Once we arrived at the school there was a tent set up for the teachers to sit under across from the volleyball court. Before the volleyball match the priest came to bless the school and went on a tour of all the rooms to splash Holy water while a group of students followed him singing. After the blessing the boys played volleyball and another one of my students, Gisèle, went around taking pictures for me. Eventually she returned to inform me the battery was dead so I ran home to grab the charger so I could plug in the camera in the teacher’s room. Right when I returned some of the girls were dressed up to perform a traditional dance and did a lovely job.
At this point one of the other teachers told me that the food wasn’t ready yet so they started adding extra events to the program. There were multiple groups of student dancers and plenty of long speeches to fill the time. Eventually the food was ready so the teacher’s headed inside to eat and, of course, give more speeches. Luckily I was spared from this ritual and around 4pm the dance party started. I refused to dance for a while but I could only put it off for so long and eventually gave into the other teacher’s pleas/demands and graced them with my presence on the dance floor.
One of my new favorite memories of my entire Peace Corps service is dancing with my headmistress to Bob Marley’s song One Love. At this point I was accidentally tipsy because when I refused to drink a beer they offered me pineapple juice that turned out to really be pineapple wine. I wasn’t sure if it was socially acceptable for a woman to drink it at a party but then I saw the nuns and female teachers drain a few bottles of the sugary wine so I felt less guilty about my mistake! We finished the dance party a little before 7pm and I walked to Alice’s house with my friend Goreth so she could pick something up to take home. On a previous visit to Alice’s house her husband had told me about a book her wrote about his experience during the genocide and living in refugee camps. He had tried to print copies of the book in Rwanda but printing is ridiculously expensive so he decided to wait. I don’t generally offer favors since Peace Corps is very much about building local capacity instead of handouts, but this revelation seemed like a perfect opportunity to help a friend in a small way. I offered to print some copies of his book when I visited America in December and he was incredibly grateful for my offer. I didn’t realize just how grateful he was until last night when he showed me his book on his computer and I saw that on his dedication page, underneath his heartfelt message to his wife, he had included a message to me. I was both incredibly surprised and humbled to see my name on the dedication page of such a personal book. I would love to share his book with everyone back home but it was composed in Kinyarwanda so that might make it difficult to read for many of my followers!
Eventually Goreth and I decided we needed to head home but they refused to let us walk alone in the dark and came with us all the way to the convent. I arrived just in time for dinner with the nuns and they excused me early when I started falling asleep at the table- it was a wonderful but very long day!