I wanted to give you an idea of a typical day for me but they are all really different! Rwanda has redefined my version of typical. Yesterday I watched High School Musical with another teacher (she had a copy of it in French) and played volleyball at school. It was funny because the movie was pretty painful to sit through but it was hilarious to watch with a Rwandan and get their perspective. Cross cultural moments at their finest should always involve Zac Efron singing and twirling basketballs.
So I sat down and chose one day to write about. So this is what I did on Wednesday. I tried to pick a busy day so you get a variety of stories. Enjoy! 🙂
The alarm on my phone goes off and I immediately hit the snooze button and roll over. I can’t believe it is already morning and I am starting to really regret staying up until 12am watching Vampire Dairies. Not only did I have bad dreams about demon creatures ripping my head off and feasting on my blood, but now I also have to face a full day with less sleep than usual. I am getting up to go to mass with my landlord, Alexis. He convinced me to go with him to an early mass on Wednesday since it is conducted in French. The appeal of finally understanding an entire church service eventually draws me out of bed and I start to get ready for the day. I throw on a skirt and top and make sure all my school stuff is ready to go. For breakfast I have a banana and some passion fruit. In case you missed my post about passion fruits I am kind of obsessed with them, I no longer even use a knife to cut them open. Like a true local I just bite off a chunk of the skin and proceed to devour the delicious and slimy wonder that is inside.
Alexis and I arrive at the church. It is a small service, maybe 10 other people. This is the little church where the cloistered nuns pray and you sit opposite of them, divided by a curtain that gets pulled back just as the service starts. I also wrote a post about this church so if you haven’t been religiously following every blog I write (as if those people even exist) you can look it up. I would just include a link but where is the fun in that? Also I don’t know how to do that. So the service was really nice and shockingly short for a religious event in Rwanda. We left the church at 7:10am and Alexis headed off to farm and I walked to school with some of my students I found on the road. Considering that school starts at 7:00am I was feeling fortunate that I don’t teach first period since the students are never on time. I don’t blame them, some of the kids live really far away, but I doubt the first period teachers are able to teach much.
I have my first class of the day. I am teaching about the parts of speech and for some of my students it is a review and for some it is brand new information and they don’t understand a single word coming out of my mouth. My biggest challenge this year will be learning how to teach to a class of 60 children with drastically different English levels. Some of my kids did really well on their national exams and can identify tenses like present progressive and some kids almost failed their exams and just watch me teach with gaping mouths and their eyes glazed over in fear. On a positive note teaching is way easier this year. I am more confident as a teacher and more comfortable in the classroom. Is it my one true passion in life to teach? No. But at least this year I don’t dread going to school and I am actually enjoying the process.
I finish my five lessons for the day and return to the teacher’s room to hang up my white coat and to put on sunscreen for the walk to the orphanage. The other teachers can’t help but stare at me and finally elect a representative to come inquire about the nature of this white paste I am lathering on my face. They ask me if is body wash or a medication. I try my best to explain the concept of how it protects me from the sun. They seem to understand and I take off for my walk.
I arrive at the main road and start my walk to the orphanage. It takes me about an hour but it is mostly downhill or flat which is nice. Since Wednesday is market day in Nkoto, the village just past the orphanage, there is a lot of foot traffic to keep me company. It is also the shift change for primary school so I have lots of little friends to stop and greet along the way. I love this walk because I get to meet new people, enjoy the beauty of Rwanda, and get exercise. It makes me feel rather productive indeed. I admit that some days are better than others, like one day a creepy guy selling vegetables on the side of the road came to greet me and then when I gave him my hand he pulled me in and kissed my neck. That was pretty gross. But for the most part I meet really great people and adorable children who are usually out to kuvoma amazi- fetch water. All along the road people are starting to learn my name so it is fun to have people call it out as I make my way down the hills. Sometimes the children will be in the trees picking fruit so I have to really concentrate to locate the sources of their little voices!
I arrive at the orphanage and take a few minutes to visit the Missions house and chat with the new family who lives there. Then I head out to find the kiddos and they are in the dormitory playing some type of game with a tennis ball that involves winging it at people’s faces- not something I am interested in at the moment. The kids are begging me to play with the box of toy cars kept in the storage room. Usually I run library time but it is a nice day and there are not that many kids so I am hoping it won’t be too chaotic to get the cars out.
It ended up being a wonderful afternoon. We played with the cars and used sidewalk chalk to draw roads for the cars to cruise around on.
The kids found a big mask for swimming or diving and wanted to know what it was for. Once I explained they took turns wearing it around and putting their heads under the faucet so that they could pretend they were swimming. I really love kids and how much fun they can have with simple things.
They also discovered my bottle of sunscreen and begged me to put some on them. They each got a little to put on their nose and screeched with delight as they ran around rubbing it in and spreading it on other children. Speaking of enjoying life and the little things I loved watching David play with the box that the cars were stored in. So adorable!
So much happiness derived from the simple things in life.
Time to put away all the cars and head out to find a twege (small bus) back to my village. The word in Kinyarwanda for this type of transportation actually translates into, “you squeeze me.” Let me tell you- it is an appropriate name. In America this type of van would sit maybe 14. In Rwanda they manage to cram as many as 24 depending on the day. It is not the most comfortable mode of transportation but it is cheap and relatively easy to find. I manage to get on a bus about 5:15pm and get an awful jump seat that folds down, which I hate, but I want to get back to my house before dark so I can’t really afford to be picky. I finally get back to my village and start the walk back to my house. Since I have been more social lately I have a lot more people to greet on the road and the walk takes me about 35 minutes. Lot of primary kids out and about so lots of sticky little hands to shake and kiddo’s smiles to enjoy.
I start cooking dinner. I am cutting vegetables and talking to my friend Heather on the phone. What I would do without Heather in my life is unknown, but it would probably involve some form of me going crazy and being depressed. I never realized the importance of having other volunteers to support, encourage, and sympathize with you throughout a service. It is probably dumb to be cutting and talking considering I am using a really sharp knife that another volunteer left me and could easily chop a finger or two off in one swipe. I am currently typing and still have all 10 fingers so apparently I am getting better at cutting vegetables. While I am cutting the onion I notice white liquid starts leaking out. Hmm… I pause to think about if I should be concerned that my onion is lactating but I decide to proceed with the chopping process and hope that cooking it will negate the fact that it is probably a little too old to be eating.
I am also using pasta that has been sitting in a pot for just over 24 hours but refrigeration is a luxury I do not have access to so you just make things work and hope you don’t get too sick if you mess up. I finish cooking my veggies and slice up an avocado to put on top. Dinner is served!
I pour some water in my basin to take a quick bucket bath before climbing into bed. There are tons of lizards in the shower room tonight but I don’t really mind their presence since they eat the bugs- they earn their keep. I don’t mind bucket baths but you never feel 100% clean, mostly because you never are 100% clean. I get back into my room and discover my feet are already dirty again. Thus enters my obsession with baby wipes. They are seriously so amazing and serve enough purposes that I am never without a package of baby wipes at all times. After I pull on pajamas and review my lessons for the next day while listening to the melody of falling rain, mooing cows, and my neighbor’s radio blasting a station that is a mixture of a prayer and static. The occasional addition of noisy goats that sound like toddlers crying really adds to the ambiance. Then, despite my better judgment, I plug in my external hard drive and proceed to watch a few (and by a few I mean six) episodes of Vampire Dairies. I would say that I might need an intervention but I finished all the seasons that I have so I can finally move on with my life. Until I manage to get ahold of more seasons… then I might need an intervention.
So that is a Wednesday for you! Most days here are really great, some are awful, some are just Ok, but they are all interesting! 🙂