Search This Blog

Friday, June 24, 2011

Crashing the Party

Long time, no blog! Sorry, all.

It’s been an uneventful couple of weeks with the exception of last weekend. Last weekend I went to the Kwita Izina in Musanze, the annual naming ceremony for Rwanda’s baby gorillas. Some other volunteers were going so I decided to go too, not realizing that it’s such a huge event. Turns out it’s one of Rwanda’s biggest tourist draws besides the gorillas themselves. There are performances by all kinds of Rwandan pop stars, speeches by important officials, traditional dances, actors in gorillas suits to stand in for the gorilla babies, and sometimes President Kagame comes and makes a speech. I panicked a little upon arrival because I didn’t have a ticket or an ID or really anything at all to legitimate my presence there, but I got seated in the VIP section anyway. There are all kinds of things wrong with that, but don’t look a gift horse in the mouth I guess?

In any case, the ceremony was awesome. This year the president didn’t show up due to “unavoidable circumstances” but Jack Hanna made an appearance, plus the music and dancing was amazing. The traditional dancers alone made the trip worthwhile. Each region of Rwanda has its own traditional dance and in the north the dances are particularly energetic with a lot of jumping and stamping. The dancers wore bells on their ankles to augment the percussion. It was so beautiful. The musical performances were also a lot of fun. There was a Ugandan singer, Chameleon, who pulled one of the PCVs up on stage with him. He got kicked offstage shortly after that, but it was an exciting few minutes.

After the ceremony there was a reception with complementary beverages and finger-food which was an experience in itself. It was sort like a mosh pit except we weren’t fighting to get to the front row at a concert, we were fighting over mozzarella balls and glasses of chilled white wine. Then security personnel intervened and the crowd was filtered out of the courtyard into the street, leaving in its wake a courtyard strewn with beer bottles and crumpled napkins and other such carnage. It’s hard to believe they’ve been doing this every year for almost a decade now.

Now I’m back to teaching and tutoring and putting off the start date for teachers’ classes until I can get a curriculum together. I’ll probably be at site for the fourth of July, so keep me in your thoughts while you’re barbequing or bonfiring or doing whatever.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yep, Still Love My Job

I love my students so much it almost hurts.

Yesterday in class we played charades with different adverbs and they got so into it they didn’t want to stop. I had to instate a “no-touching” policy after a particularly spirited depiction of the word “violently” but otherwise it went incredibly well. They’re nothing if not performers.

My second class of the day has a ten-minute break halfway through, one of the very few opportunities they get to go out and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine, but yesterday most of my class stayed inside with me. They like to ask me about English words they’ve heard in songs. Sometimes it’s a minefield (how do I, as a middle school teacher, explain what Shaggy supposedly wasn’t doing?) but yesterday, mercifully, they wanted to know about “Baby” by Justin Bieber. I sang part of it and endeared myself to them forever. Say what you will about the Biebs, he is king in Rwandan middle schools. Even the boys like him here.

Yesterday was also English club day, a thing which normally leaves me completely drained and ready for a day off. Between this term and last term, English club membership went from overwhelming (seventy-five students) to underwhelming (about fifteen students) because I lost the classroom we initially met in to the understandably more-popular dance club. On top of that, all the S3 students somehow have an extra hour of class this term, so I’ve been struggling to retain my S3 members. I was beginning to the think the club might be a lost cause, but yesterday we started a project that might keep the club going into next year: letter writing. They’re so excited about writing letters to the U.S. it’s almost scary. If it goes well, I might try to set up correspondence with a middle school classroom in the States. If any teachers are reading this and interested, please shoot me an email!

Otherwise things are progressing nicely. English classes for teachers might actually happen, though I’m not sure how soon. I’ve been trying to call a staff meeting to discuss meeting times and distribute English pre-assessments, but it’s proven more difficult to do so than I’d expected. I don’t have the power to call staff meetings by myself and my headmaster keeps telling me we’ll have the meeting “tomorrow,” by which he doesn’t so much mean “tomorrow” as “not today.” The classes probably won’t be a reality until sometime next term, but that’s fine with me. I’d rather spend the rest of this term focusing on my students who, if not my raison d’etre, are certainly my raison d’etre ici.

I’ve also begun tutoring Yvette and it’s worked out even better than I hoped. She comes to my house every Thursday morning with an academic article or a book in hand and we go over all the difficult vocabulary. Then she asks me questions about grammar and pronunciation. I’ve been making up exercises on the fly but I’m accumulating a nice catalogue of lesson plans I might be able to use with the teachers at my school. Not only that, but I now have one more friend I get to see reliably often.

So, setbacks and non-meetings and non-members aside, I love my job. Through it all, my students are a reason to get up and face the world every morning. They say “thank you, Teacher,” Greek-chorus style at the end of class. Every time I want to tell them that I should be thanking them, not the other way around.