Hi there. So "Malaria: The Sequel" was the alternate title of this blog entry but it wouldn't have accounted for the amoebas I also have at this time. I guess my previous blog must've had a tone in part because I wasn't feeling well. Quite disappointed that the volcano will have to wait till next year. Had a few hours of serious contemplation- considered using Karen's October 1st plane ticket to New York and catching a bus from there back to Toronto. Feeling unwell in a foreign country SUCKS!! In an effort to feel a bit better, I came to Kigali for the weekend and booked myself into a nice guest house, with hot water. I'm definitely feeling much better today and planning to head back to Gitarama in time to take the new volunteer to her first day of work Monday in Kamonyi. A second package arrived from home last week and really made my day :) Thanks Mom!
I'm guessing that most of you are back at school, getting into the swing of things.. learning names, establishing routines and going mildly crazy. I definitely am missing the classroom a bit and in particular the anticipation of the upcoming volleyball or basketball season. Because I'm in and out of schools here, it is harder to set up rapport with the kids. All things being equal though, a quick game of basketball or five minutes on the soccer pitch usually establishes a connection. I continue to be enthralled with the close bonds Rwandans seem to have with one another. Visiting the guest house where I spent my first month feels so comforting because Theo, Constantine and Emmanuel are quite friendly.
Not much more to report. I'm going to throw myself into work. The most rewarding times tend to be when I'm not sitting around thinking but am more or less engaged in my community. I hope I haven't worried anyone at home- it's never as bad as it sounds and I think is to be expected, living here. If it makes any difference.. this job fits me like no other. Walking in cold to a school of 2,000 students and 30 teachers to share/collaborate/experience each other's educational background, really connect by using my QDPA skills and cultivating enthusiasm in the school community- it's what I want to do.
For my Skype friends, I'm so sorry I missed the window of opportunity yesterday to chat with you. Will try again very soon. I can't tell you how helpful your support is- by phone, email or prayer. Thank you.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Hi there. This past week has been a little less than perfect. A while back, the Mayor of my district quit. Now there is a major reschuffling in the district which means the Director and Charge of Education are no longer assuming these roles. It feels a bit like the past three months of "rapport-building" has just evaporated. The new volunteer has arrived. She will join me in Kamonyi District as an Education Manager and hopefully her enthusiasm and level of productivity will breathe new life into the office environment. In the meantime, I'll focus on getting out to more schools for first-time visits and building rapport with the staff, students and Headteachers.
On Monday, I volunteered to help the new recruits a bit with their ICT (In Country Training). Little did I know this would mean taking 15 people into town to do their shopping, virtually on my own. It was kind of fun, kind of stressful and brought back memories of my first few weeks in Kigali. It's amazing to think that my house, my neighborhood, this country- feels like home to me right now. It's also daunting to wonder about if/when I might return home. How much have I changed and how will I ever adjust to living in Canada again? It certainly encourages me to make things work here. This experience is a roller-coaster; the peaks and valleys are very high and very low.
In our neighborhood, the needs continue to outweigh the resources available. It is disheartening to see people each day in difficult situations, and to be virtually unable to assist them. We tried to offer Marie (little Jean-Paul's mother) a day's work in exchange for some money to help pay her rent but she didn't show up. I would like to buy my basketball buddy Jean-Pierre some new shoes because he wore right through his plastic sandals and is walking around barefoot, however, there are some 30 children in the neighborhood and it isn't feasible to clothe them all. There's more: the men at the bus park on crutches (missing most or parts of their leg) imploring, begging, negotiating for my change... the children in torn school uniforms rifling through the garbage bin.. and always there is Fils- the neighborhood boy with the creased forehead- always so serious, concerned, not carefree like a ten-year old should be.
These are the needs I see everyday in Gitarama. It is the second largest town in all of Rwanda. I can only imagine what the needs are in more rural, impoverished areas. It makes getting to know people difficult. In a parallel universe, my friend Valens (the man in the wheelchair by the bus stop) would be the star of some paralympics basketball team. He has an incredibly well-built upper body, but only a spindly, twisted lower half. The other day Valens was talking with another young man, roughly the same age, who was born without arms. How strange to see half of a man standing beside another half of a man?! There seems to be almost no program in place to provide assistance to the handicapped here. It is hard to see. I understand why the boy at the bus stop in Rugobagoba comes running to the window each day on my ride home to show me his deformed left arm and beg for change, but I can't help but think: Why can't he be shown that there is a world of possiblity out there for him? Why must he rely on begging and therefore diminishing his self-worth day in and day out? This boy has a smile that stretches ear to ear, is probably all of 13 years old and has no idea what his "ABILITY" is because he's only been taught to value his "DISABILITY". Rumor has it that there is a Special Needs school/care centre in Kamonyi with some children with Down's Syndrome. Although I know they exist, I have yet to see a child with Down's here- they are mostly hidden away. One day I think I'll visit this centre, perhaps I can volunteer an hour or so a week there.
In a parallel universe, my tutor Deus (who has studied Albert Camus, Montaigne and other literature that I studied in 3rd year university), would be doing a masters' degree not biding his time, waiting for the two hours a week of employment he gets tutoring me. I wouldn't have strange ladies in the bank- strange, bad-breathed ladies- asking me for work. I wouldn't receive texts from people I met only once on the bus, detailing that they have a degree in computers and economics and would I find them a job please? Kate, the young lady who is writing her memoir with my help and her brother Alphonse who is teaching me to ride a moto-would be enjoying young adulthood, not caring for their younger siblings and writing stories about how their grandmother's throat was slit in 1994.
I know this blog is a little unsettling. I tend to write about the negative things when I'm feeling less positive. I have not felt 100% this week, but tomorrow we are heading up to Ruhengeri to climb Mt. Karisimbi and I hope to return from this trip feeling exhilirated. Karisimbi is Rwanda's highest volcano at an elevation of 4,500ft. It's a two day hike, complete with camping on the volcano and I'm really looking forward to it. We have two new houseguests (new VSOs) for awhile and I'm going to enjoy showing them around Gitarama and maybe feeding off of their "i've just arrived"/idealistic energies.
I should also write to you about Voisine and her gaggle of 12 year old girl-friends who want to borrow my sparkly nailpolish or about singing Ring around the Rosie with Clementina (the two year old with the crackly voice of a 90-year old chainsmoker) or about the little boy, who has cowered behind his mother instead of speak to me for the past three months, but who just last week decided that I'm now his friend and now greets me with smiles and a hug. Of course I should write to you about last week's visit to EP-Rubona where I took over the English Club for two hours. We did group work, trivia, listened to the new CD I acquired for them and did the Hokey-Pokey about half a dozen times !! I took some amazing pictures and when I have more time, I will upload them. Once again, the main theme of Rwanda is that you must take the good with the bad. Our water's been off for the past six weeks- this may be contributing to my grumpiness. However, unlike what I hear from home, the weather here is beautiful; sunny skies with a high of 28*C.
Be well friends, wish me luck with the volcano!