Monday, June 29, 2009

Fini

I stole this from a blog post written by Ashley Linford (I hope she doesn't mind) but it gives a fantastic overview of my last three weeks in Africa. She compiled a list that samples some of the experiences and accomplishments of the volunteers during the three weeks in which we participated in Ungana’s Masterminds programs:

Gave roughly 100 kids confidence in English conversation, Money Management, Health,
Music, Sports, and Art
Saw zoo animals in their natural habitat at Akagera National Park
Took a Road Tour of Gisenyi
Taught the same lesson 14 times in one day
Listened to the Von trap family singers sing Rwanda’s national anthem
Brainstormed, planned, and carried out 20 different lesson plans for 30 or 70 kids
Went to the beach during lunch
Played with street kids with a volcano in the background
Talked for an hour one night a week about personal love lives to complete strangers
Survived motorcycle taxi helmets
Got a sunburn at 5000 ft and 1 degree below the equator
Visited an orphanage with 670 children
Made banana leaf picture frames with local artists
Observed Rwandan education first-hand
Improved teaching resumes.
Spoke with local leaders
Slept with geckos
Gained bargaining skills in a goods market
Smelled methane
Adapted to a culture
Made new friends
Taught local athletes the ways of the Frisbee
Successfully managed 65 kids at one time in a 30 x 30 ft space
Waited 1.5 hours for food at a restaurant
Spent a cumulative one hour a week washing feet
Met Jack Hannah
Watched the complete third season of House
Demonstrated complicated activities to ESL kids
Over 10 days, put in 100 hours of work
Embraced the cold shower
Clubbed to Congolese Music
Fought mosquitoes
Learned Kinyarwandan, French, and ‘Jeff’ dialect
Spent three weeks in Africa’s most dense population

Made an impact

Pictures to come!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

T.I.A.

T.I.A. is an expression often used here standing for This Is Africa. It is used in moments when only such things could and would happen in Africa and no other descriptions will suffice. Here is a list of my favorite T.I.A. moments thus far.

#1- When the public water knows the perfect moment to shut off. I think I hold the record for the amount of times I have had the water shut off while being completely covered in soap.

#2- When I wake up because the misquito army swarming the net is so loud that it's impossible to sleep without ear plugs.

#3- When I am eating the EXACT same thing everyday, twice a day and all the cafes in town serve the same thing as well.

#4- When I am actually excited for a cold shower.

#5- When the locals call white people " Myzungus" and Asians " Jackie Chan"

#6- When basic road repairs entail women filling pots holes with lava rocks so full that they become speed bumps and don't seem to fix the problem.

#7- When I hear phrases such as " Hello, how are you? Give me your money!" from children running around with machetes in hand.

#8- When the entire city smells of marijuana after someone burns their trash.

#9- When men hold hands with other men and don't get accused of being gay.

#10- When the headmaster of the school you work with somehow neglects to tell you until the day before that there are national testing days being held during half of the time you are supposed to teach and classes will be canceled on those days.

#11-When the teachers prove their discipline by carrying sticks in their hands at all times

#12- When children who budge in the front of the line get punched instead of pushed.

#13- When my international debit card is not accepted anywhere in Rwanda so I have to have money wired to me the old fashioned way.

#14- When the malaria pills cause the most vivid, Disney-themed, dreams I have ever experienced.

#15-When the sight of geccos slithering along the walls inside the house does not even phase me.

#16-When you see a little boy with a neon green shirt on with screenprinted english stating " Get your big girl panties on and get over it." Thanks to generous donations from the Salvation Army and other various American organizations, we are able to find children and adults alike wearing statements that if they knew what it meant could cause extreme embarassment.

#17- When I am falling asleep looking through the lace curtain as it billows like a sail on a boat and discover new constelations in the black night sky that exaggerates even the smallest star.

#18- When new senses, emotions and ideas are discovered running through my mind and heart.

#19- When I meet new, inspiring people and learn from their stories, culture and character.

#20- When I am completely overwhelmed with emotion upon discovering the blessings that I take for granted that many of these people have never experienced or seen.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

School

We started school this week with some unexpected surprises. We weren't sure which school we were teaching until the day we started and we didn't know what age group either. We were assigned to local public to teach the children in level 4. What we didn't realize was that the school has around 2,000 kids and level 4 alone has 240 that come everyday.

So here we are, 5 young Americans who have had little to no experience in the classroom and we are given 240 African kids in one day that have no idea what we are saying. So we split the kids up into groups of 120 and they come in different shifts during the day. 120 kids is still a lot to handle. The first few classes were complete chaos. We tried to have the kids make name tags and were unaware that there would literally be fist-fights over colors of crayons. We also had a sports lesson that day and were blindsided when the other classes were let out early and soon we were swimming in a sea of around 1,000 kids. I have never seen anything like it. We were just standing there playing a game of tag with the students assigned to us and all of the sudden a whistle blew and all of the doors opened around us as a sea of African children engulfed us with chants of " Myzungu!" (white person!). It wasn't until the headmaster of the school showed up with his all-powerful wooden stick that the the sea was parted in record breaking time.

The next day we taught the children manners and english commands such as " Sit down please", "Raise your hand", and " Please wait" which seemed to help with some the issues encountered previously. However, there was still a lot of mayhem that will hopefully subside by the end of the three weeks.

My mom thinks this experience will help in making me want to be a teacher, however, I think this may have the opposite effect on me and give me my teaching fill for the rest of my life. Who knows...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wish

I dig my toes into the sand
The ocean looks like a thousand diamonds strewn
across a blue blanket
I lean against the wind, pretend that I am weightless
And in this moment I am happy

The world's a rollercoaster
And I am not strapped in
Maybe I should hold with care
But my hands are busy in the air

I wish you were here

Friday, June 5, 2009

Favorite Biggest Bro

Happy Birthday to my most favorite biggest brother Preston!

I am sad that I can't be there to join in the celebration but I will be partying in Africa for you!

P- Picking on me made me more tough
R- Rocking- you always had the best music
E- Easy to talk to
S- Spiritual- I have learned much from your testimony
T- Talented- its hard to find something you can't do
O- Organized- you always made Cam and I look bad :)
N- Nice

I love you bro! Hope this year is the best yet!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Week in review

This past week has been filled with visits to a community center for people with disabilities, working on lesson plans for teaching art in a local school and visiting surrounding villages to survey their medical needs.

The weekend was spent relaxing on the shores of Lake Kivu, visiting Kigali and going on a safari through Akagera National Park. I was able to see wildlife in their natural element and exceeded my expectations. So amazing. I saw giraffs, zebras, water buffalos, hippos, impalas, baboons, monkeys, storks but sadly no elephants.

The rest of the volunteers came in yesterday and we start working in the school tomorrow. I am so excited to finally start!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Gisenyi

As the sun ruses over Lake Kivu, the smell of dew covered Eucalyptus trees fills the air. The hand-terraced hills slowly become illuminated as people climb up the steep terrain to start work in their fields while others make the journey down with loads atop their heads to sell at the market.

The hours pass as the day goes on and the people of Gisenyi teach me how to work hard and play hard through example.

As the sun sets over the land of 1,000 hills, people make their journey back home and new set of stars appears in the heavens. While discovering constalations, the red glow of lava from a near-by volcano dominates the night sky.

The country is so breathtaking. Although, the physical beauty is unmatched, the people and their stories, their lives and their history has been moving beyond words and will stay in my heart always.