Saturday, February 28, 2009

When it rains…

Ok, this has to be the quickest post I’ve put up yet! Using the
Internet two days in a row, wow! How decadent of me! Actually,
yesterday I used the free Internet at the District Office, and today I
came to Kibungo because I had some errands to run in town anyway.

It’s been an extremely busy weekend so far. I’ve been slammed with
grading, and with exams coming up in a couple weeks, lesson planning
is becoming difficult once more. I spent several hours yesterday
afternoon grading and correcting letters that I had my S5s write. By
the end I hated the English language and everything to do with it!
Pretty soon I’ll also have to start writing the exams themselves…

Also yesterday, I got a haircut! Fortunately, unlike what many people
thought, they didn’t completely shave my head. It’s pretty short, but
not too bad of a haircut. The barber did try to charge me 1000 RWF,
which was totally a muzungo price, so I asked why he was charging me
more because I was white (in broken French). The massive crowd that
had gathered to watch my haircut laughed, and I only paid 500 RWF
(still probably too much).

The title of this post refers to the fact that since February is
ending, we are entering the rainy season. I’ve started to see some
evidence of this, but I’m told it will get worse. That would be bad,
for several reasons which I will illustrate using two anecdotes.

So, early Thursday morning, I was awoken by an extremely heavy
rainfall slamming onto my iron-sheet roof. I was able to fall back
asleep until my alarm went off, but it was still raining. It was also
still raining as I waited for my moto (motorcycle taxi) to show up to
take me to school and it was still raining as I walked to the bus stop
when I realized my moto wasn’t showing up or answering my phone calls.
It was also still raining when I caught a new moto after being
dropped off by the bus and it was still raining when I got to class 15
minutes late, muddy and soaking wet. Actually, it’s quite surprising
that I was only 15 minutes late. I would have been about 45 min late
if I had walked up the river of mud/road from the bus stop in Rwanteru
to the school instead of taking the moto.

On that note, I feel I must question the judgment of whoever decided
that the start of the rainy season was a good time to “work on” the
road to the school. By work on, I mean they are using hoes and
shovels to loosen the packed dirt of the road, dig up stones, etc.
This is all well and good, but when it rains, the newly loosened dirt
becomes mud. Very thick and messy mud. I saw a moto get stuck in it
one day, and mine barely made it.

Another reason to be worried about the rainy season is that the rain
makes it hard to teach. I know to all of you back home it might seem
strange, but we have to stop teaching when it storms, or even when
there is a heavy rain. Remember, all the buildings here have
iron-sheet roofs, and when the rain comes down hard, the students from
about the 3rd row on can’t hear a thing I’m saying. It’s even worse
when it’s windy, as it was on Wednesday. My S1s had just finished
taking a test and I was trying to explain a writing assignment, which
was already next to impossible due to the sound of the rain. However,
the wind began to blow quite hard, and the rain began to come in
through the broken windows on one side of the class. It just kept
getting worse, until the rain was getting about halfway across the
room and the students and I were huddled up against the opposite wall
trying to stay warm and dry. (Did I mention it was also extremely
cold and about half of the students - and myself - didn’t have coats
or sweaters?) So yes, the rainy season could spell delays in getting
through the course material…

Friday, February 27, 2009

Libraries, birds and bugs

This is actually a blog that I wrote a week ago, but I haven't had
time to post it, despite having Internet nearby...

Sorry I haven’t written much lately, but I’ve been quite busy. So,
here are the updates! I’m no longer teaching biology, only English to
Form 1s and 4s. However, I have also become the Head Librarian. This
actually presents quite the challenge, as we really don’t have a
library. Ok, so we do have a building that is technically called the
library, but most of the books are stored elsewhere. It is my job to
make that building ready to actually live up to its name, and to
catalog the books that we do have (there are very few) and devise a
system of running the library itself. I’m also attempting to get more
books for the school. I’m hoping that the District will pay for some,
especially the much needed English language science textbooks, but I
plan on also contacting various charities and NGOs to see if anyone is
willing to donate loads of books. On top of teaching and
building/running a library, I am also the Assistant Head of the
Language Department (or Assistant to the Head, I’m not sure which
yet), I’m running two English Clubs a week, helping out at a third and
I’m supposed to be starting up at least one more. So, if anyone has
any advice on any of these things, please, let me know!

I found an ant with a death grip on my shoe. Really. I was cleaning
the other day and when I picked up my shoe I found a large ant with
its pincer’s embedded deep into my shoe. I tried to flick it off, but
it wouldn’t come lose. I actually had to grip it firmly by the head
and twist a little. It made me thankful that I was wearing shoes when
I had to walk through that swarm of ants on the way home from school a
couple days before.

Random thought: I dread the day the crows lose their fear. The noise
they make on my tin roof is incredible. The first time I heard it, I
thought someone was breaking down my door, so I try to scare them away
whenever they land. Unfortunately, they are quite bold, and they
stare at me for a second, thinking “Is he really a threat?” I don’t
want to think about what will happen when they realize that, no; I’m
really quite harmless.

Also, I may have mentioned this in an earlier post, but something
keeps laying eggs on my walls. My map has been a victim several
times, but lately I’ve found them on my calendar and less than an inch
away from Dallas’ face (on a photo I put on the wall). I’m not sure I
want to know what is doing it, but with the moths, wasps, bees, flies,
ants and spiders, there are many candidates.

One piece of good news: I’ve found Internet nearby! The District
office on the other side of town (about a ten minute walk) has a
connection, and I will be able to use it on occasion. This is great,
as I won’t be restricted to going to Kibungo every weekend (and
spending 1200 RWF just to get there!).

I had a night without electricity the other, well, night. I couldn’t
charge my phone or computer, which was frustrating, but there was
something kind of cool about reading and writing letters by
candlelight and listening to the BBC World Service on a wind-up radio.

Camber, if you are interested in sending me books, I'd love it! Check
the price of sending them though, I believe it's expensive. My
address is on the blog somewhere, I think.

That's all for now, I'll try to get another out soon. I have more stories.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hey everyone! It has been an extremely busy week, so I had no time for an actual entry. I just wanted to post a couple quick details...I dropped biology and am the new Librarian at Rusumo High School! Only problem, the school doesn't have a library. Well, we have a room that will be used as a library, but it doesn't have any books in it. So I've got a big job ahead of me. I'm also still teaching 18 hours of English, and am working on organizing a couple different English clubs. So, pretty busy, but hopefully I'll get a new post up for next weekend! Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why does it always rain when I do my laundry?

I spent last weekend in Kigali, which was great! I met up with a lot of the other volunteers, got my mail (well, one letter - my first) and ran some errands. However, it's expensive going to Kigali, so in order to decide how often to head up there, I've complied a list of Pros and Cons about making the trip.

The wasps moved back in
A large spider found its way into my mosquito net and made a web in one of the corners
Something laid eggs on my wall map

Checked Internet
Got mail
Bought peanut butter
Spent time with people, thus held off insanity for another week

Hmm, it's a tough call…

In other news, it appears that there will be two volunteers from VSO living here in Nyakarambi! Both of them have been living here for some time working with primary schools in the district but have been gone the last three weeks. I've met one so far, and she has been incredibly helpful, pointing out which restaurants are good, which are bad, how much various things should cost, and she introduced me to a lot of the district staff and officials. They will be very appreciated!

I've been a teacher for three weeks now! Scary, isn't it? That I am trusted with shaping the lives and futures of so many youths? When I put it that way, it is quite frightening! The kids are great though. I'm met with all but two of my classes (two classes of biology that are still waiting for the kids to show up). They seem extremely eager to learn, and I've been enjoying teaching them, but their levels of English are never what I expect them to be, which makes lesson planning that much more difficult. And of course, I really need to stop calling them "kids" as a couple of them (in my Senior 6 English) are older than I am. That's more than a little intimidating – let me tell you.

Two random thoughts:
Have you ever been afraid of being crushed to death by about 75 6-12 year olds? I have.
Do you know the shelf life of a hard-boiled egg sans refrigeration? I do. It's not very long.

I spend a little time each week walking around the market (which is now every Tuesday and Friday), checking out what's available and occasionally buying stuff. For those of you that enjoy thrift shopping, the market has a huge used-clothing section. I've been tempted by a couple items, especially by their selection of hats – everything from bowlers to fedoras. They also do haircuts, which I will need eventually, but I'm putting it off as long as possible. The market also has a food section, a section with pots, pans, knives, tubs, etc and a section full of beautiful fabrics and people with sewing machines to make you an outfit on the spot.
Well, that's it; I guess it's been a relatively uneventful week. The rain looks like it might be easing off, so I need to go by some coffee. I ran out of it this morning and was quite sad