Monday, May 25, 2009

Sorry, it's been a while since I've last posted, but i wasn't able to
get online last weekend. Also, there have been some troubles...

It started last week when it rained on Tuesday (audible gasp). I got
back from school late and found that the power was off. No big deal,
sometimes the power goes off when it rains (although i don't
understand why since it comes from a generator about 50 yards away
from the house). However, it didn't come back on the next day, or the
next. Finally, after 5 days it was back. Considering that when I left
for Rwanda, i didn't think I’d have any electricity, it really
shouldn't have been a big deal, but I've come to rely on it, and 5
nights without it was tough. Also, i was going through about a candle
a night, which gets expensive.

Anyway, that's not the worst of it! When the power came back on, my
laptop wouldn't charge. A couple of the lights were also acting
strange, so i assumed the power just wasn't strong enough. Nope.
Apparently when the generator went it had surged, destroying a whole
bunch of the town's lightbulbs and my charger. Not happy! I have now
gone 2 weeks without being able to use my laptop and I’m on the verge
of insanity. I can't listen to my music (which was one of the only
things that kept me sane during the first couple months), watch
movies, do my budgeting (which i had in a word file) or write my blogs
before i get online. Hassle!

I spent all of yesterday wandering around Kigali, going in and out of
computer stores (and getting lost several times), and no one sells mac
stuff. No one. A lot of times when i asked people would just laugh
and tell me "good luck!" I do have a lead on a supplier now, and I’ve
sent a couple emails, so who knows. If all else fails, someone can
send one from home, but that'll mean about 2 months without using my
laptop and i'd rather not go through that.

In other news, two weekends ago i visited Akagera National Park with
some friends. I saw giraffes, zebras, antelopes, water buffalos,
hippos, warthogs, baboons and monkeys! We spent the whole day there
and despite getting covered in mud while trying to get the car unstuck
in close proximity to a herd of buffalo, it was great fun.

Last weekend Rusumo High School was visited by our sister school in
Tanzania, an all-girls school. The visit was an attempt to resurrect a
partnership between the two schools and was quite successful. Before
commencing the festivities, we all visited a model primary school and
the genocide memorial at Nyarabuye, a church in the district where
over 27,000 people were buried in mass graves. It holds rows and rows
of bones and some of the weapons that were used in the killings.

After lunch we competed in football and debate (although both were cut
short and volleyball was cancelled due to "lack of time". We had
plenty of time for numerous self-important speeches by pompous
officials of course.) The English department was in charge of
organizing the debate. This was a lot of fun! We worked with mainly
Senior 2s and 3s who had pretty good English and had expressed
interest in Debate. The motion, which we were supporting, was "mixed
sex schools are better than single sex schools." When it came down to
it, i would say that the Tanzanians' English was slightly better but
that our arguments were slightly better. Overall I’d give the win to
our school, but the judges gave it to our opponents. Our kids were
actually quite upset; there's definitely an attitude of "winning is
everything" encouraged here, and a couple of them are extremely
competitive, but they enjoyed themselves in the end. They say they
plan on starting a debate club and hopefully we'll be able to debate
other schools in the province before too long.

Depressing thought of the week: It's depressing how many of my
students spelled "English" wrong on their last tests. It makes me
wonder how good of a teacher i am.

Finally, a new installment of "What does the rainy season mean to you?"
- night after night with no power
- mud everywhere, EVERYWHERE (on my shoes, in my shoes, on my pants,
in my pants, in my nose (it only happened once...)
- cancelling class because it's raining in the classroom
- wet towels
- clothes taking the entire week to dry

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Let me start out by saying it’s astounding how many of my students still spell English “inglish”. It kind of makes me feel like I’m a terrible teacher.

In other news, I’ve been trying to prepare my students for an upcoming debate with a school from Tanzania. It’s an all girls’ school that is coming for a Saturday and we are going to have sports competitions and a debate over whether mixed sex schools are better than single sex ones. We only really have a week left to get them ready, but they seem to be enjoying it! Of course, these are Anglophone students, not the ones who are misspelling English. A couple of our other teachers taught them all about debate theory and how to actually hold a debate, and now we need to help polish their arguments and get them ready for rebuttals. Step one: never say that teen pregnancy is a good reason to have mixed schools.

Lizard update! It seems I have learned the lifecycle of my household lizards. If you remember, when I first arrived I just had one or two tiny ones. Throughout the last couple of months I watched them grow up (and produce larger and larger amounts of lizard crap) and just the other day I spotted a new baby! It is less than 2 inches long and ridiculously cute! I was even able to catch it a one point and let it run around on the back of my hand.

I bought some Akabanga the other day (brand name pili-pili (super hot spicy flavouring)). Best purchase ever! It really makes gives mashed bananas a bit more of a flavour.

Last weekend we had a Cinco de Mayo party, which was a huge success! Not only did we do a book/movie/TV show exchange, but we had quesadillas, guacamole, margaritas and limes and salt with our beers. We’ve decided that we need more themed parties on the weekends, as it gives you something to look forward to if you’re having a rough week.

Finally, let me finish with a haiku entitled Full Moon:

Moon, you have saved me
From countless holes and puddles
When coming home, drunk

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back to the Grind Or, Mum should be proud!

“C’mon Andy, it’s just a little dirt. It’ll be fine!” Things I
probably wouldn’t have said to myself before coming to Rwanda.

Well, classes are up and running again, and most of the students are
back (by the end of the second week of class). We’ve started up the
English Clubs again and most importantly, the Library is open! We
haven’t had any official opening yet, but the school hired a full-time
librarian and students are now coming in and reading! It’s so
exciting; I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something here! I’ve
noticed that the majority of students are pursuing the French language
math and science books, but there’s also been interest in the English
language math and science, the newspapers and the magazines. Again,
if anyone wants to put together a package for me, magazines are great,
both for me and for my students. I really want to take some pictures
of the students sitting in the reading room, paging through textbooks
and newspapers, but oh yea, no camera. Grr. The only problem so far
is that the librarian has virtually no English, so communicating to
her that she should put books back onto certain shelves, such as
putting the math books in the math section, is a challenge. But I’ve
been making labels for the bookshelves out of construction paper
(thanks Mum and Dad!) and I think that’s starting to help.

Oh and BTW, I’m totally sporting the pant legs rolled up halfway to my
knees for the rest of the rainy seasons. That or the pants tucked
into my socks look. It depends on my mood.

Mum should be proud of me. I recently fixed a pair of pants using
sewing skills that must have lain dormant for years! A hem started
falling apart right in the ass of one of my pairs of pants (the Tilley
pants, at that, which I believe are “insured for life”, and must last
me at least for the rest of the year) so I decided to fix them! I
found a needle and thread, and sewed them right up! The only way Mum
would be prouder is if I knitted myself a new pair of pants. (Is that
the correct past tense of knit? Or would it be “I knat myself a new
pair of pants”?) N.B. I actually wrote this piece before I fixed the
pants. I did actually sew it up though, and I think it will hold, but
I probably would have just found someone else to do it if I hadn’t
found the idea of having knat pants so freaking hilarious. Sigh, I’ve
become a slave to my art.

Have you ever been boiling water and have the kerosene stove run dry,
only to realize that you have neither kerosene or clean drinking water
and that it’s too late to go buy some? Yea, I didn’t think so.

Finally, Happy Graduation to Alisha and everyone else who is
graduating from SDSU! And I suppose to anyone else who’s
graduating from other institutions, I just don’t know who you are