Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today was a Good Day

Didn't mean to quote Ice Cube, but today was a good day. This morning I, along with 2other PCVs, had a meeting with the mayor of our district. We are planning to have a big festival at the Nyamirambo stadium (date TBD), which will be geared towards young people. The theme of the festival will be teaching health through the arts- specifically music, dance, and painting. We're planning on having art competitions and dance offs with prizes, as well as booths where the youth (14-24 year olds) can get information on health and art, which are both things that I feel need some improvement here. Of course, I understand that there is a huge lack of resources. I'm really excited about this, and can't wait to get the ball rolling. For the month of October, we're just going to work on the project proposal and budget. Then we'll look into sponsors, figure out the logistics, etc.

Next I went back to my umudugudu and walked to my school so I could conduct the essay competition for GLOW camp. We don't have much time to plan the GLOW camp, so as soon as Meredith e-mailed me the flyer, application, and information for heads of schools, I made sure to tell every single student of mine about it yesterday, and decided to hold the essay competition the next day, Wednesday, since it is a half day for them. I arrived a little early and was able to witness some of "church day". Since the school I teach at is officially a private Christian school, every Wednesday they have a service led by different students from the school. Since I don't teach on Wednesdays (and, to be perfectly honest, since I try to steer clear of any religious ANYTHING here) this was my first time to actually attend this, despite the fact that I've been been teaching at the school since April. Even though I don't usually like church type settings, and I didn't understand most of what was said since it was in Kinyarwanda, it was still interesting to get to see my students who are normally so shy leading charismatic sermons and singing songs in harmony. It made me realize how much the language barrier prevents me from really getting to know my students.

A surprising number of students (28) showed up and stayed after school for the essay competition, so I'm really glad I decided to ask my students if they were interested. I'm still a little worried though. The main requirement for the students to be accepted to GLOW camp is how well they speak English, and most of my students don't speak or understand English well enough to follow a 5 day camp that is conducted almost entirely in English. Last I heard, the camp is going to be very small (about 50 students), and I know most of my students won't be picked, but hopefully I can vouch for some of them. I really do feel like I have a few diamonds in the rough who really deserve an opportunity like this.

I decided to host one of the new PC trainees when they come. It'll be really cool to see their reaction to the way us PCVs live and work (which, truth be told, varies SO MUCH here in Rwanda). It's always fun to see newly arriving Americans reacting to things I now find so normal. Peace out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

HIV/AIDS Presentation

Thanks to the help of my fellow PCVs (special thanks to Edison, Chrissie, Rachael and LCF Kassim)I was able to launch my first project last Saturday (2 days ago): A presentation on HIV/AIDS and general health. I think it went relatively well. After I got the funding (I only needed a very small amount), the principal of my school cancelled most of the classes on Saturday in order for us to give the presentation. He couldn't stick around, but to be honest I was relieved. Since he's an authority figure, I think the students would have been really intimidated to talk about a subject so personal.

We did a few activities, demonstrations, and gave info about the biology of AIDS, how it's transmitted, and nutrition. At the end we asked the students to write down any question they had about AIDS, sex, or health and to submit it anonymously to a paper bag I'd brought. We only had time to pick a few questions, but it was really good to see what the students knew and didn't know. Many of the students are quite informed, but a lot of them have been told myths about AIDS, such as you can prevent transmission of AIDS by using a lubricant, or that AIDS is mostly the fault of prostitutes and unmarried women. One of my students, who is smart but also a little rowdy, really made the whole thing feel rewarding when he approached me and told me how appreciative he was of the presentation. He said that at such a small, rural school, they rarely have opportunities for such activities, and this was really a great thing. We also got asked to come back, so maybe we'll do a follow up.

In other news, it's the end of Ramadan! To be perfectly honest, I didn't know very much about Islam until coming here. Rwanda has a very small Muslim population (under 5%, I'm told) but for some reason or another, almost all of the friends I've made here are Muslim. I guess I'm just a little tired of being preached at. I celebrated the end of Ramadan by going to Chocolat, a really nice resteraunt in downtown Kigali, with two friends. It's an outdoor resteraunt with a Moroccan vybe, and I ordered hummus and a smoothie (two things you can't really get anywhere else in Rwanda). Good times.

Oh- and PS, I just got my first pair of glasses EVER. I have near-sightedness in my left eye only, and I'm starting to realize that my right eye was always the one doing all the work, since putting on my glasses really doesn't change anything unless I close my right eye. Maybe I should wear an eyepatch to force my left eye to work, or better yet, get a monicle! All I know is as soon as I get to the US, I'm gonna get A contact lens-- that shit doesn't exist in Rwanda, nor would I want to use it seeing as much dirt there is everywhere. Na ejo.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


One is a picture of a neighborhood boy with a home made toy. I don't see that many toys in Rwanda-- sometimes a ragged doll. What a lot of the kids do is run while turning an old tire with a stick, or make cars out of home supplies. I've seen cars made out of milk cartons and bottle caps for wheels, but more often I see cars similar to that in the photo-- metal rods, broomstick ends, and wire. I've even seen a homemade kite that actually works!

Like I mentioned before, my neighborhood is known as the young, hip hop spot. Therefore, most of the buses in my neighborhood are pimped out with stickers and decorations (they range from rappers names to hip hop phrases like 'krunk' and 'buy you a drank'), while they blast hip hop through their oversized speakers. Even though there are old people who live in my hood, it still seems like it's run by young people who idealize American hip hop culture and commercialism.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Soccer Game and GLOW Camp

This weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Egypt vs. Rwanda soccer game. I don't think I've ever been to a professional soccer game before, and I really enjoyed it. Egypt won of course, 1 to 0 against Rwanda. They played well, but Ahmed (another PCV) told me the team wasn't playing as well as it usually does since the players are fasting for Ramadan. I think it's pretty honorable on their part to respect that tradition. They even got approval to break fast for the occasion, but they decided to stick to their beliefs, which are apparently more important to them than winning a soccer game.
We also had a meeting during the morning amongs PCVs who are interested in GLOW camp. GLOW camp will tentatively take place either in November or December. It's going to be for girls 15 and above. The plan is to have a five day camp at a boarding school, where the girls will do activities and recieve information concerning: life skills, HIV/AIDS, hygeine, reproductive health, resume writing, job opportunities, art, nutrition, and recreation. We're planning on having guest speakers come in too. I signed up for the second to last day, being in charge of health along with 2 other pcvs. I really want to get a few of the girls from the school I teach at to apply. The problem is that we need the "cream of the crop"-- girls who can speak good English so they can follow our sessions. A lot of my students struggle a lot with English, but hopefully it'll work out. I'm hoping the girls are at least interested and apply (we decided that they'll write an in-class essay as their application). Im really looking forward to this--if this actually happens,I think it'll really have a long term impact. I'm starting to realize that it's a lot better when PCVS come together for projects-- doing things on your own is a lot more difficult-- a lot slower. Can't wait!