Archive for June 2010

Brochette with Vianney

June 4, 2010

What a wonderful day I had today!  We started off the morning conversing with Cepheus, a Congolese professor and pastor.  He works for the Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) and the International Exhange for Education (IEE).  He shared with us a little of his family history and his life in DRC.  He has relocated to Rwanda and is working as a language professor at KIE.  For IEE he serves as a trainer of trainers.  After our meeting with Cepheus, we met with Meredith, who is the chief academic officer for IEE.

After we had these conversations, we participated in a train the trainer session that Meredith led, working with 14 trainers of Rwandan teachers.    These trainers help the primary teachers learn how to teach in English and how to introduce learner-centered strategies in their classrooms. My brief period of conversation and observation convinced me that this is an effective program.

After Immanuelli and I dropped off Linda, Tom and Jay at the airport, he took me to the hotel where I am spending the night.  The guesthouse is full tonight and so I am staying in the One Hill Motel.  After getting settled in, I took a moto taxi to Kicukiro, headquarters to the Friends Church in Rwanda and home for my friend, Heri Bonheur. Heri is a graduate of the George Fox Secondary School in Kicukiro and a member of the Friends church here.  He is a mentee of David Bucurra and my friend.  I had lunch with Heri in his home.  He told me about his journey to South Africa to serve as a chaperon to David’s son, Yves.  Yves had a lead role in a South African production of a film regarding child soldiers.  Heri told me about their adventure in South Africa.  During his time there, a benefactor gave him a new HP portable computer.  He has begun to write his family history.  I offered to do some editing for him and gave him some advice while we ate sausage, cheese and bread.

Heri shared a letter with me that was actually an invitation from the producer of the film.  She invited him to attend a two-month film institute, all expenses paid, although he will have to come up with transportation.  I made a small contribution to his trip.  He is quite excited about this opportunity and I hope and pray that he will be able to secure the funds.  Heri has been interested in film making for quite some time and this is a good opportunity for him.

When I left Heri’s home, I intended to walk to Kicukiro market and then get a moto taxi back to Remera.  I passed the market by and kept walking.  It took me about one hour and ten minutes to walk all the way back to my motel.  I was fairly worn out, so I rested for a bit.  However, I was looking forward to my visit with Vianney, so I called him and he came by to pick me up.  We went to Stella 3, a bar and grill frequented by Rwandans.  I was the only white person in the place.  We orded brochette as an apetizer and then chicken and banannas for dinner.  The brochette (grilled meat on a stick) was excellent.  Our meal was very good as well.  We washed the meal down with a couple of Mutzig.  Vianney and I spoke of Le Rapid, the youth bicycle club that he is the president of.  His riders are preparing for national competition, and he hopes to place several riders on the national team for the Tour de Rwanda, which will be coming up in November.  The cirucuit will include a ride from Ruengheri to Kigali, a fairly challenging, hilly 100 km.

Ecole Secondaire Kidaho and other Good Places

June 4, 2010

Yesterday we traveled north out of Kigali. About three hours later, we arrived at Ecole Secondaire Kidaho (ESK). In researching this entry I came across a blog of a woman doing work in Rwanda.  You may want to do some additional reading here http://growingtogetherinrwanda.blogspot.com/

ESK is a Friends School.  There are over 800 students at the school, with 75% of those being boarders.  Matt and Gayle Denham, from Oregon are living at the school and working as English teachers for the teachers here and a nearby primary school.  We had a wonderful visit of both schools, had lunch with Gayle and Matt and got to speak with administrators and teachers of both schools.  We did two classroom observations at the primary school, one an English lesson and the other a science lesson on the water cycle.

At ESK, we greeted several groups of students.  it seemed that there were about 50 students in each room.  The conditions in these schools were similar to those that we encountered in the Western Province of Kenya.  Electricity was available at ESK, but there were no lights on in the classrooms.  An automobile wheel mounted on a wooden stand in the center of the courtyard of the school served as the school bell.  When it was time to pass, a teacher or administrator would strick the wheel with a rock.  Rocks were plentious, as we were at the base of a volcanic mountain.  This is the region of Volcanoes National Park, the area where the mountain gorilla lives.  This is the area made famous in the movie, “Gorillas in the Mist”.  It is also the area, very close to the Ugandan border, where the RPF, now the ruling party in Rwanda, hid out and prepared attacks against the previous government during the time of strife and genocide in 1994.

Matt and Gayle treated us to lunch at a local restaurant.  We had brochette, or as I would commonly refer to as “meat on a stick”.  The meat was goat, and it was grilled to perfection!  We also had cooked banannas, and they were quite tasty.  Lunch was accompanied by Fanta sodas.  The meal for the eight of us came out to about twleve dollars USD.

Comm 101: in Kigali

June 2, 2010

What is the most basic lesson in communication?  Perhaps to understand that for communication to be complete there needs to be clear feedback that the message was received and understood?  I am not a communications theorist, though I realize the need to consider the receiver of a message and the medium by which the message is sent while composing and sending it.  Even as I write these lines, I am reflecting on how culturally-laden our communication is and how easy it is to make assumptions about senders of messages based on the content of their message.  I also realize that while I am in Rwanda, I am situated within a society that is in the midst of a communications revolution like one that I am not sure we in the US can fully comprehend.

Imagine this situation.  You are a native-born American, born of US citizens and living your entire life in the US.  Your mother tongue, English, is the language that you learn as an infant.  Learning English seems just about natural to an infant, as her life is immersed in it, her parents and other family members use it routinely and everyone around you reads, writes and speaks with it.  Now imagine, at the age of five (5), you enter primary school.  Your teacher greets you in English and then tells you that beginning immediately, she will be instructing you in English and Russian, the official language of commerce, government and schooling in your country.  By the time you enter secondary school, you are expected to do everything in Russian and English is still taught to you as a subject in school, and spoken to you at home by your loved ones, but all of your transactions with others occur in Russian. By the time you reach grade ten you are doing fairly well in Russian and have mastered English.

Now imagine that the US government, in your tenth year of school, decided that effective in one year, Mandarin Chinese would become the official language of schooling, commerce and government.  Officially, in one year’s time, all teachers would be expected to instruct in Mandarin, and the teaching of Russian would cease.  You would be expected in one year’s time then, as you enter the last year of secondary school, to read and write in Mandarin, to speak it and to take your national examinations in that language.  How do you think you would handle this?

This is essentially the situation in Rwanda, with other languages substituting.  Rwandans’ mother tongue is Kinyarwanda. For many years French has been the official language and English has now become the language that has replaced French.  There is a major upheaval in the country around language at this point.

Massive change brings hardship and opportunity.  For example, opportunities come for interpreters and English teachers.  Tommorow we are traveling to the north of Rwanda to visit Matt and Gayle Denham, who have relocated from Newberg, Oregon to work with Quaker schools in Rwanda for the purpose of teaching English to students and teachers.  Matt and Gayle are working under the auspices of Evangelical Friends Mission. We will be traveling by car about two and one-half hours north to get to Kidaho.  I have noticed not only the need, but in some people, the profound desire to learn English.  There are numerous efforts occuring all over this country in helping Rwandans learn English.

Old Friends, New Friends

June 1, 2010

Tuesday in Kigali was a treat. I got to drive around Kigali with Tom and Linda as Immanueli took them to the Genocide Memorial. We did a little off road driving as the main road was closed for construction and we had to go over some steep terrain to get to where we were going. From there, we went to Kicukiro. He dropped me off at the central market. I have been in a few markets in my time, but this was a market. I was in awe the whole time I was there. Anything and everything for home use was there. The vendors were grouped according to products. The butchers were in the back, and I stood and listened as the large blades came down with force, hacking larger pieces of beef into smaller pieces. The banana vendors were in the front, and there were many of them, along with ladies selling onions, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, squash and several root crops I did not recognize. Past the produce, there were men at little hardware booths, with washers and wire, tools and rope.

I saw clothes and kitchen supplies, pots and pans and handbags. One fellow was selling cds and he seemed to be doing a brisk business. At about 11:30, I left the market and several minutes later, as I waited in front, my friend Mariette came walking up, from across the street.  We had agreed to meet for lunch.  We took a taxi from the market back up to Remera, the neighborhood I am staying in.  There, we ate in the same place where I had joined Jacqueline, Mariette and Michael when I was here in December.  We had a nice buffet lunch while Mariette told me about her work with Umaseke, the NGO that does peace and reconciliation education work with Rwandan teachers and primary students.  She is a little more optimistic about her employment situation than she was the last time we met.  I invited her and Jacqueline to attend Linda’s lecture on Women in Leadership, to be delivered at The Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) tomorrow.  I want to introduce these two women to Shirley Randell, the director of the gender studies center at KIE.

After lunch, I walked to the bookstore, in hopes of finding a book for a colleague.  The shopkeeper did not have the book and suggested another bookstore downtown.  From there, I walked to the stadium, in hopes of seeing my friend, Vianney, who had shown so much kindness to me on my last visit.  Vianney is the President of Le Rapid, a bicycling club for children and his office is at the stadium.  He was not in.  I walked into the stadium proper and took a seat.  I watched several men prepare the field.  Shortly thereafter a young woman came up and greeted me.  Her name was Umuhoza. She wanted to practice her conversational English and spotted me from the other side of the stadium.  I had a long conversation with this woman.  We talked about the limited opportunities for young Rwandans who did not make the cut score for entry into the university.  We talked about the need for English and her drive to become fluent.  We talked about hope and faith and the kingdom of God.  I shared my belief that God’s kingdom was ever present and that she could live in it daily if she had the willingness and commitment to do so.  She shared with me her perspective that young children were close to God and I affirmed this by sharing several stories about Jesus and his teaching in regards to becoming childlike.  I invited Umuhoza to attend Linda’s lecture and offered to walk with her to KIE.

At dinner, we visited with four of the student-interns that are staying with Aryn at the guesthouse.  They shared stories of their work and of their concerns about going home soon.  Morgan shared her concern that she and her friends would have nothing to talk about, as her life has diverged substantially from where it was prior to her departure last year.  Rob spoke about how easy it was for him to get involved in the ex-patriot scene in Kigali, which was a barrier to him getting immersed in Rwandan culture.  I reflected on my own experiences in Africa as these students shared about theirs.

After dinner, Tom and Linda joined Jay and me in a conversation about our learning over the last several days.  It seems like we have had much experience in the short time we have been in Kigali.  Tomorrow is Linda’s lecture and I know that she will do well.  I also know that God will be present and that lives will be touched for good.