Rise and Shine! It’s yoga time!

This morning after leading a gorgeous sunrise yoga class (and taking my post-yoga nap), I headed to the library so I could finish season 1 of Serial while I inventory my books using my fabulous library app. I opened the door to find a HUGE puddle of water left over from the kiddos who had mopped the Dining Hall this morning. Every Saturday after Mucakamucaka, every family spends a couple of hours doing service in the Village. Their tasks vary from harvesting crops from our farm, cutting the grass around their houses, pulling weeds that grow along the roads, and pretty much anything else the Village needs done. Usually I’m in the library while they’re cleaning the floor of the Dining Hall,  so they’re able to mop out any water that spills in, but this morning the doors had been closed. Naturally, I went to find my friend Leonedas and ask if I could borrow his squeegee so I could clean up this mess.

“I’m a cleaner in Dining.” Leonedas declared proudly the first time we met in January. He speaks Kinyarwanda, French, and just enough English to get by with the crazy cousin who is constantly in the Library. Every morning, after the kids eat breakfast and head to school, Leonedas and his team pick up all 800ish chairs and put them up on the tables. Then they pour buckets of soapy water on the ground and squeegee the clay floors until they are clean. Every. Morning. This dining hall is enormous, and between the creatures that live here and the students that eat here, keeping this room clean is no easy task. And yet, that’s exactly what Leonedas does. I must drive him crazy, because me and my muddy shoes always seem to walk through at exactly the moment he and his team are almost done cleaning. He could probably pick my shoe-prints out of a crowd, that’s how often I ruin his hard work! If I leave the Library open, Leonadas will come in to mop my floors and take out my garbage. One time, I asked him to dispose of a rather tall pile of old textbooks. They were teacher’s editions for a class on Microsoft 2003 and I made the executive decision that no one needed to use them anymore, not even the local community schools. After some miming and some attempts at Kinyarwanda, Leonedas looked at me with pain in his eyes and incredulously said “I’m sorry. You want these out? Why? Can’t anyone use them?” No, I tried to explain to him, I know it’s sad but these books are very old and they cannot be used. He gave me one more dejected look of resignation and threw the books out for me. Several days later, I opened the door to the Library and discovered Leonedas and his friend sitting on the couch enjoying a fabulously well illustrated book about dinosaurs. I decided any person who works so hard to keep this room clean, and who so clearly understands and appreciates the value of books, should at least be allowed to enjoy the treasures I keep here, so I let them stay even after I left the room.

Back to today. I asked Leonedas for his squeegee which he curiously gave me. I could almost hear the thought in his head – why does this muzungu need this? What could this Cousin possibly be doing? Several minutes later he came to check on me.

“YOU ARE CLEANING?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! The students did not take care of it?!” Leonedas was not happy.

No, I explained to him, it wasn’t their fault. The doors were closed and they didn’t realize the water was coming in. Ntakibazo (pronounced nachibazo – no worries) I said, I’ll take care of it.

This was unacceptable to Leonedas. It’s unclear if he was unhappy because I was doing it wrong (which I probably was) or if it was more that he doesn’t think cleaning should be my responsibility (which it totally is- there’s definitely a line in my contract about ‘all other duties as needed’). Probably it was some combination of both, but either way Leonedas was having none of it. He went right away to get a bucket of soapy water, another squeegee, and another maintenance worker. My squeegee was confiscated and the two professionals got to work.

Stop that, Cousin. You are doing it wrong.

In minutes my floor was spectacularly clean, and Leonedas had not only taken out my trash, but he had also washed the actual trash can – apparently cobwebs are unacceptable accessories for trash cans. As he returned the trash cans, he looked at a small stack of books I have near the window.

These guys work so hard!

“These books are fine? They don’t need to be taken out?” he said with apprehension.

Yes, Leonedas, the books are fine. Don’t worry my friend, my days of disposing of books are over.

He smiled gratefully and as he left the Library I could feel his pride at a job well done.

“OK, see you later” he said with a grin.

Au revoir, I said, and merci beaucoup for everything you do.


The Lizard Who Lives in my Library



To the Lizard who lives in my library,

I’m sorry for believing you were lethally scary!


Do you remember the first time we met?

I moved a book and SHRIEKED at the threat.


But later I saw a slight, lightly skittering creature!

Who knew you would be my most frequent reader?

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Lizard party! 

The kids come and go, even I need a reprieve

From this layer of learning – but you never leave!


While I labor and liaise, while I laminate and lesson plan,

You lounge and you look, and you leap like a Batman!


You lovely, literary Lizard! I hope you’ll never leave!

But since you’re my pet, let me share a little peeve.


You’re limber and lively and light on your feet

You leverage the length of your limbs to launch yourself onto my seat!


Listen, lexical Lizard, a leader of literacy must follow the law

And I’m telling you, Lizard, you have quite a flaw.


Oh Lizard, my Lizard, please you must cease!

If you keep landing on my lap, I will cancel your lease!

Lizard! Stop flying from the sky!

Your loud SPLAT always makes sigh.


Doesn’t it hurt, little love? To land loudly like that?

You’re limp after all, and the floor is so hard and flat!


While others would be livid, lash out, make you leave right away!

I’m a liberal librarian, and I’d love you to stay.


Truly – your loss would leave me lonely and lamenting

But little lad, I will be unrelenting.


I can’t leave a legacy of linguistic beings

Lobbing like lighting down from the ceiling!


Lest you get injured, become listless or lame

Little Lizard- my library would not be the same!


My dear loyal Lizard – Lord of Literature and Lexicon,

I hope it will never be you that I step on!


I hope you will live and look over my kids as they learn!

I hope you will stay and you will always return!


I hope you continue to take care of your little self.

But do me a favor? Stay off my bookshelf!

Lizard between the bookshelf and the wall! 



Vuba Vuba!

I learned a new Kinyarwanda phrase! Vuba vuba which means ‘quickly quickly!’ and it perfectly captures my attitude this week. We just returned back from a week long seminar in Israel with the other Entwine Fellows serving around the globe. For the rest of the cohort, this is their midway point, but of course the Rwanda delegation only started a few months ago. We spent the week eating, drinking, catching up with friends, and taking extremely hot showers every chance we got. Each of us brought back what we thought was most essential to our survival for the rest of the year in Rwanda (shampoo, spices, chocolate, dried fruit) and we said a tearful goodbye to Israel for at least a little while.

Our happy little JDC Entwine cohort! 

As soon as we touched down in Kigali, I decided it was time to put my ‘getting shit done’ hat back on. Up until this point, we’ve been in a weird mode between trying really hard to get into the swing of things, but knowing that we were about to take a week out of the Village and head to Israel. It’s been really hard to establish strong routines, because our week off really messed everything up. The end of term is just around the corner – can you believe that April 1st is only a few weeks away?!- so I only have about four more weeks to accomplish all of my first term goals.



With a level of anxiety I can only describe as utterly immense, I walked back into the Village on Monday morning and headed straight for my Library. I had given the keys to the Young Judea group leader so she could bring her participants in to continue working on the labels they had started with me before I left for Israel. I left them directions that would go nicely with a case study on OCD and I crossed my fingers and hoped to God that they would do exactly what I wanted them to do, exactly how I wanted them to do it. You can only imagine how terrifying it was to open the door after being gone for an entire week and letting someone else oversee this massive project I had dreamed up.

My name is Naomi and I definitely have OCD

To my utmost delight, the Young Judeans had done an AMAZING job! Nearly all of the books had been color-coded and labeled and it was easy for me to figure out where they had left off. They are here for a few more days, so they’ll be able to continue their work, and whatever they don’t finish I can have the next service group complete. My delight at their accurate work is matched only by my deepest gratitude for the hours they put in – it probably would have taken me all year to accomplish what they’ve done in just three weeks.

I officially love these Young Judeans! 


With this stage of the library organization crossed off my list, I consulted my Post-it of first term goals.

Post-it notes are very powerful where I come from

Next on the list? Get rid of the wall of textbooks I have in the Library. I’ve been trying to get the teachers at the school to come down and take their pick, but so far I’ve had no luck. A few annoying emails later and it was decided the teachers would come visit me after lunch and select the resources they were interested in. I divided the remaining books into 32 piles (one for each family) and texted, emailed, and generally irritated everyone in the Village until all the books had been claimed and placed in all the family homes.  Now I have an open wall! Oh the possibilities!

Wall of textbooks BE GONE! 

Next up: get someone to build storage for the yoga mats. We have about 25 yoga mats that I spent several hours scrubbing by hand a few weeks ago and I have absolutely no intention of letting them get so dirty again. In order to keep them in good condition, they need to be up off the ground. On Monday, I spoke to Aloys, our director of Informal Education and my supervisor, and reminded him that this was a priority. Monday after lunch someone from the Operations Department came with a tape measure and by Wednesday afternoon I had a gorgeous new shelving unit for our yoga equipment! VUBA VUBA, getting it DONE.


Isn’t it GORGEOUS?!

In the same conversation, Aloys promised me a small bookshelf to have up at the office Keturah and I share at the school. We have some resource books we want to organize and of course we can’t do this without a bookshelf. Aloys is definitely on board with my renewed vuba vuba attitude, and by Wednesday morning, Keturah and I had a bookshelf!

A few weeks ago, the Cousins had to submit midterm reports to give the management team and the NY office some updates on what we were doing and what support we needed. In my report, I explained how I really needed a projector that could belong just to the English program and the Career Development Center. Keturah and I run classes and workshops every week and we are constantly having to chase down projectors and persuade other departments to share them with us. I decided to dream big and ask for a projector and a printer that could live in the Library. Lo and behold, Sara ‘get it done’ Weinberger, our NY point of contact arranged for me to pick up a printer next time I’m in Kigali AND she had a projector sent to the Village with a visitor who delivered it to me on Thursday afternoon. Now Keturah and I have a shiny new projector that we can use whenever we want! Thanks Sara! Maybe I’ll use the open wall in the Library and show English videos using our new projector!

For those of you keeping score, at this point I have asked for and received the following items or services:

  • An additional bookshelf for the Library
  • An iPad for our new and improved check-out and inventory system
  • Several hundred books from the Store
  • Volunteers to organize and label books
  • Books to be moved to family houses and my office at the school
  • A bookshelf for my office at school
  • A custom made shelf for yoga mats
  • A projector
  • A printer

You’d think I’d be satisfied! You’d think my years of experience at camp or teaching in a low-income school would have trained me to make do with the resources I’ve got instead of wishing for things I don’t have! You’d be wrong!

Have you ever read ‘If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?’ Is the mouse EVER satisfied? No. That goal-setting role model of a rodent always thinks of something else to ask for.

You know what they say….if you give a librarian an iPad, she’s going to want a stronger WiFi connection. And once she has a strong WiFi connection, she might want some computers to live in the Library. In order to charge the computers, she will need an extension cord. While she’s using the computers, she’s going to want to use a printer. And if she has a printer…well. The possibilities are endless.