6:45 – arrive at school, observe welcoming ceremony for the official start of Term 1
7:15 – mobilize the Ministers to help get our first year students to their classrooms and help distribute school supplies. Watch with obscene pride as Ministers organize themselves, anticipate the needs of the people around them, and work together to meet those needs and solve problems in real time
9:15 – teach
10:00 – solve library-related problems
10:55 – teach
12:30 – lunch
1:30 – walk back up the hill to school
2:15 – teach
2:55 – walk home from school, stop in the Dining Hall to take cover from the pouring rain
3:30 – turn off phone, yoga for 1 hour
5:00 – meet student in Library to work on an application for an incredible opportunity that’s due….tonight
6:53 – finish application (it’s perfect! Go us!)
7:00 – stare in disbelief as the computer we are using logs out of the student’s account and won’t let us log back in because it’s past 7 pm
7:01 – call the tech guy and try to problem solve
7:02 – lots of deep breaths
7:03 – accept that there is nothing we can do to log in to the student’s account until tomorrow morning
7:04 – go to dinner
8:00 – meet student to rewrite entire application – this time on my computer where nothing unexpected or unsolvable is likely to happen
8: 44 – finish application (thank God)
8:45 – submit application
8: 47 – have critical conversation with student about how wonderful she is, how great it will be if she wins, and that she should manage her expectations so she won’t be crushed if she isn’t accepted
8:50 – organize one last stack of books, glance over lesson plans for tomorrow, realize that I have literally not stopped moving since 5:30 in the morning. Reflect on how every second of this day was completely jam packed with productive and enjoyable work. Think about all the perfect faces I saw today, all the hugs and high-fives I gave and received, all the little moments of love in between the tasks of the day. Decide that I’ve done enough for one day, and that I should go to sleep, so I can do it all again tomorrow.
It’s 6 AM. I have dragged myself out of my warm and comfortable bed, and somehow convinced myself to get my workout in before my 9 AM meeting. I grab my yoga mat and feel a strange, fuzzy sensation. That’s annoying, I think. I hate when there are spider webs on my mat.
OUCH. The damn thing is still on my mat and it’s BITING me. I do the only rational thing I can think of and I throw my most beloved possession across the room, toward the open front door. Only then, do I see that my beautiful, precious, expensive yoga mat is black and fuzzy and MOVING.
Ants. Hundreds of thousands of ANTS have made their way into my house.
What. The. Actual. Fuck.
A horrible, black, line, three inches wide and ungodly long is winding its way from the back door of our house, through the kitchen, into the living room, and up onto the shelf where we keep our snacks and dishes. The target? The jars of peanut butter we bought last weekend in Kigali. I stifle a scream as I remind myself that my two roommates are blissfully asleep and don’t need to wake up to shrieking at 6 o’clock in the morning. It takes me a solid thirty seconds of panicked staring to figure out what to do.
Step 1: call for back-up. Let me remind you, the sun has barely come up and everyone rational is still fast asleep. Darren is a morning exerciser like me, so I call him and by the grace of God, he’s awake.
Step 2: remove the source. Darren channels his inner Bear Grylls, covers his hands with a towel, grabs the offending jars of peanut butter, and runs out of the house. This process is repeated several times until any container with even a small trace of food has been taken out of the house. We’ll deal with them later.
Step 3: remove the intruders. We each grab brooms and take a deep breath. We know that the second we disrupt the neat little line the ants are following they are going to lose their minds and start biting. On the count of three, we go for it. Darren attacks the line on the ground, and I’m swatting the ants off the shelf. We figure out where they’re coming in from and try to prevent any more from coming in.
Step 4: don’t get bit. This fails miserably, and we spend the next hour trying not wake up my two sleeping roommates with our gasps of pain as the little shits nip at our hands and feet.
Step 5: manipulate the monsters. As we’re sweeping the ants out of the house, we realize that they just keep reorganizing themselves toward the shelf in the living room. We decide to try redirecting the line outside of the house – make the ants think it’s their idea to march their nasty selves out of my house. We debate putting food on the floor to guide them out, but decide against it, in case we attract more ants from the diaspora of the house.
Step 6: assess the damage. Slowly but surely, the number of ants is decreasing. Just when we’re feeling good about our progress, I notice a line of ants making their way out of the living room and into MC’s bedroom. Up until now, Darren and I have been whispering and trying not to wake the girls, but the last thing I want is for MC to wake up, covered in ants. We wake her up and sure enough, the ants are working their way around the perimeter of her room. Grab another broom, sweep them out. By now, the ants have definitely re-formed their line and are marching themselves out of the house. All we have to do now is wait for them to fall into line and sweep up the stragglers. Check the bathrooms, sweep the ants into the shower, turn on the water, wash them down the drain.
Step 7: make ant related puns. Ant-pocolpyse. Ant-imatter. Ant-ithesis. Unwelcome ten-ants. Ain’t I glad I woke up in Rwanda this morning? Not particularly, no.
Step 8: post-traumatic-ant-disorder. The ants are most cleared out, its 7 AM. Everyone is solidly awake and there are thousands of ant carcasses on the front and back porches of my house. Not exactly the most yogic environment there ever was, but I’ve lost an hour of my morning, and oh my god, do I need some namaste right now. As we take in the carnage, we decide that the crisis has been handled and the only thing left to do is go about our days, as if we hadn’t spent the morning battling tiny monsters to protect our livelihoods and everything we hold dear.
Never again will I tease a child about having ants in their pants. We don’t joke about such things anymore.
What a difference a year makes! The Cousins have been in Rwanda for two weeks and oh my goodness is it so much easier this time around! Our travel was smooth and uneventful, all of our luggage arrived in tact, and we made it to Kigali without shedding a single tear. After a few days of jet-lag induced late night chats, our little Cousin group is already starting to feel like family. While the new Cousins got to know Rwanda, I spent time catching up with some of my Kigali-based kiddos, which was beyond delicious. Peter cooked up a beautiful Christmas eve/ first night of Hanukkah dinner and we spent Christmas Day cloud watching at the Hotel Des Mille Collines.
A very Rwandan Christmas
There is no happy like ‘reunited with Ministers’ happy
We arrived at the Village early last week and amidst dozens of hugs and ‘how are yous’ we allowed ourselves to be enveloped by the undeniable feeling of home this place cultivates. We had a few days to prepare for our new students, so we spent time with the management staff of the Village learning about all the programmatic and structural changes the Village developed over the break. Suffice it to say that the management team has been extremely busy – the Village has been turned upside down and inside out. The changes seem to be moving in the right direction and while I have a feeling our older students will flip, I think things are definitely going to work more smoothly from now on. The biggest change is that there are usually 8 families per grade, and this year there will be only 6. We’ll have the same number of students, just larger families. Unfortunately, it also means that Taylor and I won’t be assigned new families. It’s a little disappointing, but it means we’ll be able to continue focusing on our families from last year. It also means I’ll have the freedom to visit different families every day for meals and family time, which will help me achieve my lofty goal of knowing all 528 students by name.
While the other Cousins were settling in, I was ready to hit the ground running. I reset the Library to its pre-winterization glory and I organized the 200ish books I had brought with me from the book drive. I’m sad I wasn’t able to bring all of the donations with me, but the rest of the books will make their way over with different visitors over the course of the next few weeks, so no worries. Our new students will spend the next three weeks in orientation English classes, so I got to work on creating fun and engaging lesson plans for the other Cousins to help me teach. We prepped the family houses for the new students and welcomed them on Thursday morning. After a full weekend of name learning and game playing, the kids were ready to start English classes.
Unlike last year, I actually know what I’m doing this time around which, to be honest, is really refreshing. Monday marked the beginning of my fourth year of classroom teaching, and if the year turns out to be as successful as our first day of school was, I will be one happy Cousin. The kids (who showed up 30 minutes earlier than expected) were quickly organized into their classrooms and ready to learn. The Cousins executed the lesson plans beautifully. The materials were prepared, problems were solved, and the kids walked away feeling like the school is a place of safety, learning, and fun. As I checked in on each classroom throughout the morning, I was just blown away by the incredible team of fellows I get to work with and the amazing students I’ll have in my classes this year. Already we can see that their levels of English are significantly higher than last year’s group, which means my job will be significantly easier this time around. I’ll spend the next three weeks planning word games and confidence building activities to prepare the kids for real classes, which will start on the 23rd. I’ll also be working with a consultant the Village has hired to support the teachers and help me develop the English program into a sustainable curriculum. I’ll be putting all of the new kids into the library software so they can check out books, and in my spare time, I’ll be marinating on how to include more leadership development programming for my ministers. Words simply fail to capture how truly and thoroughly happy I am to be home, and how hard I am ready to work for my kiddos this year. I’m so looking forward to a new year with new students, new Cousins, and new adventures, all while applying the lessons and skills I learned last year. Having six weeks at home was nice, but it’s time to roll up my sleeves, put my dirty sneakers back on, and get back to work.