Category Archives: Arrival

Goodnight Rwandan Moon

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Ida B Wells family picture

In the hilly, green land,

There was a young girl

With much to understand

About this big world.

There were kiddos to teach

And places to see,

Adventures to have,

But not permanently.

 

Goodbye rice and

Goodbye beans.

Goodbye chickens, cows, and tea.

Goodbye cold showers.

Goodbye bus stations.

Goodbye East African vacations.

Goodbye maize and

Goodbye francs.

Goodbye massive water tanks.

Goodbye women, brightly dressed,

Goodbye work weeks with no rest.

Goodbye mangoes stacked and sweet,

Goodbye dirty, dusty feet.

Goodbye markets and

Goodbye motos.

Goodbye laughing SG photos.

Goodbye students, and family time.

Goodbye daily uphill climbs.

Goodbye eucalyptus trees,

Goodbye scary monsoon breeze.

Goodbye libraries,

Village and school.

Goodbye mornings, bright and cool.

Goodbye yummy banana wine.

Goodbye children calling ‘I’M FINE’.

Goodbye handshakes, high fives, hugs.

Goodbye bites from random bugs.

Goodbye words I can’t pronounce,

And sweet moments, too high to count.

It’s time to go,

Fly far away.

We always knew

I couldn’t stay.

Goodbye for now,

I’ll be back soon.

Goodbye, goodnight

Rwandan moon.

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Before and after!

 

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Ready, Set, Go!

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.

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.

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Home sweet Library

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.