Tag Archives: happiness

I kunda you


I’ve got a new favorite phrase which if you know my speaking habits, well, I’m saying it a lot. Too much, probably. Reaching “hey girl” status would seem like an improbable feat, but it’s getting there. This new magical phrase?

I kunda you.

I imagine I don’t need to explain the ‘I’ or the ‘You’ but the ‘kunda’ comes from the Kinyarwanda verb ‘gukunda’, meaning to love.

I love you.

This little gem of a phrase comes from Ruramira’s own—the secondary school students. It says a lot about my kids’ English abilities; they sure are trying, but a combined mixture of Kinyarwanda and English is somehow the norm. One day, a few weeks back, I showed up for class, wrapped up our lesson on nutrition, and as I walked out with white chalk residue littered all over my clothes and hands, I heard a couple students shout quickly and loudly, “I kunda you teacher!” Grinning wide, I poked my head back in the brick-covered classroom and shouted back. “I kunda you, too!”

Now, on an average day, I hear and say these three words dozens and dozens of times. It’s kind of our thing, you know?

We’re kind of adorable.

Don’t get me wrong though, this job, this life, and the relationships I have with my students aren’t always full of flowers and butterflies.

This term (the last one of my first year) has been hard at times. I’ve walked out on classes. I left school in tears. I’ve given 0’s for cheating. I’ve kicked kids out. I even sent one to the dean of discipline, knowing that he would probably be beat (I definitely regret this decision). I’ve also given the following lecture at least a handful of times, in a variety of different forms:

Do you want to study? Why pay school fees if you come to disturb the class? Do you realize that I am here for YOU? Should I just go back to America? I can find a job there (though I don’t let on how difficult this would actually be given the state of our economy). Do you want me to go? If I am headmaster, you are quiet. If I am another teacher and carry a stick to beat you, you are quiet. Why? What can I do?

At times, teaching is a rocky road, full of stress, discomfort, and a load of frusturation. I came home several days this term, practically throwing the door back, and wondering why? Why do I try so hard to make this work?

But, this was also a term of really wonderful things too.

This was the term where I demonstrated how to cook salad with a bit of props, imagination, and extraordinary acting skills in order to teach about the importance of vegetables in our diet. My students did tongue twisters (yes, like your classic Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers) and acted out different careers during a game of charades. This term, we had debates: some about discrimination (just another excuse for me to name drop and talk about Martin Luther King Jr.), some about which career is the best, and even one was about whether water or fire was better. Funny enough, it was that one that was probably the very best one. The girls football team wrote letters to the Hendrix field hockey team, we started out very own GLOW Club (we just had elections for leadership: we have a president, VP, secretary, publicity executive, and mama GLOW—the girl who helps the girls if they have a problem and need someone to talk to—and I was given the title of ‘grandmother GLOW’. Perfect). And one day, we danced for 3 hours to prep for welcoming visitors from our sponsor school in Germany, including a member of their parliament.

Outside of school, I’ve continued my home visits. It really, in all sincerity, is one of my favorite things to do. And, they’ve visited me too, which is always a nice change. I was in a family wedding for two of my students, I’ve praised and worshipped God with others, and I’ve even done some small traveling with students I have special relationships with.

When my days are filled  with these sort of things, I literally can’t imagine not being here. Which is kind of hilarious. Mostly because I’ll have a day where I just want to pack up and go. I’m done, I think. This is just too hard, it’s not working, and I can’t handle the stress anymore.

Then, the next day, I’ll be walking home right as the sun filters out of the coming dark blue night sky and think about how happy I am. I’ll remember how I almost didn’t do Peace Corps at all, and it blows my mind. My life is now framed and inter-laced with the people I love here, as if I was meant to be here all along. Yeah. Peace Corps cultivates a lot of things, including the sense that you are in fact, bipolar.

This upcoming week is the last week of lessons but I will not be at school as I will be helping out at the training for the new education volunteers (soon, we’ll be the oldest group here!) I’ll be surprising my host family, giving lessons on how to teach speaking, and visiting the place I was a trainee a year ago. This means I’m done teaching for the term. (!!!) I’m happy, because it’s definitely time for a break, but I’ll admit, I’m a bit nostalgic too.

My senior three students will take the national exam next month. If they do well, they can go to another school with more resources and course options to continue the advanced level of study for secondary school (referring to senior 4, senior 5, and senior 6). Which, is awesome! But, I’m a sap too, and I’ll miss them. It’s like watching your babies grow up.

But, as those doors close, so many more open. I have another year to do better, to learn from my experiences, and to teach in ways that I know will work.

One thing is for sure, as least as I write this, in this given moment: I am right where I need to be. Dirty dishes lie waiting for scrubbing and washing in my back room, left over from the visit from 4 of my girls, papers needing grading fill my books to the rim, and sticky notes are on every edge and corner of my desk reminding me of who I said I would visit and the little things I need to take care of in and out of the village. I’m figuring this out.

I kunda you.

Like I said, that’s kind of our thing at school now and I love that. I love that Term 3 was the term ‘I kunda you’ came into being and that it was this term that I felt comfortable enough to let my guard down, be me, and let this experience exist exactly as it is—in the good, bad, and unknowing times. It’s not perfect, and there are really really bad days sometimes. But I know it just all fits together, because when I find myself completely content, happy, and more at peace then I have been in a very very long time (maybe ever) I just thank God that everything is worth it.

Taken separately, the experiences of life can work harm and not good. Taken together, they make a pattern of blessing and strength the likes of which the world does not know.

-V. Raymond Edman 

wedding time!


me and the family of Maisara and Zahara

Me and Divine and her grandmother

you know. teaching.

the girls rockin’ at dancing

drumming and waiting for the German delegation


we’re learning to jump. somehow.

peace (corps), love, and Rwanda


From the moment the BIG BLUE packet arrived on my front doorstep next to the milk box, I’ve been somewhere between a reflective, grateful, contemplative young woman to a girl who is running around like a chicken with their head cut off.

I think they are both natural responses to a BIG life change. How big? RWANDA big.

Finally, after almost a year (to the day) of waiting, I found out that I was in the Peace Corps. I would be leaving in September, and I would be teaching.

That was enough for about the first 2 hours upon finding out.

Then. it started.

What do I do next?

What forms do I have to turn in?

Do I need a passport?

When should I buy stuff that I need?

What all do I need to take?

Is teaching really right for me?

Am I going to do a good job?

Will I be able to communicate with my friends and family?

Where in Rwanda will I live?

Will I be safe?

You get the idea. The thing is, I ‘ve thought about all of these things before. 1 year in the PC application process will do that to you. But. Now, I have this letter. And it’s like “Congratulations! You are invited to begin training in Rwanda!” I guess that’s what they mean when they say it just got real.

I went backpacking with my mom and Randy this last weekend and I thought a lot about this opportunity. There were moments that I laid in the hammock wondering how my life got to this point…and I just smiled. And the answer is basically, I don’t know. But I’m glad, and grateful. So so grateful. I can’t even begin to imagine what this experience will be like, but I’m so thankful that I get a chance to do it, that I have this opportunity to pursue something I am so dearly passionate for.

What is right, is right. What will be, will be. This is something that it took me 4 years to learn in college, and I’m still learning it. But, I am believing it more and more. That’s what this is. Somehow, in all of the madness that this process brought, ultimately, it worked out. God’s hand was in this.

So, now I am moving forward appreciatively and a little crazily, but certainly very productively. To date, I have submitted my US passport to get approved for a special Peace Corps passport, I have submitted my aspiration statement and updated resume to PC, I have formally accepted the position (writing that email was probably one of the most insane/cool emails I have ever written), I have finished the paperwork for the media relations office, I have started this blog, I have read the Volunteer handbook, I have ordered a Kinyarwanda dictionary, and I am voraciously everything I can read about Rwanda. I am doing really well in this preparation process. Maybe as well as could be expected? I am working through the financial issues (banks, loans, etc.) but that too is getting worked out.

This is a special period in my life, I think. So, I’m going to do my best to enjoy it. The month of August will be one of the best…I don’t even doubt it. Michelle is coming to visit Colorado, I am going to Disney World with Rachel, I am helping Rachel move into her grad-school apartment in Murfreesboro, I am going to Michelle’s wedding in Moscow, TN, seeing all my friends (reunion!), and then hanging out at Hendrix for a week, capped off with seeing the first Hendrix field hockey game of the season. Indeed, it’s a special time in my life right now. I will come home from this trip and have ONE WEEK to get my things together, spend time with my family, and prepare to close the door on this part of my life for awhile.

Yet, a new one is opening, and goodness, I can just feel the excitement inside of me.