Tag Archives: photos

“change like seasons”

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the girls football team ready to play in a match right before we began the school holiday.

the girls football team ready to play in a match right before we began the school holiday.

“It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.”

-Donald Miller

beautiful rwanda & football = a great combination.

beautiful rwanda & football = a great combination.

I’ve been on a journey/travel/holiday/break/adventure/whatever you want to call it for over 2 weeks now. Maybe it’s three? I’m not really sure anymore.

The day I left Rwanda I attended a wedding (typical; because that’s what I do) and I was fresh off a motorcycle accident that left my body with too many aches and bruises to count. I had also finished my 4th term of teaching in Rwanda. And with all of the happiness and joy that I have felt while living and working in Rwanda, I was completely and utterly burnt out. I was tired. I was ready for a break.

My holiday started in Rwanda, actually. The day before I even left for Uganda. Two of my friends (Divine and Yazina) and I traveled to a nearby lake for some relaxation, good food, and a photo shoot. It was there first trip there and they loved it far more than I think they thought they would. I was sad to not be seeing them for several weeks and so I wanted them to have a chance to celebrate our time together.

After our photoshoots, food, and playing on swings came to an end, I packed up and left. I was Uganda bound, and after a few days there, I would be leaving the African continent for the first time in 19 months (or something like that).

Crazy, right?

I’m still processing everything I’ve been doing, seeing, and above all, eating.

Y’all. I have been eating so much food. It’s glorious.

I have ventured out of Uganda (with an experience of seeing the Nile and bungee jumping!) and onto England to stay with Michelle for a couple of weeks. My time here is about half-done and we’ve been to Paris and back, visited Oxford, have walked around her village, had a tea party, viewed a showing of ‘Lincoln’, and my favorite part, have just spent time together catching up.

Like I said, I’m still soaking up the Western world in all its glory and so really, I’m just enjoying myself. It’s good for me. Sometimes, I think I think about things too much, so for now, I’m just taking each day as an opportunity to be with a really important friend in my life, get a better grasp of her own life, and take a break from the life that I will be going back to next week. I think I’ll be ready. Maybe more earnestly, I hope that I will be ready. Describing Rwanda is proving difficult, but no matter what, it’s my life and it’s thoroughly important to own your life and be proud for what it is. And I am. Here’s some pictures from the last couple of weeks that hopefully paint a good picture of what I have been up to. Cheers, y’all.

divine and yazina at a nearby lake in the eastern province. we went  for some R&R before i left for vacation.

divine and yazina at a nearby lake in the eastern province. we went for some R&R before i left for vacation.

yazina photoshoot. gorgeous girl!

yazina photoshoot. gorgeous girl!

playing on the swings. being a kid. this is normal.

playing on the swings. being a kid. this is normal.

the nile river - uganda.

the nile river – uganda.

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bungee jumping over the nile. crazy/cool/weird experience.

my first meal outside of africa in a SUPER long time. michelle spoiled me with a hamburger, fries, and a coke. americans rock.

my first meal outside of africa in a SUPER long time. michelle spoiled me with a hamburger, fries, and a coke. americans rock.

so. the newell's (john and ashley) surprised us with a trip to PARIS!

so. the newell’s (john and ashley) surprised us with a trip to PARIS!

cheese market. enough said.

cheese market. enough said.

um. so this place is gorgeous. this is the seine river near the notre dame area.

um. so this place is gorgeous. this is the seine river near the notre dame area.

notre dame; and hey! here the sun was out! during our two-day stay it was raining most of the time. but don't worry, this did not keep us down!

notre dame; and hey! here the sun was out! during our two-day stay it was raining most of the time. but don’t worry, this did not keep us down!

love this picture! totally represents the amount of times we got lost (a lot)!

love this picture! totally represents the amount of times we got lost (a lot)!

michelle and our dear friend the eiffel tower. we had more than our fair share of photo shoots!

michelle and our dear friend the eiffel tower. we had more than our fair share of photo shoots!

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it’s pretty common knowledge i love trees. and so, this just seemed entirely necessary outside a couple of historic museums in paris. when in paris, right?

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a pretty amazing feeling to be in such a invigorating place with a extraordinary friend. feeling pretty blessed.

paris at night. trying to be marilyn monroe. this was after a DELICIOUS dinner near the palais royal.

paris at night. trying to be marilyn monroe. this was after a DELICIOUS dinner near the palais royal.

our hotel was so cool! we stayed near the orsay museum in a really neat part of town. the rooms are finely decorated and i took one of the best hot baths. ever.

our hotel was so cool! we stayed near the orsay museum in a really neat part of town. the rooms are finely decorated and i took one of the best hot baths. ever.

breakfast in bed.

breakfast in bed.

...and wrote letters to home at a little cafe.

…and wrote letters to home at a little cafe.

after our return to england we visited oxford--about an hour away from michelle's house.

after our return to england we visited oxford–about an hour away from michelle’s house.

at the oxford university press bookstore. reading the dictionary. i knew this had to happen, of course.

at the oxford university press bookstore. reading the dictionary. i knew this had to happen, of course.

classic.

classic.

oxford is incredibly beautiful.

oxford is incredibly beautiful.

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michelle also hosted a sophisticated, fun, and super adorable tea party–british style, of course! we had victoria sponge cake, cookies, tea (all sorts of flavors), and sandwiches. michelle had 3 of her girlfriends over and it was a lovely way to experience a very important british tradition.

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I kunda you

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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

dancing

we’re learning to jump. somehow.