Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thanks, Beckz!

(Pictured Here: Our classrooms in Butare. [Picture added to blog entry on 11/19/2009])

Ah! I had another language test this morning. It was a bit more difficult than the last. I have not gotten the results back, but I have a feeling that my place near the top of the training class may be slowly slipping from my grasp. I just need to work harder, that's all.

Anyway, the test was rough. It was only ten minutes long, but it was the loooongest ten minutes of my life. Ha! The language instructors brought some of their friends in to have 'conversations' with us in kinyarwanda. There was no study sheet for this conversation exam. During the exam, you could try to take control of the conversation and shift it to topics you knew a lot about, but the instructor and his or her friend did a REALLY good job of staying in control.

At any rate, when I met with my instructor and her friend, they immediately turned on a tape recorder and began conversing with me in Kinyarwanda. They were asking me about what I did yesterday and I was instructed to respond to everything accordingly. Easy, right? Wrong! The past tense of this language is the hardest tense! The infinitive form of a verb is completely transformed once it is conjugated into the past tense...and these verbs are hard enough as it is, trust me!

Heck, the language itself, though beautiful when spoken properly, is very difficult. Do you know how to say 'Where is the bathroom?' Well you spell it like this, 'Urwiyuhagiriro ruri hehe?' Come on, man! That is impossible to pronounce! Haha! And sometimes I REALLY need to use the bathroom, BUT I want to be polite about it...some things have to be sacrificed in an emergency and, in this case, politeness goes out the window. Instead, I raise my hand and announce, 'Ndashaka kunnya' (I want to poo). This phrase is much easier to remember and say, trust me; plus, I get some laughs. Ha!

Okay, I got off topic...speaking about things in the past is NOT my forte in this language. I understood everything during the test, but my reaction time was slow and I am pretty sure I butchered the hell out of the verbs I tried to conjugate...hahahaha! Oh well, I think my language instructors are planning another test next Saturday. This time I won't say, 'Byerekane!' (Prove it!). I think I will go ahead and keep my pride in check this time and NOT give them a reason to make my tests harder. Haha!

This week was pretty tame. I am excited about tomorrow, though. Some of the team and I are going to a national park to finally see some monkeys. That's right! I have been in Africa for a full month and I have NOT seen a monkey yet! The nationals say that the monkeys pretty much stay out of town and hide in the more rural areas of the country. With that said, one of the team members came up with the idea to visit this park, so we are doing that all day tomorrow.

Okay, onto some cultural facts I am learning. Before I go any further in this entry, I want to thank Beckz for an awesome idea. Specifically, she and I were talking about blog entries this morning and she gave me a great idea. Each Trainee in our group has a language/culture training manual. She suggested that I use some of the "Cultural Notes" in the book to describe some of Rwandan culture and language. With that said, I am going to use a few of the CNs and tie them into some of the experiences I have had over the past few weeks. Thanks, Beckz!

Cultural Note:
In Rwandan culture, people like to hug each other cordially during greetings; the strength and length of the hug depends on the degree of familiarity of the people who are greeting each other.
Emmett Note:
Rwanda is the land of a thousand hills AND of a thousand hugs! Another thing that people like to do is use their left hand to hold their right arm while they are shaking hands. Doing this is a sign of great respect. I love doing this when I meet people on the street. It gets a couple of giggles; they like that I know how to properly greet a person.

Cultural Note:
In Rwandan culture, families are normally large and extended. They are not only comprised of the father, the mother, and the child(ren), but also extended family members.
Emmett Note:
This is not the case for my 'resource family'. I did visit them once when they had a relative passing through town, but I have not met any of their extended family. They do have a houseworker, however. I don't know YET how houseworkers are viewed by family members, BUT employing someone to do your cooking and cleaning is a pretty common practice in Rwanda. There are NO refrigerators in the typical household and ALL family members work if they can, so it is more of a time saver to hire someone to help with the cooking, housework, and baby-sitting. The houseworker at my family's house is about my age, I think. He is a nice, young man; he is well mannered and always has a smile on his face.
I have heard that my living allowance will be more than enough to employ someone to help with the housework and cooking at my permanent residence. I know that Peace Corps Volunteers have employed houseworkers in the past to help them with chores, but I also know that a lot of people have conflicting views regarding this practice. With that said, I am going to research this a bit more before making a move one way or another. Hiring someone to help me with my language skills is something I am interested in, however...we'll see.

Cultural Note:
In Rwanda, it is very important to know if the newborn is a male or a female because of the importance given to a male child. Today, things are changing little by little because of the promotion of gender policy in Rwanda.
Emmett Note:
Families are also getting much smaller. There is a big push to encourage families to have three children or less. The country is predominately Catholic so clinics and such are encouraging citizens to exercise several different kinds of family planning and behavior modification; specifically, abstinence and condom use. Abortion is illegal in Rwanda.
It is a great badge of honor to have many children. Child birth is supported whole-heartedly, by everyone. However, the process of child birth, especially in the smaller villages, is complicated because, many times, the nearest clinic is not very near at all. Moreovoer, there are some traditional practices that complicate the process of birthing a child. I don't know specifics about these practices yet; the little information I do have was given to me by a local nurse and she didn't get specific.
The birth of a child is very important, but the naming of the child is just as important. The parents will wait a few days or a week after the birth of a child to give it a name. This is a common practice in several cultures; this is mainly because if the child was born weak it may die during this period of time. HOWEVER, if the child is born strong and without complication, it will most likely live past this critical period.
At any rate, the naming day is cause for a great celebration. All naming input is taken from family and friends by the parents. A name is decided upon by all parties and the child is formally included into the family and the community. I have yet to attend a ceremony of this nature; time will tell if I will be afforded the opportunity to attend and maybe even have my input considered! Emmett is a strong name, that is all I am sayin'. Ha!
I visited a clinic on Wednesday, got a tour, and was able to speak to one of the nurses for a little while; that is how I got most of this information. The clinic I visted serves 100 people a day with a staff of 12 people; half are health practitioners of some kind (nurses, doctors, etc.) and the other half are administrative or janitorial staff. The facility was GREAT. I could tell that the staff are dedicated professionals. Please keep the staff and patients in your thoughts and prayers.

Cultural Note:
In Rwandan culture, wedding ceremonies are attended by both invited AND non-invited guests. The invited guests have to give some contribution like money, beer, etc., BUT the non-invited guests do not have to give gifts.
Emmett Note:
Wedding crashing is the norm here! Awesome! I have not gone to a wedding yet, BUT a few of my teammates have...invited and uninvited. I will wait to describe a Rwandan wedding until I see one for myself. I do want to share with you the fact that kissing between the bride and the groom at the wedding is not practiced. In fact, kissing in genereal is not practiced (publicly, at least) by Rwadans at all...ever. One of the trainers here said that he never once saw his parents kiss in front of him. Honestly, this doesn't surprise me. Rwandans are very conservative; conservative in regards to American standards, at least.
Another cool note is that for a man to wed a woman, he must first buy a cow and offer it to the bride's family. This cow should be of high quality. If the cow is accepted, the bride's family agrees to the man's proposal and the marriage is allowed to conitnue. Though this seems to be a common practice today in Rwanda, the 'bride to be' gets the final say (in most cases) regarding whether or not she wants to marry the man.
Wow! I just scrolled through this thing and realized how much I wrote! Hahahaha! Sorry, I just have so much information to pass along. I need to cut it off here though or else I will be here all day and spend all of my amafaranga! Hahaha! More stories and cultural notes to come. Stay Tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to let you know how happy I am to hear from you! It sounds like you are having an awesome time! Take care and write more, lots more!