Thursday, April 9, 2009

April Fool's Day, Final Exams Week, and Three Months of Mourning

(Pictured Here: Random fanny pack photo.)
These two weeks have been busy. I want to touch base on some 'Topics of Interest'.

Topic of Interest: 'April Fool's Day'
'April Fool's Day' is not celebrated in Rwanda, BUT that did not stop the 34 of us from teaching our Rwandan trainers how to celebrate this glorious day devoted to practical jokes. First of all, one of us (Brittany) hid the class bell which is rung at the beginning and end of each class. (Well, the bell is less of a 'bell', really, and more of a tire rim from a truck...AND it is not really 'rung' so much as it is hit several times with a rock.) Anyway, one of us hid it and I was blamed immediately...unjustly so.

(I will confess that I do enjoy 'ringing' the 'bell' even when there is no class to be had. People come out of their rooms with books in their hands and confused looks on their annoys everyone else, but I get a big kick out of it. We are so well trained. Hahahahaha!)

Anyway, we also switched up our classrooms to confuse the trainers. There are nine trainers and, therefore, nine classrooms. We are divided among these nine classes according to language level and learning style. On April Fool's Day, however, we divided ourselves up randomly. Anyway, it was a fun day and it was a blast teaching the trainers about practical jokes and American humor.

The Training Director, Mupe (as we like to call him), got REALLY into it and started calling people into his office and telling them they were in trouble. Mupe is Congolese and has a VERY serious look to him; so, when he calls you out, your heart sinks. HOWEVER, Mupe also has a VERY strong sense of humor. He thought it was hilarious that we were freaking out when he was calling us into his office for a 'serious discussion'. (Side Note: He beat me in Chess that week too...twice. I WILL HAVE MY REVENGE, MUPE!)

Topic of Interest: Nyanza Orphanage
I returned to the Nyanza Orphanage last week. This was the orphanage to which I gave the oral hygiene lesson a few weeks ago. I returned last Thursday with some other volunteers to teach the older children about HIV and AIDS. This lesson went well, but explaining the specific medical terms in Kinyarwanda was VERY difficult. It was fun, though, and the students, I feel, learned a lot.

Topic of Interest: Language Final Exam
I took my final language exam on Saturday. What a rough test, let me tell ya. The exam was an hour long and it was ALL oral. My test was scheduled with Alphonse, one of the trainers, for 8:30 am on that Saturday. The test was structured as a conversation that touched on six topics/scenarios. We spoke about each topic/scenario for about ten minutes or so; NO ENGLISH ALLOWED...yikes!

I performed better than I thought. In fact, not to brag, but I was one of five people, out of the 34 of us, that received the level of ADVANCED on the test. (SWEEEEET!) After calculating all of our homework and tasks done in the language, I think like eight out of the 34 of us are going to receive an overall level of ADVANCED for the language portion of our training.

Topic of Interest: Peace Corps Final Exam
I took my final exam for ALL of Peace Corps training on Wednesday. It took two hours to complete, but I feel like I did strong. I know I have received a 96% on the Health Tech portion of the test and I am pretty sure I got 100% on the Medical portion of the test. Anyway, I get all of my final scores tomorrow when I meet with the Training Director, Mupe, and the Assistant Country Director, Biba, for my final 'training interview'. I feel strong; I am not nervous at all.

Topic of Interest: Next week in Kigali
I leave Butare early next week. I have to spend this weekend packing up and getting ready to ship out to Kigali; I spend all of next week there. In Kigali, the capital, we will shop for some supplies and enjoy each other's company while we still can.

Oh Yeah! I swear-in on Wednesday, too! That's right, I am technically NOT a Peace Corps Volunteer yet. (You remain a trainee while in training and if you pass all of your tests and receive strong recommendations from your interviews with PC staff, THEN you are recommended for service as a full PCV.) Anyway, the swearing-in ceremony is going to be held next week. I am looking forward to it; it should be quite an experience.

Topic of Interest: Three Months of Mourning
Tuesday, April 7th marked the official beginning of Rwanda's 'Week of Mourning'. On April 7th 1994, the genocide began and within the first week over 100,000 people were murdered. The genocide lasted 100 days and claimed the lives of between 800,000-1,000,000 people (the numbers vary depending on the information source). From Tuesday, April 7th until Monday, April 13th all of Rwanda remembers those that lost there lives, but the next three months will also be full of community events dedicated to remembering those that were killed.

In Butare, the week is taken very seriously, I know. On Tuesday of this week we joined the citizens of Butare in a walk across the city. The walk lasted about 30-45 minutes and ended at one of the mass graves. There was a Catholic prayer service held in honor of the men, women, and children that were killed in the city 15 years ago.

(The people that attended the event had to number in the hundreds. The crowd was silent, even walking through the streets. There was no talking and no laughing; there was very little crying even...every person seemed to be in deep deep recollection.)

During this week, all of Butare shuts down after 12 noon; people don't even walk the streets between the hours of 3 pm and 6 pm. The mornings are meant for work and the afternoons are meant to visit family and friends and/or attend various talks and/or movies (concerning the genocide, of course) that are being held at local, public forums. In an effort to respect the culture, its people, and the great loss suffered, the trainees have been respecting this 'Week of Mourning' in a very similar fashion. Specifically, we have classes in the morning, but after lunch we hold no class. Instead of afternoon class, all the classes congregate in the larger lecture hall here at the training center/convent and we watch movies in English that describe or recount the events that happened in Rwanda in 1994.

I answered a reader's question just now about Holy Week. Yes, the country is mostly Catholic; yes, Holy Week is very important in Rwanda. HOWEVER, this 'Week of Mourning' really dominates people's minds and actions.

Topic of Interest: Internet Situation
At any rate, that has been the past two weeks for me. I don't know what my internet situation is going to be next week in Kigali. I know that Peace Corps has many activities planned for us; hopefully, there will be some free time. At any rate, I go to Rwamagana at the end of next week and begin my assignment. With that said, I would not expect very frequent blog entries from me as I get myself settled in my new house and community...probably like one or two a month...I dunno, we'll see.

As always, you are in my thoughts and prayers; please keep the people of Rwanda in yours as well, especially during these next hundred days. Happy Easter! Amahoro, inshuti zanjye. (Peace, my friends.)


  1. Really enjoyed this blog, Emmett--it is so good to hear how things are going. I love it that your intstructors thought YOU were the one to blame when the "bell" went good old Emmett! :) Blessings to you! -Emily

  2. only emmett would abuse the bell ringing.
    im glad all is well!!! :) ella