The last few months of 2017 in Kigali are a blur now. It was a series of test dates, a final performance of A Christmas Carol, and lots of college acceptances, with some deferrals and denials. It’s also been a collection of mundane daily life tasks as life is everywhere as well as moments of fun with the people I’ve met since being here.
Big things that happened up to Christmas break 2017:
- I got a car. So, I wanted to get a scooter, but when I asked around everyone encouraged me to buy a car. There are two rainy seasons, plus you can get out of town, plus you probably won’t die if you have an accident. All of these were perks. I do feel a bit bougey [bourgeois] having a car, but I guess I am, dangit. And everyone says (I don’t know who everyone is but I’m referring to them again) that cars keep their value in Kigali and I’ll be able to sell it easily when I leave. I have to say, despite the issues it seems to develop every few weeks, it has been nice to have a car and hopefully I’ll be able to get out into the countryside more often in 2018. That is, if it stops falling apart on me. I sure do miss my mechanically minded dad and step-dad.
- Students took the ACT and then the SAT and the SAT subject Tests and the TOEFL and and and….. yeah. They were over-tested. But it’s paying off! Although test-prep isn’t the most exciting to teach, it’s pretty necessary and it’s been exciting to find out the students’ results.
- I joined an orchestra. Yep. There’s an orchestra in Kigali. It’s conducted by an expat couple who work at an international school. I had heard of two friends who had been in it before (There are different bands—Jazz, community, orchestra, etc). And I figured, why not? I still know how to play the flute, right? It’s only been….10ish years? I mean I’ve played it since then but not regularly or in a band. It’s amazing how much muscle memory I retained, but I definitely do need to practice more. My fingers aren’t as fast—or not at first until I practice I guess. It’s really fun though to be able to play music in a group. I didn’t really realize how much I’d missed it.
- I joined a Spanish conversation group at a Spanish restaurant. This isn’t exactly a formal “I joined” but they meet every Wednesday evenings and I go when I can (after orchestra). It’s fun to use my Spanish, and yes, I realize I live in Rwanda, and should probably be focusing more on Kinyarwanda and/or French (although French is really only useful with the older generations as people my age and younger generally speak English and French.) I won’t be in Rwanda forever, and Spanish is what I’ve got the best start in and I love it, so I’ll keep practicing it.
- We celebrated Halloween with the scholars by having a “Fall Festival” party, which resulted in them and me (and some other staff) dressing up hilariously. The students bobbed for apples and some of them nearly drowned the buckets were so deep. (Not really but when forced to keep your hands behind your backs it can get dicey!) *Also haven’t asked permission to share the full group photo, so I’ll refrain.
- We celebrated Thanksgiving the weekend before Thanksgiving at our executive director’s house. This was many of the scholars’ first experiences with casseroles and other such delicacies. It was delicious and I wore stretchy pants to accommodate. (TMI?) It was also the first time my little car made it outside the big city—about 40 minutes outside.
- I went to South Africa—think this might require a separate blog post. We got the Thursday & Friday of Thanksgiving off from work, and took an extra day and went to the Drakensburg Mountains and into Lesotho (a country inside of South Africa—I know, crazy!). It was beautiful and amazing and I’ll try to write a post soon.
- I found 3 scorpions in my house over 3 months. Twice in the shower. Once outside my bedroom door as if it were WAITING for me to step on it. Freaky.
- I got a massage for the first time since living in Indonesia. (This may or may not be related to #8). Apparently people do this for fun, and although in my head I had this mindset that “I don’t like people touching me”, but I tried again. Seems like something that’s more affordable or excusable when you’re abroad somehow? Well, to be fair, I went twice. The first time was great. The second time was not. The jury is still out. But I do feel guilty somehow doing something indulgent like that—but when don’t I feel guilty?
- Had lots of College acceptances/ some denials / some deferrals. These were by far the most exciting times here in Kigali. We’d get a heads-up sometimes from schools so we’d be ready; other times no one would have known, and other times schools made it public when their emails would go out, so we’d be waiting. I spent my last week in Kigali before leaving for Christmas at the students’ house a lot along with a few other staff members. The announcements would come in at 10pm, 10:30pm, 11:30, midnight, 1am and 2am and we’d stay awake, finally checking emails and then either screaming and celebrating or commiserating. The build-up is intense while everyone waits for the email check…. When there’s an acceptance seeing their joy for each other and how pleased they are for one another is so heart-warming. They always throw the successful scholar up into the air and every time I get so stressed out they’ll drop him/her! No drops yet, thank goodness. In teaching, it’s so rare that you ever know or find out if you really made an impact or even if you feel you did, it’s so intangible, and unable to be quantified. However, getting an actual result like a college acceptance is so gratifying. I won’t claim that I’m responsible for each of these incredibly bright scholars’ acceptances into university, though I did play a part. Yet ultimately it is their victory—they’ve worked so hard and it’s paying off.
- I danced a lot (at the acceptances). I’ve never been a big dancer—I blame my mother (just kidding). But seriously so many of my friends took dance classes! I don’t know that they’re necessarily great at dancing to modern music (the stuff the kids today are listening to!) Despite that, you can’t help but dance around with the scholars when they start their dance parties after someone gets accepted to university. There are some killer dance moves I’ll share with you someday…
- Our porch was taken over by bees. I can’t put it any better than my hilarious housemate, Marisa, who posted in the expat Facebook group for people living in Rwanda. Here is her post:
T-2 days: I sat on the porch next to our dog. She seemed somewhat agitated; I assumed nothing.
T-1 days: My roommates and I noticed a number of bees buzzing around the large, empty chest on our porch that we use as a coffee table. We avoided the porch but figured all was normal.
Today: The bee situation continued. Leah and I investigated the porch and noticed a number of bees flying in and out of the chest. “Of course nothing’s in there,” I said. “It’s never been opened,” I said. “Nothing is inside,” I said.
We opened the chest.
Inside, there was a swarm of ~1,000 bees.
We closed the chest.
Update 12/12 8:42am: they woke up (mad) and returned to the porch, we’ll be in touch with the people in the comments. Thanks!
Update 12/12 6:45am: never mind, our guard calmly relocated the hive while they were asleep.
This wasn’t on her post, but an update after that—they RETURNED without the chest being there. I woke up and walked out of my room to see our guard on the porch with a broom that he had lit on fire as he tried to smoke them away! They weren’t happy about it and we had to leave by the backdoor that day.
By the time I got home that day, they were gone. According to Marisa, our guard had said that he had “taught them a lesson”. So that happened.
- My drama Class performed A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens! I taught an elective in the fall—drama—and for our final performance the students performed A Christmas Carol. It was amazing—they did such a great job. They memorized some very old language—to do that when English isn’t your first language is so impressive. They came up with costumes and props, took on their characters’ personalities and made everyone laugh (at the right times!) and applaud at the end. I felt so proud of them. They did this in the midst of applying for college and taking the SAT and finishing their research papers. It’s good preparation for university when they’ll have a million things to do at once though.
- There were many gatherings with friends including a farewell brunch before many of us headed out for the holidays. Moving abroad is always hard, but I remember why I love it when I have moments gathering over food with people from all over the world enjoying each other’s company. There are so many interesting and wonderful people in the world.
So that’s a recap of 2017. I’ll try to do better in 2018 (a great NY resolution).