The past couple of weeks have been very exciting but internet access has been rather hard to come by so I apologize for the lack of posting!!
Our third week was a regular week of classes. We kept up with our Kinyarwanda and History/Culture classes and got started into our course on Ecology and Sustainable Development. Most of the lecturers are very interesting but they do tend to get a bit repetitive. Occasionally I feel as if they do not realize that we are educated and have at least studied the country that we are living in to some extent. I have decided that part of it is the difference in our education systems and how rigorous our universities are compared to the Rwandan standard. Also, having a different lecturer for each class makes it difficult to follow a specific course and ensure that we do not backtrack over material that has already been covered. The majority of the classes have been great through and I am really enjoying the beginning of our Ecology course!
I made a friend that lives in my umudugudu (village) on the way to school on Tuesday. ☺ Her name is Bernecie (I have no idea how to spell it though) and she is eight. The children here are always so excited to meet white people. We are a novelty to them. They look at us like we are aliens and they love touching our hands, not necessarily shaking our hands but just gently placing theirs in ours, and giggle shyly and adorably whenever we say something to them in Kinyarwanda. It never fails to make me smile! She attends primary school down the road from my bus stop. I did not see her Wednesday on the way to school but Thursday I was greeting some other children and she ran back from up ahead to walk with me. It was precious. She held my hand the whole way to my bus stop and I fixed her backpack strap for her. I have not seen her since then but I have also been in Butare for the past week. I also started running this week. I live on a huge hill/mountain so I have been running farther up it and then back to my house in the mornings. It is very hard but I love it. The weather is perfect in the morning just as the sun is coming up and running higher up is totally worth the view. Running in Africa is one of the best feelings ever.
We had a couple exciting excursions during the week as well. We visited Epa Binamungu, a famous Rwandese painter, who showed us his studio and some pieces of his work as well as talked to us about his inspirations and art in Rwanda in general. His most impressive piece was not actually in his studio; it was on its way back from an exhibition in China. The piece consists of 12 panels and depicts the history of Rwanda from pre-colonial times through the future and is titled Journey of Rwanda…I think. Friday we visited a Millennium Village called Mayange. It is a village set up by the UN as part of the Millennium Development Goals.
Friday was an absolutely amazing day. First we visited a farmer – this was my favorite part! He had goats, cows, chickens, banana trees, maize, cassava, avocado trees, papaya trees, cabbage, spinach and who knows what else. We toured the farm and learned how the Millennium Village benefits him. Through the program he receives seed to plant, which is wonderful but on the downside he and the other farmers have gone from using a beautiful variety of seed to a single one that has been chosen for its productive value. It is hard to balance increased productivity and protection of biodiversity. While I acknowledge the apparent and abundant benefits of the former I also hate to see such a rich and beautiful ecosystem diminish for economic benefits. I am not entirely sure how I feel about this aspect of the program but the farmer was doing excellent and I could tell that he absolutely loved what he was doing. I got to pick my first corncob while I was there which was thrilling. He gave us so much maize when we left and it was delicious when mama wanjye roasted it for breakfast the next morning. After the farm we visited a primary school. The kids there were precious to say the least. An interesting thing about the school was that the corn the kids eat for lunch (cooked into a corn meal loaf type thing) is distributed by the World Food Program but is all US grown corn. I was surprised to hear this simply because I see so much maize growing throughout Rwanda. Next we visited the health center. The Millennium Village program has helped both the school and the health center through the expansion of their facilities. Our last stops were at a village where perpetrators and victims of the genocide live as neighbors along with returnees who fled to refuge following incidents in Rwanda in 1959. We heard the testimony of a victim and perpetrator and they were kind of disappointing. I feel bad saying that but they were so similar sounding and vague. Both people giving their testimony gave them as if they had memorized a very slightly specific account of the history of the genocide. I was expecting a much more enlightening experience. After this we visited a women’s cooperative that creates revenue by hand weaving baskets. I helped a woman for about 20 minutes and did maybe an inch and a half of one row. It was definitely some hard work. Those women have so much patience and work ethic; it was admirable.
Well, that was the end of the week more or less. I will work on getting last week (in Butare) posted soon now that I am back in a city with easier access to internet!!