Today was an exciting day!!! We had our first opportunity to put story-based learning into action. We visited an all-boy’s orphanage. On the way there, Drew informed us that we’d be leading some games in a circle, engaging with the children, and facilitating simple stories. We were also informed that there would likely be a LARGE language barrier, and our activities would take much longer than they usually did. The bus got very quiet when Drew mentioned that. This was the moment that our work became reality, rather than just theory. As ridiculous as it seemed, I was more nervous now (four days into our trip!) than I was before I left!!
About three minutes later, we arrived. There were a LOT of children there!! They ranged in ages from probably 4 or 5, up to teenagers. We left the bus to say hello, and we were greeted with huge enthusiasm!! One of our group members idly started bottle flipping (remember that trend?) with one of our numerous bottles of water. That caught the eye of some of the kids, and the game was quickly adopted by dozens of children, all eager to be the first to successfully land a bottle upright (which several of them did, and none of our delegation managed to do).
We were ushered into a large classroom where Drew and the head teachers gave some opening remarks. I couldn’t understand most of what was said, so instead I opted to look around the room. Unfortunately this did little to comfort or reassure me, because it seemed like every eye in the room was on our delegation! Though it was a mildly cool day, I started sweating. All the kids were looking up to us - this was a lot of pressure!!
All too soon we were broken up into groups. Mine had three student teachers - me, Lisa, and Imani. I’d estimate there were about 25 kids in my group. I attempted to begin with our first warmup (holding hands in a circle), but it took about five minutes (rather than the usual five seconds). This was when the group collectively decided we needed an interpreter, rather than have us gesture our way through 4 hours of exercises. Thankfully, one of the older students stepped in to help out with
We proceeded through our exercises as normal. They were met with enthusiasm, especially when we asked students to demonstrate objects with their bodies. One particularly impressive moment was when our entire group came together to represent a bicycle - it was a working, moving, kinesthetic sculpture - I wish I was able to take a video! After we had run through our exercises, the students offered to share a few of their own Rwandan games, which we gladly played (and lost…). It was wonderful - it felt like a true exchange of cultures, which was exactly the reason I came here!!
After the games were over (and I had obtained a nice sunburn on my neck), we walked around the school for a bit. Or rather, we tried to - but the kids wouldn’t let us at first. We were swarmed with children asking us questions begging to be held, or (in my case), trying on our headbands/glasses. It felt like we were celebrities! One of the kids, Samuel, was basically glued to me after the exercises ended. He quickly adopted my headband and glasses, and as we walked around, I carried him on my back for close to an hour (no exaggeration - he fell asleep, and I didn’t have the heart to wake him up).
All too soon, it was time to leave, and I didn’t want to go. Even though we’d maybe spent 5 hours there in total, my heart ached for the kids. We’d formed relationships, and the possibility was real that we’d never see each other again. As we drove away, I snapped a picture of Samuel waving goodbye. It still hurts to look at.
I am traveling to Rwanda with the intent of a sponge - I want to absorb as many unique experiences as I possibly can, and bring them back to share with my culture. I am a multifaceted artist, and Rwanda is a treasure trove of valuable experiences to draw inspiration from. As a visual artist, I look forward to seeing unique handmade art, and letting it inspire an artistic vision. As a musician, I look forward to hearing vastly different than what I’m used to, and letting that inspire music from my soul. And as a teacher, I’m looking to see teaching methods different than what I have known. I want to bring these gifts back and share them with my culture.