With only a few days left in our trip we were back in Kigali for one final day until we went on safari. We all treated the Saint Paul Guesthouse with warm smiles accompanied by “Muraho’s” (hello’s). After spending the past week in the rural and suburban towns in Rwanda it was nice to be back in the busy capital city one more time.
Our morning started with us venturing to the market once more to finish finding souvenirs that we could bring back home to friends and family. Whether it was searching for more woven baskets, traditional Rwandan wooden masks, hair scrunchies or earrings the market contained everything one could possibly think of.
After the market we ate at a delicious Mexican/Rwandan fusion restaurant for lunch. On the outside was a giant colorful mural of the sun and the inside contained many different murals of animals and geometric designs. After a nice morning of shopping most of us could not wait to settle down and overlook the view of the city on top of the second story withy the company of a burrito or in my case a warm cheesy quesadilla. After cleaning our plates everyone decided to take have a photo opt in front of the outside mural right before we made our way to our next adventure for the day.
The most enjoyable part of the day for me was when we journeyed to a coffee shop in the city in order for us to take a group coffee workshop. We learned about the process of how beans are harvested, how to identify different coffee flavors and how to make coffee. Rwandans are known to export their coffee beans but in recent years the country is working towards importing their famous beans so that the locals can enjoy their countries delicious offerings. The coffee shop is unique since it is run by a large group of women who work together to help farm their beans and run the shop in Kigali. It was an incredibly joyful experience especially for a coffee lover. It was amusing to the groups of AFP volunteers that the coffee tasting had left most of us jittery and ready for dinner.
For one of our final dinners we ate at an Italian restaurant where we met up with an old Rwandan friend of ours, Eric who AFP used to coordinate with in the past. Most of enjoyed eating pizza and pasta while intermingling with each other over our new souvenirs and coffee tasting experience.
While eating breakfast and conversing with other AFP volunteers about our teacher training filled weekend I realized that it would be our last day at the Urukundo Learning Center and one of our last days in Muhanga. These past couple of days of teacher training made me realize how lucky we all were to make genuine connections with all of the Rwandan teachers and see a new style of teaching manifest itself through open mindedness and dedication.
With my tummy full of porridge and passion fruit I was fired up to start the next day of training. The game plan for today was to have the teachers from each of their subjects: mathematics, language, social studies, and science to each deliver a lesson plan. After delivering the lesson plan the teachers would work together to see what story based learning elements could help improve the lesson or “make it come to life” for the students. Having a lesson taught by the Rwandan teachers was a way for us working with AFP to see and learn how the teachers normally approach curriculum in the classroom. In a sense those who were teaching (the group of AFP volunteers) became the students. It was both a humbling and curious experience of seeing how Rwandan teachers would engage with potential students in the classroom and appreciating how different it is from the Western education system.
My AFP group group leader, Jenai and I were in charge of the social studies teachers group. One of our teachers gave a lesson on the environment and teaching students the differences between manmade and natural components. With the tools from story based learning we were able to utilize kinesthetic movement as a way to make the lesson from a lecture into action.
By the end of the day the teachers came up with a theme that they want to always lean back on in their classrooms when classes resume:
“With strong goals and determination we can move forward towards success.”
This is a concept that the teachers created by themselves and want their students to not only model but understand. Since one thing we constantly are teaching through the Anne Frank Project is the everybody’s stories matter; in the sense that we all have dreams, goals and lives that matter. It’s important for all of us especially the students to remember that.
The first day of teacher training went better than I expected. At first I was concerned about language potentially being a barrier or forgetting my own training but it was an extremely successful and amusing day. My partner Jenai and I were paired together to be leaders for a group of about 20 teachers. After arriving at Urukindo Learning Center the AFP Group introduced ourselves to the group of teachers who would be our "students" during the story based learning training all weekend. Seeing all of their welcoming faces made me both excited and nervous for the training day ahead. After all of the countless Skype conversations with AFP and finally meeting up as a group when we all arrived to Rwanda together the time to teach had arrived. Our group of teachers worked very hard at understanding the key principles of story based learning while also having fun through learning the games that we taught them. Right as the teachers were getting comfortable with the material and finalizing new classroom or “village rules” we headed to lunch.
For our lunch break we ate traditional Rwandan food which consumed of potatoes, beans, plantains, beef skewers, and fruit for dessert. Something unexpected that made my day was getting engaged in a competitive game of volleyball with some of the teachers. I haven’t played since recovering from my knee injury but I had an incredible time engaging and bonding over sports since we were able to discover activities that we had in common.
One of the biggest lessons I learned that day was that...
Language doesn’t have to be a barrier.
Most of the teachers did not speak fluent English but I found that using body movements and a good attitude accompanied by a smile went a long way.
Today I woke up at 6 o’clock in the morning again which made me feel pretty accomplished and headed to breakfast excited to have another morning cup of Rwandan coffee. I find the authentic coffee here has a way of encouraging me to get out of bed in the morning in a way that Starbucks never could. After consuming honey bread, an omelette and some fruit the whole AFP group gathered to work on our story based learning project. The new project ended up taking a couple hours to create as a group but luckily the next activity planned required less energy since it involved eating lunch. We ate at Camalia, a rooftop buffet restaurant that was only a mile from St. Paul Guesthouse. It stood on the 8th floor of the building and gave us a view of the entire city which encompassed a plethora of rolling green hills and valleys mounted with houses, shops, schools, hotels, and people living out their daily lives.
Soon after we headed to the biggest market in Kigali where they sell everything you could possibly fathom and the best part is that it is culturally acceptable to bargain for an item.
With the exchange rate being in our favor of:
1 US dollar = 900 Rwandan Francs, we were able to purchase many souvenirs to bring back home to family and friends.
Within 15 minutes of leaving the market we headed to the Unema Arts Gallery where we met local artists and viewed their unique canvases and other various creations. After touring the gallery and the rest of the grounds that make up the art center we began our dance lesson. Our choreographer has the most charisma of any dance teacher I’ve ever had. He taught us traditional Rwandan dances that involved using the movement our whole bodies and we found our rhythm with the help of two tall African drums. The choreography involved swaying our hips, lunging and jumping as well as spinning around and adding our own flare. By the time we had finished and and performed the final product, we were panting with sweat coming down our foreheads.
After our "Work out" we rewarded ourselves with dinner from a restaurant called The Hut. With full bellies, sore muscles and smiling faces, we concluded our evening and headed back to St. Paul.
We woke up to the chirping of birds that morning tights as the sunrise came in at 6am. Since the rest of the residents at St. Paul seemed to be sound asleep, Amanda (my roommate) and I were able to finally connect to the WiFi and told our families we made it safe and sound. Shortly after we congregated with rest of AFP for breakfast which consumed of vegetables, eggs, bread with butter and honey, as well as some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. Eventually we climbed on the bus where our local tour guide Françoise taught us how to count from 1 to 10 in Kinyarwanda. After exchanging our dollars for Rwandan francs we made our way to the Nyamirambo Women’s Center which was established in 2004 as a way for women to obtain the necessary skill sets to earn an income. With the aid of donors from Slovenia and eventually Switzerland they were able to create their own facilities that teach young women how to use sowing machines, stitch, and how to do hair. Our guide that day was a young woman named Selby who grew up here and now at 21 years old she is waiting to start hospitality school for hotel management on July 1 (Rwandan Independence Day); she nicknamed herself as Ms. Independent. After teaching us the traditions of her culture we were feed a luxurious homemade lunch.
The most impactful part of the day was when we ventured to the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
These are powerful words from a soul that did not survive the genocide.
100 days... that’s all it took. That’s all it took for millions of innocent people to be slaughtered not only by enemies but by family, friends, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers and neighbors. The only distinction between Hutu’s and Tutsi’s was economic status which was based off of how many cows one had and the shape of a persons nose. Families were broken, siblings became orphaned children and wife’s became widowed with no family to hold onto to.
As I was sitting outside of the memorial, attempting to process my emotions and awaiting the rains down poor amongst the Grey clouds I saw a familiar face walking up to me.
It’s a small world after all...
The woman ended up being a girl that I know from school. We laughed and smiled with mouths open mesmerized by how we met across the world. It was in that moment that I felt comforted by not feeling to far away from home.
After nearly 48 hours of travel I have finally made it to Rwanda with The Anne Frank Project. It seemed as if this trip was but a distant dreams and now all of a sudden it is real. I know that now as I sit in my bed at the St. Paul Guesthouse with a mosquito nest hanging over my head. The journey has proven to make my body feel exhausted and I have no doubt that I will good a good nights rest and wake up with enthusiasm. The highlight of the day was landing in Kigali; every flight had finally lead us here to this city. Immediately after walking down the steps of the Ethiopian Airlines plane, I looked out at the bountiful luscious green rolling hills of Kigali and couldn’t help but smile. This country is not at all what I had expected; Kigali has become incredibly innovative with countless universities, businesses and public transportation systems. Rwanda is now one of the safest countries in sub-Saharan Africa and women hold elite political titles. It’s mesmerizing to hear how this country had been able to rebuild itself into something greater after experiencing so much tragedy during the genocide. With open mindedness being a constant disposition I look forward to learning how the Rwandan people rebuilt their country and changed it for the better.
Can you recognize that moment when you’re about to take on a new opportunity and for whatever reason a part of you realizes that this new direction life is taking you in will greatly impact you in some way you are just not sure how yet?
That is precisely the disposition that is flooding my mind when I think about the trip to Rwanda with the Anne Frank Project. Our countless meetings devoted to creating an agenda for our trip have come to an end. The immunization shots for yellow and typhoid fever are now running through our veins. It seems as though all that’s left to do is hop on a plain and greet this new opportunity with open arms.
Ironically it is at this time when nerves start to become more real when considering the fact that I will be traveling with people to a land that is unfamiliar. I feel anxious about whether or not I can help make a difference in other people’s lives and bring something to the table.
Although these thoughts come to mind the thing that brings me comfort is knowing that I along with the other students and faculty on this trip have devoted countless hours to developing our mission of what we set out to do. Simply remembering to choose "we" before "me" and deciding to be selfless open to the possibilities of what we can teach the Rwandan natives but also what we can learn from them is incredibly important.
About the Author
Hi my name is Monique Newman and I am a junior pursuing a degree in Sociology at Pepperdine University. In my free time I enjoy spending most of it outdoors engaging in various hiking activities with friends, playing basketball or spending all day at the beach. The first time I heard of the Anne Frank Project was through a leadership conference that I attended while studying abroad in Switzerland during my second year of college. My desire to see the world, diving into new experiences and serving diverse communities is what made me want to embark on this new journey to Rwanda with SUNY Buffalo State College. One of the most important aspects about this trip is going in with an open mind and being willing to empathize. I believe this is essential in order to hear and be present while learning about people’s individual stories and life lessons as well as understanding the beauty of cultures that are different from my own.