Saturday, July 15, 2017

#rwanderful: Crashing a Wedding

This is Day 20. My last day in Rwanda. I promise I won't cry as I write this.

I woke up on Saturday feeling so sad that I was leaving. I didn't want to go yet.

I got up early to watch the sunrise one more time. Then, I packed up my bags. I've gotten really good at approximating 50 lbs or 23 kg.

Janet and I left around 10 to do some last minute shopping. I had no money so this would be easy, right? Wrong. Abraham's shop takes credit cards. I had fought the urge to buy anything the first time we went there, but then the second time all bets were off. Oops.

We had one more lunch at Meze Fresh with our favorite driver, John. So much yum.

Janet is our resident Krest spokesperson

Since we're diabetes buddies, we're the spokespeople for Coke Zero. #TheBetes

John took Janet and me back to the house so I could change quickly, and we would head to the wedding. When I came downstairs wearing my fancy African skirt and new jewelry from Abraham's store, John was down there waiting with a present. WHAT?! While we were in Abraham's shop, Abraham asked me to try on a skirt to see if it would fit "a friend of his" that is about my size. LOL they were plotting to find a gift for me since I had brought John more test strips for his glucometer. It didn't fit, so we moved on to the jewelry section. I asked Abraham if he had any brass Africa shaped earrings that would match the necklace I was going to buy. He said no, but that if we became friends on Facebook I could ask for specific things when I come back. SNEAKY. That was what was in the bag from John. New earrings to match the necklace I was wearing to the wedding. I almost cried. Over earrings. I have problems.

Best buddies!


Disclaimer: This is how I understand things. If you are reading this and you are Rwandan, please comment and correct me if there is something awry with my explanations.

John drives me to the wedding, and I'm really glad I'm going with him because I know he won't lead me astray. You know since I'm a wedding crasher and all. Also I stand out because I am one of 3 white people at this wedding. The wedding is at Pastor Fred's home in his backyard. As we're driving John shows me parts of the city I've never seen before and tells me that banana trees are planted to represent the location of a wedding. It helps people know they are in the right place. Just like America and their cute Pinterest signs.

So we walk in and down the stairs to the backyard. There are two tents, one for the bride's guests and one for the groom's guests. John tells me to sit in the second row right behind all the men representing the brides family. I am also sitting in front of Phiona's (the bride) mother. I'm crashing and I SIT IN FRONT OF HER MOM. Ridiculous.

Anyway, as we're walking in, there are traditional Rwandan dancers. There was a group of men and a group of women all dancing in traditional clothes. This is by far my favorite part. They were amazing. After that, the male representatives of each side began their negotiations. The father (I think) of the groom brought a bottle of wine to start the discussions. Then the bride's family says something. This goes back and forth some before they actually start talking about cows for the dowery. All of this is in Kinyarwanda so I really have no idea what is going on. John translated the general happenings for me though. Phiona's dowery was 8 cows. John said that in Rwanda a bride normally has a dowery of 2 - 10 cows.

Enjoy the dance videos!!

Once the families have agreed upon the dowery, the groomsmen come over to meet the bride's family. The men wore traditional clothing and walked with fancy canes. Then, the bridesmaids and the bride come in. All of the ladies looked lovely in their traditional dresses. They were also carrying gifts for different members of the families. Jeje (our team's translator and leader) was a groomsman and Annette (she runs the guest house and works with teams) was a bridesmaid.

The Groomsmen

All the bridesmaids!

Phiona looked SO lovely!
After everyone comes in, the bride and groom meet together. Jonathan gave Phiona the ring. Phiona is Rwandan and Jonathan is Ugandan. In Ugandan culture, the bride kneels before the groom. I was sitting on the bride's side so when this happened everyone clapped, hooped, and hollered because it's so different than Rwandan culture. At least this is my understanding... :)

Jonathan and Phiona

All the laughter and enjoyment on my side of the backyard
After the giving of the engagement ring, the bride and groom give gifts to certain family members. This is not the real wedding. It is just the introduction of the families. They will have the church ceremony today and will officially be married.

Pastor Fred is a father figure to Phiona because he helped her become educated after she became a worker in his home as a young girl. Now she works for Africa New Life. Jonathan also works for Africa New Life, so it was a fun wedding where everyone knew each other. 


The bride, groom, maid of honor, and best man sit in the seats in the center of all the merriment

This kid is my favorite. He had a Spiderman tie. #winning
There was also what seemed like a skit reenacting the negotiations for the cows. Here's a video...

She sang a Ugandan song and danced a lot. She was fab. #goals

More dancing

Gift giving
Overall, this might have been my favorite event from the trip. I loved experiencing Rwandan culture first hand. I also got to spend my last few hours with my favorite diabetes buddy, John. He drove the team for my first two trips, and he's like my big Rwandan brother. Love him so much!

We had to sneak out a little early, so I could finish packing and head to the airport. It was sad saying goodbye to so many friends, but I know I am returning next summer for most of my time off. I can't wait to make a difference in students trying to go to university. Pray for God to bring me back to this beautiful land of 1000 hills. I don't feel like his work through me is finished there.

Hope you enjoyed all my adventures! If you missed some days, you can read more here.

Friday, July 14, 2017

#rwanderful: Day 19


Our last day in Kayonza! I just had to wake up and not think about the sadness of the end of the day.

First things first...Devotions! Leading worship was by far the thing that touched my heart the most. I love teaching and my job, but singing and worshipping my Savior beats that out by a landslide. I have been a backup singer for a long time and leading by myself scares me just because it is out of my element. Even though I was nervous, I had fantastic teenagers singing with me and the Lord knew how my heart needed to be touched by the way they served other students. Janet also had a surprise. They asked her to speak and teach something from the Bible. God has put a message on her heart all week of students in a Christian school going through the motions but not actually being transformed by grace and truth. She was worried that she hadn't prepared, but her message came straight from the Holy Spirit. Her next calling will be to preach. :) Her love for people, students, teachers, staff, and our heavenly Father is amazing, I learn so much from her heart. It's just a snapchat video, but I captured some of her greatness.

The funniest part of devotions was that Janet took some videos.
Small problem: She was on slow motion on my phone.
Disclaimer: Janet was having some vision issues that morning, so much so that I needed to read the Bible passage for her. No judgement from me.
Bonus: now I have these AMAZING Slo Mo videos of worship which were absolutely HILARIOUS to watch. But I figured out that I can change the speed and make them normal. Enjoy...

After devotion, I went to a Senior 4 math class with John. He was teaching them mathematical logic. I loved it because this is a major topic in Geometry when I taught that a few years. He taught it very differently though. He said mathematical statements like p and ~p (not p) or q and ~q (not q). Anybody lost? Yes of course you are because p and q means nothing. I suggested that he let the students create their own statements to represent p and q. For example, p: Houston is in Texas. so ~p: Houston is not in Texas. Then you can decide is these statements are true or false. But now the statements had meaning instead of just going through the motions not making any sense. I hope it was a breakthrough for John as he plans lessons to be more meaningful to his students.

The kids added that last one. Kids are the same everywhere.
This one was "candid." John said, "Take my picture!"

so much laughter :)

Brenda on the left middle, led worship too. She's a sweetheart!

John wanted to be in literally every picture. So funny

I miss John and his students so much!

Then I went to a Senior 4 general paper class. Still not totally sure what all that entails. They were discussing corruption and some of the effects. I participated in a group of 7 boys' discussion and it was so encouraging to hear them come up with all different kinds of effects. They really thought outside the box and I enjoyed seeing their brains work. Denis was the teacher and some really minor changes made his lesson absolutely fantastic. I loved participating in his class discussion.

Such great kids and Denis is on the right!

Both of these classes were the same students I was able to teach the day before in the leadership class. I was able to continue expanding the bond that I had begun with them earlier in the week. My teacher heart for loving kids was really happy.

I've known Peter since teacher trip 1. So good to see him!

Dr. Wilson (he wants to be a doctor) :) on the left and Fabrise on the right. I got to talk to both of them about college and next steps that they should be taking being in S4 and S5. 

We packed up our stuff and left for the soccer match between the Kayonza teachers and the Kageyo teachers. Sporting events is one of my favorite things (usually American College Football, but soccer will do). Thank you for passing this gift on to me, Mom. Arguing and yelling about things I don't really understand is a gift I possess. Jeje, who used to live in Kageyo, was rooting for them. I had lived in Kayonza for the last week and watched these teachers practice every day, so I was obviously rooting for them. This made for great entertainment. Kageyo scored twice, and Jeje was gloating. Then, Kayonza scored twice, and it was a tied game at halftime. Kageyo scored again, then Kayonza in the second half. With a minute or two left in the game, Kayonza scores again. Game over. My team won, 4-3. :) #winning

Love these people! AND THEY'RE THE WINNERS. :)

Janet, me, and Nelson (he led worship and is the new head boy)

I think this was the halftime huddle. Everyone supports the team. :) I love Africa.

We left and headed back to Kigali. I was not in any way, shape, or form ready to leave Rwanda, but it was time to start thinking about heading home. I guess that is a good way to leave a place that I want to return to next summer and stay for much longer.

Come back tomorrow for the RWANDAN WEDDING POST. OMG I am so excited to write that one.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

#rwanderful: Day 18


Today was Janet and my last day with Bunmi which was so sad. At least she lives in H-town and I can still see her regularly! (Side note: I've already seen her since we've been back. <3)

I started in a Senior 1 class (7th grade), which is a tough place to be as a math teacher. All students take all the subjects through Senior 3 (9th grade), but after that they get placed in a combination. Some examples of combinations are PCB (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) or PMC (Physics, Mathematics, Computer). Hopefully, that makes sense. Each student has their own track that they are on for Senior 4, 5, and 6. What that means for the Senior 1, 2, and 3 math teachers is that there are a lot of students in their classes that do not like mathematics. Hey! This sounds familiar to my first 4 years of teaching.

Most students I spoke with had science in their combination, but math was rarely a subject taken by students after Senior 3. That means there's a lot of students they must teach that don't want to be there or learn their subject matter. I think Charles (Senior 1) and Rodgers (Senior 2 and 3) have really great classroom management skills and lessons because they have to with so many students who dislike their subject matter. John (Senior 4, 5, and 6) could learn a lot of strategies from Charles and Rodgers for his older students. It's much easier to teach students who want to learn your subject than it is to teach students who don't. I've taught both and can definitely speak from experience.

All three math teachers I spent time with are great and have grown a lot in the time I was there. We had many great growth mindset conversations and challenges to continue trying new things and using the internet as a tool. I am so glad I got to spend the extra week there to build deeper relationships and friendships with wonderful teachers and help them to learn and grow in their profession. I loved the way they also challenged me to be a better teacher now that I am home.

A kid gave an example that 1/5 is less than or equal to 0.2. I was so impressed. I wanted to give that kid a high five for thinking outside the box.  

I got to teach this part of the lesson. He liked how I used the board. I used the less than/greater than definitions and kept returning back to them as I taught them graphing on the number line.

After math class, Sam let Jeje, me, and Bunmi watch his Biology class with his senior 6 (12th grade) lesson. We talked about blood, its purpose, and types of cells. He taught class a lot like I teach my classes. It's a discussion as I give the students information. I ask for what they know/remember and then I build off of that and give them new information. Sam is an engaging teacher and you can tell he really loves Biology and his students. At the end of class, he gave a quiz to see what his students learned. Bunmi, Jeje and I took the quiz together, and I think scored 7/10 for what he taught us that day. Pretty good for some misunderstanding of how things were worded and not been in class the previous days. Not going to lie, I was mad I didn't get a perfect score. NERD ALERT! :)

Saying goodbye to Bunmi was hard, but I knew I would see her soon. So glad to have a new Houston friend!

After she left, Janet and I had to teach the leadership class to the Senior 4 students. Picture this: Kids aren't on time, they trickle in a few at a time throughout the first 30 minutes of class, the power goes out in the middle of class so we lose the projector. All things you just have to shrug off and remember that you're in Rwanda and things don't always go as planned. Despite the differences in our surroundings, Janet and I did a really nice job. We focused the Bible passages about resourcefulness and using the gifts God has given to each of us. I think the students really enjoyed being taught by teachers from the US, and we really enjoyed being with them. Janet is the best partner in crime I could have asked for. Having worked with her for three years and had her for a roommate for two, I am blessed to know her beautiful self.

After that, I had practice with the worship team for high school devotions the next morning. All of those kids are great. I wish I could spend all my time getting to know them. My heart is for teenage students to grow and learn in all sorts of ways. It doesn't matter if I'm in the US or Rwanda. Those students are the same, and I enjoy seeing them use the gifts with which God has blessed them. They asked me to lead some songs and that terrified me, but I knew I had some great kids backing me up and would pick up the slack of my lack of experience.

Nelson and Lillian both lead worship! Sweet and precious new friends!

That night was the first in awhile that we were able to relax. We both needed it. It had been a long exhausting fabulous three weeks in Rwanda.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#rwanderful: Day 17

I am home now but I still wanted to write a few posts to finish up the trip since a lot happened. Enjoy reading them as they get released over the next few days.


First thing in the morning, we led the devotion time with the Primary 5 and Primary 6 students (5th and 6th grade). Bunmi and I were able to sing with the worship team. It was such a blessing to sing with beautiful and gifted musicians. Here's a video that is incredible joy and passion for worshipping the Lord.


I love the dancing for Jesus.

After devotion, I went to John's Senior 5 math class (11th grade). We talked about convergence and divergence of sequences. It was fun to share my thoughts and experiences with the students. I drew pictures of sequences and gave the words convergence and divergence meaning to the students. When higher level math teachers explain things in the US and in Rwanda, sometimes it is more the true definition from the textbook or the internet and not always putting it into words that students understand. I enjoyed making that real for John and his students.

Next, in the Senior 2 class (8th grade) I really enjoyed seeing Rodgers teach. I was in Rodgers class in 2014 on my first teacher trip. Seeing how much he has grown since then was encouraging and reaffirming the work that we have been doing in Rwanda. The students were learning about solving inequalities. The last class I attended that day was still with Rodgers but it was a Senior 3 class (9th grade). The students were learning about similar figures.

After today, I really felt the need to share with all the math teachers that the students need to practice mathematics and then they need to practice some more. If they are going to internalize what they are learning, that is the best way. Two problems on solving inequalities or missing sides on similar figures isn't going to cut it. I took Rodgers into the library and showed him the other textbooks in there that can be good problems or supplemental instructional material. I love blowing the teachers minds and forcing them to think differently than they have in the past. Breaking this cycle is hard when you haven't seen very many other teachers doing things differently and you're worried about changing something and failing. American teachers are worried about the same things when asked to make changes.

It's really all so fascinating to think about how similar teaching is even though so many other things are different.

The rest are just pictures of kids which make me smile so much. Miss all of their bright shiny faces.

Notice the kid in the back left who didn't care that the muzungu chick was taking pictures with her selfie stick. HAHA

We liked all the same things. She thought we could be sisters. So sweet.

Check out that diva face. Love it.