Tuesday, June 26, 2012

check it out!

I got to post on our group blog today...
go here to read it!!!


you can also read about my experiences from my classmates perspectives there as well!


Monday, June 25, 2012

KIE day 1

Today was an incredible day!!! I wish that I could adequately put into words my feelings and the experiences that I am having here in Rwanda!

Today was our first day working with the students from the Kigali Institute of Technology (KIE). From the moment we walked onto campus grounds we were welcomed by students with warm smiles and many embraces. I am very appreciative of the culture of affection among the students we are working with. 

We all put on name tags and played  some warm up games to start to familiarize ourselves with one another.  We have 11 people from CUNY (including my professors) and 44 KIE students.
There is so much joy and excitement the games that we play are fun and get us all laughing together. We had the opportunity to go around and learn one another’s names and greet one another in various ways. We exchanged handshakes, high fives, and great big hugs. 

One of my favorite getting to know you activities was “Get into groups according to…”
In this game we placed ourselves in groups according to various topics that were given to us.  ie: How long it took us to get to KIE, What time we woke up, How many languages we speak, and our favorite kind of music.

I was amazed to see how many languages most of the student speak! Most 3 or 4 some 5 or 6!
My favorite was the last group that we got into according to our favorite kind of music.  I am so versatile when it comes to music I love all kinds! I found myself decided between the gospel music group and the hip-hop group. My love of gospel music won out.  We were all then invited to share with one another a sample of our music that we love. My other group member Peter shared with me a Kireawandian gospel song and then asked me to share one. I sang I am a Child of God. His face lit up! He said, “YES! YES it is true!! We ARE all children of God!”  When it came our turn to share we decided to share both of our songs! Peter went first. As soon s he started signing al of the other KIE students joined in! Singing and dancing along to his music!  Such a joyful and exciting spirit came into the large room as everyone lit up and joined in with this ritual. 
Honestly it was a hard act to follow. I sang the first verse to “I am a Child of God” It was well received with cheers and excitement. Everyone has been very complimentary! My cohorts said that I surprised them as well, as they have actually never heard me sing before.

After we all shared and sang and danced together we played another name game with one another. We then got into small groups.  With 5ish KIE students and one MA CUNY student for each group. I had a group of 5 boys who called me over to be with their group.  Before we started to talk one looked at me and said, “Kristy you are so pretty.”  The rest nodded their heads in agreement. I was completely flattered by their compliments to me.

In our groups we were asked to discuss, “Why I am involved in drama.”
We took turns going around and sharing with one another why we love theatre. I was touched and inspired by the things that they had to share!
I wish that I could have written down all of the words that they were saying to me as I was so moved by their words.  They spoke about communication and creating, their desire to play and entertain, they like to write things down and act them out, and to share.  A few of them said that they do drama because they can say something with it.  Using drama in their society, and because of the hard history that they come from they realize that they can use drama to say something important.
beautiful Beautiful BEAUTIFUL!!

When it was my turn I shared about why I do theatre. I echoed many things that had already been said, like they beauty of communication though theatre and how it is so fun and I love to play.  I also added my love of people and how important it is for me to be able to connect to people and that theatre provides a way to connect and build relationships with other people. Theatre also allows us to use our voices as well as our bodies, which are wonderful gifts that we have and we can share and create and do so much with them!

The boys then started asking me questions, about how long I have done drama and why I do it.  The purpose of theatre has changed for me throughout my life. When I was younger it was for fun, for play. When I was in 4th grade I was in my first musical.  I enjoyed it so much! In Junior high and high school it was for the acting, for the glitz and glam of being on stage (however much glitz and glam you can have in a high school performance) as well as the excitement of being in the spotlight and being able to entertain! And how the purposes behind me doing drama has morphed into more over the years. Studying theatre in Education in College and now Applied Theatre in my masters program. It has become more of a fuller purpose and life changing. 

They also asked me some other questions about myself, how old I am, if I am married, and what my necklace was.  I always wear a necklace that my sister gave to me that has a hand that is holding the American Sign Language sign for “I love you.” I told them what it meant and they were all fascinated that I know sign language and wanted me to teach them.  One boy actually knew a fair amount of sign language and started signing to me here and there.  Oh what a treat to share with them all of these things that I am so passionate about! And to be able to learn so much from them.  We are all learning and growing together!

Once again I wish that I could really share with you my thoughts and impressions of how amazing these young people are

I love how Rwandans speak! Let me give you a few examples from a facebook post:

From the week before we came:
“wish next week was only five minutes from now and that CUNY students were here at the third minute!!!!!!”

From when they saw our teachers again:
So fantastic! When I saw u, I felt like to fly. We love u…”

It is like poetry! I love it!

I had a wonderful conversation with some of the KIE students during our break time. They asked me what I think of Rwanda and I told them how beautiful it is here and how much I am enjoying it! They are very proud of their country! As they should be! They asked me if I would like to move here and live in Rwanda.  I told them that I would miss my family very much if I were so far away. They told me that it is ok because I can move my whole family here! Something that would not be possible but it is a lovely thought to have, to share this beautiful place with my loved ones at home. They also asked me about my necklace, and if I am married and if I am a Christian. When I confirmed that I am a Christian they were very pleased to hear this! They said that this is so wonderful that I have faith, because in their perspective not many Americans do.  They also asked me which Church I go to.  I told them it is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They told me that they had never heard of Mormon’s before. I love being people’s first Mormon! =) I told them that there is a small congregation from my church here in Kigali and they were happy to know that I believe in God. Religion is a very important part of many Rwandans lives!    

After break split into 2 separate groups, the level 2 students in one room and level 3/4 in another. I got to go and work with the level 2 students. 

We are helping them devise forum theatre pieces. The KIE students brainstormed about topics and I was once again inspired by these students and the themes that they offered and shared with the topics that they wanted to dialogue about and present on! We then lowered the choices down and split into 3 groups and started to work on our forum theatre, starting with developing images. 

We broke for lunch and had a lovely lunch at a Rwandan buffet across the street from the school. And planned for the rest of the day. 

Back at KIE we played another fun game called “Donkey” and then went back to our groups to work! I am co-facilitating/directing with my fellow MA Claro who is a joy to work with! When we started our group only had 2 people, then 3… by the time we were really getting the ball rolling and were working on our theatre piece we had 7 participants in our group again.

What a PLEASURE to work with these brilliant students!

When we were finished and back at our hotel we met up for a check in and meeting with our group. We all shared highlights of the day together. I shared my excitement that came from the day and especially our group discussion. As my group spoke about their highlights and the day I sat and listened and pondered about all that today was. I was filled with such joy and happiness and love that my eyes brimmed and then tears streamed down my cheeks. There was a moment of silence and Helen gave me a smile and look as if to ask me if I wanted to share something.  I did! I DO! I want to share with everyone the love and happiness that has choked me up! I told my cohort that already I love these people SO MUCH! Which may sound silly to some people, I have had little contact with a few of the KIE students before I came here over facebook and I have just met them today. But I love them and I am so happy and blessed and excitedly overwhelmed and filled with gratitude to be here!

After our meeting we had dinner at the beautiful patio, which is part of the restaurant that is connected to our hotel.  I had some wonderful conversations with my cohorts tonight! Some of us stayed out and enjoyed the cool night air and talked and laughed while we made dessert out of a banana left over from lunch and some Nutella.
I also had some great conversations about religion with some of my classmates and find it a joy to talk about faith and answer questions about my beliefs to people that I love and that respect me and I respect them and they are just curious and want to know about me.  I appreciate their interest!

The staff is wonderful and takes such good care of us! I have befriended one of the servers at the restaurant.  He is so sweet and smiles and say my name and is happy of the fact that I know and say his name correctly and when a classmate of mine asked how to say his name he said, “ask Kristy, with a big smile.”  I got to chat with him a little bit tonight, asked him where he lives. And He as surprised that this was my first time in Africa! He asked how I like it and if I have seen much.  I told him I have seen a little and I am excited to see more. (we will take some trips as a class together.) He asked me if I am busy in the morning, because he would love to show me around his city. I would like that very much! I LOVE traveling places and making friends with locals and being able to find out about their home from them! It makes it so much more personal! And as I said before, connections with people and relationships are so important to me!

He told me, “My English is not very good” I will tell you this much… he speaks and understand MUCH MORE English that I can speak or understand of his native language! He said that at night he dreams in English, and that he has so much to say in English in his dreams, and that he really does love the language. He also told me, “I have so many questions for you, but I do not have the English.”  Oh cursed language barriers! I need to learn more languages so I can communicate better with more people!
Now it is late. I need to sleep, but I had to get this all out before I forget the details that have filled my heart with so much joy and love!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Going to Rwanda

Two of my very best friends came in town to visit 2 days before I left for Africa. Thankfully i had spent a entire day cleaning and organizing my room, doing laundry, and starting some preliminary packing efforts. I wanted to spend as much time as possible with Adam and Antonio for the short time that they were here. I almost startd to cry when they showed up at my work, I was so happy to see them again. I miss them in the city so very much. Aside from when I needed to work we ran some errands together, and we got to have a lovely picnic with friends in Central Park. I am so glad that my flight to Rwanda didn't leave til 730 pm! Adam and Anto caught their flight very early in the morning. I slept for a few more hours and then had all day to pack and get ready to go. I have been having strange dreams lately. Mostly about forgetting to pack important things and traveling. I have traveled internationally a bit, I am not scared of planes or going alone. I am overall calm and very excited for this adventure, this as many people claim and predict,"life changing experience!" I am suit will be and I can hardly wait. Consciously I am happy and excited... I think that my dreams are a manifestation of my subconscious freaking out a bit. Maybe warning me. I have been making lists of things to get and bring and at this point my floor is covered In piles...pile of clothing, pile of medicine, pile of important documents, pile of snacks and food to bring, pile of don't bring this stuff, pile of put this away, pile of what the hell do I do with this? And so on. Covering my bed and my floor, you would never guess that my room had been clean 2 days earlier. I called and talked to my mom... When doing things like cleaning, laundry, packing I like to have company around. It makes the tasks at hand much more pleasant. When I can't have immediate company, talking on the phone suites me just fine. I left myself plenty of time to get to the airport, something that I have pushed too close for comfort A few times in the past. For a long time I prided myself that I had never missed a flight, but this past year I did... And I am determined to not make that mistake again. Especially today, fliying internationally with connecting flights leaves no room for that kind of error. I arrived at the airport and stood inline to check in. A woman told me to go to the self check out instead. Leading me over to the kiosk. It wasn't scanning my passport and said it wouldn't work. The woman then tried it but no dice. So she took my passport and lead me back to the line where I was in the first place, but now had lost my spot, and more people had come, Thank you airport lady worker for adding 20 minutes onto my wait time. After waiting for some time in the check in line, letting someone use my phone to call her husband, and getting through security with overall ease I had an hour to wait til my flight. It wasn't until than that I looked outside for the first time in a while and noticed that it was pouring outside. Good.. I hope that it cools the city off a bit for the sake of my fellow New Yorkers! The past few days the heat and humidity has been unplesant and I am grateful for the AC unit that I have in the window of my room, which is what made both sleeping and packing bearable for the past few days. Upon exiting my room it was like walking into a wall of heat, that encompassed the rest of my apartment. My flight out of JFK left an hour late. I was a little worried about making my connecting flight, but figured that we should be able to make it in enough time. The flight from NY to Belgium was pleasant. I switched to the back row because there were 2 open seats, so I could stretch out a bit. Every once in a while there was a stench that drifted from the bathroom, but it wasn't so overwhelming that it was unbearable and I could mask my face with my blanket as the smell would dissipate. The flight was a little bumpy at times. That is the only thing that truly worries me about flying... I remember as a child going to California with my family And we had a really rough landing and I felt sick the rest of the day. That sick like you have been in a car for too long, and the motion has upset your stomach. I felt a little bit of that. But was fine. It was a bit of a trek to the terminal to make my connecting flight. I made it just in time. 7hrs 15min flight. I am almost to Kigali Rwanda now. This flight has been on the more miserable side. The slight car sickness has turned into an on and off wrenching in my stomach? Imagine what a rag feels like then you are wringing water out of it... Yep exactly how stomach felt off and on the entire flight from Belgium to Kigali. The man on the flight next to me ordered some wine and the smell doesn't help the condition of my stomach. Certain smells would just make me feel even worse. The man... His name is Scott and this is his 5th time in Rwanda in 3 years. He is here to work at an orphanage. He told me that I am in for a life changing experience. We landed made it through customs and down to baggage claim. I arrived with 3 others of my cohorts. Everyone's bags came, except for mine. After waiting for a good 45 minutes I was told that there was a list. The list said: "missing bags" sure enough there was my name. I waited for another 20 minutes in line to make a claim. The process was slow and the computers were old, but my bag should be here in a few days. I anticipated this so I packed my carry on well enough to make it a few days with out my checked bag. So I am good. We are staying in a beautiful hotel in Kigali. I had a lovely dinner of talapia with coconut sauce and rice for dinner. Chatted with my professor Helen and some of my cohorts and then headed to bed. I am here! In Africa! I am excited to experience all that Rwanda is. The people on the hotel staff are overly generous and kind and I feel right at home.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Traveling Again!

Yep! its true! I am back "on the road"...well actually no, that is not how I am traveling... on a plane, yes! I went back into the air and now on solid ground MUCH further away from where I took off. This time...

I am currently writing this blog post from my hotel room in Kigali Rwanda.  I would like to send a BIG THANK YOU! to everyone who donated and helped make it possible for me to come here to participate in PROJECT RWANDA!

This is actually a "replacement first blog" for this trip... because I typed my first blog on my iPad and I do not have wifi currently. I cut figure out how to get the document onto my laptop from my iPad without a wifi connection. I have tried a few things... oh well I will have to post the story of my traveling here later on. =)

There is a blog that will be posted on daily by my cohorts and me.

I wish to send my love and big hugs to my family and friends back at home!