In 10 days, I will be on a flight to Rwanda, Africa. I will be settling down in my home of three weeks with novices (nuns in training), and I will be even more nervous than I am now anticipating teaching and interacting with hundreds of children who don’t speak my language and try to clean the white off me.
I will be working with AfricaReads, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to providing education instruction for teachers, English instruction to children and books to the people of Rwanda. I have never been to a developing country before, and I cannot wait to experience a new environment and have the opportunity to hang out with a bunch of kids.
Here are my thoughts.
1. Dear God, please don’t let me get sick.
I hate being sick, and I’m afraid of getting sick away from my mom, especially in a developing country. I am praying so hard for our whole team to stay well and full of energy to teach the children and give them the attention they need.
2. Playing charades with Rwandans who don’t speak English.
I visited the beautiful country of Costa Rica a few years ago, and that was my first interaction with a community that does not understand my native tongue. Often while working with the people, I had to act out what I was trying to communicate. Sometimes meanings were lost in translation, but that’s okay because we made it through the week. I just hope my charade skills are good enough for the Rwandans.
3. Will I have to stand on a desk?
I am short. Hardly reaching 5 feet, most kids are about my height — or taller. I wonder if I will have to stand on a desk for kids to see me during a standing activity — or even at all. I wonder if they will think of me as just another kid or respect us all equally because we are American.
4. Running around
Kids love running, playing and horsing around, and I do, too. I cannot wait to play with the children and get to know them during breaks between classes. I’m excited to see their reaction, as well as learn what mine will be like. Will the playground be a madhouse? Will I, a mzungu, be attacked by a herd of children and have my hair tugged on? I’m expecting so.
5. Tripping over my skirt.
In Rwanda, women are required to dress early 1900’s modest. For most of the time, I will be wearing a long skirt that goes down to/below my ankles. Like I mentioned before, I am short, and I expect to trip over these. I just hope I don’t fall flat into the red dirt. Hopefully I will learn to master long-skirt wearing within the first week in order that it becomes second nature and less of a hassle.
6. Peanut butter.
Our team was told to pack peanut butter, protein bars, and any other sources of energy to get us through mornings in the classroom in case coffee and bread was not a large enough breakfast. I’m a believe in a hearty breakfast and energy-giving snacks, so I am planning when I will stock up on peanut butter and deciding how much to get.
A former AfricaReads volunteer told me about showering with a “Texas-sized” cockroach. Mentally preparing myself now.
8. Wicked dance moves.
According to my sources, “Africans were born to move.” I am planning ways for my students to be able to learn using dance, and I am hoping they teach me some wicked dance moves along the way.
9. Cool story, tel it again
We will be meeting people who were involved in the infamous Rwandan Genocide from 1994. I cannot wait to meet them and learn their stories. Maybe I will be drawn to tears or brought to laughter, or maybe both, but I expect to take in every word. I absorb things like that.
10. The return.
I never look forward to the end of anything: books, movies or my cup of coffee. However, I especially dread the end of mission trips and special experiences. I will have to say goodbye to precious children I have spent most of my three weeks with, and I will have to break apart from the Harding group I have been living with. I might suffer from jet lag and slight reverse culture shock, but I know I will be forever grateful for this adventure I am about to embark on.