Friday, July 17, 2009

Traditional Scarification

For a long time now I have noticed very uniform scarring on the cheeks of some women in Rwanda. The scars are upside down teardrop in shape and are about an inch long. They are about an inch below they eyes on each cheekbone. Normally there are about three or four but sometimes more. I have still yet to learn about the exact origin of these but I know that there is a special metal tool that they use by heating it up over a fire and scarring the person. It can be done at any age and is done for “beauty”. I will post more in depth information when I find out. These shouldn’t be confused with the scars that can be seen on some people that were done for medicinal purposes.

JUNE 2009

A change of seasons has taken place. It’s now the dry season. No rain for the entire month. (nothing= “ntacyo” {n-ha-cho}) The beans in the market are no longer fresh, but stored. Other foods are becoming less common and some more. It’s not hotter. Only dry. I went to a Rwandan birthday this month. Rwandan birthdays consist of 5 phases. 1: Reception (from the scheduled b-day start time, for another hour). 2: Speech by master of ceremonies. 3: Eat, 4: Speeches by everyone in the room about the birthday boy/girl. 5: Cake! Unlike birthdays in the US, it is very formal and somber. Rwandans love to laugh but birthdays are very serious.
Second, I have begun to teach English to adults. Mon-Fri. Levels 1 and 2. What materials? Chalkboard, chalk, eraser, chairs and a party tent. Very Peace Corps. Resources are not easy to come by here. I like teaching though.
I saw news on the television the other day. Shocking. Iran election, Burma, Sri Lanka, N. Korea, the economy… Meanwhile, I am sitting deep in the heart of darkness, watching kids kick around small homemade soccer balls made from things they found in the dumpster (a hole in the ground) while I’m waiting for a merchant to come back and give me change… the 500 franc bill ($0.90) I gave him for the 100 franc ($0.18) pen was too big, he had to go to the salon next door to break it. I don’t look forward to the moment when the children here ask me, “How come American boys and girls have so many toys and we don’t?” Children don’t have a conscience like that though do they? They only want what others have instead of questioning the underlying reason why they don’t have those things. Perhaps if they did, mommies and daddies wouldn’t find use for their guns, wars and enmities nor would they find solace in uttering things like, “I can’t change it” or “that’s life”. Its interesting that the saying “life isn’t fair” comes from those who don’t suffer the real consequences of injustice. The statement is true, but is an excuse for apathy. So, why this violence around the world? Sure, it’s depressing. The trick for me is turning those thoughts and feelings into positive action.
Well, that’s June in Rwanda everyone. Sorry about the rant. Poverty sucks.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rwandan President Kagame Speech about Peace Corps

This is pretty amazing…

Pres. Paul Kagame President of the Republic of Rwanda

Posted: June 9, 2009 04:51 PM

A Different Discussion About Aid

The United States of America has just sent a small number of its sons and
daughters as Peace Corps volunteers to serve as teachers and advisors in
Rwanda. They have arrived to assist, and we appreciate that. We are aware
that this comes against the backdrop of increasingly scarce resources, of
budget discussions and campaign promises, and of tradeoffs between defense
and domestic priorities like health care and infrastructure investments. All
that said, I believe we need to have a different discussion concerning the
potential for bilateral aid.

The Peace Corps have returned to our country after 15 years. They were
evacuated in 1994 just a short time before Rwanda collapsed into a genocide
that killed over one million people in three months. Things have improved a
lot in recent years. There is peace and stability throughout the nation. We
have a progressive constitution that is consensus-driven, provides for power
sharing, embraces diversity, and promotes the participation of women, who
now represent the majority in our parliament. Our economy grew by more than
11% last year, even as the world entered a recession. We have chosen
high-end segments of the coffee and tea markets in which to compete, and
attract the most demanding world travelers to our tourism experiences. This
has enabled us to increase wages by over 20% each year over the last eight
years -- sustained by, among other things, investment in education, health
and ICT.

We view the return of the Peace Corps as a significant event in Rwanda's
recovery. These young men and women represent what is good about America; I
have met former volunteers who have run major aid programs here, invested in
our businesses, and I even count them among my friends and close advisors.

Peace Corps volunteers are well educated, optimistic, and keen to assist us
as we continue to rebuild, but one must also recognize that we have much to
offer them as well.

We will, for instance, show them our system of community justice, called
Gacaca, where we integrated our need for nationwide reconciliation with our
ancient tradition of clemency, and where violators are allowed to reassume
their lives by proclaiming their crimes to their neighbors, and asking for
forgiveness. We will present to them Rwanda's unique form of absolution,
where the individuals who once exacted such harm on their neighbors and ran
across national borders to hide from justice are being invited back to
resume their farms and homes to live peacefully with those same families.

We will show your sons and daughters our civic tradition of Umuganda, where
one day a month, citizens, including myself, congregate in the fields to
weed, clean our streets, and build homes for the needy.

We will teach your children to prepare and enjoy our foods and speak our
language. We will invite them to our weddings and funerals, and out into the
communities to observe our traditions. We will teach them that in Africa,
family is a broad and all-encompassing concept, and that an entire
generation treats the next as its own children.

And we will have discussions in the restaurants, and debates in our staff
rooms and classrooms where we will learn from one another: What is the
nature of prosperity? Is it subsoil assets, location and sunshine, or is it
based on human initiative, the productivity of our firms, the foresight of
our entrepreneurs? What is a cohesive society, and how can we strengthen it?
How can we improve tolerance and build a common vision between people who
perceive differences in one another, increase civic engagement,
interpersonal trust, and self-esteem? How does a nation recognize and
develop the leaders of future generations? What is the relationship between
humans and the earth? And how are we to meet our needs while revering the
earth as the womb of humankind? These are the questions of our time.

While some consider development mostly in terms of infusion of capital,
budgets and head counts, we in Rwanda place equal importance to
relationships between peoples who have a passion to learn from one another,
preparing the next generation of teachers, administrators and CEOs to see
the exchange of values and ideas as the way to build the competencies of our
people, and to create a prosperous nation.

We will do this because we see that the only investment with the possibility
of infinite returns is in our children, and because after a couple of years
in Rwanda, working and learning with our people, these Peace Corps
volunteers will be our sons and daughters, too.

Rwanda Resources

I thought that maybe some of you may be interested in learning about Rwanda and the genocide that took place. I would suggest it too. So check these out and feel free to ask questions on Rwandan history. I have learned so much. I have also learned that there is a lot of misinformation out there too.

"Ghosts of Rwanda"- This is a Frontline (PBS) documentary on the genocide. Very good and informative.
"100 days"- Movie about the genocide. Well filmed and filmed in Rwanda too.
"Hotel Rwanda"- Movie about a hotel manager that saved many lives. Story is questionable in accuracy but nonetheless good.

"We Wish to Inform you that will will be killed with our families tomorrow" by Phillip Gourevitch (sp?).- Accurate non-fiction.