Final Rwandan Post!

Warning: This is a very long post! Feel free to read in small chunks. I haven’t had internet access for days!

Today I spent the day in Primary 2 and 3. During Primary 2 math the children were practicing writing numbers up to 1000 in their exercise books. Then they had to change the numerals into words. During English class I shared the Second Grade books about likes. The students from Apapec enjoyed seeing your drawings and learning about the different activities, foods, animals and colors that you like. Tessa, everyone laughed when you said that you like rats! Henry, I had to explain to some of the kids what a skateboard is. The children made many connections and expressed that they also like playing soccer (futbol), riding bikes and playing basketball. After we defined the word ‘like,’ the students from Apapec wrote their names and wrote and drew something that as a child living in Rwanda they like. From eating chips to drawing princesses, all topics were covered!img_4650

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I then used my ipad to record the children saying their names and talking about what they chose to represent on their paper. That way instead of just returning to Brookwood with their artwork, you can hear their voices, see their faces and hear the accurate pronunciation of their names. Some of them are quite long and have Kinyarwanda roots so they will be unfamiliar to you. Some children at Apapec have names that we hear in the US, but not too many. For example the little boys in my host family are named Evan and Ethan. I was interested to learn that many children in Rwanda do not have the same last name as their mother or their father or even their siblings. They have their own unique names. Many children are given a Kinyarwanda name and then after 8 days the parents announce the name that the child will be referred to as. There are also names like Happy, Winner and Blessed. Speaking of names there are 3 Teacher Sarahs at Apapec!

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Sarah, Sarah and Sarah! Even spelled the same.

There are no colored printers, overheads or computers in the classroom so the children learn mostly by listening to the teacher not looking at visuals and models. We can easily get on the internet and pull up photos and websites to help us learn and understand new concepts, but everyone does not have those resources in their schools. It can be challenging for the kids to learn about confusing topics without pictures and hands on materials. For example, today the lesson was focused on family relationships and the teacher was trying to explain cousins, aunts, grandmothers and other relatives just using spoken words.

I continue to be so impressed and inspired by the daily Assembly program that the students put on. Just like at Brookwood students get up to sing, dance, read and perform. Many of the mornings focus on values, such as respect for others and kindness. One day this week the students presented in a debate forum. The topic was to propose or oppose (vote for or against) the statement, “Diversity makes the beauty in the world.” The children did a great job giving reasons for the side that they were supporting. I was then called up to give my thoughts on the subject. As you can guess, I talked on the side about how I believe that diversity makes the beauty in the world! If people had the same appearance, the same families, the same beliefs, the same interests and the same experiences, we would never grow and learn from one another. New ideas would not be presented and change would not be possible. Another day the children sang a song about loving their school, which I will play for you. I have recorded a lot of videos in Rwanda so you can see and hear some of the things that I experienced. Around the school you see signs reinforcing appropriate behavior and expectations. One of my favorite messages is right when you walk through the gate and it says, “Tardiness is the enemy to learning,” which means come to school on time so that you can learn.

I finally went to the market and did some shopping with my Rwanda Francs, which is the currency or money that is used here. Katherine, I bought a bunch of colorful woven baskets that you thought were here. I also got a small drum for the classroom and a welcome sign made out of banana leaves! Enzo, I haven’t seen any galimoto wire toy vehicles yet, which kind of surprised me. Also, no rock babies J. I have seen kids playing a game and running around with rubber tires and sticks. Tomorrow I am going to go looking for fabric so the Lower School can make some dolls out of recycled water bottles.

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My host mother, Sophie, teaching me how to make a doll.14671373_10207520076535132_7317056588922671598_nSome fabrics I’m bringing back to Brookwood for African crafts such as water bottle dolls

At Apapec students call their teachers by their first names not their last. I have loved being called Teacher Sarah instead of Miss Dawe while I am here! Greetings are very important in Rwandan and school culture. As soon as I step into the room everyone jumps up to welcome me to their class. The students get very excited to answer questions in class and they all shout, “Me, teacher, me teacher!” while snapping their fingers and flicking their wrist.

Today I went into Primary 1 and taught the math game Roll and Record. It is a First Grade favorite at Brookwood every year so I thought that the students at Apapec might also enjoy it. What I hadn’t considered was that they children had never used or even seen dice before. So, I taught them how to roll two dice together and then count up the total number of pips. Since dice are an unfamiliar material to the students I reminded them to add up only the pips that landed on top and not all of the sides. I loved seeing their faces as they explored this fun new manipulative. I left a collection of dice with their teachers so they can continue to use them for math games. They had fun filling in the result boards with their partners.

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The math curriculum for First Grade in Rwanda is very challenging and includes concepts that are not introduced to our older students, such as multiplication and division. In their exercise books the First Graders solved computation problems like 69-___=24, 15+___=87 and 2x___=18 . The children computed the problems in their heads and with their fingers without showing their work in their books. They moved quickly through these warm up exercises.

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First Grade math problems!

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Children at Apapec also take Kinyarwanda lessons in addition to English and French. There are 24 letters in their alphabet, all of our letters with the exceptions of q and x.

Middle School, most of my posts have been geared towards the younger students’ schoolwork, but this blog section is for you all. Today I went to Grade 5 math and they were learning how to find the volume and the area of a Rubik’s cube. Then students came up to count the vertices and corners. Mr. Holch gave me a bunch more cubes to bring with me and the kids had so much fun working on the puzzle during break time. I also showed them the video that Mr Cabral made with James McKenna explaining in English and French the steps for successfully solving the cube. Both girls and boys were so interested and all wanted a turn.

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I found out why the kitchens in Rwanda homes are separate from the main house and living quarters. It is because they use charcoal and the fumes are not safe to be around. So, the cooking area is in a separate small building. Wash is also scrubbed by hand outside of the home in plastic bins and then clothing is hung up to dry on a line. There are not appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines and dryers so most chores need to be done by hand. I have not eaten one processed food since arriving to Rwanda. The diet is very healthy and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables. Even the honey is straight from the farm with no additives. I have noticed that there is not a lot of variety in the foods that people eat here. Almost every lunch and every dinner has been beans, rice, a root vegetable called cassava, bananas (more like a potato, not the sweet kind we have) maize and some greens. No one in Rwanda has heard of food allergies and they were surprised that we have some children who can’t eat peanuts and other nut varieties. Since there are no electrical appliances like dishwashers, washing machines and dryers,  most household chores are done by hand.  For example, laundry is scrubbed in a bucket and then hangs outside to dry.  img_4808Cooking area with charcoal stoveimg_4811

Week 2 shower set up. There was no faucet or showerhead in this home so we used a bucket of hot water and cold water to bathe

My second host family has two young boys, Evan age 3 and Ethan (nicknamed Bobo) who is 15 months. Evan speaks primarily French with the exception of some limited vocabulary he has learned at school. However, I have discovered that even if you don’t speak the same language you can build a friendship, form a connection and understand each other. Every day when I get home from school Evan is waiting outside the front door shouting, “Teacher Sarah!!” His daily hugs are one of my favorite parts of the day. As a host gift I brought him a set of Legos, which he had never seen before. Every night he would say to me “Game!” and we would build little cars and trucks together. I loved watching his sense of pride and accomplishment as he figured out how the plastic bricks snap together. After successfully putting on a new piece he would cheer for himself, “Bravo!” Evan is in Nursery 1 and had homework to do most nights. I was very surprised to see that at age 3 some of his assignments were to write the vowels in cursive, draw a radio and number objects using one to one correspondence. It is expected that nursery students color within the lines and he was reprimanded for some scribble marks on his worksheets. It was an interesting contras to watch this little boy attempt to write cursive letters and yet still need reminders to not put the Legos in his mouth.

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Question marks on 3 year old scribbles

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Cursive vowels in Nursery 1

I did not see any car seats installed in families’ vehicles and young children freely roam about the car.  I also found out that the majority of people in Rwanda do not yet have email addresses and most do not have mailing addresses. There are no mailboxes outside of people’s homes and when I sent Christmas gifts to my host families this December I will need to send to Apapec to make sure they arrive.

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Evan and Bobo in their Brookwood heron tees!

2016-10-15-09-20-12My final goodbye to Evan

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Going to miss these 2 girls  beyond words

I am sitting down to write my final blog post from Rwanda (well, technically at the airport in Amsterdam!) I addressed the Apapec community at morning assembly for the last time. I told them that while I was in Rwanda some one asked me one night if the sky looked the same here as it does in America. While we may speak different languages and have different skin colors we all live under the same sky. We all have strong minds, loving hearts and hopes and dreams. One of the projects I worked on these 2 weeks is asking children at Apapec about their hopes and dreams. I heard about how, just like many of you, they aspire to become doctors, engineers, teachers, farmers and futbol players. I have discovered during this journey that we are much more similar than we are different and we can learn and grow so much by collaborating together. I am so grateful to my host families, the administration, teachers and students of Apapec and Brookwood. I am excited to see what the future brings as our students brainstorm, work together on curricular projects and solve problems together. As I put on my Facebook status the other day, “Out of all the places that I’ve traveled in my life I’ve never met such welcoming, kind, generous, respectful, happy people as I have in Rwanda. The country is such an example of strength, unity and forgiveness after a difficult history.” Thanks for following along with me these past 2 weeks! Please come find me if you want to hear more stories or have any questions about Rwandan culture.

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October 10 from Rwanda

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Pre-K I think that you will be particularly interested in the first part of this post. Today I spent the day in Nursery 3. I passed along your homemade matching game features images around the Brookwood community. I’ve been snapping photos around Rwanda so that you can play a memory game and learn about some of their activities and every day sights. Here is a picture of me and Teacher Sarah, who is friends with Mrs. Shorr. Since I know that you are studying gardening and food in your classroom I taught the class in Apapec the song Inch By Inch, read the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar and asked them to draw a picture of a favorite fruit or vegetable. They had so much fun using the cray pas to draw mangoes, papayas, passion fruits, avocados, bananas, tomatoes, watermelon and so much more. Look how proud the students are of their work! I know you’ve tried some of those foods before, but are others new for you? Passion fruit is my new favorite snack. You cut the fruit in half and it is filled with tangy, crunchy seeds that you spoon out.

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There is no cafeteria at Apapec so children pack a snack of their choosing. There is a huge variety of foods such as chapatti bread, milk, lemons and biscuits.

 

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This afternoon I got picked up and brought to the area in the Verunga mountains where I went on the gorilla trek. The hotel was called Le Bambou Lodge and I had my own little villa in the woods. The temperature was much colder in the mountains and I put on jeans and a sweatshirt for the first time. Although there are 20 rooms at the lodge it is the slow season for tourism and there were only two other people staying there. I was the first to arrive so I had a private performance by a children’s drumming and dance troupe. They pulled out a wooden chair for me to create an audience. Then the kids came over to me tied a red band around my head, put a scarf on me and tied on a skirt so I could perform with them. Afterwards we watched a movie about gorillas to prepare us for our adventure. When I went to bed they lit as fire in my room and put a hot water bottle in my bed which startled me at first when I got under the covers, but it kept me nice and toasty.

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The gorilla trek was all done by foot and we got wooden gorilla walking canes to help us through the unsteady terrain. The walk out to the site was beautiful and I understood why Rwanda is called “The Land of 1000 Hills.” There were mountains, volcanoes and endless rolling hills. Before heading out on the trail we had a briefing so that we could learn more about the gorillas and how to interact with them in their environment. Since there was bamboo, branches and other obstructions, a man holding a machete blade led the way and created a path for us. There was also a man holding a gun for safety just in the unlikely case one of the animals were to attack the visitors. I learned that there are 20 gorilla families in the area- ten are for tourists and the other 10 are reserved for researchers. The gorillas travel in family groups though some members leave the group and join with another. The senior member of the family is the alpha male called the silverback. When he gets older a grayish silver band appears across his back. There can only be one leader to a family so sometimes relatives have to fight in order to maintain power and dominance.   I never expected to be so close to the gorillas. They were swinging from trees overhead and brushing up against my pant leg as they walked by. Gorillas are vegetarians and they eat a ton of greens in their diet. It was funny to watch them strip the leaves off a large branch. There was even a mother gorilla nursing her two month old baby. The “adolescent” gorillas were very playful and engaged in activities such as wrestling, rolling around and pushing each other down the hill. They literally played King of the Mountain as they jockeyed for the spot on top of the stump. To interact with the gorillas and to get their attention we made low growling sounds. When the young gorillas beat on their chest it symbolizes play. However, when a grown gorilla makes a chest beating gesture it is meant as a warning. It was such a special experience observing and marveling at these very humanlike creatures. When I returned to the lodge my hiking boots were cleaned by the staff, we had lunch and then I headed with the driver back to Kigali.

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My new friend!

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Mama gorilla nursing her baby

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Proud after kicking his brother off the top of the post!

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Looking at his reflection in a puddle!

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A video of siblings roughhousing!

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The male silverback family leader

When I got back to the house we went downtown to attend the 10th birthday of Gloria and Daniella’s cousin. The party was held at a restaurant called Monaco House. There was a play area for children that had trampolines, ball pits, slides and games. It reminded me a lot of Chuck E Cheese and Bonkers. The children had to take off their shoes and put on slippers before entering. Gloria and Daniella wanted to play with me and show me everything so we jumped and slid and played until a worker came over and said that I needed to leave since it is just a place for kids. Oops! You should have seen the size of the candle on the birthday cake. It was huge! It reminded me of a firecracker and sparkled and popped when it was lit. Everyone then sang to the birthday boy. They even sang Happy Birthday and included the line “And you look like a monkey!” Hamburgers, birthday cakes, singing and celebrating with school friends are universal and speak for themselves. Even though I didn’t understand a word that was being spoken as I sat with the family and relatives around the dinner table, I could feel the energy and love in the room.

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Check out that birthday cake candle!!

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Video of class performing traditional dance at student cultural festival

 

The children in the primary grades go to school on Saturday until 1:00, but half of the day is set aside for student cultural events. For example, today each grade level prepared some traditional dances that they performed in the outdoor assembly area. There were group and solo student performances while the music teacher drummed. I then got called up to try dancing in their style. I pulled a few kids up with me and before I knew it the whole school was on their feet dancing to the beat.

 

Afterwards the teacher made an announcement that had all of the children cheering, jumping and screaming. I asked what the excitement was for and was told that it was announced that the students would now go to the field to play a futbol (American soccer) game. Grade 6 played the first match against Grades 4 and 5 and the crowd went wild. They were very talented athletes bouncing the ball off their heads and using fancy footwork, just like I see you do. The second game the girls played soccer against each other. If children were not watching the futbol game they were jumping rope, playing hand clapping song games or climbing a nearby tree. I tried to take some photos of the kids playing games, but as soon as I take out my camera I am swarmed by my Apapec paparazzi!

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The students are dressed in their sports uniforms. There are 3 colored tee shirts, yellow, blue and red. On the back of the shirt there is either the word “Rebero” which is a Rwandan mountain, “Karisimbi” which is a volcano in the Virungas or “Akagera” which is a National Park.

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I have reached the halfway point in my journey and am now moving to my second host family. I am sad to be saying goodbye to Gloria and Daniella and have grown so close to them in such a short period of time. Each girl is unique and has touched me with her personality. Gloria is very studious and reflective. She wants to learn everything that she can and asked me so may wonderful questions about America. I will miss our daily chats. Her English skills are also the strongest in her family so she was a tremendous help translating when communication became challenging.   Daniella is a little spitfire with a twinkle in her eye. She lights up the room with her sense of fun and high energy. I will miss their nightly calls of “Sarah, come play!” as we enjoyed rounds of Uno, Rat-A-Tat-Cat and Hangman together.

Now I’m off to live in the village!

 

 

 

Day 3 in Rwanda

 

Day 3

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I can honestly say that I have never received a welcome before in my life like I did stepping through the gates of Apapec- Irebero this morning. Before I knew what was happening literally hundreds of kids were swarming around me offering hugs, high fives and handshakes. They were also very interested in my hair and kept touching it and trying to run their hands through it. Signs with my name were posted around the campus and everyone cheered. Then we proceeded to the daily assembly, which is held outside. The format reminded me a lot of our Thursday School Meetings. Student leaders stood in front to speak and organize chants. I was then called up into the middle and spoke for a few minutes so that I could introduce myself and tell them about how I am going to be visiting their classrooms and participating in their activities. Afterwards, a group of Primary 4 students came forwarded to sing me a very touching welcome song, including the refrain “We Welcome You, Teacher Sarah!“ The performers were singing and dancing their young hearts out and had the whole crowd clapping and swaying. Everyone then sang a few songs, including the National Anthem of Rwanda. Before going directly back to class the kids do movement, marching and more songs outside of the classroom. It is a noisy, joyful community filled with such happy, respectful students.

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The Dean of Students toured me around so that I could get the lay of the land and we briefly popped our heads into all of the different classrooms. The students were quick to jump out of their seat and formally, but enthusiastically shout, “Good Morning, Teacher Sarah!” The older classes had the opportunities to ask me some questions. Many of the children were fascinated to know how old I am, which led to some giggles from other classmates who were surprised they asked. The children also wanted to know if my parent were still alive, since some of theirs are not.

Then I got taken to my ‘office’ where I can spend time in between classes. Technology is not very well developed at Apapec and I was unable to connect to the internet even using a modem. Many hours later Sir Victor’s secretary was able to send my blog posts off to Doug, which made me relieved since I want to share my adventures with you!

Tea is a traditional Rwandan tradition so I was swept away for biscuits, meat samosas and a cup of Mountain tea with milk. I never drink milk at home, but their milk is sweet and delicious.

 

My first classroom stay was in Nursery One with the three year olds. There were about 35 small children dressed in blue and white uniforms sitting around low wooden tables. They were still able to assert their sense of style and individualism as they accessorized with scarves, sweaters, fun hair bands and brightly colored shoes.

 

Just like you all, the children come into the classroom and hang their backpacks on the wall.   There was one boy hiding under the table and didn’t want to come out. Daily lessons are conducted in both French and in English with the same concepts used for both for consistency. There is a lot of memorized chanting and recitation as the children would repeat sentences, such as “My country’s name is Rwanda, our president is his excellence, Kagame.”

 

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Thumbs up for a friend’s work!

 

 

There are 4 streams of Nursery 1, Nursery 2 and Nursery 3. The second section of Nursery 1 that I visited was working on writing vowels. They are the only letters that the three year olds learn to write during the school year and I expressed surprise that the focus is on vowels before consonants since they are harder to distinguish between. When students went to the board others were singing songs connected to the letter being learned. There was lots of feedback and positive reinforcement as teacher handed out hugs, high fives and a “throw flowers at you” gesture. The children then wrote letter u on paper with a pencil. I taught the kids the song Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes which they enjoyed doing at increasingly faster speeds. Another section was working on the number 5 during my visit. They wrote 5 on the board and did a lot of enthusiastic recitations. I then had the kids count to 5 using different movements, such as clapping, stomping, jumping and cheering. Teacher Sarah moves from room to room, as she is the only English instructor for this age group. Afterwards she was very eager to hear some feedback about her lesson and reflect on her teaching

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This is one grade lined up!

 

School dismisses at 1:00 for the nursery classes and 4 for the Primary Grades. Walking through the parking lot kids were hanging out of car windows yelling “Goodbye, Teacher Sarah.” They are very excited to have a “visitor!” Phoebe you were right about your prediction of having school offices upstairs and classrooms below. Sequoia, they do not have any classroom pets at Apapec or animals around campus.

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Assembly today was led by one of the lower primary grades and they presented clues to riddles into the microphone for classmates to guess the answer. Very much like our School Meetings! Here’s a sample of what they asked. See if you can figure it out. “What has a face and two hands, but no legs?” A clock. Did you get it right? Here’s another one: “What has to be broken before you use it?” Do you give up? An egg. The Nursery classes have their own assembly each morning with tons of music and movement. Today I was in Nursery 2 with the children who are 4 years old. They were learning the number 12 and the letter Y. I liked how the cue words connected to the Rwandan culture- Y is for yam and Y is for Yassin. Today I read the big book The Farm Concert to the class and they loved shouting and whispering the animal sounds. Mr P. and Ms Alexander lent me the farm animal puppets that they made and we got to act out the story.

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During Recess time the nursery classes spent time on their playground, which has equipment like swings, slides, see saws and merry go rounds. I taught some of the kids how to play Duck, Duck, Goose which was a new game for them. Since English is their third language I tried to teach games and songs with simple concepts and easy vocabulary. So many children wanted to join the game that I started laughing. I have never played Duck, Duck, Goose with 70 children. It took me so long to run around the circle! Finally, we had to just become one big clump since there were too many participants.

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I know that this is a lot to read, but internet service is not readily available so I have to take it when I can. I hope that you have stuck with me because we are coming to my favorite part of the day. I had some of my belongings resting along the fence during Recess including The Farm Concert book. One curious boy pulled it out and started flipping through the pages.

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The next thing I knew a huge excited crowd gathered around to look through the book with him. What you can’t see from this photo is how far back the crowd of eager readers goes. Apapec does not have money to equip their classrooms with books so this was a novelty.

 

 

I really appreciated how flexible and accommodating the teachers at Apapec were when I asked to teach a few lessons. This afternoon I read Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? to another section of Nursery 2. The predictable pattern ,rhythmic language pattern and colorful illustration allowed the kids to participate successfully as they recited after me. They then drew a picture of their favorite animal and wrote their name. It was the first time that the kids had seen cray pas and they loved the wide assortment of colors. The material was also new to the teachers at Apapec so I explained the unique features of the crayons. Since class sizes are large and supplies are limited the children do not have many opportunities for art throughout their day. They were so proud of their work and even more excited when I told them that they could take their pictures home with them. Sheila had given me Brown Bear, Brown Bear bookmarks, which were the perfect finishing touch to the lesson.

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It was the perfect day!

Day 1 and 2 in Kigali

Last night I was greeted with beautiful flowers at the Kigali airport as Head Teacher, Sir Victor Gakwaya, Teacher Jack, and my host family, Teacher Sophie and her two daughters Gloria age 11 and Daniella age 7 came to receive me. After driving back to my host’s home I was presented with some pretty patterned bags and a photo of the girls. The power was out when we got into the house, which is a very frequent occurrence in Rwanda so we had dinner by candlelight. Katherine, your prediction about the food was very accurate as we had beans, rice, vegetables and buns. I showed them the drawing that you had done of the meals and they were very impressed with the details!  The sweet, syrupy nectar of the fruits is poured into the glass and then you add water and stir to make juice. If you want hot water for your shower your host needs to boil it in the kitchen for you and then brings you a tub to put at the base of the shower to wash. There are no shower walls so you have to be careful not to soak the whole bathroom!

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Rwanda is in their rainy season right now and it was pouring all through the night, which helped lull me to sleep. My bedroom has a four post bed with a protective mosquito netting draped over the sides. I feel like I am inside a veiled tent! I am a little surprised by the weather as it is a bit cool and quite comfortable. Cooper, I know that you asked about the weather and other times of year are much hotter, like you thought. When the storms clear up, I hope to see if your other prediction, beautiful sunsets, is true.

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Day 2

Today after a breakfast of eggs, toast with honey and ginger tea we drove to attend a wedding.  My host family told me that if I was too tired I could stay home and rest, but I suffer from a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and there was no way I was going to turn down this special opportunity.  Besides, Hazel wanted  me to find out what people wear to a wedding and if they observe a tradition of jumping over a broom.  Haz, I did not see the bride and groom jumping over a broom, but there are many different marital ceremonies across many different African countries.

I wore the traditional dress of a long silk wrap around skirt and a tank top with colorful fabric draped and tied to the side.  The girls then accessorized me with some fun African beads. Depending on if you are married or not, you wear the traditional clothing a little bit different.  The right arm needs to be free so you can hold hands with your spouse.

Instead of going up to a bar to get beverages, the guests remained seated and women brought around trays of water, Coke, Fanta and beer.  Since weddings are quite costly, there was no meals or snacks served. The bride and groom’s families and guests sat across from each other in different decorated tents. In between the two tents is a little stage with fancy chairs for the bride, the groom and two friends.

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The groom’s family gifted a cow to the bride, not as a payment, but as a generous gift.   The equivalent of groomsmen were dressed in animal print tunics and were carrying canes.   The canes are significant both as a symbol of protection and to herd the sacred cows.  The cow is a large part of the wedding festivities and the bride’s family was handed a bundle of grass as a sign of prosperity.  Here is a video of a man singing to the cows!
Then the bride and groom went inside and had a ceremonial drinking of the cow’s milk.  Afterwards, the couple left and went to the church for the ceremony, while the guests remained and waited for their return.  They came back in different clothing, had another drinking of the milk ritual and then headed off in a car decorated with white bows and ribbons.  The children at the wedding were very interested in my camera and joyfully took many candid photos.  They ran around and played like all kids, gleefully tossing handfuls of rose petals up into the air and watching them shower down.

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Gloria and Daniella loved the pink Broached heron tee shirts that I brought over for them. When Sophie and I got home from the wedding they were at the gate proudly modeling their new shirts.  Since it was pouring rain once again we stayed inside instead of touring the town and had a cozy afternoon of games and crafts.  Jen Cunningham and I discovered in India a couple of years ago that Uno is a universally loved and understood game so I packed it along in my suitcase.  Even with limited English skills the girls were able to match the colors and numbers  and wanted to play multiple times.  They were especially amused by the special feature cards, such as reverse, skip and Wild.  Today was a great reminder of how powerful and unifying play can be.

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Art is another domain that transcends culture and can be accessed, on some level, by everyone.  We experimented with cray pas, a new medium for them as they blended the vibrant colors together to create flowers, houses and people.  The family was very eager to see my personal photos so we spent a couple of hours flipping through different albums on my laptop.  Rwanda is a landlocked country so they were particularly interested in images of the beach and water sports, such as surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and jet pack flyboarding.  Since there are no local coastal towns seafood is not part of the Rwandan diet. Other less concrete traditions and holidays were harder to grasp or make a connection to.  You don’t realize how strange a concept Halloween is to people who do not observe the holiday until you try to explain it. I showed them photos of the Brookwood kids dressed up as witches, superheroes and Minions at the parade and then told them that at night the children go around the neighborhoods, ringing doorbells, saying trick-or-treat and receiving candy bars. It really is bizarre!  School pajama day was another event that they did not quite understand.  Why would the students (and the teachers!) come to school in their flannel pj’s? Ha!
From colored leaves to jack-o-lanterns to sledding down the Brookwood hill we looked at the different seasons that make up New England.  They were surprised that we have a pond on campus and enjoyed photos of the kids catching frogs with their nets and the Recess Regatta wooden boat race.  After a pasta dinner we had a little drumming dance party in the living room and then I got ready for bed. It was a busy, full, fun day.  It is hard to believe I haven’t even been to the school yet!  Tomorrow I tour Apapec-Irebero!

Kigali Here I Come!

Muraho, or hello in Kinyarwanda, the native language of the African country of Rwanda. They say that it takes a village and it truly took a community to help prepare me for this international adventure. While I may be the representative from Brookwood during this journey to Kigali, my suitcases (4, oops…) are overflowing with ideas and curricular projects that have been passed along to me. Homemade Pre-K memory games featuring photos from our campus, Kindergarten clothespin cardboard games, First Grade perennial math favorites, such as Roll and Record and 5 in a Row game boards, Second grade cray pas portraits, Third Grade greeting games, Middle School pen pal letters, Rubik’s cubes with 8th grade video tutorials in English and in French, a collection of our One School One book selections over the years courtesy of Sheila, classroom snapshots, the fixings to build small circuits, music videos and so much more are all coming along for the ride. It is important to note that the materials are not random, but were thoughtfully and deliberately chosen as they connect to existing projects unfolding in our classrooms. We are not dropping off supplies as donations, but are extending an invitation for genuine connection and collaboration. Over the next 2 weeks I will be researching and documenting gardens, butterflies,  inventions, chickens and many other curricular thread topics that are meaningful to our students. Designing  innovative curriculum is one of my favorite aspects of education and I am excited to build partnerships, help develop authentic global education opportunities, support the work of my colleagues and share another lens of the world with your children, your families and our community. Stay tuned as it all unfolds! 🇷🇼✈️

Cape Town, South Africa

Hi Friends,
Lots happening in Cape Town, South Africa.  Yesterday we went to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was jailed for his participation in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.  Nelson Mandela strongly believed that all people should have the same opportunities in life regardless of the color of their skin.  Later, Mandela became the first black president in South Africa serving from 1994-1999. The photographs show the entrance to Robben Island.  I noticed African penguins, seals, and other birds and wildlife live on the island. Today, Robben Island is a designated World Heritage Site for people to visit.

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Mrs. Geraty Visits a S. African School

Hello,
I visited a school today! Bishops School in Cape Town is a Pre-K through Grade 12 boys’ school with about 1,280 students.  Mrs. Gantt helped me connect with a music teacher, Daniel Nambassi, who teaches percussion (drums) to the College students (the word “college” refers to high school students). Mr. Nambassi showed me the percussion room.  Notice the photo that shows how the percussion room ought to look after the students clean up.  Every time we walked into a classroom, the sudents stood up and said “Sir” and “Mam”.  I took pictures of the libraries too. Guess what?  Many of the students love the same books as Brookwood students…the Wimpy Kid books, Timothy Failure books, The Day the Crayons Quit, Guinness Book of World Records, the Cherub series, and others.  It’s a small world!

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Sights from S. Africa from Mrs. Geraty

Mrs. Geraty is currently in S. Africa and has sent us a few photos and this…

Hello Friends,
This is our 2nd day in Cape Town, South Africa.  Yesterday, we went to the top of Table Mountain and viewed the city through a wispy layer of fog.  Spectacular!  Also, saw these little critters nibbling the foliage on the top of Table Mountain.  Guess what these animals are called?  Officially called a Rock Hyrax, but it’s also called a rock rabbit or dassie.  This guinea pig like critter is said to be the modern-day elephant’s closest living relative.  Go figure!

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First Report from Taipei

Hi All!  After a very long flight (4 movies, a book and a good amount of sleep worth) from Los Angeles to Taipei we arrived yesterday at 7 pm, having left LA on Monday at 8 AM. Needless to say we were ready for bed and that was what we did. Not very exciting but
the rest was well needed and we knew today was going by to be long. We began the day at 8:15 for breakfast (but truly, I was up and ready to go at 4:30 AM 😳). After a rather interesting assortment of breakfast foods (eggs, fried fish, salad and rice) we
headed out to tour Taipei. The tour began at 9 AM and ended at 6:00 PM.  Vincent Chen was our guide and he was absolutely amazing. His knowledge and wit made the day even more enjoyable. What an incredible day!  We began at the oldest temple in
Taipei – “Mengjia Longshan Temple.” We learned the significance of the dragon- good luck, why you enter on the right and exit on the left, that to get God’s attention you light incense as the smoke travels from your hands to God’s eyes and he knows you are looking for him. It is believed God answers in many ways but one way is you throw a yin and yang block (see photo or red blocks below) and how they land (sort of like heads and tails) tells you God’s answer. The Temple was packed with people visiting, praying, and more praying. We learned of the various Gods and how similar this religion was to Greek mythology. Once leaving The Temple we walked around old Taipei. Many come to this area to have their wedding photos taken. It is seen as good luck and prestigious. We then boarded our tour bus and headed to the National Palace Museum. This is where we learned all about The calligraphy, the Bronzes, The Art and of course the coveted
Jade. The museum was so crowded It was almost claustrophobic but well worth taking a deep breath and hanging in. I actually learned several mandarin characters, which was so exciting.

The art, bronzes and jade and all the history was a lot to take in. I am still processing my visit to the museum.  You should check out the museums website to see some pictures as cameras were not allowed. We had lunch eating what they called “authentic street
food.”  Which meant the food Taiwanese eat! And well, can I say it was just delicious! (Mr. Diamond would have been in heaven).  From the museum we headed to the famous Taipei 101.( definitely worth googling for all the fun facts) This is the tallest building
in Taiwan and not too long ago in the world but now The 101 is the tallest green building- environmentally. After traveling on the very fast elevator the views from up top were incredible. A full view from every angle of Taipei. I thought I might be scared being so high up but I was so taken by the views I forgot I was so high up! We saw several other sites today but that will have to be for another time. Dinner was calling us. Yes we are still out and about.  No rest!  They say that is how you avoid jet lag. It’s working! We are meeting
our host for dinner which will be fun and I am sure delicious . Tomorrow – Thursday 10/15, we head to Taitung by train. They say Taitung is paradise. I will let you know.
So for now see if you can find out a few things I learned today- how many languages are spoken in Taiwan and what are they? How many rivers and mountain ranges are in Taiwan?  How many scooters are in Taiwan?
Take care.  Mrs. Pirie.

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