Wednesday, February 17, 2010

“This is going to hurt,” he told me. Despite that sad reality, I appreciated his frankness. I always hate it when doctors or authority figures try to play down something bad. I would rather know I’m about to experience something unpleasant than be horribly surprised halfway through. So, I should probably start this story from the beginning. Two weeks ago I came home from a shopping trip in Kigali and burned my leg on the tailpipe of a moto. I will never again forget to note which side of the motorcycle the tailpipe is on. At first I thought it would just go away. It just seemed a little red. Then a few days later a blister about the size of a silver dollar formed inside of the red patch and it started to hurt. My medical officer just told me to cover it, watch it, and make sure not to pop the blister. However, the burn on my leg was a little too big for any of the band aids in our med-kit, so I covered it with gauze one night and left it there until morning. It never occurred to me that doing that would severely impede my ability to function for the following few weeks. When I took off the gauze in the morning, the top layer of my burnt skin came with it. Ouch. I’m sure you can imagine how that one felt.

A week later the pain wasn’t going away and there was a silver dollar sized mushy yellowish spot on the burn. I sent pictures to my med officer and she told me I had to come to Kigali to get it checked out. It ended up not being infected, but I had this weird thing where the skin from the blister was never fully cleared away and was making it impossible for the burn to heal up. So we had to clear out all of this dead skin… With sponges, tweezers, and scissors. The first round of scrubbing got us to the exposed nerves of my leg, which would explain why it had been hurting for so long. That was when I was told the rest of the procedure was going to be fairly disagreeable. After the first five minutes of scrubbing I noticed the noises in the room were getting muffled and my vision was going a little spotty. “Huh,” I said. “I think I’m going to pass out.” My tone was so blasé that the staff didn’t initially react. Then they had me bent over with my head between my knees until the world stopped spinning, and found a place for me to lay down for the rest of the procedure. I apologized for not being able to keep it together, but the doctor assured me that the reaction was entirely natural, and proposed that had I been a boy, I probably would have crumpled after the first 30 seconds. It was nice of him to try and make me feel a little tougher than I felt. So, I have to go back in for a check up again tomorrow but hopefully it won’t be quite as bad.

In better news, I’ve begun teaching. It’s been a bit of a learning experience for me oddly enough. The practices of the Rwandan classrooms are diametrically opposed to those to which I am accustomed in many ways. First of all, I am expected to be 3 – 5 minutes late to class everyday. This means I don’t get any immediate prep time, but it allows the students to enter the classroom, clean the blackboard, take their seats, and most importantly it ensures that they are all present to stand and greet me in unison when I enter the room. This was startling at first, especially because they remain standing until I return their greeting and tell them to be seated. I am also expected to write the name of the class I am teaching in the corner of the blackboard where teachers in the United States normally write the date. I have now come to the understanding that students are not privy to their own schedule, as my S2 English class was lead to believe that I was teaching them geography when I did not indicate the subject on the board. Professors routinely come in and out of classrooms, teach whatever subject they are prepared to teach, and the students follow the lesson without question.

This would not bother me if not for the fact that they never ask questions. At all. About anything. Students here take orders very well, but always fail to visit the intentions of the directions given. I’m about to institute a policy that adds extra points to the weekly quiz if a student asks “why” when I tell her to do something. The problem is, many other teachers would be less than enthused with my student’s new found audacity in the classroom. I want my kids to think more critically, but I don’t want them to be disrespectful because of it. Walking that line can be a bit precarious.

Additionally, I start clubs next week. We had a meeting with the Headmaster and he agreed to let me have the American Culture club and a Test Prep club, but he also told everyone he wanted me to have an English club for the teachers. My initial and standing impression of this request is that it has not been very well accepted. Most of the professors are men and in their 40s or older. Culturally speaking, having me (a 23 year old girl) as an authority figure in a class which is primarily comprised of men in their 40s is a bit insulting. But, my ever visionary Headmaster quashed most of the complaints stating that “No one is too old to learn”. No one argues with the Headmaster, so we’re moving forward with it. It should be fun to see what kind of social backlash I get from this. I think I’ll be fine as long as I just try to think of this period of time as a social experiment instead of a social engagement.

Lastly, I would like to issue a blanket request to all of you that you STOP GETTING MARRIED. Seriously, guys. I’ve got about 23 months of service left. If you love each other enough to get married, you will still love each other in 23 months when I am home and able to attend your wedding. Yes, I am talking about YOU, Meghan Fitz—Wehe…
Another alternative could be a late November or December wedding. I’ll be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year because school is out in October, and I’ve got lots of time off. Can we all agree to that?