Dec 2, 2015

Combating Africa Time. The Never-ending Saga.

You know those events, the ones that warm your heart and rekindle your faith in humanity? 

Today I had one of those. 

Let's chat about it. 

Yesterday morning was bad. Not super bad, but the normal kind of bad that happens when you live in rural Rwanda and teach at a university that is run by ... non-logic thought. Normal, non-surprising, bad. 

It was the first day of my week long "Seminar in American Literature" where I was slated to teach 90 level 5 French/English majors without any curriculum guidelines or technology. The lack of guidelines is something I have gotten over, as well as the lack of a steady classroom space - we just wander until we find an open room. Lack of technology is not ideal, but also manageable. What is not manageable, however, is a lack of students. 

Now, mind you, I am not newcomer to the idea of "Africa Time." The notion that everything is slower (yes), later, (yes), and takes longer (YES) in Africa. If you have a meeting at 8, expect it to start at 9 and last until whenever. Because "Africa Time." This is not new to me (looking at you, chronically late ex-boyfriends of the African variety). But for some reason, perhaps the grating of the lumber yard near my house that robs my sleep, or the lack of diet coke in my veins, yesterday Africa Time was not going to fly. 

I arrived to an open classroom at 7:50 and began to set up my teacher area (a desk in the front). Then I straightened my kitenge skirt, fixed my lipstick while looking in my phone, and waited for students. And waited. And waited. By 8:10 there were still no students. This is odd, as there are usually a few eager beavers, especially on the first day of class. SOMEONE usually wants to see the white teacher. 8:20 rolled around and I could feel my blood starting to boil. I am at the number 1 ranked private school in rwanda and these turds can't even come to class onetime. This is a waste of my life. I heard myself thinking. (Dramatic, I know. I'm an ENFP). I took a photo, posted it in a rant to Instagram, and headed back to my house in a big red-headed fit. 

Empty room = 25 instagram likes. Score! 
On the way back to my classroom, I ran into a student, Sister Mary, who I see all the time and have become close with. She is a nun so I think of her like a character in my Rwanda play. Sister Mary told me, "be patient, it's raining." Ohhhhh. I thought. I had completely forgotten that Rwandans do not go outside in the rain. They are made of sugar, or something like that. "Well, yes, patience is important," I said, wondering why I was about to debate the importance of patience with a nun. "But I expect my students to have high standards for themselves. This is disrespecting our class." She nodded in a kind way, as you would expect from a Sister, and told me to go home and wait for the class president to call. So I did.

Well, Sister Mary knows what's up. Around 8:50 the class president called me and informed me that the class was ready now, I should go back. By now I was livid with the entire system of incompetence and I trudged my moody bum back over to the class ready to give them my mind. And that I did. I gave a speech about respect and having high standards and not having any pity on them. "I don't care if it's raining, you come to class on time because that is what an employer will expect of you," I heard myself saying. Then it came time to pull out the packet that I had emailed to the dean to pass out over 2 weeks ago. The packet the dean had assured me had already been distributed to students so they could read for the first day (a 5 day literature course requires preparedness). But low and behold - no students had the packet nor had heard of the packet.

Bloody hell.

I was an angry redheaded woman giving it to a class of Rwandans who were looking at me like they were watching a weird sci-fi film. A weird look of misunderstanding, confusion, and humor.

I told them to go, print the packet, do the work, and come back the next day on time and prepared. I packed up my pink tote and stomped my way out of the class. I had had enough. In my logic, being late was one thing, but being late and having not done the pre-reading nor having the packet was just completely unacceptable (it would have made our class impossible, in my defense).

This morning, I was not entirely excited to face the students and conjure up enough goodwill to mend the fences and have a productive course. I had my coffee, said a few thankful prayers to get my brain and heart in the right place so I didn't get emotionally jostled again, and walked out into the foggy campus toward the classroom.

And then...the best thing in the world happened.

I walked into the class, at 7:50am to a full classroom of students who laughed and clapped when I walked in. 

It was amazing. I'll never forget it. (ok maybe one day, but not for a long, long time.) In Africa, an entire group of 90 students showing up 10 minutes before class is a legitimate miracle.

And I smiled. And they smiled. And I was so ticked. And they were so humored with themselves.

And we had a fabulous 4 hour class on the Enlightenment Period and early American themes.

My faith in humanity was encouraged. Perhaps my high standards are rubbing off? Or maybe they just don't want to upset the white teacher? Who knows. It was such a sweet morning. I wonder if they will all be there early tomorrow? :) 

Here are some other pics: 

Mushu being famous. I'm now calling myself his Momager. 

Goat on a leash. 

King of Kibungo

I found 7 coke zeros in a store in town and bought them all! This is JACKPOT!

walk slow. xoxo.

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