Leave it to my students, survivors of war and genocide, beaten and abused by life in this once-conflicted nation, to bring me to tears in the classroom. It’s the end of a very long week, full of frustrating moments (see: Tuesday’s tirade) and hours upon hours of teaching: added together, more than 40 instructional hours between one intensive reading class, a staff language class, and English Club. By Friday, the familiar feeling of being chased by a freight train was setting in: too much prep, instruction, and grading, with barely enough hours in the day. My power went out twice, causing my refrigerator to defrost. I cursed no one particular on Thursday night as, for the second time that week, I threw out milk. The computer I borrowed from the school (since my own currently has a faulty data cable with the needed part in transit from America) refused to start, throwing me into panic of lost documents. Moments of frustration, lashing out at my inability to control each moment of my day.
But today, in the last hours of class, my Reading class took ahold of educational responsibility and ran away with it, putting their own spin on an assignment that I had hoped would force interaction. Each student group had thirty minutes to teach the class, starting with a theme and accompanying reading. It was like magic: I sat in the back of the class, and they came alive as teachers in their own right. In front of the classroom, I saw bright eyes, heard booming voices, saw movement and action and smiles, actors and magicians performing their art in front of their audience. I’m doing this every day from now on, I told myself.
An earlier class discussion on the theme of war
One group, with a play centered around domestic violence, ended their skit with a poem about peace that left me biting my lip and looking out the window. The following poem, written by Simeon, Hilarie, Prosper, Germaine, Eugenie, was passed to me, copied on a sheet of printer paper.
Peace comes, war goes
Peace comes, no violence
Peace embraces both freedom and liberty
Peace, you, key of development.
Peace is something you can’t buy,
You won’t catch it falling from the sky,
It does not follow distance nor time,
Only God guarantees you peace!
Let us fight for peace,
Instead of delaying on disputes,
When our kids access to education,
When everyone feels happy,
When peace, we’re closely tied.
We just need to open our hearts,
That’s where peace clearly starts,
It’s not difficult to embrace and find,
With a caring and open mind.
Peace is something we mutually share,
For it is just, and always fair,
When we find it, Peace is sweet,
It shall make our life complete.
Outside the window, goats nibbled at the grass near the entrance to the caves that encircle the school. The sun was out, the sky a delicate blue. Like so many moments in this country, the environment took away all my thoughts for a moment, my everything throttled by its purity and beauty.
A moment, a perfect moment of peace, narrated by people who truly understand the meaning of that word.
As always, everyday, Rwanda puts my life into perspective.
Love and a lot of Peace from Musanze.