the workshop

i’m ridiculously exhausted tonight, and it’s not only because of the four-hour meeting in french and kinyarwanda that i just sat through. (why are meetings here always exactly four hours? is there a rule? is the director timing us and when he sees we’ve been at it three hours and fifty-five minutes, he knows he’s gotta wrap it up?) it’s also because i spent the weekend at the kivu writers’ workshop. i know that three days in a hotel overlooking the beautiful lake kivu sounds anything but exhausting, but add twenty teenagers, five slightly neurotic trainers, one rather lazy paid-by-vso organizer, and eight hours on a minibus to the mix and the stress piles up.

it’s friday morning, i’ve left the house at 7am and am on a bus that seems to be taking every possible opportunity to detour through the muddy potholed streets of kigali. i’m already late and to make matters worse, it’s just occured to the guy next to me after an hour squished shoulder-to-shoulder that i speak english and now he’s practicing the five words he knows (my new favorite bus question: ‘are you a girl or a woman?’). i arrive at nyabagogo bus station seriously en retard and push my way past guys selling donated american hand-me-downs, dirty street-kids playing ball, motos that drive up into your face and ask ‘sister where are you going?’, buses that do not stop for pedestrians, all things that on a good day i truly enjoy about kigali. in the sea of taxibuses and africans i manage to spot a mazungu face up ahead, follow it, and get lucky- it’s another vso here for the same reason i am. on a side note, i often get annoyed when rwandans think that all white people know each other here (‘do you know the white girl who lives in kigali?’), but unfortunately more often than not, we do.

so i’m an hour late, two of the students are as well, and the organizer turns up a full two hours late to the meeting point. great start. ok, shove the kids in a taxibus, off we go to kibuye, on the shores of lake kivu, and a stunning nerve-wracking three-hour drive down curving mountain-pass roads. we arrive in one piece, but the organizer (who’s being driven in a vso truck by a vso driver and who left before us) does not. or at least he hasn’t arrived by the time we have to scrounge in our pockets to pay the taxi-driver because the vso guy’s the one with all the money.

i won’t take you through a three-day play-by-play because recounting it makes my blood pressure go up, but in summary we started the weekend with 20 students and ended with 14. two never showed because their school director said they needed a letter of permission from the ministry of education, one ran off saturday morning and never came back, one ended up in the hospital with a stomach ulcer saturday night and another accompanied her, and the last suffered second-degree burns when a coffee thermos exploded in her lap sunday morning. woo hoo!

with all that whining behind me i can now say that the weekend was an overwhelming success. the remaining students wrote, directed, and performed their own plays, in french, english, and kinyarwanda. they also performed songs (one entitled ‘thank you kivu writers’ workshop’), poetry, and stand-up comedy sketches. we had hand-picked the most creative students in the country and it showed- they were funny, open-minded, a bit crazy, and not at all self-conscious on stage. i’ve got some great videos that this blog can’t handle, but here’s a few pics of the gang.

on the shore in class group shot 

during the sessions, i was busy busy, alternately participating, facilitating, taking notes for feedback, or sitting outside with older volunteers trying to absorb as much as i could about the process of running these workshops. they (charlotte and isidora) want me to attend the next one in june, possibly to be the volunteer organizer for that one, and generally get as involved as possible in the organization of the project because both of them are leaving at the end of this year. on saturday evening the three of us sat up late, analyzing what had gone right (the students were amazing) and wrong (three rwandan trainers cancelled last minute and those who didn’t threw away the careful advanced planning we had done with them in favor of lecture-style sessions) and how it could be improved in june, reflecting on rwanda in general and moaning about some of the common stresses we shared. at a lull in the conversation, as we were staring out at the lake whose pitch-darkness was punctured only by the lanterns of singing fisherman, charlotte jumped up and pointed across to the congo. just visible was the red glow of the volcano in goma, its fiery lava reflecting off the clouds. a moment of reality-check: i’m in africa.

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~ by aliciawolcott on May 8, 2007.

One Response to “the workshop”

  1. I am interested by this project,and i have a project called Hobe Rwanda, that i would like to share with young people who have been part of the Kivu project. How can get in touch with people in charge of this project? Phone number or email would be ok with me.

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