I proctored 8 final exams, each 2-3 hours long. I graded my 285 English exams. I recorded all of their grades in my computer and also in my grade book. Then I calculated end-of-year grades for every one of my students. If I were a typical Rwandan teacher, after those calculations I'd get to copy every figure onto a grade reporting sheet. Let's do the math: (2 marks per term x 3 terms + 1 grand total) x 285 students = 1,995 numbers to write by hand. And let's be honest, if I were a typical Rwandan teacher at my school, I'd have more than 285 students and more than one subject's exam to grade -- but you get the idea. Anyway, I took a shortcut and printed out all my grades in nice pretty spreadsheets. Oh, how I love thee, Microsoft Excel.
The monotony of grading was tempered with the cute little personal notes that many kids include on their exams. Examples (you can click to enlarge):
With that, my responsibilities at Buyoga Secondary School were complete. But as Rwandans love ceremonies, they insisted on having a send-off celebration for me. It was held where all large school gatherings are, in the cafeteria. They remove all the tables and arrange the benches in rows for the spectators. But inevitably there is not enough space, so kids jam together as tightly as possible and the latecomers stand crowded in the back.
The festivities began with a few students doing traditional dance while another small group sang and played a drum. At first I didn't pay much attention to the Kinyarwanda lyrics, but then my ears seemed to hear "Juliana." As I listened closer, I heard that the chorus did indeed sing my name, followed by umurezi wacu na mama we meaning "our teacher and her mother." So I could only assume this was a little piece penned in my honor (and my mom's, who the kids all talk about ever since she visited in July). Really sweet.
(Disclaimer: These ceremony pictures are not from my camera. It's somewhat unbelievable to me that the quality is so terrible, because the school actually has a really nice 10.1-megapixel camera. C'est la vie.)
But that wasn't the only original composition! Some time later, two of my boys took the floor, each clutching a microphone at a rapper's angle. They proceeded to perform an amazing a cappella freestyle song that they had written for me. It was both touching and hilarious. If by chance you are familiar with Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak, it reminded me of the last track "Pinocchio Story." Basically the boys screamed out my name many times over, dropped to their knees in anguish, and kept returning to the chorus: "I TAKE THIS MICROPHONE / TO TELL YOU BYE-BYE..." I have some priceless video of it, so maybe if I can get to fast internet sometime soon, I'll try to upload it because this description really doesn't do it justice.
At the end of the ceremony, the headmaster and the "head girl" and "head boy" student representatives presented me with a small gift: a hand-carved wooden map of Rwanda. It was unexpected and really thoughtful.
After that two-hour long ordeal, there was essentially an after-party in the school library. In attendance were about half of the teachers, a handful of select students, the headmaster, and a local government rep (I guess to make everything more official). Of course, in typical Rwandan fashion, EVERY SINGLE PERSON had to make a personal speech to me. It's kind of obnoxious, not to mention time-consuming. Over half of the people who gave speeches have hardly said two words to me this entire year, but sure enough they get up there and talk for 5 or 10 minutes straight. I'm continually amazed how every Rwandan is so good at speaking extemporaneously, especially since sometimes the emcee cold-calls with a specific topic ("Antoine, tell what you learned during the teachers' classes with Julie Ann"). The payoff for enduring the never-ending speeches was a small feast of goat brochettes, seasoned potatoes, and Fanta. Yum yum yum.
Many of you have asked me when I'm leaving Rwanda. I deliberately hadn't mentioned it yet because the plans were a little bit up in the air, due to some miscommunication that I don't need to rant about here. In the end, I am moving out of my Buyoga this Monday, October 25. For two weeks I will be in Nyanza, helping to train our newest class of Peace Corps recruits. Then I will leave Rwanda on the evening of Friday, November 12. (So, please don't send me any more mail! There's not enough time to ensure I'll receive it.) I'm planning an epic journey through West Africa, and at last I will be back in the States sometime in December. I'll be home for Christmas... =)
My favorite goodbye experience was heading to the Buyoga market on Thursday to bid farewell to my tomato lady, Mukashyaka. This woman brought me joy every single market day. Here's a typical exchange: she lights up when she sees me coming, and she greets me in Kinyarwanda. Then she says, "Ushaka inyanya -- You want tomatoes." It's a statement, not a question. I ask how much. "Today, they're 500 for the small bowl. But FOR YOU, 400!" Then she personally picks out the best-looking ones, fills the bowl to overflowing, and throws about 5 extra tomatoes in my bag for free. Then she says, "And I know you love green peppers, too!" and she dashes off to a nearby stall to pick the best peppers for me there. She brings those back and throws them in my bag, for an equally rock-bottom price (not sure how that works, since the peppers aren't hers to begin with). "So you'll come back!" she explains. I thank her profusely, and she just says, "You're my good customer."
So I took her a small gift of a scarf I was going to get rid of anyway. She was so taken aback! Then I really floored her by asking to take her picture. She did the typical Rwandan pose of looking down with a serious expression -- but she gives herself away. Her eyes are smiling.