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A Semester in Rwanda

November 2013 Archives

Thanksgivukkuh in Rwanda

So, the land of a thousands hills has very few turkeys. At the HRH Thanksgiving party last night we saw three of them, deceased, sadly. Or not so sadly. It's odd how "food from home" seems so compelling and exotic at the same time. Even in the warm weather, tropical clothing, inky dark skies, we had a table crammed with more food than the 40 or so people present could eat. Yeah, just like home. 

There was a group photo that took a long time to organize; there was a wine table and a pie table and Rwandan ice cream. There was pureed pumpkin and tons of green beans, aforementioned turkey and lamb. There were people talking about what they were going to do, instead, these holidays. Pat is spending Christmas on the pediatric floor of the hospital. She's going to bring food for the families (hospitals here don't provide food for patients) and toys for the children. I think it might be The Best Xmas Ever. 

Others are taking the opportunity to see other parts of Africa: Senegal, Namibia. One group is going white water rafting this weekend in Uganda. 

There's a restlessness to ex-pats over here. A further dis-location maybe, but adventuresome, riding the unfamiliar, no longer so concerned with what's below the surface, what The Answer For Rwanda is. We do what we do, and we hope that it helps. And we keep our spirits comforted. 

Good class, nice feeling

I think there's lots of things in life I would do better if I'd had a practice run first. Probably storming the fences at Seabrook, probably teaching my first  class back in the 80's, probably raising children, probably being a big sister. I'm definitely wishing I'd had a practice Rwanda first. I'm just now figuring out what works (best) here.

I decided to give my Object Oriented Programming  an ambitious final project. I decided to go with the prevailing collaborative behavior and let them work in groups. However, I got really strict about group membership and responsibility: each group could have no more than 5 members, all identified at the onset and the final grade dependent on each member's familarity with the product. For the first time all semester, I have most of the class actually typing code into their computers! I am getting specific questions! I am watching them try different things. I was able to say "I live to debug!" and have students appreciate what I'm offering! It was really quite satisfying. 

My plan is to spend the last week of class (since we magically got 2 more weeks when they changed the academic calendar two weeks ago) interviewing each group. There was kind of a bit of the wildebeest strategy going on and I'm trying to tease out those hiding in the pack. I think it's working. 

The other task I have is to make up the final (now only worth 40% of the grade as of yesterday. It was worth 60% of the grade last week). I'm really challenged by making up a short answer OOP question set. Maybe I can find an old AP exam ... (I guess I'm falling under the collaboration spell too) 

In any case, I always feel most at home here when I'm teaching and today was a good day. 

Animals at Akegera

Okay, I fully understand that I'm here for a teaching role and I have been doing plenty of teaching and mentoring. But I know that you really want to see pictures of animals. My internet is jumping in and out so I'm uploading without much commentary. 

Here are some from Akagera, where Jordan, Albe and I went for a safari: 

Thumbnail image for baboon.jpgelephantAkagera.jpggiraffeAkagera.JPG


And the tents that we stayed were palatial ... you could hear hippos exhaling at night when they came out to feed under our boardwalk. 


A brief interruption

Hi all, I'm sorry that I haven't written lately.In October, it was for good news (family was visiting) and then for sad news  (my nephew died suddenly). I'll catch you up on the former in the next few posts. Let me just say a few things about being an ex-pat when big events -- I'm thinking tragic ones like this, but I bet there's some similar dislocation for happy events as well -- happen in a family and you're (I'm) an ocean away. 

There's a tempting feeling that you could very successfully ignore the entire situation. You're not home; there's no connections to remind you. You feel frozen in some alternative universe, before the blow and part of this sings of escape. I remember being in a medium sized car crash with someone who said "it's amazing how strong the feeling to just drive away is". He didn't, it wouldn't have changed the impact ultimately and, as they say, "wherever you go, there you are". The facts at hand don't change. 

The other feeling, almost a direct contradiction of the first, is to want to know everything, to keep trying to get in contact with others and get news. It's not really news that I wanted, but connection. When tragedy happens, we feel all the mixed up feelings (sadness, anger, confusion, numbness, blame, whatever) with a community at first, before eventually settling down with the reality of it all, and the individual impact. Those first feelings, when you feel your own grief, and the grief of those both closer and more removed from the event, are muted over the ocean. You feel others moving on without you. 

So, it was hard and bewildering. Of course nothing compared to what others in my family are feeling still, everyday, but a different experience because of the difference in time and distance. It felt awful. 

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Associate Professor Nanette Veilleux has been awarded a Fulbright Grant to teach computer engineering at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) in Rwanda. Follow along on her journey.


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This site is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of its author (Nanette Veilleux) and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.