Friday, March 8, 2013

New Blog

Just want to let you all know that you can continue following my blog at:


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10 + 1

One of my student's responses to the question on an evaluation form:
"On a scale of 0-10, what would you rate as the overall quality of your teacher trainer?"
I just finished teaching my last class in Rwanda, and although I would like to say that I am completely relieved, I am partly sad that this time has come to an end as well. This past year, specifically in regards to work, hasn't been an easy one. There were definitely times when I had wondered whether or not what I was doing had any impact, if I got through to my students at all - intellectually, emotionally, whatever. I'm sure it's safe to say that there are some students that simply won't miss me as much as others, some that didn't feel like they gained anything during my time as their teacher, but that's to be expected. On the flip side, there are definitely some that I know will miss me, because they have said so. I know that sounds a bit vain, but as someone who expresses and receives love through words of affirmation, I thrive on positive feedback. Luckily for me, in the past few days, I've received a lot of goodbye emails full of thank-yous and words of encouragement, all which validate my time spent here in Rwanda. I want to add some of the quotes from my students that make me smile, so I hope you don't mind this little love-fest that's about to happen!
I  would like to thank you very much many many thanks. I learned more from you, not only in English, your behavior  and how you teach us it was good. You helped me in whatever you did, I didn't know to write, to speak in English before but now I can speak and write  at least  2 sentences. All of this are came from you. - Uwamahoro Marie Chantal  
You are lovely, hard working, and your legacy in GR is unforgettable. We learned much from you. Keep it up! Greet your friends and family on my behalf. I wish you all the best:"a good job, means of continuing your studies, a good husband and happy family, etc" Whenever you feel like you want to come back to Rwanda, don't mind where to stay because my house will always be open for you. God bless you and keep you close to him. - Isingizwe Josiane  
If it was possible, I could say "PLEASE DON'T LEAVE!" Jocelyn, I cannot forget your inspiring smile and motivation which increased in many of GR scholars courage and passion to success. I will always remember you through the photos we took at Musanze, and near Ruhondo lake during the summit. May the Almighty God always be with you! - Habamenshi Darius
Jocelyn, you have been the person I never met here. I really appreciate your patience and simplicity. Your time spent on our English class is very significant for me, it has been helpful, I learned a lot from you. I wish you all the best in your future. May God bless you. Thank you so much. Will miss you. - Mukeshimana Beata
Hi excellent teacher! Even if I say goodbye I am very sad but nothing to do because it is the time to go back to your place and I think you are going to continue to the other job, so, let me say good luck in your new job and we will still remember your hard work in GR family. - Muyenshaka Jean Pierre

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Today, we had a gate sale.

A few weeks ago, Margie, roommate, colleague, and friend, told me about The Reverse 100 Thing Challenge, which, as the name implies, is a challenge to get rid of 100 items by December 15th. When she told me about this, I thought it would be great to partake in, especially since she too was joining in the challenge. So, after just a few days, we had gathered a few things...and then a few more...until we had about 150 items.

Instead of giving everything away like the challenge said, we had the idea of holding a gate sale. I personally don't believe in handouts, and honestly, it was very likely that our donated clothes would've just ended up being turned around and sold for profit anyway. So, offering our items for a significantly reduced price seemed like the best way for a win-win situation.

Early in the morning, around 7:30, we began setting up our goods outside our gate. Unfortunately, in the chaos of things I was unable to get a picture, but I'm sure you can imagine the scene caused by 2 foreigners and their guard setting up a mini-market in front of their house. About 2 hours later, every piece of clothing, down to the last pair of socks, was gone.

However, those 2 hours were not without drama. One woman tried to walk off with an armful of clothing without first paying for it. A huge commotion ensued in which the woman, our guard, and 2 bystanders were yelling at each other. Margie and I tried in vain to make peace, but everyone ignored us and continued raising their voices instead. In the end, the woman walked off, clothing in hand, without having given us any money. I still don't know what happened.

Another incident, towards the end, had equally as much drama as the first. This time, a man who was wearing a necklace and a shirt that I was selling, simply waved to me, smiling, as he walked off with my stuff, despite my requests for payment. The crowd just watched as he left, doing nothing to stop him or intervene. When I gave my guard the look of, "What are you going to do about that?", my guard just gave me a grin and shrugged.

After Margie and I closed our gate, counted our "profit," and had a chance to think about what happened out there, we realized there were many items that were "sold" that we had no recollection of selling. Things like a bottle of lotion, a power strip, some books, and a jar, to name a few, did not get paid for. In the midst of the chaos, drama, and commotion, we were robbed - not once, not twice, but multiple times. As Margie and I discussed this situation, there was one thing we simply could not understand: Why would anyone steal something that we were already selling for such a reasonable price? I could understand if our items were very expensive, but we did not quote a price of anything more than $1.50. Furthermore, more often than not, we conceded to what the buyer offered, which was usually somewhere between 20 and 50 cents for one article of clothing. Was it because they needed those items so badly and simply did not have the means to pay for it? Or, was it because we were foreigners? Because they assumed we were rich and would be fine if we didn't receive payment for something?

It's going to take a few days to process all the events of today, and to answer the questions that are swimming around in my head. But, there's one thing I know for sure, and that is while in the end this gate sale was probably somewhat of a win-win situation, it is never going to happen again.

So, like I said before: Today, we had a gate sale. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

there comes a time

done in.
burnt out.

So many words to describe the way that I have been feeling lately. I have to admit that I've been trying to deny the fact that I really might indeed be burnt out. When I first felt this - this feeling of absolute tiredness - I attributed it to a lack of sleep (and, honestly, to being under-stimulated). However, after forcing myself to get 8+ hours of sleep a few nights in a row and experiencing no positive changes, I finally admitted defeat to one of the most common syndromes in my line of work.

It's funny how you just can't snap out of being burnt out (maybe you can but I haven't found the answer yet). I wonder if we were created to reach this point so that we would finally stop to take care of ourselves. Granted, sometimes it's not possible to stop and treat yourself to a day off, or to find a place of refuge and solitude in which to recuperate and recharge, but most of the time, it is. Unfortunately, sometimes, even when we do take time to refuel, it doesn't stop the inevitable from happening.

Needless to say, I am counting down the days (31 to be exact) when I will be back home. I know that being "home" might not be much different from being here, after all, I will still have the responsibilities and demands of life. But, perhaps the cure for being burnt out is more of a shift in mentality than anything else. This isn't to say that fatigue and exhaustion doesn't affect a person physically, because we all know that it does, but home is home because we choose it to be, and that is attributed to a mentality. Everything that is associated with "home" - comfort, safety, shelter, love - are things that we create to be truths in our mind just as much as they are truths in the physical sense.

I am now realizing that one of the most effective ways to prevent against being burnt out (regardless of where you are) is to be in community. When I lived in China for two years, I took community for granted because we were sent out by my organization in groups. Up until about 2 months ago, I also took community for granted here in Rwanda. It was only after my best friend left that I understood the importance of community - the life that it breathes, the comfort and shelter that it offers - a home away from home. This, of course, isn't to say that having community makes you immune to exhaustion and burn out, but it really does help slow down the process and provide a safe space for if and when it does happen.

I guess all this is to say that my views of being independent have changed. I used to think I could do everything on my own - and even wanted to do everything on my own. Maybe I'm finally growing up, but life really is better when you have others to share it with.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pottery Class in Kigali

For those of you who know me, you know that I love my arts & crafts.

Unfortunately, one of the hardest things about being overseas for an extended period of time is the inability to find an outlet for my creativity when I'm feeling antsy, or stressed, or downright bored. Though I have seriously considered it, it's a bit impractical to lug my sewing machine and my XL moving box filled with scrapbooking/card making/all craft related materials across the Atlantic (I do, however, have my eyes set on a mini-sewing machine that may alleviate this problem for any future overseas living). In the past 10 months, I've tried to make do with what I have - I've shredded up t-shirts to try some up-cycling projects, invaded a friend's house to use her sewing machine to make tote bags, tried to get into patterning since it only requires a pen and paper, and in my desperation one evening, super-glued some fabric scraps to a beer bottle to beautify our makeshift candle holder. Believe it or not, those things haven't quite hit the spot.

So, you can imagine my utter joy when I found out that Kigali was starting a Traditional Pottery Class! 5,000RWF (about 8USD) got you a morning of unlimited pottery making in a small group environment and a trainer to assist in learning the trade. And, the best part of it? The proceeds are going towards helping the Cooperative Moderne de Poterie purchase a glazing kiln, in hopes that it will help increase sales and production. I don't know about you, but spending money that has a "good cause" attached to it always makes it easier to justify my expenditures (especially when those expenditures really shouldn't be there in the first place). I, of course, signed up for the first session available.

Needless to say, the experience was quite enjoyable. And therapeutic! There's nothing like getting your hands dirty working with clay that has been brought from a local river, sitting in a secluded area of the city surrounded by hills and pastures full of goats and cows, and doing something that requires some level of creativity! I still haven't retrieved my pot, vase, bowl, and candle holder from the two sessions that I have attended, but I'm excited to bring them back to the house so they can be utilized for the purpose they were created for! I can't say that this pottery class has completely filled the void that has been a result of months and months of mediocre crafting opportunities, but its a great start and I'll take what I can get. Until I arrive back in the US (in only 5 weeks!), I don't have any other other choice but to be content with what is available to me and to keep updating my list of project ideas!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"This thing Jesus called the kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos. Little people with big dreams are re-imagining the world. Little movements of communities of ordinary radicals are committed to doing small things with great love."  (Shane Claiborne, Irresistible Revolution)

About Me

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Like stitches in a fabric that are a part of the masterpiece, so are the moments of experience, reflection, and revelation in my life as I travel the globe. These moments are the pieces that have come together to make me who I am today, and will continue to shape and mold me and I continue in this journey called Life.