“Let’s be Now!”

KIE day 2:  What a privilege and honor to be here in Rwanda! The enthusiasm and dedication of the students at KIE is infectious.  While there is much newness here for us, new faces, new traditions and cultures and new surroundings, I feel at home.  A big part of this may be the fact that all day we are embraced and have hands to hold, kind words and smiles that from the KIE students.

In the short two days that we have spent with them I already feel that lasting friendships have been formed.  I am learning so much from the KIE students! Their passion and eagerness to learn and soak it all in as well as their growth is inspiring!

This is my first time here with the Project, but Helen and Chris have returned for their third year of directing it and Joey and Michael have returned as MA students for their 2nd year in Project Rwanda.  They have told us about past years’ experiences and how far the KIE students have come: it is exciting to see the fruits of the labors of both previous years of MA students as well as the efforts and hard work of the KIE students!

We saw this manifested today as many of the KIE Level 2 and 4 students performed for us. For weeks they have been rehearsing a performance that they devised from an old African folktale, that many of them heard for the first time last year.  They took the story of The Singing Tortoise and created a full play! The story telling was clear and the students not only told the story in a very entertaining and engaging way, but also added in their Rwandan culture. Through traditional dance, drumming, singing, great costuming and props, and very committed and entertaining acting, the KIE students brought the stage to life. It was clear that they had worked very hard to create this performance and it was a gift that I will love and appreciate and re-play in my mind for many years to come!

Before the performance, during the break, one KIE student ran up to me and put her dress wrap over my head and said to me, “I will be back for this.” Then she ran off. Some boys standing near by looked at it with a slight shake of the head, I then adjusted it and slipped my arm through and the beautiful brown fabric slipped into the right place, I received many nods of approval from those around.  When my MA classmates saw me many thought I had been given a part in the performance that was about to happen.  I went to get my purse out of the room that the KIE students were preparing, and they all looked at me and started to cheer! They told me how “smart” I look all dressed up! They loved it. I loved it.  In that moment it became more than just this simple yet elegant draped fabric for a dress, it was a sharing of culture that we had that seems so small yet was very significant for me, and I believe for them as well. And part of me wished that I could be part of their performance!

LUCKILY for me…I DID get to be part of the performance! At the end they came and pulled us all out of the audience to join with them in dancing. Surrounded by these talented beautiful people, once again there was a beautiful cultural exchange as we sang and danced and drummed together and celebrated the wonderful performance that we had just seen.

After our lunch break we MA students, had the opportunity to give feedback to our performers. Telling them the impressions that the performance made upon us through statements of meaning. The students then were able to ask us some questions and I learned a great deal and was really excited from the kinds of questions that they asked us.

For example:

“In our play we showed you parts of our culture… and I wonder which part of our culture would you like to play?”

“…we are risk takers – and we are not perfect. What can we do to be better?”

“We showed you our culture, does your culture relate?”

I love these questions because of the dialogue that they spark.  These are interesting and important things to talk about and the KIE students create a space and an opportunity to have dialogue about many important things.

I am grateful for the openness and willingness of the KIE students to share, explore and create with us.

I had a conversation with one student who said that some people in Rwanda think that drama and studying drama is a waste of time and is not important.  I told him that people say the same things in America.  But we know that it is not true! He and I (and if I may speak for all of the KIE and CUNY students as well) we all believe that this is not true! We know and see the impact that this work has.

This is manifested in the work that we are doing in the forum pieces with the KIE level 2 students (Bennett wrote about it in his post last night.) Everyone has something to say! Everyone has something to explore. Everyone has a question that they want answered. What an amazing thing it is to focus on 3 topics and work together to say something, to explore and grapple with and be able to ask those questions we have. We have worked hard over the past 2 days and I am excited about how far these forum theatre pieces have come in such a short time.  It will be an exhilarating thing to see them brought to life and put into action tomorrow.

As we have been splitting the KIE 2 and 4 Levels into separate rooms to work on individual things, it is thrilling to come back together at the end of the day and see the enthusiasm that the Level 4 students have for the work that they are doing with Joey and Michael.  I can’t wait to see the theatre that they are devising together!

In other news – I got my suitcase today! It was lost… gratefully I had anticipated the possibility of a lost bag and packed a full carry on and had clean clothes to wear for the past 4 days… and a toothbrush! (I know you all wanted to know about my dental hygiene! Haha) my cohorts have also been gracious and kind about taking care of me. What a fantastic group to travel and work with!

I titled this post “Let’s be now” because it is something that came out as I was speaking with one of my classmates recently. It was a statement of profound surprise, and I realized how important it is for us to be present, and in the moment and “now”. This time is too precious to be anything otherwise! I don’t like to think of the end, we are still at the beginning of our time here…yet at the same time I know and feel that time moves so fast and I wish that I could slow the clock down a bit. With this perspective I am relishing and soaking in every moment! Trying to burn every memory in my mind and holding the embraces of my new loved ones just a moment longer!

For now…Ndishimiye (I am happy)
(pronounced NdeeSheemYay)

Lots of Love and BIG Hugs from Rwanda!

-Kristy

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