Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 26
Today was one of those days... the good kind... the kind where everything right and everything good reassures you that this time and place is where you're supposed to be. Today the sun was shining and the flowers were a bright pink against the blue sky. My iPod's "random" setting knew just the right music to play - starting with Johnny Cash and Damien rice, and followed by Flogging Molly, Yael Naim, good ole Peter Cetera, and the Fast Cars and Freedom of Rascall Flatts. I am showered and clean after three days of wearing the same thing (sadly, that's not unusual here, although I swear it doesn't happen too often), and smooth shaven. I'm wearing my new black suit coat, which I bought at the market for 9 US bucks, over a fitted anti-wrinkle Van Heusen button up (my favorite), tucked into a pair of khaki colored dockers. I take a 5 minute moto ride from my house to school, a bit quicker than usual as we fly over the holes in the dirt road, making one abrupt stop for an old lady crossing in front of us. I dismount and greet my headmaster and dean of studies. As I walk into the staff room the teachers applaud at my new suit and comment on how smart it looks. I indulge in the attention for a brief moment, bowing and thanking them and telling them it's really just a coat. I teach my lesson, 100 minutes of mathematics. I'm refreshed, energetic, and on top of what needs to happen, but flexible and not worried if everything on my list to do doesn't get finished today - one step at a time, start where you are and do what you can.

On the way home a little boy not much taller than my knee follows me down the road, jumping up and down, naked, and screaming "bonjour, bonjour!!" Others ask "How are you teacher?" or "How old are you?" Some laugh, some smile shyly, a few even cry at the site of a white person. Some run at me full force, arms open wide, embracing me with a huge hug around the knees. My pants now have green streaks of avacado smeared on them. I continue down the hill. Old men and women with canes in hand and baskets on head stop to greet me with a handshake, a smile, and a friendly "mwiriwe." They chuckle as I reply in kinyarwanda, "mwiriwe neza, amakuru?"

This week I will practice a song for church on my guitar with my friend John Paul and I'll invite a couple friends to meet and catch up over a fanta. If I have the time I might plant some vegetables in my garden out back.

This is Africa. This is my life. I'm glad I'm here.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Hey folks! Guess what!! Pictures are here!!! finally!!!!! Wheew, it's taken me way too long to get them up. But it's worth it. Check out the pictures of our trip to Tanzania (Kahama, Moshi, Dar, Zanzibar) at www.picasaweb.google.com/kyle.gaiser

Here are a couple pics of my house, my kitchen, and my classroom.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


April 15, 2010
Yesterday I was in stonetown, Zanzibar, shopping for a few souvenirs. I visited a cooperative consisting of 65 women who made pillows of all sorts of colors and designs - they were beautiful! Just as stunning were the women's warm hospitality and friendliness. Meghan and I explained to the lady who spoke the best English that we were volunteer teachers in Rwanda. As expected, she asked us if everything was peaceful there and we assured her it was for the most part. She said that her husband had died fighting in the civil war in Tanzania and that she fears for her children' safety. She was very glad that we were teachers, providing education for children.

We perused the piles of colorful fabrics and after much deliberation made our final selections. We took out our cash and began to tally up the bill. Now, usually at a women's cooperative there is no bartering, the prices are set. But to our surprise they began "bartering" for us. First, instead of exchanging from dollars to shillings, they told us we could just pay the US price tag in shillings, meaning an $8 pillow would be 8000 shillings, which is a 27% discount by itself. On top of that, when I added up my bill, it should have been 53000 shillings. When she added it up, she got 50000. I said okay, 50000. Then, she gave me a huge proud grin and said 45000. And 45000 it was.

I am still amazed at this kindness to a complete stranger. We (Americans) live in a culture so focused on profit that it isn't even a choice to sacrifice kindness, but apparently the default. Moreover, instead of trying to rip off a muzungu tourist who's almost always a target, these ladies put aside their own culture's stereotype of me as well as the stereotype of money being the most important thing in life, in order to show the most pure act of kindess.