Thursday, October 28, 2010


25- October

My village has this new thing - it's called the Internet. I was eating dinner with a friend a couple nights ago when he told me that the Rwanda Develpment Board had installed a new computer lab just down the road. I was in disbelief. Internet? in Nyakarambi? My life was about to change.

The weekend only intensified my excitement as I waited in suspense for Monday morning. Could there really be internet here? Was it coming and not yet finished? Would the lab be open and working? Usually news travels fast in our village and I would have expected the whole town to be buzzing about this. In my impatience I had asked a few people on Sunday if they knew about the new connection. Some gave the same reply I did: "Internet? In Nyakarambi? Oh no, not yet," but others verified it. I gave the whole thing a fifty fifty chance.

Monday rolled around and I roled out of bed, did some laundry and took some breakfast until the clock rolled around to 9am. I headed down the road toward the new white building that was rumored to house fifty computers with a fast connection the outside world. The gate was open. Okay, that's a good start. How about the door? Yep; wide open as if magnifying the eagerness of new visitors like me. I walked into the room on my left to find my pastor hunched over a computer punching a keyboard finger by finger and a sea of sleek new computers behind me. He looked up, hugged me, and through his grin said, "I think Nyakarambi is now having the internet!"

I sat at my computer and opened internet explorer. As I waited for the browser to load, I looked around me. A little dissatisfaction set in. The other computers were all occupied by teenage boys, browsing any entertainment sites they could find, loading YouTube videos (hogging precious bandwidth), and looking at new electronic gadgets they could only hope to buy. Gmail's homepage was open and I clicked sign-in. The screen went black; the electricity was out. I let out a sigh. It could be three minutes or three hours. I waited thirty minutes, then gave up hope and went home.

As I write this (having just returned home) my bubbling excitement for the internet was quelched by dissapointment. Sure, the power will come back on eventually and I will probably be posting this blog via the new computer lab. These things are to be expected in Rwanda. But strangely, I am more discontented with my first impression of the internet's use here. What will the internet be primarily used for in Nyakarambi, and by whom? How much time and money (what little they have) will teenagers throw at a box that provides them with music videos, merchandise, and promiscious entertainment? We aim for development and pour foreign aid into Rwanda and hope for what outcomes? I don't mean to sound cynical or condemning, but I do mean to be skeptical or at least cautious and aware of how technology affects the world. And while materialism and entertainment of all sorts is as common as day in America, it is a strikingly new technological and social revolution in Rwanda. And while countries like America have had decades, even centuries to adjust, a small town like Nyakarambi is receiving a concentrated dose of this revolution that is in stark contrast with the hoe-digging, hand picking, cattle herding life they have always known; and this, bear in mind, only sixteen years after a genocide. What curious and unimaginable dynamics are shaping this country. Nyakarambi, welcome to the rest of the world.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Rain, Rockets, Rwanda...

The following is an email update I sent out recently, but before I paste it here, I just want to say Thank You to all who have replied with your words of encouragement. they are a blessing to me. A special thanks to those who've been following this blog... rest assured there are many (too many) 'Brock thoughts' rolling around in my head, and when the busyness of exams and job searches and grad school applications fades, I'll be sure to put those thoughts firmly on paper (or online I suppose). As Rwandans say, "Ihangane" (patience), or as they also say, "Buhoro buhoro," (slowly by slowly)....       


Dear Friends and Family,

After a solid three months without a single rain cloud, the dry season has come to a close in Rwanda and the fresh rain is restoring the green to the land of a thousand hills as well as the skip in people's step. The dawn of October also heralds the last month of school. With one month to go, my students and I are buckling down to finish the curriculum and prepare for exams. In mathematics we are finishing
trigonometry, and in physics groups are giving their presentations on eight different renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

I am incredibly proud of my students. First, I thought that their physics presentations might be a disaster, but far from it. After
doing their own research, each group taught the class about how a certain energy source works (like hydro power or fossil fuel
stations), outlined the advantages and disadvantages, and discussed the practicality of the technology in Rwanda. To top it off, a few
teachers and I took over thirty students on a field trip to see a hydroelectric power station in the Northern Province of Rwanda! They
asked very intelligent questions and it was a joy for me to take the teaching experience from the blackboard to their country's very own

The other highlight of this term was last week's official opening of the Rusumo High School Science Club. The first experiment was a rocket
that I had built with a few students. Curiosity, excitement, and skepticism permeated the hundred of students encircled around us. They
counted down: "...5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." Nothing. We scrambled to troubleshoot a loose connection while our onlookers chuckled and
opinion tipped toward skepticism. Unexpectedly, the rocket lept to life, piercing a good thousand feet of deep blue sky. Five days later
we found it hanging in a banana plantation, still in tact, and still airworthy for future flights.

Needless to say, the past few weeks have been a special time of bonding with my students. I am looking forward to the next few weeks
too. In addition to teaching, I will be purchasing sports equipment for my school, as well as Bibles, doors, and other basic needs for
orphans and widows at the church I attend. These funds have been graciously provided by the Vacation Bible School programs at Bethany
and Zion Covenant Churches (Cleveland and Jamestown). Thank you!!

For one week in early September I returned state side to celebrate my sister Kristen's wedding. The wedding was beautiful in every way:
weather, ceremony, company, food (no rice and beans), and all. Making the transition back and forth was surprisingly smooth. Life in
Nyakarambi has become pretty normal by now. Nyakarambi itself is still
making that transition from village to town. A new bank is being built now; it will even have tiled floors and air conditioning!
Unfortunately, these conveniences have yet to reach my home, which leaves lesson planning to candlelight.

Please continue to pray for my friendships in Nyakarambi. They mean a lot to me, but as the school year approaches and end, it is difficult
to balance quality time with accomplishing my projects and goals. Pray that in this period of business I would still find time to relax and
enjoy the culture and natural beauty surrounding me.

Many thanks to all of you who are reading these updates, sending emails or mail, or praying. It means a lot to me. Keep in touch.

Peace and blessings,

P.S. As I write this on my ipod, I am sitting in a bus playing classic
American hits: Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean," Michael Bolton's "How
Am I Supposed To Live Without You?" and of course, Celine Dion's "My
Heart Will Go On." It's the small things that make you feel at home,