For those who know me, you know that I like my sleep. Actually, that is an understatement. My brothers still tease me, and my brother Kurt used to say (in a half-irritated, half boastful way) that I could out-sleep anyone in this world. It is true that I do love my sleep, and I cherish those days when I can sleep in, undisturbed, and wake up feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. I have never grown out of the sleeping in phase, and quite honestly, I never plan on doing so. However, having said that, sleeping in is not going to happen on any Saturday for the next year because of Muchaka Muchaka. Let me continue this preface by saying that Kurt was like Forrest Gump and could run, and run, and then run some more, without being phased. I was not built like him, and I am not, nor have I ever been a runner. In fact it is a rarity for me to ever feel like going for a run, but I have been known to do it. Apparently I will be doing it more often than ever before, again thanks to Muchaka Muchaka.
What is Muchaka Muchaka you ask? Every Saturday morning at 6am, the entire school (students, staff, administration, mamas, big sisters/brothers, and cousins) lines up and goes for a run together. Yes, I said 6 in the morning, as in the time when the sun is rising. This past Saturday was the first Muchaka Muchaka of the year, and it was, well, early. If I am going to be honest, I have to admit that the running was not all that bad, thanks in part to the drill sergeants leading the herd of us through the streets of Rubona. I call them drill sergeants jokingly, but essentially that's what they are - they are there to motivate us, shout out chants, lead songs, etc., all to try and make the run all the more enjoyable and bearable. I must say that I feel bad for the residents of Rubona who like me, enjoy sleeping in because there is not a chance in the world that anyone could sleep through the Agahozo Shalom Muchaka Muchaka singing and chanting. Once we finished the run, we all headed to the dining hall where some of the students led the group in further singing and dancing while we waited for the morning porridge. The joyful and spirited singing that these students participate in blows me away and gives me chills every time I hear it. They know so many national songs and EVERYONE participates with full gusto. It truly is something to witness and experience! I bet that I could visit every high school in America and not be able to find an entire student body that would be willing and able to spiritedly sing any song related to patriotism, let alone an entire selection of songs!
As if the 6am Muchaka Muchaka didn't make the day long enough, it happened to be New Year's Eve, which meant that the day was going to be extra long, thanks to a 3 hour student-produced "talent show." I think all of the Westerners had our doubts when we were told that the brand new students, who have been here less than a week were going to conceptualize, organize, and perform in the New Year's Eve show, leading up to the stroke of midnight. Well, the naysayers were put to shame because the students pulled it off and there was not a single person in attendance who was not thoroughly entertained. The show featured various acts that ranged from traditional dance (see the clip at the bottom of the page), to modern dance, singing, comedy skits, theatrical skits, and interpretive dance. It was quite a range, and it was absolutely incredible to see these students peel away their inhibitions and perform on stage in front of 150 people. Every time I saw one of my girls on stage, I was like a proud big sister, beaming and taking pictures.
I can't say that I am going to keep the Muchaka Muchaka tradition alive and well after I leave Rwanda in a year (time will tell), but I will say that every time I am timid or afraid to step out of my comfort zone, I will think back to the New Year's Eve celebration and think of the students and their performances. They will give me courage to live in the moment, and embrace each opportunity.
Kinyarwanda Words of the Day: umwaka mushya muhire - translation: happy new year
Lesson of the Day: if you catch a raccoon and want to eat it, place the meat in a salt brine mixture to a) kill any potential parasites and b) tenderize and season the meat - weird lesson, I know, but I learned it today!
Favorite Sound of the Day: hearing my girls laugh with pure delight when they try to teach me a new kinyarwanda word and I am unable to correctly pronounce it - they truly double over with laughter and the sound is just magical!
Favorite Quote from a Student: During the New Year's Eve celebration, one of our new students was translating for me (in perfect, advanced English mind you), and after about 2 hours, he said, "please excuse me while I go quickly to the wash closet (the bathroom for those of you who are confused), but do not worry because I will return soon."