What this is about:

Tales and Tidbits about Community Development, Peacebuilding, and Bringing food for the hungry on a continent in my spirit and a world away.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"National Hug a Kenyan Day"

"It's been sweet."

It's November 21st. You should definitely go hug a Kenyan.

The ride out to the fields puts the whole world in perspective. The schema I had about this planet and the actual world is not the same. Steep, green lush hills ringed with banana crops, beans, cassava, and mini-cultivations dominate the landscape for just about as far as you can see. Nothing but hills. Rwanda's rural country is what I imagine the terraces of India resembling. Assumptions have not been working out. I'd like to add traveling to India to see them on my list of things to do. I'm this little student being bumped up and down a sloping, dirt path, in a Landrover that's taking my team to its research site. I smile (1) because I'm enjoying this group research thing, (2) because the children are yelling Komera to us as we pass, and (3) I still feel like an idiot for thinking all of Sub-Saharan Africa looked like the Lion King.
Reality checks are so good.
Social Context for Development class has been killing us conceptually in order to prepare us for our case-study. Katie: "I feel like a very small fish in a very very big pond." Preach it, sister. Well, our research is here. We arrived Tuesday in Gitarma, a town one hour south of the capital, to do 8 days of action research in Cyeza (chay-zuh) district. FH is going to use our reports to petiton for government funding and help Rwanda with their Vision 20/20 economic plan (kind of a smaller version of the Millenium Development Goals). Our research question: How do the people of Cyeza self report community variables that contribute to or hinder development in their community? We break up in groups of four and go out in an area of about 6,000 households to do as many interviews as we can to gather information about structural, contextual, environmental, and transformational concepts. As a group, we come together every morning, go over our successes, our critiques on questions, re-translations of changes into Kinyarwanda, and inputting our interviews for interpretations when we return to Kigali.
What I've learned about group field research

*I love it. It's the polis exemplified.
*It's still overwhelming, er, just... less overwhelming. And hard. I should admit it's still hard.
*It's much more fun to input data with a team member than braving an endless spread sheet by yourself. It also helps to have music on.
*I'm grateful for the questions my teammates come up with.
*Haha, You have to be strong enough to have your idea shot down in group debriefing time.
*Having three people rotating the roles of observation, interviewing, and recording is incredibly effective. Covers all bases and helps each person focus on their task.

*You can learn a lot about a social situation and values through observation.
It's been sweet. I enjoy this.

As a group, I think we've grown. The other day I looked on with maternal pride at dinner. (We get fed very well in Africa. We really do, however) Dinner last night was boiled eggs, hot dog bun loaves & sweet bread, nutella, cubed cheese, pineapple, and tea; and not one of us uttered one word of mal intent. In fact, we loved the stuff and ate until we were full. Every day, our cooks work soooo hard for us . It wasn't Olive Garden or the most balanced meal but we've come to the point where just about everything is a blessing.
Speaking of meals....next Thursday is Thanksgiving. Bizarre. Home sickness won't be an issue since since college has kept me in the midwest for this holiday so I've gotten used to it. I just hope we have greens! I will be happy to be a sea away from Black Friday and shopping ads. There's a really good article in Sojourners about it that you folks might enjoy. I think all of the comments make very good points. Never fear, the links is at the end--b
ecause I don't know how to embed...
Komera in Kinyarwanda is loosely translated into "stay strong". You'd be heartless not to be slightly melted when the children run alongside the car yelling "Komera, Komera!"... when we wish them the same. Most in this district work hard cultivating subsistence crops against the weather, walk up to forty minutes for water, have to tie up their animals in their sitting rooms to keep them from theft, and sleep on straw mats laid on mud packed floors. I'm a pansie. I couldn't live a week in those conditions without complaining. They wish us, "Komera" with such good will. -sigh- And we wish them the same. We wave back, matching their vigor, because to not return their hospitality, their wave, their greetings, would kill a bit of our souls.


article link: http://www.sojo.net/blog/godspolitics/?p=4014&title

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