Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day 13---3 more days :(

Thanks for checking out my blogs!
So today we started another rehearsal for our performance happening Wednesday night. Went to ISHYO at 9am and worked and worked until around 1 where we went to the same restaurant as we went to yesterday. Good stuff.

We came up and worked on more original pieces of song and dance to incorporate into our play which is now titled "When the Walls Come Down---Truth." For only having three days of rehearsals it's going to be a pretty great piece where we all shared ideas and our creativity.

If you have been keeping up with my blogs you'll notice these last few blogs are shorter because it's all rehearsals and our process as artists that I didn't really want to put in my blogs.
BUT, I do want to take the time to thank you to those who have read my blogs whether you learned something from it or not, I really appreciate that you checked it out. My experience here in Rwanda has been like nothing I have ever experienced so for you to join me has been super exciting!
There are so many people that I wish could come to this country because you will go back to the US a different person. I'll have more to say about the trip as a whole once it's really over but for now---I'm going to really enjoy the last few days.
Ta ta for now,
Julia :)

Day 12--Rehearse Rehearse Rehearse

Hi everyone!
Today is the start of our 3 long day rehearsals with Mashirika! We got to ISHYO around 11ish and started sharing ideas for what we wanted our play to be about. I was getting a little stressed about how we were going to take our experiences here and put them on the stage. But today was a huge success. First we spit out themes and ideas for what our piece could include or center around. We then split off into two groups. One being the "song" group and the other a dance group. Each group was responsible for creating an original song or dance that we could bring back to the whole group to share. I was in the song group and I can honestly say that I am no good at writing songs or making a song. After working through it we finally came out with a song that actually fit perfectly with the others' dance.
For lunch we walked a mile down the road to a nice restaurant where we got the traditional Rwandan meal---Mmm Mmm Good.

We worked on other original scenes and dance until about 5pm. Whatever we end up with before we leave we will be performing it on Wednesday night at the ISHYO Performing Arts Center. Mashirika invited tons of people but who knows who will show up. And whatever we have we will take back to Buffalo State and work on it more in our Ensemble Theater class.

More rehearsing to come tomorrow!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 11--Gerard Sina's Enterprise

So I wasn't too upset I didn't go out because they didn't get back till 5AM. We had to be ready to go at 10:30AM. I heard from everybody that they had an awesome time out. They partied hardy here in Rwanda! I got up around 8:30 and found Eve, Carl, and Drew already up. Kara woke up right after me, surprisingly after such a late night. Eve, Kara and I took a nice little walk around Kigali because it was just so nice out.
So first thing we did once we all piled in the van at 11 was headed to the mall in Kigali for some lunch. I got a delicious chicken, avocado, tomato and cheese sandwich on fococcia bread :) We hung out there, ate and then got back in the van to go to Urwibutso Eses®. It is an enterprise founded by Gerard Sina. This Rwandan man sells and makes a bunch of different products such as hot pepper sauce, banana beer, red wine made with different fruits, wheat biscuits, Amondazzi (Rwandan donuts), different breads, Fruit drinks, and more. We toured the whole area where there is a restaurant, a factory for making the drinks, the place where they keep the animals---Before I go on I have to talk about the animals for a second...He plays them classical, hip-hop, and R & B music for the pigs and rabbits because they found there is more productivity and the animals don't eat as much. They have pigs, rabbits, monkeys, turkeys, and even some turtles. Some of those pigs are the biggest pigs I have seen in my life, one of the monkeys reached his arm out of the cage to scratch Paige in the face. At first when we walked up to the cage the monkey looked a little scared and then we moved closer and the monkey slowly and then very quickly jumped to the edge of the cage scaring the crap out of us. We laughed our heads off and then because we didn't move and neither did the monkey, that's when he reached his arm out trying to scratch Paige--which he did. Sorry Paige. I probably wouldn't have laughed if it was me but I laughed pretty hard when that happened.
We had a long commentary/description about the Enterprise by Gerard Sina, himself. He talked about the history and how it became what it is. Some asked questions and then he had us have a little wine/beer and biscuit tasting. That was pretty fun ;) The banana beer was alright but I liked the red wine more. It was like a strawberry flavor with carbonation. The biscuits were like a shortbread cookie but healthier and thicker because it seemed to contain a little more flour.
We had a nice drive back playing "Ghost" another fun game that Carl taught us. He's playing a loud game in the kitchen now with some people as I type this. They're yelling a lot so it's gotta be fun.

For the last few days our days will be filled with rehearsing with Mashirika to bring back some beautiful theater we are creating together.
We want to change lives.


Day 10--Agahozo- Shalom Village

Heyo! Another fantastic day here in Rwanda!
We got up around 9am had breakfast and went to ISHYO for rehearsal with Mashirika until 11ish. The rehearsals are getting more creative and more emotionally rich. Fun times!
After rehearsal we were on our way to Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village about an hour drive. This place is a home to 500 youth who are orphans or vulnerable children. It is absolute paradise compared to what we saw at the refugee camp yesterday. This village/strong community is a school and a home to many. The students all eat in one big dining room area for every meal. The only exception is in their own homes they have a kitchen just for making tea. There is a very nice basketball, a huge soccer field, and a volleyball court. There are different buildings separated by subjects like science, computer lab, music building...etc. I was surprised that they even have a recording studio there! How cool is that?
The way it works with housing situations is that there are 16 students given a "mother" in one house. They name their house after a hero...There was one house named after Anne Frank..Drew loved that a whole lot! :)
We were shown what the rooms and inside of the houses looked like. Everything was so nice. One of the girls rooms I got to see and there are 4 girls in each room and honestly it was a nicer room than my dorm room. They have 2 sinks and tons of space in there. Shalom village is just a great place to live. The area it's in is also extremely beautiful.
The coolest part of the day here at Shalom was the theater stage that made me feel like I was in Greece. It is a beautiful space. The seats where the audience sat was made of stone and it started at ground level and climbed very high. So there were a lot of spectators there. They had a whole schedule for those that were performing that evening which included us (The Anne Frank Project) and Mashirika. There was a group that did traditional dance that was really cool. A group of students, actually from Shalom Village put on a play that was inspiring and thoughtful. Another group from a school here in Rwanda did a play that was super witty and clever as well. Mashirika's performance was well done but the audience were...well reacting strangely. That's when I thought that our show was going to be a disaster. We are doing Shakespeare in front of this group. Also, I was starting to get a little sick so I was freaking out that my voice would give out in front of the biggest crowd since we've been here. We had to use microphones too because the space was bigger which for some weird reason made me more nervous.
So after most of the performances were done it was finally our turn to get on stage. Drew introduced us as we got on stage. My heart was pounding at this point because I looked out at the audience and we were in front of quite a huge crowd. I was also super excited to do it because I couldn't wait to hear everyone's response........
It's crazy to think I was worried about anything because Shalom Village LOVED our performance. Right when we started they became silent which meant to us we had their full attention. During the first half of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with Kara and Lewis there were so many laughs and verbal comments. I looked out multiple times to see girls giggling among themselves when any kind of love or shyness about love was potrayed on stage. Everyone was very giddy and it was so exciting to watch. Then for Tiesha and I's song, they seemed to enjoy it as well. The part that sticks out the most as far as the audience loudly responding was when I sang "But hey, don't you want your girl hot?!" Or when we sang "Baby!" Then again for the second half of the balcony scene the audience just loved it. They totally understood everything that was going on. It is so fascinating when these Rwandan kids understand and respond to Shakespeare. It makes me appreciate it more too because if it's acted well anyone can understand it. We ended with "Seasons of Love" like we always do and I really felt we impacted this group in some way. 
After us, the Director of the Village came up to thank everyone who performed and said how grateful he was that we were all here. It was a special night for a lot of people, including us.
To finish the evening off right they put on some funky jams that everyone in the audience loved and people ran on stage and danced for a while.It was a really nice treat to have performed there. Maybe I'll go back someday.

Tonight was also the night that Mashirika and us were going out (clubbing) together. I was a total party pooper and stayed in. Eve ended up staying back too but she wasn't feeling very good. Well I feel asleep around 12. The whole gang didn't get back till 5AM!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Day 9- Refugee Camp, Rehearsal

Yeeelloo!!! Thanks for taking time out of your day to read this :)
So today was the first day I actually woke up late. Actually, Eve, Kara and I all woke up late. It felt like a school day all frantically putting clothes on and running around. Ate breakfast real quick and were out the door. We had to go to the Ministry of Rwanda specifically for Refugee camps--where we have to get permission my the government to visit this refugee camp. We were there for longer than we thought so we kids sat in the car just trying to entertain ourselves. I stood outside the car and took in some sun while we waited. At one point I was just fooling around and I pretended to accidentally smash my head into the outside of the van using my hand as the noisemaker. Everyone on the inside starting screaming (especially Tiesha) thinking I had actually hit my head extremely hard on the van. They had me do this several more times so that I had a bunch of Rwandans weirdly staring at me like there was something terribly wrong with me. It was fun.
Drew joined us to have a nice discussion about our thoughts of Murambi Genocide Memorial. We had a great chat and in the end all agreed that this needs to be on the itinerary for future travelers to Rwanda. After quite some time Carl finally came out first lieing to us that we weren't approved to go to the camp. I don't know about everyone else but I totally believed him and his just crushed my heart and 2 seconds later he's like "alright come on guys get in we're going to the refugee camp." He got me good.  
An hour later we were pulling into the entrance of the refugee camp. We were forewarned that we would be swarmed by kids and that we need to remember these people are refugee's mostly from the Congo because it's extremely dangerous right now. These people have nothing and may be born there and never leave. We got out of the van and literally 100 kids surrounded us. I looked closely at faces and kids were completely covered in dirt, their own snot, and dirty clothes. It was hard to look at that. I needed to think of something quick to do for them so they weren't just staring at us. Then...Ah Ha! The Hokie Pokie...So I had the other fellow Americans help me make a circle pushing kids away. We were trapped in the middle of this circle it was pretty crazy but I was more comfortable than I thought I was going to be. Kids were constantly grabbing my hand and if I went for a high five, everyone else swarmed in to get one too. So we did the Hokie Pokie, twice for their enjoyment. They definitely liked it. There were even older kids and mothers and fathers watched on with smiles.
The houses on this camp consisted of cement walls with a tarp or a roof made of something cheap. Their "bathrooms" were literally a cement box with a hole on the cement floor. That was it. Our tour guide was a Rwandan about my age (19) named Clovis who Carl and Drew had already known. He's a very caring and loving guy. We were lead to a school on the camp where we got to meet and sing for the students. One of the Rwandan guys said to me I had a nice Soprano :)  Some of the students spoke English but were kind of difficult to understand. On our walk to the school through the camp there was a huge group of refugees mostly my age and up, down a hill at a different area of little houses looking up at us as we walked. I couldn't help but to yell "Muraho" ("Hello" in Kinyarwanda) to them. They said it back and then I yelled "Amakuru" (How are you?) Everyone yelled back "Ni meza" (I'm fine) with pure excitement and joy. I'm pretty sure all of them were smiling as I walked away. That little moment filled my heart completely. Everywhere we walked we were swarmed by kids. Shabar had kids hanging by his arms.
We got to look in one of the houses--and all it is is two tiny rooms one of them with a very small table and bench and a bed in a little cubby part. Like, thing of the worst conditions---and maybe you'll have an idea.
There are 19,000 refugees at this one camp. It's just crazy.
So before we left we performed our "Rent" songs for them which was cool because we did it on a basketball court looking out at a thousand people, while singing acapella. These songs made so much sense in our lives at that moment in time. Then we started waving and immediately kids ran towards us as we were saying goodbye. Once we got free we climbed into the car and waved goodbye. What an opportunity to be that camp.
What stuck me the most out of everything I saw was how joyful and postive people were in the midst of horrible horrible conditions. I mean, it's all a lot of them know but still--- I am way grumpier and I get upset so easily and I have a great great great life especially compared to what these people have. Once we were in the car and I started dissecting what it was I saw back there it turned into a huge self discovery and people in general discovery.
I was getting emotional thinking that I know that I have a loving blessed family to go home to.
I have a mother and a father.
I am loved.
I have a fridge with food in it.
I have a bed to sleep in.
I have a bathroom with running water and a sink to wash my hands.
I have a home.
I have an education.

That's so much more than any of those people will have.

I really hope that when I go home I can remember what I saw and learned about to change the way I live my everyday life. Being happy with what I have and not wanting more and more. I have everything I need.
Thanks to God.

After this we went to rehearsal at Mashirika where we finally made a foundation of our piece of theater with them!!! Played fun games to warm up, and split into groups to start the creative process.
Thanks for reading :)))

Day 8- Rain, Market, Africa's Hope

Ahh! Today was just great because we got to get up at 10am--which is like heaven to us. While we were eating breakfast we noticed the sky was getting pretty gray. I was wondering if we were gonna be seeing any rain. We saw it today. It started down pouring 10 minutes after we noticed the sky. Eve and Stacey were the first to run out to play in the rain. Lewis quickly followed. I honestly wasn't going to join and then I thought to myself..."I'm in Africa and I have an opportunity to go play in the rain..." So I finally ran out there too. So glad I did too. It was a bit chilly at first but Eve and I just went crazy jumping around, doing push-ups and punching the air to stay warm. Once we got used to the rain it was grand. There was a mini waterfall coming down from the house. If you stood under that, you'd be getting drenched. Naturally, I did just that. Oh man it was like a mini shower before my real shower. It was fantastic. We had our fun came in, I showered and got into dry clothes. Mmm putting on dry clothes after getting soaked is like one of the best feelings. You've got to agree...It's pretty awesome right?! Anyway... Next thing was going to the markets. We all pretty excited to go shop a bit...Even I was excited which is weird for me to be excited to go to any kind of store. So the first one was a small shop in downtown Kigali that has a bunch of handmade stuff. Cool sculptures, handmade baskets (which are very special in their culture), little animals, beautiful earrings, bags, pots, the list goes on...I bought some cute stuff and moved to the next market. This place was more fun because we got to bargain our prices. It was a bigger store that had sections which belonged to a different person. Whatever was in their section is what they were selling and where they named the starting price. So say I see a scarf and I ask "How much?" He says "5000" I say "ehh, I think I'll keep looking." And as soon as he sees you won't buy he'll say "how much you pay?" That's when you say the price half of what he wanted. So I say "3000" and he then says "4000" I say "hmm 3500?" and he agrees. That's how it sometimes works and other times they won't even change their price, but if you try you could get a great deal. But I realized how bad I am at haggling---terrible. But I loved everything at the markets, cheap and really cute creations right from Africa. Hopefully my sisters and my mother will like what I got them :)
So after that we went to a nice restaurant in the Kigali mall which was really nice. It was the first time we ordered food off a menu. I just got a sandwich with fries cause I had been eating the traditional Rwandan food and wanted to be my old boring self one time.
We got back to the house and got to just hang out for a few hours before we went to ISHYO Performing Arts Center to see Mashirika's show called "Africa's Hope" that was apart of a bigger conference that we didn't see. We were introduced to two of Carl's Rwandan's friends Emmanuel and Johnson. They have amazing stories. We played a really fun game called "signs." We all sit in a circle on the floor and we start by picking our own personal sign. So for example my sign was picking my nose and Carl's was swiping his forehead. Once everyone has shared their sign with everyone we were told that the point of the game is to pass the sign without the person in the middle knowing who has it. So say I start, I pass my sign to Drew by doing his sign. He receives it by doing his sign and then passing it to someone using their sign.  The person in the middle of the circle is trying to figure out who is passing it or who has just received it. That is how they get out of the middle. So everyone passing and receiving has to try to be really sneaky and focused so they can keep the passing going without that one person knowing. It is so much fun!!!! You should play it sometime.
We had dinner then headed to ISHYO. Their show was absolutely fabulous. It started with a video about genocide. There were pictures and words and it was a very moving video. Then the whole play consisted of outstanding music, dance, drumming, and amazing acting. It pressed upon genocide, hope, a better day, fighting, power, confusion, empathy...and more. What really strikes me about the artists in Mashirika is the amount of energy they carry when they're on stage. No matter what's happening they are always filled with what is happening in their world on stage. The drumming was just out of this world. I loved the dancing and how they fit it into the story. I recorded some stuff from the show so I will always be able to watch it. At the end of the show they ended in song. They actually wanted people from the audience to get on stage to sing and dance with them. We, Theater students, were super shy about getting on stage..............Once we were up there we danced and sang. Rosette (the one with the amazing singing voice in Mashirika) handed me her microphone and had me sing the song with Angel (who is the coolest girl ever). It was just a great way to end their show, for them and an audience member--like me!
More singing and loudness accompanied the ride home. Another great day here in Rwanda Africa! 

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 7--Schools and Cow Distribution

Hello Hello!
Today we went to a bunch of schools in the Muhanga District and distributed a cow to a family in need. The first school was a handicap school. We got to meet a lot of kids who were deaf that did sign language. Paige can sign and so can Lewis so they were helping us communicate with students. It's fascinating to watch these students. I learned a lot from them. We went into the room where they test the students hearing. Great technology! We went into a classroom of deaf students learning to write English. Drew wrote his name and where we were from on the chalkboard and then we all communicated with the kids in the class a little. The next school was a boarding school that was for students of excellence. What a difference going from the first school to the second. As soon as we pulled through the gate and jumped out of the car Drew and I headed to the basketball court to play a bit before we had to start the tour. There were a bunch of guys on the court just shooting around. I went to the boys closer to my height and Drew went up to the tallest guys on the court. I played defense on two of the guys for a little bit. Neither of em got nothin on me ;)
We then were shown around different parts of the school. There was a volleyball court, a four square court and tons of students everywhere. We walked into one of the rooms where they were building a new laboratory. We didn't spend much time there and before we knew it we were moving on to the next.    
The last school we went to was an educational school, meaning the students are trying to become teachers. This is where we performed our little snippet of "American Theater" for them. This was the toughest one because they were commenting quietly on what was going on while we were on stage. The space we were in had bad echoes so it was hard to overpower the whispering going on. However, we still put on a great show that I think everyone liked very much. We shook some of their hands afterward, said our goodbyes and headed to the village where we were buying a cow for a family.
We got to the road which was a dirt road along a steep hill that if our driver took one wrong turn with the wheel the van would've been tumbling down that hill. We go to the area where the family was living and it turns out there are a huge group of Rwandans living together sharing resources. We were shown a little building where people from Buffalo gave them solar power last year and they showed us that.
The way cow distribution works is the group living together decides who is in the most need of it and that's essentially who is given the cow. The cow is symbolically money and literally money. It was an older woman and man who have never had any money in their life. The woman has kids and I don't think the man does. They are not married but live in this community where all these people were living together. The man who owned the cow was there and there was a whole ceremony I guess you could call it where Drew handed him the money while everyone watched. There were tons of people around, kids to grandmothers. We had a Rwandan named John translate as the man and woman said how grateful they were and they will now be happy and healthy. The older man then went into the cow's little wooden home and sang a song next to the cow. I guess it's a ritual they do that they sing after this happens. It was pretty cool, he looked super excited.
As we were leaving we took pictures of the kids---I can't resist they are all so cute. I would show them the pictures and they loved seeing themselves and laughed.

Then we hopped into the car to go eat at a nice restaurant where we were joined by the major of Muhanga! The food was great and the major graciously paid for our meals. Carl asked Tiesha and I to sing our song that we sing together from the piece we do. We pushed some chairs and tables out of the way and sang it for them. Then the major shared a few words with us before we parted. Carl translated everything for us because she spoke French. I had true enjoyment just watching Carl go back and forth between English and French. I gots to learn a language!! So basically she said she hopes we have a nice time here in Rwanda. She talked about how they do agriculture here and how great the system is that they have----America could really learn a lot about that from Rwanda!!! After her speech she gave us a gift and a gift for us to give to the major of Buffalo. It was a Rwandan made basket to keep important possessions. :) Then we said our goodbyes and headed home. The car rides are always full of laughter and enjoyment unless you're Tiesha who sleeps the whole time. The girls sang songs loudly pretty much the whole way. Stephen (our driver) and I've said it before, is SUCH a trooper. 
I'm having so much fun here.
P.S. To you Buffalonians....what is up with the weather?!!!!
Till next time,