“Ms. Lydia, David won’t leave me alone and he drew on my paper! Will you tell him to shut up?”

“Ms. Lydia, can I use the bathroom?”

“Ms. Lydia! Ms. Lydia! Cynnie’s on facebook and she’s texts and webcams all the time. You said I couldn’t do that, why can she?”

While I tell David to relocate to another desk, nod at Rohith to use the bathroom, reprimand Cynnie for inappropriate web usage, and remind my 8th and 9th grade students to “Shhhhh please be quiet, this is the library” – I grow increasingly aware of how different my students will look and behave in little over a week. For one thing, my Rwandan students will be 17 through 45 years old; for another, most of them will be widows or orphans from the 1994 genocide; in addition, most will have only a basic handle of English and survive on just one meal a day – among other things.

It is the second week of the Center for Talent Development (CTD) Summer Program and I have just walked my students back to Allison and submitted their mid-session reports. I am sitting in Whole Foods like I have for the past two weeks, eating two champagne mangoes (they’re 5 for $4 right now!) and checking my email for updates from contacts in Rwanda. The summer program is finally winding down and as I ease into the end of my 3rd year as a TA for CTD, my anticipation and excitement for Rwanda have reached feverish proportions. Between guiding my 8th and 9th grade students on research papers about luck in science, child labor, and grade inflation, I have also been preparing a very different curriculum for adults on grammar usage, basic conversational phrases, and sentence structure.

A view of the city from Tribune Tower

I am very excited about the three projects I will be conducting during my two-month stay in Kigali.

1. Develop an English Language curriculum for the Intermediate class at the Network for Africa Learning Centre. (Immersion Experience Grant)

2. Research primary education in Rwanda, focusing on the government’s current efforts to make it universal, comparing and contrasting the public and private school system, surveying and interviewing school administrators, teachers, and students. (Africa Research Leadership Grant)

3. Examine and amass Rwandan literature written in English (especially pertaining to the 1994 genocide), to examine the novel form through the lens of postcolonial literature and trauma theory. Best part about this is that if I find ANYTHING in Rwanda that isn’t in Northwestern’s Africana Library, I can bring it back and be reimbursed (for baggage fees too!) (English Honors Thesis)

While my CTD kids research their individual projects for class, I’ve been conducting my own research on primary education in Rwanda and Rwandan literature. I have gotten in touch with several important contacts, among whom are various primary school directors, two Cornell professors that helped to draft the 2003 Constitution of Rwanda, a Peace Corps worker stationed in Kigali, and the Vice Chair of the Rwandan Writers Association who has also published two novels and has contacts in the Ministry of Education.

A couple last minute requests as I start packing –

The school director has sent me a list of needed items at the school. If you are willing to donate any of these items, please let me know ASAP!!! They will go to a very good cause 🙂


whiteboard markers


ink cartridges (21 and 22)

postcards of places in the U.S.


I know … it looks a little bit random, but this is the list that they sent me, so please let me know if you have any of those items that you’d be willing to donate!

And just to close this post – here’s a picture that I snapped last week. CHICAGO, I WILL MISS YOU.