Trainee Vocab: Run, Teach, Train, Cook, Eat and Repeat

There’s a lot to cover in this post, but I will try to highlight just a few things–like the amount of mangos I have consumed and the amount of chalk I have inhaled over the last few weeks.

But let’s start with Thanksgiving. This weekend we will slaughter 11 turkeys and celebrate my favorite holiday. My good friends Kyle and Shadon and I are also in charge of creating a mass of cheese and macaroni aptly labeled Whack and Cheese. I’m also on the turkey killing squad. Should be an interesting weekend.

I’m excited for our communal feast, but I have already been so happy with the Thanksgiving I got to share with my family here and with my family back home over a phone call. 

On Thanksgiving, I had one mission–bake an apple pie no matter what the cost. Apples are expensive here and are not in as great supply as mangos, pineapples and other fruits. We are currently in training and are teaching at a school near our training hub. 

After class on Thanksgiving, I headed to the market with my friend Tony to bargain for some apples. 12 apples later, I headed to the training hub to bake a pie. 

One tradition I refused to break is taking time to eat pie with people I love. One of the trainees Ataleigh took charge of the pie adventure, and she transformed a pile of apples, flour and butter into a beautiful masterpiece. 

As the rain pelted the tin roof above us at an almost deafening level, five or six of us sat around a small chair with the pie. We shared things we were grateful for and then finished off the delicious pie. I was happy. It felt so good to share that piece of home here. I was able to call my family as they celebrated at home, and hearing their voices and their joy was the icing on the cake of a great thanksgiving. Looking forward to a couple more here! 

Besides thanksgiving, most of my time has been completely taken up studying the local language and teaching. I have never been an arts and crafts person, but this has been a challenging opportunity to change that. Teaching aides or posters drawn on rice sacks pull the students into my lessons so much faster than when I only write on the board. 

My host brother Pacel is an amazing artist, and he’s excited to help me create books and posters for my class. The teaching aides have been a great chance to see him start to use his imagination more.

Many kids here like to write and draw by copying and do not know much about imagination or critical thinking. Seeing my brother accept the challenge I gave him to draw from imagination has been very rewarding and inspiring. Although, when I asked him to draw himself, I’m pretty sure he tried to draw me instead. It was a hilarious version of my constant bed-head hair. 

We wrote a book on a rice sack about a day in the life of Pacel and we are still working on one about different people around the world. 

Last night, I complimented Pacel on drawing from imagination. He turned to me and said, “I think you are a good teacher.” 
Pacel is the best.

In general, teaching is difficult, easy and bizarre all at the same time. Stepping out of my comfort zone has been liberating but also challenging. One of the biggest challenges is embracing your imperfection. No lesson will be perfect, and it may fall flat–but that is not failure. Failure is when you stop teaching and stop adapting. Success is when you continue to teach no matter what results you have–you have to learn from mistakes because sometimes that’s the only road to teaching these students well.

I have loved getting to know these students. I wrote a song about health and nutrition and the students loved it. I’ll hear them singing it randomly as they walk by on their break. There’s nothing better than seeing a kid who doesn’t know much English skipping by singing “I want to be heaaalthy!” 

There are many more things I could write about, but I will highlight just a couple more.

I don’t want you to get bored! 

Two of the best experiences I have had in the last few weeks overall have been participating in Umuganda and napping in my hammock. It’s crazy to think almost three months have passed.

Two and a half months ago I was diving headfirst into this new country (and still am), but last week I participated again in Umuganda (a national community service day in Rwanda) and I already felt different. I didn’t participate as an outsider. I worked alongside friends of mine in the community as we planted baby fig trees to prevent erosion.

 I saw my friend Bona who I play football with and asked him if his daughter was still sick. Its the everyday personal questions that I ask in Kinyarwanda where I realize I’m living here, and realize I love those people a lot. It’s these friends that have made my first months such a hard but lifegiving journey.

But as much as I love the people here, I must give a shoutout to my hammock, which has enveloped me at just the right times. 

 The buhoro buhoro life (slow by slow) is something I can embrace and will continue to strive for.

Thanks for reading, y’all. Tune in next time to hear about when I scored a goal for my district team and then lay in a puddle of mud with the goalie. Not to mention finding bagels in Kigali! Update soon!



  1. Oh my Ryan! Tears come, as I see you exploding in your new life and world. You are an amazing man. I have no words to tell you how deeply i am moved by your life shared. This is you on steroids. Thank you for giving us these snap shots… I am so happy for you. I am so happy for the wonderful people out there. My heart is bursting with awe and joy. I am so humbled by my worries; and so amazed at what is going on here in your world. So so happy for you, and your new family, and people..(As you know, I am not blog savvy. I apologize if this is embarrassing! I just had to say it.)


  2. Ryan, inloved reading this and you have encouraged me to keep on teaching. I’ve been teaching for over 20 years and sometimes I just wonder “am I making a difference?” Thanks for the encouraging read and keep on beeigncreative withvyour teaching. ❤️


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