10 May 2006

Yeah! Research!

by Cecily
I got this today:

Chère Cecily Whitworth,

L’institut “F. Smaldone” pour sourds-muets de Nyamirambo, a le plaisir de vous communiquer qu’il est prêt à vous accueillir cette été pour vous accorder l’opportunité de réaliser votre projet de recherche sur la langue des signes utilisée par les élèves qui étudient dans ce même Institut. En attendant d’autres nouvelles intéressantes à ce sujet, nous vous souhaitons une excellente réussite dans vos étude.

La Directrice
Sr. Clemens Gadaleta
This email says I can do my research project. Hooray!

Kigali landscape

I'm leaving for Rwanda on June 8th. I fly through Rome and Addis Ababa. I'll be there until July 23rd. My super awesome friend Emily is coming for the first couple of weeks, too. I am very excited about this.

Kigali landscape

While I'm there, I'm going to be teaching some English and doing some research on sign language at a Deaf school in Kigali. It's the same one I was at two years ago, L'Institut Fillippo Smaldone.

three boys at L'Institut Fillippo Smaldone

The email above is from the head nun at the school, who has finally given me permission to go ahead with the project. This is a huge relief to me, because I just spent a lot of time and effort designing the project, designing an independent study for next fall related to data I will collect, filling out grant applications and IRB applications, etc.

Deaf students in Rwanda working at their desks

I don't know if I got the grant, and I don't have IRB approval confirmed either. So it still could fall apart. (The grant isn't vital, because my wonderful father already bought the plane ticket. Thanks Dad! I won't be able to do anything without IRB approval though.) But the formal approval from the school is a big step in the right direction- communicating with them has been very complicated, for several reasons:

The school is in Rwanda, obviously, but it is run by the Catholic church which is (also obviously) based in Vatican City. So most of the nuns speak Italian as their first language. Although when I was there two years ago, there were also several who were from Brazil (and spoke Portuguese) and a couple from Rwanda (who spoke Kinyarwanda and French). No one speaks any English.

bird and gazebo on Jambo Beach

Also, there is extremely limited internet access there. It seems like none at all, at the actual school. They have cell phones, but no relay services will let me call international numbers. And since no one there speaks English, I'd have to do the relay call in French anyway, and my French is really not up to a real-time phone conversation about a research project.

I can do an okay job of reading and writing French, but I wouldn't label it more than "okay." It basically can get me through a conversation about what kind of food I would like to order, and the location of things like the entrance and exit and W.C.

So most of our interactions were me emailing things to my dad (after my professor helped polish up the French. Thanks Debbie! And also Lindsay's boyfriend Vincent helped a lot too. Thanks Vincent!) and after I emailed the files to my dad, he printed them out and drove them across Kigali to the school, and then after a while I'd get an email back, and start the process over again.

group photo of IFS students with Cecily

So, if anyone wants to buy any paintings, now would be a good time. Proceeds will buy me a bigger external hard drive and more t-shirts and colored pencils to distribute.

two high school boys at IFS

Also, of course, if anyone is interested in making any kind of contributions directly to the school, let me know.

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