31 July 2006

...still home on the range...

by Cecily
I'm going to Missoula tomorrow. For a while. Then I'll come back here. Then I'll go back to Washington.

I learned a new word from my highbrow murder mysteries. The word is "hortatory". The context was Miss Silver uttering a slight hortatory cough.

According to my grandfather it comes from the same root as "exhort" and means "something to do with someone trying to convince someone else of something."

That is my own paraphrase, my grandfather generally has fewer words starting with "some" in his sentences.

Reading murder mysteries is very educational and not at all a waste of my time.

I have to go get another cookie, bye

27 July 2006

home on the range

by Cecily
Hello! I am at my grandparents' house in Billings, Montana. I expect to not be doing anything noteworthy for the next three weeks, unless you think reading murder mysteries and eating potato chips is noteworthy. Which I don't, and I am always right.

So I probably won't be typing very much on the internet. Have a nice rest of the summer!

23 July 2006

bon voyage Cecily!

by Cecily
I'm leaving for the airport in 1 hour. I fly to Addis, then have a long layover there. Then fly to Dulles (via Rome, but you can't get off the plane in Rome they just refuel or change the crew or something).

And I'll be in DC tomorrow morning. After travelling for close to 24 hours.

Then I'm leaving again for Montana on Wednesday.

So. Bye Africa! Hello United States!

21 July 2006

home stretch

by Cecily
I went over to the school yesterday for a going-away party for me. There was no Fanta this time. Once was enough of the Fanta adventuring. It was not quite as exciting, without all the Fanta, but it was still as much fun. Although some parts of it were kind of weird.

First we all sat around and talked. Then the head nun told one of the kids to start drumming and some other kids to start dancing. We were all sitting on benches in a big circle on the playground, and one kid at a time would go into the middle of the circle and show off. Mostly only the little ones were doing this. Some of them were doing Rwandan dance moves but most of them were doing MTV-style dance moves. Some like from boy bands, some like Britney Spears, and one really good Michael Jackson moonwalking routine.

Then, the older kids did some skits for me. They were of bible verses. The first one was the Good Samaritan and the second one was about how Jesus teaches the little children to say Our Father and makes the blind see and the deaf hear.

That was a little strange. But all of the students were very hammy and melodramatic so even while it was strange, it was extremely funny.

Then some big girls did a dance. Then they made me dance with them. Then there was a dance party. Everybody danced! Even the nuns. All of us were bouncing around and twirling each other and doing Rwandan and Britney and MJ dance moves, while another nun played a very loud big drum. That was pretty great. And sweaty. But mostly great.


Now I am in my final two days and I'm starting to get all panicky about travelling.

I really hate leaving places. Once I am at the airport or in the car or whatever, then I'm fine. But the building-up part where I am supposed to be doing all kinds of constructive things, that really stresses me out. And my reaction to stress is generally to really want to take a nap all the time. I'll deal with it later! Not conducive to packing.

But, I am mostly packed now. Everything is crammed into my two gigantic suitcases. I'm sure when I arrive, all of my belongings will be covered in coffee and tea, because by the end of the packing I hated it so much I stopped wrapping things carefully in plastic and instead just shoved things into wherever they would fit. Whatever. Both of those things smell good.

P. S. If anyone in D. C. was really desperately hoping they could pick me up at Dulles on Monday morning, do I have a treat for you! Email me.

19 July 2006

puppets and masks

by Cecily
When my brother was here last year, or whenever it was that he was here, he bought a carved wood mask. There are a lot of masks around here in all of the little tourist shops and they are all pretty attractive, so the fact that my brother bought one is not very interesting in and of itself. However, this mask that he bought is still here. It lives in the stairwell to the basement, right next to the 200-pound bags of dog food. The reason it is still here is that there does not seem to be any feasible way of transporting it back to the United States. The reason for that is that it is the same size as me.

Cecily in a huge mask

Apparently the plan is that whenever my parents decide to move away from this country, they will pack the mask along with them. So Ben can have it back at some undetermined point in the future. He asked me to take it back for him as my carry-on but I politely declined. I don't think it will fit in the overhead compartment. Plus I have too much of my own stuff to bring.

When I came here I brought two enormous suitcases and one small regular-size suitcase. Both of the enormous ones were full of things that were not mine. Emily had collected a lot of clothing to donate to the school, and school supplies and toys, and my mom had also collected a bunch of school supplies, and my dad had requested a bunch of weird items that you can only buy in the US. Like patching plaster, which I bought, but left somewhere in my bedroom in DC.

The result of that is that I have PLENTY of room to buy things and bring them back with me. And I have been doing a good job of it. I'm pretty sure I will have both of those enormous suitcases full of things. Mostly it is presents for other people. Most of the number of items, that is. Most of the volume is a present for me, and it is maybe the best present I have ever received. My dad and Nancy gave it to me.

life-sized Rwandan statues

Now that I don't have any fieldwork to do for my research project, I have been spending all of my time on analysis and transcription of the data. And reading instructive nonfiction and classic literature.

Just kidding. I've been spending all of my time making a stop-animation movie of those stick people dancing around. It is very fun. I love Photoshop. I hope you are all extremely excited to see the end result.

16 July 2006

15 July 2006

Presidential news

by Cecily
The reason I went to Akagera was that my dad had to go to a PEPFAR retreat. PEPFAR is "President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief". There were lots of doctors and epidemiologists and nurses and other people. They had "sessions" all day and while I was invited to attend, I somehow was way too busy doing other things. Like painting my toenails.

I magically did have time to sit around with them in the evenings and drink refreshing beverages. I learned some interesting things during the dinner table conversations as well. Last night the new head of the CDC in Rwanda and the organizational boss of the retreat got into a battle about breastfeeding. I'm not super clear on the argument strategies that came into play, but I know that at one point the CDC guy was backing up his case by citing statistics about how many women have three nipples. Or more!

These PEPFAR guys are a riot, I tell you.

It was very fun.

One thing that I was really looking forward to about this trip was the baboons. Everyone I met who had been to this park before told me "watch out for the baboons!" and then they would tell me a story about a baboon doing something rude and obnoxious. Like stealing your sandwich or breaking into a conference room and eating all the dried condensed milk substance. Everyone said that the place was overrun with baboons! They are such a menace! Make sure you roll up your car windows and close your bedroom door all the way!

I thought the idea of baboons running wild in the hotel was pretty great.

But, too bad for me, Former President Bill Clinton is in Rwanda this weekend. Plus some other famous and important people, like Bill Gates and some CNN reporters and a big-name Harvard AIDS book writer man. The Bills did not arrive before I left, but the other people were there already. I didn't recognize them, or know who they were, but all of the PEPFAR guys were very excited.

I still don't really know who they are.

Anyway, because of all the impending fanciness, the hotel had taken extreme measures against baboons. I think they hired a bunch of local boys to chase the baboons away with sticks. Whatever they did was effective, I didn't see any baboons at all until we drove off of the hotel grounds and into the park this morning.

I saw a lot of baboons in the park, plus more animals:
Water Buffalo

and some others I think. We followed elephant tracks for a while but we did not see any elephants. And we didn't see any zebras, because the zebras live too far away and we had to leave early before the roads would be blocked off because of Bill Clinton.

There's some kind of model prototype hospital clinic thing going on near the park. The Harvard AIDS writer guy was involved in that. Or started it, or is running it, or something. And Bill Clinton came to look at it, and then to stay in the hotel. The same hotel I just stayed at!

So, the whole way back to Kigali I kept having to pull way over to the side and roll up my windows because all these huge police trucks and SUVs with tinted windows and buses and other fancy cars kept speeding past me going the other way. Motorcades like that on windy dirt roads are really annoying; they would get past and it would take practically 500 hours before the dust settled again. Good thing that car has air conditioning or I might have died.

Now I'm back in my parents' house, fooling around and doing nothing in particular. I guess I should compress some more video. I'm hoping my dad will come back from the office soon so we can go out for Indian food. Mmm, mutter paneer!

13 July 2006

More travelling adventures

by Cecily
I'm driving to Akagera this afternoon and staying there until Saturday. Again, internet access is unlikely.

Zanzibar was excellent. If anyone is looking for a quick getaway to the opposite quarter of the globe, I highly recommend it. I went snorkling and looked at colorful fish and ate Indian food and Zanzibari food and Italian food. And gelato!

So, adieu once again, until Saturday. Have a good weekend!

12 July 2006

06 July 2006

vacation squared

by Cecily
Apparently, I am going to Zanzibar tomorrow.

"Tomorrow" means Friday afternoon of my world. My plane leaves for Nairobi at 2:00 Kigali time. Which is 8:00 am in Washington, Boston, New York, etc. And 7:00 am in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And 6:00 in Missoula and Billings. And 5:00 in Portland and San Francisco and LA. I could keep listing cities but you probably are already annoyed by the whole thing.

Time zones confuse me. I have to think very carefully about the earth and rotation and geography before I ever can remember if I am ahead of or behind people.

Now it's easy, I am ahead of everyone. Except maybe not Japan and Singapore.

Anyway, last weekend when we were hanging out at the Embassy like we always do, because we are so tight with the ambassador, there was some other guy there that my dad knew.

There were more than one other guys that my dad knew. But I am just talking about this one specific one. His name is Gary. He's from Montana. He was working in Kigali at USAID two years ago when my parents got here, but now he doesn't live here anymore. You might think there would not be that many people from Montana who have worked at the USAID mission in Kigali, but you would be wrong. Just like you might not think there would be that many people from Montana at the Linguistics department at Gallaudet University. But you would be wrong again.

Back to Gary. He doesn't live here anymore. BUT, he was back for a visit and while we were all hanging out on the lawn at the ambassador's house, Gary mentioned that Kenyan Airlines is having some kind of blowout sale on trips to Zanzibar.

Or something.

All week there was much tentative planning and hemming and hawing and not much decision making. Until finally today, we have plane tickets!!!! And at least one hotel room for one of the nights.

My dad and I are going for no reason. Except to get extra stamps on our passports and go swimming in the ocean. I'm super excited to go swimming in the ocean. It's going to be warm and picturesque. I can't wait. I love swimming in the ocean.

We'll be back on Tuesday. I don't really have a clear conception of what internet access in Zanzibar is going to be like, plus I probably won't have time anyway because I'll be so busy swimming and looking picturesque on the beach.

THEN, the day after we come back, Wednesday, we're going to Akigera. It's a national game park. This one doesn't have any gorillas but they have other things. I don't even care anyway because I already saw gorillas, that is so old news to me.

So we'll hang out at that other park for a few days and come back to Kigali on Saturday. I think. I have no idea what date that is, the 16th? Something close to that. As of tomorrow I am all done with my actual official research. I might do some kind of make-up sessions the week after next but I doubt it. I will probably have too much else to do, like watching Law & Order and drinking beer.

Just kidding. I already watched all the Law & Order. Now I'm on the first season of Lost.

SUMMARY: I am going on a fun adventure. I don't know if I will have internet access. Don't be scared if I don't write anything on the internet. If I do have internet access, I will write things. And everyone who has internet access themselves should write me emails so when I finally have internet access again I will feel popular and in demand.

Okay, time to go be fancy with some Germans! Auf wehedersehn!

04 July 2006


by Cecily
I had the day off today, but it isn't because I'm American. The 4th of July is apparently a holiday of some sort for Rwanda, too. It's Liberation Day. It's the anniversary of when the RPF finally took Kigali back, "ending the war".

For reasons of which I am not aware, the Americans celebrated the 4th of July on the 1st of July. We all went over to the Ambassador's residence and wore patriotic clothing and ate hamburgers.

Confusingly, the 1st of July is also a holiday in Rwanda, and it is called Independence Day.

So the American Independence Day, which is July 4th, was celebrated on the Rwandan Independence Day, which was July 1st, while Rwandan Liberation Day is celebrated on July 4th, but not the American Independence Day because that was already celebrated on Rwandan Independence Day.

On none of these days did anyone light any fireworks. So I really don't see the point.

Anyway, for these reasons, I had the day off.

01 July 2006

What I do all day

by Cecily
The details of my research project are not necessarily very interesting to most people so I usually just say "I'm videotaping kids signing things". Actually, I am slightly more organized than that.

I'm working with four groups of students. I have 4 six-year-olds, 6 11-year-olds, 4 14-year-olds, and 4 18-year-olds. I also ended up including one adult Deaf Rwandan who teaches at the school because he wanted to.

I do different things on different days, but in general each kid does three different things: first, I do a one-on-one session where I show pictures (or for the older students, a word list in Kinyarwanda) and find out what the sign is for the things. The word list is a standard one that linguistics projects all over use. It's called the Swadesh list, named after whatever guy invented it. The one I'm using is modified for signed languages. It still isn't that appropriate; it includes things like "ice" that don't really exist here, and doesn't include some things that are basic concepts in Rwanda but not in the US. So I use that list but am flexible with it. I also have been getting alphabet and number/counting systems from people.

Secondly, each group sits around together and looks at the pictures/words and discusses what the sign is for that.

14-year-olds looking at pictures

Sometimes the group comes up with a sign none of the individuals used, and sometimes they all argue about it.

14-year-olds debating vocabulary

They also argue about what is happening in the pictures, and there is usually a lot of extraneous discussion as well. And bossing each other around about not participating enough. "You're just sitting there! Sign!"

14-year-olds contradicting each other

Then lastly, people from the same age group are in pairs and they watch a Tweety and Sylvester cartoon ("Canary Row", again used in lots of linguistics projects all over) and tell each other what happened in it. I ended up doing this part multiple times because the first time around everyone just wanted to watch the cartoon and (especially the littlest ones) couldn't really remember what happened afterwards. By the second and third go-rounds everyone got very melodramatic and descriptive, which is not only good data but also hilarious to watch.

11-year-old describing Sylvester

The six-year-olds also decided that whoever was not watching the clip had to cover their eyes tightly so as not to peek.

So the beginning of each time has one six-year-old poking and tapping and sometimes punching another one, who is sort of twisting around doing six-year-old blind dance moves to entertain themselves. (I had them sitting on the floor because the chairs are too big for them). I start laughing again every time I have to look at any of it for editing or compressing or whatever.

six-year-olds storytelling on the floor

At the end, I've been left with some random amounts of time so I have everyone draw pictures. They also all drew for a while at the beginning to get used to me, the room, etc. Then they all wanted to tell the camera about what their drawings are of. This is when I get the most genocide-related narrative. I also have all the drawings. Some of them are really scary. Some of them are really silly. I am inventing new research/teaching project for making books with the kids, writing a story and illustrating it and binding it. Maybe next year.

six-year-olds drawing at the table

Then when I get back in the fall, I'm doing an independent study to begin analysis. My analysis will be recording the configurations of the hands that I see using a notation system that my smart professors invented. "Phonology" for signed languages means how you produce the sign. Not related to sound, but conceptually equivalent to phonology in spoken languages, which studies how you produce a word. Basically. I'll figure out what handshapes are the most common, if there are any handshapes in Rwanda that are not in ASL, etc. There are a couple of general theories related to signed languages that will get tested against this data too.