BGSU prof & family teach, learn during African sojourn PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:04
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BGSU Professor Matt Kutz poses with students in Rwanda. (Photos Provided by Matt Kutz)
Matt and Angie Kutz loved the vicarious adventure offered by "House Hunters International."
But the Perrysburg couple's sense of adventure extends beyond watching the Home and Garden TV show.
Early this year the Kutz family, including sons Nathan, 12, and Jonathan, 10, spent six months in the central African nation, of Rwanda.
Matt Kutz, who teaches athletic training and is coordinator for clinical education at Bowling Green State University, received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach at the Health Institute in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.
Being "adventurous," the couple decided the whole family would accompany him. That necessitated finding living quarters.
As a fan of the "House Hunter" program, Matt Kutz gave the show's producers a call. Sure enough they were interested. And they filmed an episode that will air tonight at 10:30.
That bit of show business was just a small part of the adventure of living in Rwanda for the family of four.
The country still lives in the shadow of the genocide of 1994, when ethnic attacks claimed as many as 1 million ethnic Tutsis, about 20 percent of Rwanda's population.
Almost 20 years later, the country still suffers from the effects.
Rwanda's health care providers, he said, did not know how to treat simple sports injuries. They are more used to the traumas caused by violence, including amputations.
"They're still a very hurting people," Angie Kutz said.
When the anniversary of the slaughter arrived, it was marked by ceremonies including graphic images and videos of what happened.
Angie said she once asked someone why they do this, and she was told: "We don't forget so it never happens again."
The pain of reliving the genocide is worth it if it saves another generation from experiencing it.
Angie Kutz home schooled the couple's sons. They would regularly travel to a rural school to teach English.
Classes were taught by a teacher standing at a blackboard with the single piece of chalk.
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Matt and Angie Kutz spent six months starting in January in Rwanda.
The Rwandan children, she said, have little to play with, no balls or even simple card matching games.
So the boys taught their peers how to play organized games and sports.
The impact of their visits came home to Angie Kutz during one visit. The week before she'd read aloud a Little Critter book. On returning to the class, a little girl came and sat on her lap. Having only heard the book once, read in a language she didn't know, the girl recited it back word for word to Angie Kutz.
"It was very humbling," she said.
Matt Kutz was teaching basic sports medicine in the Health Institute's school of physical therapy. Sports medicine, he said, was "very much a new concept."
They were not used to dealing with otherwise healthy people who hurt themselves playing sports. They would treat them in the most aggressive way, when less invasive therapy was called for.
They still used treatment, especially applying heat, that had long been discredited elsewhere.
That outdated treatment was not surprising given their lack of information.
The BGSU professor said his office library was better stocked with books on physical therapy than the school's library. They still relied on a dial-up internet connection, and that, he was told, was a great improvement over what they had just a few years ago.
But the nation is interested in developing sports. President Paul Kagame "is a real proponent of national identity" as a way healing the nation's wounds, Matt Kutz said. "One of the things he decided would help facilitate that national identity is sports."
But before all this, the Kutz family had to find a home.
What will air on "House Hunters International" is actually a reenactment of the family's home search filmed two months after the fact.
The couple was surprised at the options. That imagined the housing would be more primitive, but Matt Kutz likened Kigali to Detroit, though the traffic laws were "more suggestions."
They looked at more than 20 homes. Many are compounds unto themselves with gates and enclosed yards. The entrances are guarded.
"It was a little eerie, but reassuring," he said.
But even the more palatial homes had the hallmarks of Third World living - daily electrical blackouts, water not fit for drinking and no laundry facilities.
Laundry had to be hand-washed in a single sink.
The family ended up in an apartment on the outskirts that was specifically decorated and equipped to make Western expatriates feel at home. A washing machine was actually provided for the last couple months. The day of its arrival, said Matt Kutz, was like Christmas.
The family had to deal with a language barrier. French is one of the official languages, a reflection of the country's colonial heritage. Angie Kutz speaks some French, so that helped with Rwandans who had some education.
But the dominant tongue is Kinyarwanda. She made an effort to learn basic phrases.
The effort pleased Rwandans, she said.
Being able to go to the market by herself and buy oranges was a major accomplishment, she said. "It felt wonderful that you could experience that culture and grow from it."
Though they were a little nervous about the impending Rwandan sojourn Nathan and Jonathan enjoyed their time there, their mother said. They and their parents are already considering returning to Rwanda at some point.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 11:17
 

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