Monthly Archives: October 2011

“buhoro, buhoro” (slowly by slowly)

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Elias is a broad shouldered man, towering greatly over me, complete with an infectious and goofy smile. Within 5 minutes of talking with him, I became his “daughter” and realized that though his English isn’t the best, his French and Kinyarwanda are masterful. He’s a man of all trades too—a pastor (PC must love matching me with men in the church?), community leader, and my headmaster (like, principal) at my school—E.S. (Ecole Secondaire) Ruramira. We met at the PC Supervisor’s workshop when I stood to read off my school and then waited to see who my headmaster was. It turned out he was only a couple seats away from me! He drew me in for a rather large bear hug, greeted me enthusiastically, and we introduced ourselves. Like I said, he’s a headmaster at our school in the sector of Ruramira in Eastern Rwanda and also has a church in Kigali (about 1.5 to 2 hours away). He comes back to Kigali every weekend—he pastors there, but his family also lives there as well.

 

After grabbing coffee and burgers and snacks for our site visits (I definitely bought—and ate—a whole set of laughing cow cheese) with my friends during a night in Kigali, Elias and I got on a bus at the station in Kigali to head for the Kayonza district. The fare costs 1500 RWF (about 3 US dollars) and it’s a beautiful ride. I asked a few questions here and there, but I spent most of the time collecting my thoughts as I made way to my future home. For the 3 days and 3 nights that I stayed in the Kayonza district, I was lodged in the town outside my village (about 30 minutes away on a moto) at a motel. I appreciated the gesture from Elias; he wanted me safe and sound as my permanent accommodations in my village (Kajembe) were not yet ready. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and I spent a great deal of time alone during my visit. It wasn’t awful…just a little unexpected because I had fully prepared myself to be immersed in my actual community and instead I was meandering through a nearby city alone. I went on several walks, surfed the internet at the nearby internet café, and visited some shops to purchase phone credit. The great part about all the time alone was that I had a chance to reflect and write a lot in my journal and read some books for fun! I’m reading some Nicholas Sparks-esque type novel and also a book called We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will All Be Killed With Our Families. It’s a journalistic piece about the Rwandan genocide. It’s intense and even more so because I am here. It’s strange too, because one of the people interviewed in this book actually spoke with our PC training class about the genocide just a couple of weeks ago. His words and stories were unbelievable.

 

When I wasn’t wandering around town, I was at my new school! It’s about 5 km off the main road. It’s a rural public school and when I say rural, boy, do I mean rural. You have to really want to go there! The school has several brick-ish buildings that are long and have 2-3 classrooms each (I think the secondary school has a total of 7 but is building two more for next year). At my school, the level currently has been expanded to S4 (Senior Level 4). Because Rwanda is pushing free basic education for all, our school will have S5 and S6 within the next few years. It’s confusing, and I am still trying to grasp the structure and ideas behind the Rwandan educational system. There is a lot to learn! My school has a teacher meeting room (with places to sit on chairs and couches without any of the cushions) and an office for the headmaster. There are a lot of books in boxes and textbooks on shelves, and so reorganizing and creating a library system will be one of my tasks (yes!).

 

I arrived and greeted students, answered questions (here are some of my favorites):

“Do you know any hip hop stars?”

“How many children do you have?”

“Where is your husband/boyfriend?”

“What did you think of the Genocide Memorial?”

 

I also watched an intense volleyball match. To be honest, the visit was incredibly overwhelming. But also, I was glad to finally see where I will be. There were moments that made me want to leave right then and there, but those go as quickly as they come. I suppose the job ahead of me just seems insurmountable. Little resources. A seemingly complacent staff. Minimal organization. Yet, I know incremental change is what matters. I have to start with my students and know that small victories with them learning English is what makes all of this entirely worth it.

 

A lot of people want to learn English—the teaching staff included. I will be initiating an English club and hopefully working with students, but also members in the community.

 

As far as community integration, my last day on site definitely made up for other days I missed out on getting to know the people and places in the area. I pretty much could have been on house hunters Rwanda, as I got to see all three of my housing options (I didn’t even know I would have options!). They lie in different parts of the road, so I met a lot of people, ate brochettes (goat meat), visited the sector office, saw the health center nearby, and even passed the small Genocide memorial in my area (every cell has one). Sparing the details of searching for a home, it will be either a home (House A) maybe ½ mile  from my school or 3 rooms to myself in a compound/apartment/duplex thing (House B) right across the street from school. House A has a gorgeous front yard! And, it’s an actual brick house with a clean toilet (it’s still a latrine) and bathing area. The catch? The owner wants a ridiculous price for it…and it’s further from my school community. This was my first choice and so negotiations continue, so we’ll see what comes of it. House B, like I said, is split as a compound area, so I would have one large main room and two smaller rooms to myself. It’s not visually stunning on the outside, but it’s close to school and my neighbor would be another teacher! Right now, there’s no bathing area for me and I didn’t get to see the toilet. My headmaster assured me that with either property renovations and work would be done to make it work for me—possibly even get a battery hooked up for me so I could have electricity (!!) Fingers crossed. Overall, it’s been a really informative and solid visit. My teacher friends seem really nice—especially Fidele and Emmanuel—and now I have a context for training. We have just about 8 weeks until we get sworn in and moved to site and I’m looking forward to gaining ideas on how to make 2 years of service in Ruramira the best it can be—for me and for my community.

 

In the meantime, I’m actually very excited to head back to my home in Kamonyi. Unexpectedly, I’ve missed my Rwandan parents and can’t wait to see them! I also look forward to hearing more stories from other PCT’s and exchanging information about our sites. I travel alone for the first time in Rwanda tomorrow, so hopefully I don’t end up in Tanzania on accident. I’m meeting some friends in Kigali for yet another Western lunch because after all, I do love my cheese. Even if it’s laughing cow cheese. I’ll take what I can get.

e church?), community leader, and my headmaster (like, principal) at my school—E.S. (Ecole Secondaire) Ruramira. We met at the PC Supervisor’s workshop when I stood to read off my school and then waited to see who my headmaster was. It turned out he was only a couple seats away from me! He drew me in for a rather large bear hug, greeted me enthusiastically, and we introduced ourselves. Like I said, he’s a headmaster at our school in the sector of Ruramira in Eastern Rwanda and also has a church in Kigali (about 1.5 to 2 hours away). He comes back to Kigali every weekend—he pastors there, but his family also lives there as well. After grabbing coffee and burgers and snacks for our site visits (I definitely bought—and ate—a whole set of laughing cow cheese) with my friends during a night in Kigali, Elias and I got on a bus at the station in Kigali to head for the Kayonza district. The fare costs 1500 RWF (about 3 US dollars) and it’s a beautiful ride. I asked a few questions here and there, but I spent most of the time collecting my thoughts as I made way to my future home. For the 3 days and 3 nights that I stayed in the Kayonza district, I was lodged in the town outside my village (about 30 minutes away on a moto) at a motel. I appreciated the gesture from Elias; he wanted me safe and sound as my permanent accommodations in my village (Kajembe) were not yet ready. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting and I spent a great deal of time alone during my visit. It wasn’t awful…just a little unexpected because I had fully prepared myself to be immersed in my actual community and instead I was meandering through a nearby city alone. I went on several walks, surfed the internet at the nearby internet café, and visited some shops to purchase phone credit. The great part about all the time alone was that I had a chance to reflect and write a lot in my journal and read some books for fun! I’m reading some Nicholas Sparks-esque type novel and also a book called We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will All Be Killed With Our Families. It’s a journalistic piece about the Rwandan genocide. It’s intense and even more so because I am here. It’s strange too, because one of the people interviewed in this book actually spoke with our PC training class about the genocide just a couple of weeks ago. His words and stories were unbelievable. When I wasn’t wandering around town, I was at my new school! It’s about 5 km off the main road. It’s a rural public school and when I say rural, boy, do I mean rural. You have to really want to go there! The school has several brick-ish buildings that are long and have 2-3 classrooms each (I think the secondary school has a total of 7 but is building two more for next year). At my school, the level currently has been expanded to S4 (Senior Level 4). Because Rwanda is pushing free basic education for all, our school will have S5 and S6 within the next few years. It’s confusing, and I am still trying to grasp the structure and ideas behind the Rwandan educational system. There is a lot to learn! My school has a teacher meeting room (with places to sit on chairs and couches without any of the cushions) and an office for the headmaster. There are a lot of books in boxes and textbooks on shelves, and so reorganizing and creating a library system will be one of my tasks (yes!). I arrived and greeted students, answered questions (here are some of my favorites): “Do you know any hip hop stars?” “How many children do you have?” “Where is your husband/boyfriend?” “What did you think of the Genocide Memorial?” I also watched an intense volleyball match. To be honest, the visit was incredibly overwhelming. But also, I was glad to finally see where I will be. There were moments that made me want to leave right then and there, but those go as quickly as they come. I suppose the job ahead of me just seems insurmountable. Little resources. A seemingly complacent staff. Minimal organization. Yet, I know incremental change is what matters. I have to start with my students and know that small victories with them learning English is what makes all of this entirely worth it. A lot of people want to learn English—the teaching staff included. I will be initiating an English club and hopefully working with students, but also members in the community. As far as community integration, my last day on site definitely made up for other days I missed out on getting to know the people and places in the area. I pretty much could have been on house hunters Rwanda, as I got to see all three of my housing options (I didn’t even know I would have options!). They lie in different parts of the road, so I met a lot of people, ate brochettes (goat meat), visited the sector office, saw the health center nearby, and even passed the small Genocide memorial in my area (every cell has one). Sparing the details of searching for a home, it will be either a home (House A) maybe ½ mile from my school or 3 rooms to myself in a compound/apartment/duplex thing (House B) right across the street from school. House A has a gorgeous front yard! And, it’s an actual brick house with a clean toilet (it’s still a latrine) and bathing area. The catch? The owner wants a ridiculous price for it…and it’s further from my school community. This was my first choice and so negotiations continue, so we’ll see what comes of it. House B, like I said, is split as a compound area, so I would have one large main room and two smaller rooms to myself. It’s not visually stunning on the outside, but it’s close to school and my neighbor would be another teacher! Right now, there’s no bathing area for me and I didn’t get to see the toilet. My headmaster assured me that with either property renovations and work would be done to make it work for me—possibly even get a battery hooked up for me so I could have electricity (!!) Fingers crossed. Overall, it’s been a really informative and solid visit. My teacher friends seem really nice—especially Fidele and Emmanuel—and now I have a context for training. We have just about 8 weeks until we get sworn in and moved to site and I’m looking forward to gaining ideas on how to make 2 years of service in Ruramira the best it can be—for me and for my community. In the meantime, I’m actually very excited to head back to my home in Kamonyi. Unexpectedly, I’ve missed my Rwandan parents and can’t wait to see them! I also look forward to hearing more stories from other PCT’s and exchanging information about our sites. I travel alone for the first time in Rwanda tomorrow, so hopefully I don’t end up in Tanzania on accident. I’m meeting some friends in Kigali for yet another Western lunch because after all, I do love my cheese. Even if it’s laughing cow cheese. I’ll take what I can get.

life as a peace corps trainee

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So I’ve been thinking of ways to best explain my life here and really believe that you can find a lot about somebody and their live by knowing what they do on a day to day basis. This might also be because a lot of our peace corps “homework assignments” have been to know about the daily schedules of people in our community. So, for example, I have been talking to my parents, their friends, and even random farmers to ask what they do day to day. Like I said, it’s a great way to learn about people and the place you live.

My schedule of course varies depending on my peace corps obligations for the day as well as my personal motivation to get out of bed. Sometimes, I wake up to rain and I just want to read in bed all day! Alas, I know that staying in bed till 6:30 instead of 5:45 doesn’t totally make me a slacker…right?

5:45/6:00: Wake up to the chickens/cows/mama singing. Seriously. I have my phone alarm that I sometimes wake up to, but I’m usually up before then. I get out of bed, move my mosquito net out of the way, brush my teeth, and head to the latrine.

6:15: Do any necessary chores (get water, sweep my room, fill my water filter, etc.) before bathing. I try to make sure my outfit for the day is super clean because my parents are super picky about what I wear. Not kidding! One time I had to change my jeans because there was dirt on them. Rwandans take a lot of pride in what they have and so it’s a really good sentiment to be around.

6:30: Take my bucket bath. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I usually take it with cold water, but I definitely think my family thinks that is weird. I could heat up water but I don’t usually take the time for that. In a lot of ways, I have realized that sometimes I can be such an American. Not in a bad way, I just like to get things done and not take the extra time to do something. It’s definitely a quality I didn’t really see in myself before! Anyway, for this bucket bath, I take about 1/4 bucket of water and use my loofa to lather up. Wash, rinse, repeat. Literally. It’s not too bad. I can see the cows from the shower. So you know. A daily reminder of where I am.

7:00: Write letters (or read my romance novel…don’t judge…hahaha) home and have breakfast. Most days I have “ichai” (tea and milk…so good!) and “umugati” (bread).

7:30ish: Leave for language class (or for the PC “hub site” which is like 35ish minutes away). My language class is with my sub-site community group, so it’s only like 5 minutes away.

8:00-12:00: Language Class. It really fits into our saying of “today is forever.” Because seriously, 4 hours of Kinyarwanda can sometimes suck the life out of you. I’m getting better. But. It’s a ridiculously hard language!

12:00-1:00: Lunch. Usually at the district office or local restaurant. I usually some variation of beans, rice, potatoes, etc. It’s pretty good and pretty cheap–at most, I pay about $2 for the meal.

1:00-4:15: More sessions with Peace Corps/more language sessions. We do sessions on safety and security, cross cultural stuff, and medical. It’s pretty comprehensive. Trust me, I’m in good hands.

4:15: One hour of freedom!!! Usually spent at the nearby canteen getting coke and beer. Sometimes both. A lot of my friends eat brochettes (goat meat) and we talk, hang out, play trivia, and even scrabble.

5:15: Head back home. MUST be home before dark. My family gets really worried when I come home late, so I’m trying to be better about coming home before it gets pitch black. Because it really does.

5:30-8:00: Hang out with the family. “Help” with dinner (not too helpful…trust me…) but I try. Often can be found playing soccer, cards, or practicing Kinyarwanda.

8:30: Dinner and prayer. I sang Amazing Grace the other night to my family….I think being a bad singer is totally cross cultural. Love life.

9:30: Finally get back to my room and have some brief alone time. Journal, read, and study. Get to sleep by 10:00.

:)

We find out our sites tomorrow!!!!! So. excited.

a time for everything

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Last night I came home from Butare (all the PC trainees took the two hour trip to see the National Museum and get yummy Western food) and I played “umupira” with my little sister here. In Kinyarwanda that means soccer, and it was nice to do something relieving, especially with so much emotion around here lately. I’ve been trying to find things here that help deal with the adjustment here. So far, I’ve found that going on runs (which are RIDICULOUSLY hard here…it’s so hilly), reading this terrible romance novel (don’t judge), and journaling seem to the best options. I also love just being around my family because they are SO wonderful…but it’s also important for me to have some alone time here. I barely have a moment to reflect and think about what’s going on in my life, so I am really cherishing the moments I do have for “charging my batteries.”

Last weekend we went to the Genocide Memorial and Kigali. Having that experience was incredibly important to what I am going to be doing here. It was also intense, heartbreaking, and shocking. 1 million people died here in Rwanda in 1994. 1 million people in 100 days. Children were killing children, families killing families, and the museum did a good job at explaining how the Rwandan Genocide came to be. It didn’t happen overnight; in fact, it was something that was building for decades and decades before. A man who came to one of our sessions last week as a guest speaker told us that he had witnessed violence since he was 6. This man was well into his 50′s. As someone who has lived the life that I have, how do I even begin to conceptualize that? I walked away from the memorial an emotional wreck. I couldn’t help but think about how grateful I was for my family. And also for my country where I have never felt in danger of going through something like that. It’s not to say we are immune to that (our government is no where close to perfect) but I can confidently say that I have always been safe in the hands of my government and especially in the hands of my family. The fact that so many people–an entire country–had dealt with otherwise is unfathomable. I encourage those of you who don’t know much about the Rwandan Genocide to read about it. It’s informative, intense, and essential to my interactions and relationships that I am building here in this country. I suppose having a context for everything I saw was the hardest part. I couldn’t help but wonder: what did my family here go through? What was it like here back in the 90′s? And yet, we don’t talk about it. Some of my PC friends have had conversations with their family members who can speak better English or even French, but I have to converse with my family with Kinyarwanda and mimes. Yes, miming. I have become quite resourceful in my expressions. I kind of have to make up for my limited Kinyarwanda skills…

But anyway, that’s been on my mind all week. I am still processing the memorial experience and it’s hard to believe something like that happened in a country so beautiful, and a country moving ahead. I do feel safe here. More safe than I could have even imagined! I am trying to be patient with learning more about what happened here where I am living. On a more permanent level, I will need to be patient once I move to site (which I find out the location of on FRIDAY!) in learning about the genocide and it’s impact on the place I’m living. On my students. And on my community. This historical context will continue to be a theme throughout my service in the Peace Corps.

On a personal level, it’s been an emotional few days after hearing about the passing of my grandma. Grandma Jenny passed on Saturday, and my dad called me to give me the news. Somehow, instinctually, I knew that was the news. I saw the “unknown number” calling, figured it was my dad, and thought Grandma might have passed away. I just had this feeling. And so when he told me and we chatted briefly over the phone, I kind of had to hold it together. I was teaching some English words to Grace and Simon (two of my host siblings) and continued to do so after I got done talking with dad. I later told my host mom in broken Kinyarwanda what had happened and she told me that she was in heaven. I just smiled back, said thank you, and just knew it was true. My new friends here have also been great. They have encouraged me to take the time I need, and to cry when necessary. It feels strange trying to forge ahead with a new support system where I am now living, but I know it’s absolutely necessary.

It’s hard being here right now knowing my family is having to say goodbye to someone so dear to us. I had the chance to say goodbye before I left for Rwanda, and for that I am grateful. I am of course even more grateful for the years we spent together, the lessons she taught me, and the fact that I could be loved like that by someone. It’s still difficult knowing that I cannot be there to support my family–especially my dad and uncles–but I just want them to know that I am praying for them always. I am making a decision to stay here because I know that emotionally, that is the best thing for me. If I went home and then had to readjust again and come back here…I’m just not sure that would be good for me. I think Grandma Jenny would want me to be happy…and stable…and so I am confident that remaining here during this hard time for my family is the best choice. I know she’s in a better place. And so even with so much sadness, there is also hope and relief. I no longer have to think about her suffering. That alone makes me feel good about everything else. Life is hard sometimes. But I believe that I can get through this–that all of my family can–because I know we are strong enough. There are times for everything, and even though this is a time to grieve, it is also a time to celebrate.

I am feeling much better about today and about this week…and about everything. I hate missing out on the big news of my friends (engagements…grad school life…field hockey wins…) and the lives of my family. That’s one of the hardest things in adjusting. But I just reassure myself of why I am here everyday. You just have to. I tell myself that I am here to make a difference, to show a group of kids that they matter, that they can succeed, and to live in a culture entirely different than my own. I appreciate America a lot more already. And I also recognize the importance of difference. Different isn’t worse. It’s not necessarily better. It’s just different. When I think about those things, I feel really good and positive about my journey ahead here. I find out on Friday where I am going to be living the next two years…and I can’t wait. I am completely embracing my continued life motto of “why not?” because ultimately, why not?

Thanks for all the love and support. Looking forward to sharing some more of my crazy Rwandan stories :)

Wish list :)

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Hey y’all!

I thought I would post some things that I think I’ll be needing (mostly wanting!!) here if you want to send some love my way. I won’t really NEED anything until I move into my permanent site which is in three months, but I thought I would give a heads up.

-hand sanitizer

-magazines

-batteries

-stationary

-pictures (I always love those) (please know my host parents already developed pictures for me to take back to America of me speaking at church. awesome.)

-any american snacks that are non-perishable. !!! I love Rwandan food. but. you know.

-anything that could help me in the classroom (paper, games, etc.) I do mean ANYTHING. I will need all the help I can get.

-cards and letters

-pedi-egg for my feet (they look awful)

-tampons

-things to decorate my house when I move

-Crystal Light

Like I said, I don’t really need anything right now, but since packages take quite some time I thought I would be on top of this. :)

More blogs and stories to come. xoxoxox

Muraho: religious revivals, peace corps training, and beautiful starry nights

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Hello everyone!

 

My blog below is pasted from a word document I wrote last weekend. I had an intense experience with church activities and revivals (read below for the hilarious details) and did some reflecting on trying to convey my experiences here. It’s already the next weekend from when I wrote this and so much has happened! It’s rained a heck of a lot, I went to the market to get some items for home, and the Peace Corps group is going to the National Genocide Memorial tomorrow. I am planning to write on about my experiences there, as the genocide is going to be a strong context for everything I do here. It’s just inevitable. Anyway, I hope everyone is well! I am writing this at the free wi fi that is available at the district office in my district. It’s about a 35ish minute walk from my house. I am planning to get a modem that I can plug into my computer (it’s a USB) and so I may be able to get internet more frequently (however, no promises, this is Africa after all). I am sending my love and please know I am doing just fabulous. I may not look very fabulous (I am constantly covered in dirt and mud) but I’m definitely trying to make this place home. I am doing a lot of my own chores at my house, I am kind of helping with dinner (okay, just observing…I’ve kind of failed at my opportunities to peel potatoes and such…granted…I had to use a makeshift knife…), and I am starting to learn a lot of quirks about Rwandan culture. Some of them include the innate need to always be clean, running late is totally fine, and sharing is the norm. I pretty much learn something everyday. I have been praying a lot and working through the homesickness I feel from time to time, and I feel good about my decision to keep pushing through this. Deciding to stay is just as important as making a decision to leave, and I think I might have some good opportunities here. I think in Rwanda I am going to be able to mature in a way I never thought possible, and additionally, I am going to be able to reach students and people that have a great amount of potential to help their country and keep moving Rwanda forward. I have a pretty cool job. Even if it means constantly being stared at, eating rice and beans every single day, and sleeping in a mosquito net. Some things are just worth it.

 

I turned my headlamp on for the first time yesterday as I was getting ready for bed (I have been using the ­­flashlight on my phone along with my kerosene lamp in efforts to save the batteries for my head lamp when I have a house of my own) and I think I saw my room the most lit than I have seen it my entire time here. My room walls are a turquoise green and so even if I have the curtains of my small window open, it still feels rather dim in here. I don’t have any pictures yet as I am easing into the whole process of capturing this experience, and so I find it hard to write even about my room, much less my every day experiences here. I want people to understand this place I am living in and the stories I tell. I want that so much, and so I find a lot of pressure in conveying the right message to people back home. Not because I want them to feel a certain way, but more so that I am representing something a lot more than myself. Yes, what I write and what I blog about pertains to my own individual time in the Peace Corps, but when you strip even that away, you have me telling you stories about a family, about a group of people, about a culture; and I suppose a deep fear of mine is that I will get it wrong. I know that how I feel is how I feel and what I go through is just that. I realize that everything I say and feel is valid; but like I said I feel myself becoming more and more protective of the people I write about because their lives aren’t something being posted in the middle of cyberspace on some young, idealist’s blog about figuring this crazy world. Their lives are happening each and every day and that has to be valued.

 

In my district in Kamonyi, Sundays are a big deal. I had read up on the heavy Catholic Rwandan population and anticipated that I might encounter some religious passion after noting in my aspiration statement that I consider myself a Christian and that I was looking forward to experiences in Rwanda molding and developing my own spiritual and religious values. And of course, these suspicions were confirmed upon meeting my host family. As I mentioned, my father is a pastor (he doesn’t preach it seems, but he has done baptistms…trust me, I’ve seen the photos!) and also a butcher while my mom here is a farmer. They are both in their church choir at one of the Presbyterian churches and so each and every morning instead of an alarm clock, I wake up to mama Bernadette singing hymns in Kinyarwanda. It really doesn’t get better than that. Anyway, so after meeting them and comparing my English and their Kinyarwanda bible throughout last week, I knew Sunday was a big day. Turns out, it was. The most memorable part? Of the many winning moments I would probably lean towards the moment during the afternoon religious revival concert (oh yes) when a famous Ugandan Christian singer was doing a performance and decided to come down from the stage, pull me from my preferential seating (I got to sit in a chair while thousands of others had to stand) and have me dance in front of everyone. This was a little more than some karaoke in front of everyone at Hendrix; this was INSANE. Literally, I was dancing (and I use that term loosely) in front of thousands. All alone. I literally thought to myself, “what is going on???” Everyone was laughing….smiling….throwing their hands up in the air….and I was just wondering how in the world I ended up dancing to intense gospel music in front of the entire district. To sum it all up, the singer grabbed my hand and told me to say “hallelujah” into the microphone. Of course I obliged and of course the crowd went wild. Believe me when I say that I got a lot of comments the following day about my little impromptu “performance”. Now instead of being just one of the American ‘umuzungos’, I am that girl. Apparently, this happens even in completely foreign cultures, not just in America. Good to know. Oh, not to mention this was on national television. Oh goodness.

 

This whole experience was on top of a day already filled with 4 hours of church with mama and papa. I was escorted to sit on the stage (preferential seating again) during the morning service and so everyone watched me as I tried to figure out what was going on. Oh, and I had to address the congregation? I fumbled around with the little Kinyarwanda that I know and tried to act like talking in front of 500 Rwandans was no big deal.

 

Even so, despite all the truly ridiculous moments, it was a wonderful day to be a part of, and I think it’s important that I’m making myself known in the community. Maybe now I won’t be called “umuzungo” so many times? Maybe not. But still, I think it’s good to be involved with what my family is, and I think they are enjoying how flexible I am as well. I want to get the most out of this experience in living with a host family for three months, so if it means dancing alone in front of the entire population, well, so be it. I signed myself up for this and so this is all a part of the great adventure!

On an unrelated note, again, I haven’t taken pictures yes, but man. This place is beautiful. It’s stunning, and I am completely blown away by how beautiful the landscape around here is. Today after one of our technical trainings about lesson planning, we did the second round of our language class at a nearby park. It actually was the same place the religious revival thing was at the previous day. This time, I could take in the surroundings. From this place you can see the farms, you can see the rolling hills, and you can see just how beautiful this place is. People probably pay thousands upon thousands to travel around the world for views that I get each and every morning. It’s unbelievable. We are over 5,000 feet above sea level, and the climate is perfect. A lot of times actually, it reminds me of living in Colorado. Just outside my house in the back, you can see green for miles and hills and mountains…it’s really peaceful, and I’m so grateful we are spending 3 months here. Just the other night I stepped outside of our kitchen and could see the big, blue sky more clearly than I really ever have. With electricity gone (even though apparently it is coming to my district in about a month?) you can see the stars perfectly. The children in my compound (like all 20 of them…I call them the “children of the compound” told me how to say ‘star’ in Kinyarwanda, but of course, I already forgot. I will try to be intentional to remember in the future however, because the night skies here are just well, perfect.

 

I should probably close down this word document and get some sleep. It’s been quite the day! I played with the neighborhood kids after school, helped with dinner, and thought a lot about the next couple of weeks. We will be getting our sites in about 2ish weeks…and for the first time, I could feel myself genuinely getting excited about the possibilities of placement. To be honest, we were told that we have the option of having a Rwandan roommate or having a house alone, and the possibility of a roommate made me feel so much better about moving in three months. In the meantime, I have so much to do. I am trying to immerse myself as much as possible, while trying to remain sane, while also trying to figure out how I am going to be a successful teacher in the Rwandan educational system. I definitely have a lot on my mind!

 

I am slowly slowly getting used to life here. Having no electricity is a big change, but like I already mentioned, I signed up for this. And so, I’m taking everything as it comes (as best as I can) knowing that each day has new possibilities. It’s harder and harder to live in a fishbowl (after all, am I really that fascinating?) and so I am doing my best not to get frustrated when everything I do has to be an ordeal. Yes, I do mean everything. But right now, all of the good far out weighs any of the bad. I live with a wonderful family, am making good friends, am eating way too much food (my family does not let me go hungry in any way shape or form; in case you are curious, I usually eat rice, beans, plantains, a stew, vegetables, potatoes, and/or umugari (a dough like dipping substance)), and get to see and experience things most people in this world won’t get to do. I’m really blessed and I’m just so thankful for what I have here. Training will continue, as will everything along with it. Maybe soon, this life will feel pretty normal.  In some small (very small) ways, it already does.