Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Nyungwe Park

Last Sunday we went to Nyungwe Forest. The trip was optional and we paid for it ourselves (excepting transportation), but most went. We split into two groups. The first went to see the forest canopy and the second, the group I was in, went on a slightly longer hike. I saw a few monkeys there-- black with a white band around their necks. And there was a baboon on the side of the road by the park's entrance. Unfortunately, I took no pictures. Midway through our hike, a large cloud rolled over the mountainside and began to pour down rain and, to our surprise, hail. It was a pleasant surprise (owing to my bringing a raincoat), to see some form of icy precipitation this close to Christmas.

As for Christmas, the Peace Corps Trainees plan to celebrate with a game called White Elephant. In this game, everyone brings a small gift. Then, lots are drawn for the order in which people may choose presents. After the first person chooses a present, later choosers have the option of taking a present from the heap, or swapping for someone else's present. We also have a Christmas talent show, of which I will get some video.

Model school is over and we are preparing to swear in thirteen days from now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Model School

To prepare trainees for teaching in Rwanda, Peace Corps has created a four week model school. It accepts lower secondary (equivalent of junior high) students from Nyanza who want extra instruction in English, Science, and Math.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Site Visit

This week I am visiting the site where I will be serving upon completion of my training. I previously thought I would be in Bugarama, which is a rainy and densely forested area. I am actually in a city called Mibirizi, which is at a higher altitude (~1700m), cooler, and less buggy. The Rusizi River, which runs between the DRC and Rwanda, provides electricity to power the town. There are tiny fish that come from Lake Kivu that taste like anchovies.

The school I will teach at, Mary Queen School Complex, is a Catholic day school that teaches at the primary and secondary levels. The school is in the process of making huge renovations and expansions. In addition, the school will be receiving laptops. Teachers I've met here are very positive and generally excited to practice English with a native speaker.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Intore Dancing

If the families in a wedding are affable, they usually hire traditional dancers for the ceremony. These dancers are called Intore.

Ubukwe

The Kinyarwanda word for wedding is ubukwe. Of the 68 trainees, I was the first to attend one. In the morning on Saturday, I put on a suit and nice shoes and went to my resource family's house. Although the wedding invitation asked guests to be there by 9:00, I arrived to my resource family's house at 9:00 per their instruction. My resource mama was sick, so I went with Christella. We were dressed very well. It was hot but the wedding was close by and we got to the wedding around 9:15. As far as I could tell, people had just started unpacking chairs and decorating. At 9:40 they turned music on.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Site Placement

There is a lot of news, so I'm going to try to address everything briefly and follow up in more detail later:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Umuganda

On the last Saturday of every month, Rwandans are required to help beautify and maintain their community. This is called umuganda. Peace Corps volunteers participate in this event as well.

Starting at eight, we gathered community tools (shovels, hoes, baskets, grass cutters, machetes), and headed for a road near the training center. Most of the work involved using the hoes and shovels to remove vegetation from the ditch. Those with baskets gather trash from around the area and those with machetes and grass cutters (thin pieces of metal with no blade) trimmed the grass along the roadside.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pre-Service Training

I am currently in the district of Nyanza in Kigali, where my pre-service training will be conducted. This includes classes on Kinyarwanda, cultural integration, technical training (education), medical information, and safety and security. I live with 10 other trainees in Ubumwe (unity) house, which is a five minute walk from the training center. In addition, we live with two LCFs (Language and Culture Facilitators). These are Rwandans who have been trained to teach Kinyarwanda as well as help us adjust to the culture on a day-to-day basis.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Arrival in Kigali

Rwanda is great so far. We've been staying at the Kabusunzu Center in of Kigali for a few days to recover from jet lag and learn some very basic information. Today, we will be taking a bus to Nyanza (close to Kigali) for pre-service training. Yesterday, we visited the gisozi genocide memorial. More on all of this to come later. This is just to let everybody know that I have made it into Rwanda safely with all of my luggage and it may be a few days before I get a phone.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Paper Weight

As I near the time of my departure, I feel surprisingly calm. I packed everything I wanted into my two suitcases today. The weight limit of 80 pounds for checked bags is generous considering I plan to bring one of these suitcases as a carry-on only.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Inaugural Post

Welcome! This is my personal blog about my travels and Peace Corps service in Rwanda. My purpose in writing this blog is to keep my friends and family updated on my life abroad. In addition, I hope that my posts will provide information about Rwanda and Rwandan culture that is current and in depth. In my search for information about Rwanda, I was surprised by how little I found.

Here are a few of my expectations for my experience in Rwanda, based on what I've read about the country:

Language
Everyone speaks Kinyarwanda, a Bantu language. I am currently working on learning this and will receive training in this language before I begin my assignment. Most people speak French; unfortunately, I do not. Some people speak some English, though truly I have no idea how pervasive English is in Rwanda. In 2008, the Rwandan government declared that English (rather than French) would become the official language of instruction from upper primary school onwards. Needless to say, English is on the rise.

Dress
Rwanda is a conservative dress culture. In both professional and casual situations, it is important to be well dressed in order to be taken seriously and not be considered rude. This means no jeans and t-shirt, which is basically my uniform-for-life in the states. Shorts are strictly for exercise. Instead, Chinos and a button front shirt are recommended.

Attitudes toward Americans
There's good news here- Rwandans generally like Americans. Unfortunately, because of American wealth, Rwandans can sometimes misunderstand the role of volunteers and expect them to act as beneficiaries. In addition to this, I will probably end up generally paying higher prices for things then Rwandans will. Muzungu is the Kinyarwanda word equivalent to gringo and I will be called this a lot. I am working on finding a polite way of correcting this in Kinyarwanda.


Climate and Geography
The country of Rwanda lies just below the equator and sits at about 5000 feet. The result? Temperatures fall between 50 and 95 degrees F, with an average daily temperature of 76. The capital, Kigali, which is located in the center of the country, records about 40 inches of rainfall annually. This is not a lot of rain, expecially considering that most of it happens between October and November and between mid-March and May (Rwanda has two rainy seasons). I'm very excited for what appears to be an excellent climate. Also, it should be fairly easy to get to a city if my assignment is in a rural area; most of the country in within 50 miles of the capital.

Food
Rwanda has a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables, plenty of starchy foods like potato, rice, and cassava, milk and cultured milk, and beef, chicken, and goat. I've heard goat is tough and doesn't taste good, but I'm willing to form my own opinions about that. Kebabs are the standard on-the-go food and I hear they are delicious.


As for the details of my service, I will be in Rwanda for two years and three months. The first three months will be spent training for my assignment in Kigali. This will include Kinyarwanda lessons, cultural sensitivity, education training, and probably many other things related to service. Sometime in this training period (perhaps at the end of it?) I will figure out where my assignment is and at the end of training I ship out.

As I've yet to receive information about the definite location of my assignment, I'm unsure as to how frequent my updates will be. I'll be shooting for once a week once I am in Rwanda, but the availability of an internet connection will be a big factor. My next post will probably occur sometime after "staging," which is the day that I will meet my recruiting class. This is October 19th.