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:

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.

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.

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.