The beginning of my new life was as scary as anything I’ve done up until that moment. Training was hard, and yet easy in itself, among people and a life that I could somewhat relate to but doing grueling tasks in the meantime – that is easy to push the grueling out of my mind and focus on the friend’s I made. Then I moved to site. Peace Corps drove us there, out into the heart of Rwanda, which was a kind gesture…We spent a majority of the day stumbling through this impossibly crazy dirt road. Let me specify majority – approximately 3-4 hours on a dirt road which towards the end almost saw the remnants of my breakfast. We dropped off my other fellow Peace Corps members first…2 girls, 1 boy, and I was the last. The great thing about being last was that the drive (although making me queasy) was absolutely stunning. I don’t know, looking back at the pictures, it doesn’t seem real anymore. But out of nowhere Africa throws a dream in your face, and maybe because it’s so unexpected that it takes the belief out of you and you don’t know what to do with the memory. Anyhow, here I was, no one around for miles, overlooking what seemed to resemble a fjord.
Darkness was encroaching by the time we pulled into my new home, and how I LOVE it. The view is quite beautiful…stunning. Kabuye Imisoze (Mount Kabuye) perches nicely out my back window. Along with the banana trees, and other incredible vegetation. Enough rambling about growing produce. Looking at my house from the road there is a vegetation fence (sticks with vines twining up them to make a fence), which is exactly what I wanted. From there you take a treacherous path to my front door. My neighbors and I share the same front patio – where many an awkward conversation has taken place.
(Click the link to see the pictures. The first one is the outside of my house)
So half of this little thug is my house (you can see my door) and past the window on the left (ie where the vegetation on the left starts) is my neighbor’s house. The thatched roof on the right is where all of my neighbors cook (using wood)…you can see the soot coming from the little holes, there’s a latrine and a bucket bath room in there too. My cooking quarters is in the back of my house. Also back there is a little stream of water where I get my water with a bucket. I have 2 bedrooms, 1 bucket bath room, and a sitting area. The neighbors that pretty much share the same house as me have 1 baby. I also have neighbors that live to the right of the cooking house (place with the thatched roof) and they have 6 kids!! That’s incredible. They also play games in front of my house aka making endless noise.
I’m trying to decorate my house to have a Middle Eastern feel – could you expect anything less? As of today I have no furniture, but I am quickly trying to get that remedied.
Typical Day – I wake up at 5 am, look over my lesson plans for the day.
6 am, if I have no water, fetch it from the back with a bucket, then take a freezing bucket bath. It’s impossible to get clean here. Couple of factors add to that: one is that my skin is a magnet for the dirt on the road I take to school and another is it’s impossible to pour cold water on your body and expect it to get clean with only a pitcher of water. So I have what I like to call my Rwandan tan = the dirt accumulates so it looks like I have a bomb tan
6:45 start my half hour walk to school
7:20 – 2:20 I teach 8th graders
3:30 – get home. Either I take a nap and then :
Play with the neighbors. Take the neighbor kids for a mile run with me. Or go running alone.
5:00 – Start dinner before it gets too dark to see
6:00 – Eat dinner
6:30 – Sun sets
7:00 –9:00 Either read by candlelight, watch a movie on my computer, study French, paint my nails, talk to other volunteers on the phone, lesson plan, write letters, paint, lay outside and just think about things.
Between 9 and 10 I go to bed
Pretty crazy day, I know, and you should all be jealous….haha! But for the most part I’m in love with it, it’s only in the deep dark, when I’m just lying there, too unmotivated to do anything, that I get worried about if I’m strong enough to do this, if I’m doing a good thing, if I’m helping anyone or doing anything productive. This and a million other grains of thought sprinkle through my mind, and it’s there where I have to turn over and scramble down the positives of my life here.
Some of those things:
1. Cheap avocados
2. My wonderful friends Mama Benny (Magnifique) and Roger.
3. Fresh cow’s milk from my friends
4. Being a rockstar wherever I go (aka everyone stares at me wherever I go)
5. I love teaching, and my 200 students
6. The weather is amazing
7. Drinking tea with old ladies
8. Seeing crazy birds
9. Talking rapid English and saying insulting things when people are mean to me, and they can’t understand me. It feels so good.
10. Feeling like I’m always camping, campings fun right?!
A little Story
Last Thursday I went to Kigali (the Capital) to purchase a Postbox and get some odds and ends done. On that eventful day, I happened to catch an amoeba that incapacitated me from about 3 in the afternoon on Thursday – 5pm Friday evening. I believe I caught said amoeba from drinking hot milk earlier that morning from some random little sidestreet shop, and how I regret ever touching my lips to the mug.
To start, the bus pulled into the Capital city at about 11 pm, whipping around corners and taking out traffic. A little exhilarated already from the ride, I found myself in the swarming city center wondering how to get around to do the items on my to do list. I found my beginning point, and that’s where the checking ends, because come to find out, I was too delirious to accomplish anything. I take that back, I did accomplish a couple of impressive tasks, such as, going to the bank, and stupidly enough drinking more milk. That must’ve been my demise, because as I went to go do my shopping for essential items that you can only buy in Kigali, I was able to only wander around aimlessly in 2 stores, I probably went in each about twice. As I did my second round in the second store, this horrendous feeling engulfed my body and I literally had to make a run for the bathroom that costs 50 cents to enter.
THANK GOD there wasn’t a line.
I shoved my money in the bathroom nazi’s hand and for about 10 minutes killed their bathroom with my vomit.
I can tell you there was a line when I was finished.
I stumbled out feeling a sense of relief, and decided that maybe I should try and catch a bus home (it’s a 2 hour bus ride back to my house)
Went to buy my bus ticket, and the hut smelled so bad that I turned on my heel and regurgitated right outside. Ah the staring that ensued.
As if that wasn’t bad enough.
I call the doctor, he tells me to walk and meet him somewhere
Well turns out walking wasn’t such a good idea. This prompted more painful memories, and I vaguely remember stumbling into a grassy patch in the city center and releasing some pain. In the midst of that, a million Rwandans start circling me, gawking and goggling.
Needless to say I won’t be drinking milk any time soon…
I teach Senior 2, ABCD – which is the equivalent to 8th graders, or approx 13 or 14 year olds
I have about 200 students
My resources are a chalkboard and chalk
I’ve read: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, The Time Machine by HG Wells, King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard, started State of Fear by Michael Chriton (Guy who wrote Jurassic Park) and a couple of stories from the Arabian Nights since I’ve been at site (beginning of January).
Successfully taught my neighbor kids: Uno (the card game), Hopscotch, Eenie Meanie Miney Mo, and how to stretch after running