Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Holidays from Rwanda!

Since I don't have a house at my site, I spent the holidays with my headmaster. He has a house in the city, which is at least as big as my parents' house in America and has electricity. It was frustrating at first to be in a house full of people again when I was looking so forward to having my own space, but I made the best of it and enjoyed my time in the city. Now I know my way around Rwamagana and have been able to meet some neat people.

We went to church on Christmas morning. If I didn't know that it was Christmas, I would not be able to tell that it was. I don't think the sermon was even about the Nativity. But boy do Africans know how to do church! There is so much passion in their singing and dancing. The men were wiping sweat from their brows and the women tears from their eyes. I think that it was mostly for show, but fake it 'til you make it, right?

That evening I met my headmaster at a bar. He was already there with a few of his friends. It was an interesting mix of people. There was a man with a Master's degree, one who was a doctor, one was the pastor of the church we went to, another also worked in education, and the last one... well, I don't know, but he had about six beers. We had beers and brochettes, and I even got to try fish for the first time in Rwanda. I think it was tilapia. It had spikes on its back. It tasted good.

The day after Christmas I moved into my room at the school. Still no house for me - and I doubt they will find me one, so I'm making myself at home here. Since I was installed by Peace Corps at my headmaster's house, I had to hire a taxi to take all of my belongings to the school. My headmaster and his nephew were trying to convince me to save some money by taking all of my bags on a squeeze bus and just pay for the extra seats that the bags would occupy rather than hire a taxi. I gladly paid the extra for the private taxi. Sometimes saving a buck is not worth the extra hassle. I was proud that I got the price for the taxi down from 20,000 to 12,000 franks.

As soon as I got to my room in the school, I started scrubbing the walls down. The place is filthy and cleaning it up should keep me busy for awhile. I'm getting settled in here buhoro buhoro (slowly by slowly). I might even paint the walls some day if my headmaster lets me.

Mbere (before)

I don't know what the yellow stuff is that I scrubbed off the walls. I don't want to know.

I started near the bed and worked my way towards the closet.

Above the closet. I haven't even touched this area yet. It's become a place for me to throw trash for now.

Nyuma (after)

Not perfect, but much better! I sacrificed a pair of stretched out socks and scrubbed the walls with some bleach.

I stretched my mosquito net around the bed frame, which is for a bunk bed but it doesn't have the top bunk.

I only have a few random things in the closet right now until I get organized: water filter, gifts for my host family in Kamonyi, and some bubbly for celebrating New Year's.

And the other side of the closet, filled with items from a shopping spree in Kigali and the Kabunga market. Be jealous of my gas stove!

I must have hiked at least twenty kilometers today through the hills. It felt great on the way down. Coming back up was a different story! Especially since I was carrying a bag full of groceries from the market. And yet I still have energy right now because I have enabled myself to cook my own food! Hooray for fresh vegetables!

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lost and Found

Just as I was returning from my morning jog today, I found 20 franks on the ground (enough to buy one box of 40 matches). I'm not ashamed to pick up loose change off the ground, so I pocketed it. When I put the coin in my pocket I realized that my room key had fallen out of my pocket during my jog!

I retraced my steps and followed the route I had just run. Why do I insist on increasing my jogging distance every day? Along the way I asked people if they had seen my key. I found a young man who was very helpful and came along with me to help me look and ask people if they had seen it. Unfortunately, we never found the key.

When I got home, my headmaster's family tried every other key that they own on the door. The key that I lost turned out to be the only key to the door. So, we had a locksmith come and replace the lock. I found 20 franks this morning, but had to pay 2,000 to get my lock replaced. And of course the 20 I found fell out of my pocket while waiting for the locksmith to come. I'm not going to wear those shorts anymore; the pockets are worthless!

I think I had an asthma attack yesterday. I'm not sure, because I've never had one before. I was jogging between the corn fields and the corn stalks had aromatic blossoms on them. My throat started to close up and I was wheezing uncontrollably. I have always had seasonal allergies, but this has never happened to me before. I stopped running and walked until I caught my breath. Once my breath came back, I returned to a jogging pace and it didn't happen again. And today, despite running a longer distance (twice, because I was looking for a key!) it didn't happen. Weird.

I got my hair cut today. I was thinking about letting it grow out for the next two years because I have never had long hair and I wanted to see what it would be like. But short hair is so easy to take care of and much cooler. It can get hot here in the East. Plus, I am so used to being clean cut that I feel dirty when my hair gets so long.

Can you see the tan line on my forehead from when my hair was long?

Last night I had a beer with my new friend, Pilate. He works for the department of education and he loves to speak English. He is also somehow related to my headmaster. We had a great conversation about development in Rwanda. Pilate explained that Rwandans learn everything in theory. There is not much application of the curriculum that is learned. For example, even though Rwanda is switching over from Francophone to an Anglophone system, Rwandans do not speak day to day in English. Pilate suggested that the reason Rwandans do not speak English is because they are already united under a single language, Kinyarwanda. In other nearby countries, like Congo and Burundi, there are hundreds of languages. Many people speak the European languages in these countries because they are languages that people can unite under. Rwandans don't need to unite under a European language because they already all speak the same language.

Pilate also hypothesized that Francophone countries in Africa are the ones that have political instability. He is happy that Rwanda is switching to Anglophone because the countries that speak English generally have peace. He said that France and Belgium caused more division than England did when the European countries imperialized Africa. I don't know how true this is. There may be some bad blood for France and Belgium after their roles in the war. Nevertheless, I am happy that there are people here who are excited to learn English so that they can further their academics.

Rwamagana has a new governor. I went to a rally with my headmaster to welcome her into her new position. It was sort of like a city council meeting, where the officials gave speeches and people could ask them questions. It was different from any meeting in America, though. Everyone stood up and began clapping in unison. Then the singing began. We sang and clapped like we were in church. It was a lot of fun.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Every New Day

Today is a new day. I decided to stop moping. I got up early this morning and went jogging. The burn in my lungs felt great! I also bought a bunch of fresh fruit for snacking on between meals. Tomorrow I will probably do some other exercises after jogging. I was already thin in America, but now my arms are like sticks! I gotta gain those inches back!

I think I may have broken every rule in the travel handbook except one. I won't go into details, because who knows who reads this?

I finally got the package my parents sent once upon a time long ago. Just in time for Christmas! I was filled with overwhelming joy to see the pictures of my family.

From 2011-12-21

Dad, this photo is for you. It's a giant ant! We have them here out East.

From 2011-12-18

Yesterday I saw a man with his face burned off. Today I saw a girl dragging her limp legs across the sidewalk at the bus station. A mentally-impaired lady begged me for money. I can't assume, but it is hard not to infer that these things are a result of war. And being a "Muzungu" gives me a taste of what life is like for someone who gets stared at and called names. Yet, I cannot compare my life to theirs because my struggles are nowhere near the same level as theirs.

Sometimes my heart completely breaks when I recognize all the problems in the world. In fact, I recently had a conversation with someone about my tendency to want to always be the hero. I have to stop myself from becoming overwhelmed by it all when I realize that I can't fix everything myself. And though there are big problems in the world, my God is bigger. The best thing I can do for the world is to live with sacrificial love for others.

Apparently Rwandans don't have the same standards of censorship for their children as Americans do. My headmaster's children were watching a film last night, and they had it on again this morning. It was a horror film which included bodily dismemberment, impalement, nudity, and lots of blood. Oh, and cannibalism. The film was originally in English, but was dubbed over with a Kinyarwanda narrative. That's right, a narrative; not a direct translation. Basically, it's a guy explaining in Kinyarwada everything that is happening in the movie. Sometimes the movie will pause while he takes the time to explain what is going on. Sometimes it will even rewind and play a scene over again. The end scene, where the cannibal is killed by taking a hook to the face, replayed literally five times! I might have laughed more if the movie weren't so disturbing.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mindlessness and Dead Dictators

I drank entirely too much Fanta today. And updated my FB status too many times. TIA

I also saw an albino. I thought he was Caucasian at first. I wonder what his life is like?

Every time I sleep in this school a dictator dies. Leaders of the world beware.

My own patience surprises even me sometimes. Everything here takes entirely too long. We left the house this morning at 10:30. We got to the school at 2:00. It's normally a twenty minute ride between the city and the school, but my headmaster gets continually sidetracked with talking to people.

I wake up every morning naturally at 5:30. I ate breakfast today at 9:00. Lunch was at 2:00. Dinner at 9:00. With my meals so spread out (and lacking nutrients because they are all cooked out, along with any fiber) it's no wonder I feel drained. Not only that, but my day consisted of sitting for hours listening to my headmaster talk to different people throughout the day. I know very minimal kinyarwanda so I cannot follow along with native speakers. With no calories to burn and nothing to keep my mind busy, I start to shut down. Whenever I start to yawn or turn glassy-eyed, my headmaster asks me if I am tired. I haven't decided yet if it would be rude to tell him that I am more bored than tired. The two probably mean the same in kinyarwanda.

I just want my own space and my own food to cook!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I am a PCV

On Thursday I swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The day was much like having a birthday in that when you have one, you don't suddenly feel any older afterward. I don't feel any different now than I did prior to swearing in. It was merely an affirmation of a three month process of intensive training.

The ceremony, at the US Ambassador's house, made national news. Here's the story. We were on TV! In fact, I met a man today who recognized me from TV as one of the volunteers who swore in. I feel like such a celebrity!

The thirty-six of us spent the last few days in Kigali. It was both hectic and fun. We were given our move-in allowances and set loose to shop and paint the town. I had Chinese food, sushi, a smoothie, hookah,, real coffee and a chicken crepe within the span of a few days. It was blissful.

But the enjoyment has ended with the weekend. I headed off for my site today, but I am homeless. I am writing now from a room in my headmaster's house. I am staying with him until he and the Peace Corps staff find me a home. Which means indefinitely. I was really looking forward to having my own space, and now I feel like my homestay experience has just been extended. In Peace Corps, the highs are really high and the lows are really low. After such a great week, I am frustrated at my housing situation and already missing all of my friends and colleagues who I spent the last three months with.

I am trying to let the situation ground me and remind me of why I am here. It makes me think of the title of my blog. I didn't set out to make residence here. I am an exile, a sojourner. My citizenship is heavenly, and I must remember that my purpose here is to live in eternity, not just for the moment.

I'm done for now, so have some pictures.

This is the T-shirt we had designed for our group. It has a gorilla holding an English book and keyboard, volcanoes, a woman carrying a basket on her head, and a Komera ("Be Strong") logo made to look like a Primus (the most popular beer brand here) logo.

And here I am now with one of my headmaster's children.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Umuryango Wanjye

I finally got a photo of my whole family together. My favorite part is that my brothers and I all wore our matching custom-tailored shiny outfits. Enjoy!

On a more serious note, I will be swearing in as a volunteer next week. I have some tests this weekend, the hardest of which is the language test. So, if you'll excuse me now, I have some studying to do.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Shiny Shirt!

Remember the game Slug Bug? Some people called it Punch Buggy, and I'm sure it went by other names as well, but the premise was always the same. As kids, whenever we would see a Volkswagen Beetle we would punch someone in the arm and yell "Slug Bug!" Here in Rwanda, we have started a similar game. We punch each other in the arms whenever we see someone wearing shiny clothes.

Rwandans love shiny synthetic fabrics. One of my most memorable moments with my host family was when we went out to eat and my brothers dressed up in their shiny yellow shirts. There is a photo of them floating around somewhere on my blog. When I saw them, I told my family that I liked them and that I wanted one for myself.

One day an umudozi (tailor) showed up at our house and took my measurements, as well as those of my brothers. A little more than a week later, my very own shiny red shirt and shiny grey pants appeared, custom made for the equivalent of 20 USD - paid for by the American tax payers, of course. The best part about it is that my two brothers got the same exact outfit. Now that's integration! Hopefully I will get a photo soon so that the world can see how ridiculous I look.

Apparently my shiny shirt was supposed to come with a breast pocket on it, so my family told me to give it to them this morning so that they could take it back to the umudozi and have it sewn on. Now, I have noticed that young Rwandan men tend to wear their clothes baggy. I like my clothes to fit, especially if I am paying for them to be custom tailored. So since my shirt was going back anyway, I informed my family that my pants also needed to be altered because they were way too big on me - by at least a couple of inches around the waist. But my pants did not get altered...

In Rwanda, it is a compliment to tell a girl that she is big. Men strive to grow a pot belly. The size of one's waist line is evidence of their wealth. My family told me that my pants are baggy so that I can grow into them. "One day you will be fat," they said. In a way, I can see how a young man wearing baggy clothes is like wishing to become fat, which is essentially wishing for wealth in this country.

Now I just need to figure out the reasoning behind my pants being so long, too. I don't think I'm going to be growing two inches taller, although it would be nice!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


These last couple of days have been really good. Model school is over and we had a great Thanksgiving. Peace Corps provided us with turkeys, which we slaughtered, gutted, and pit-roasted. I stayed overnight at the training hub last night with some of the other guys and we woke up early to get the coals going for our pit. I am tired and my back muscles are sore, but it was well worth the work that we put into it.

Our Thanksgiving meal turned out great. Everyone helped in some way and all of the dishes were delicious. Besides turkey, we had green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, pumpkin bread, and macaroni and cheese. We also had chocolate chip cookies from a bakery in Kigali.

The turkey pit was very hot.
From 2011-11-23

One of our turkeys had eggs inside it.

Cutting potatoes

Cutting the cheese



Salad dressing


It's not Thanksgiving without football

From 2011-11-23

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Somebody Cares!

I got my first care package. It was an awesome feeling opening it up. I feel so loved! Thanks mom and dad. The box contained a soccer ball, socks and underwear, beef jerky, water enhancers, and candy, to name a few things. I pulled the ball out and pumped it up and I played football out in the street with all the kids for at least an hour.

On a different note, here are some things that I see here all of the time that would not be normal in the US:

· A woman riding on the back of a motorcycle with a baby strapped to her back

· A man riding a bicycle while carrying a dozen live chickens by their feet

· Goats lining every road, tied to stakes. People here refer to goats as “brochettes”, which are essentially goat kabobs. One day, our driver, seeing two kid goats butting heads, says, “Brochettes are fighting.” It was a classic line.

· Cassava “bread”. Yuck! Another trainee said that we do have this in America, though. “It’s called Play-do, and we don’t eat it.”

· Fifty ordinary citizens building a new road using nothing other than garden hoes

· Boys wearing pink or sparkly shirts with lettering that says things like “Princess” or “Miss Universe”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Pictures

The boys watching Despicable Me on my netbook

A view of Kigali city from the Kigali Memorial Center

A view of the city with mass grave in the foreground

The boys were so excited when I brought my bicycle home, they had to wash it for me

And then they kept posing

My bedroom

Brussels, Belgium

This poster was on the same street as the palace. Belgians are weird.


The view from the front porch of my host family's house

My host brother, Napoleon, riding his bicycle in the courtyard

My host brothers, Napoleon and Bruno, playing football with another kid from the village

My host family on the night they got dressed up and took me out for beer and brochettes

The Log

Okay, so I have been really bad at keeping this thing updated, but in my defense, Peace Corps training is really intense. My whole day is scheduled out for me from morning to night. From what current volunteers tell us trainees, training is the toughest part of the PC experience and it is worth it to stick it through.

Well, I finally have some Internet air time and a full laptop battery, so I wanted to post some of my experiences so far. Hopefully I will be able to keep things more up to date once I finish my training. Only one more month to go until swear-in!

I keep a journal, so here are some of my more interesting entries.

September 18, 2011

I arrived at my host family's house late in the evening. Rwanda is very close to the equator, so the sun rises at 6:00 AM and sets at 6:00 PM, thus it was already beginning to get dark. My host mother took me around the village to introduce me to everyone. As soon as the sun went down, it started to pour down rain, so we raced home. The roads here are like hard-packed clay and when it rains they get a slick layer of mud over them. My pants and shoes were covered in mud, and I'm not sure how I didn't fall in the mud.

When we got back to the house, I realized that in the chaos of getting dropped off, my backpack got left behind on the car. This wouldn't have been a big problem, except that the keys to my luggage were inside of my backpack. I kept the other set of keys in my money belt, but the strap on my money belt had broken, so I locked it up in my backpack. I was now in a stranger's home in a foreign country unable to get to any of the things that I had packed. I had to borrow sheets and wear the same muddy clothes the next day.

September 19, 2011

I got my backpack! Clean clothes! I danced with my host brother, Napoleon, and we made shadow puppets on the wall. I showed my family where I am from on my US and world maps.

September 20, 2011

I showed Napoleon how to start fire with a magnifying glass. It's a skill that is appreciated the world over. Then we did some stretches, push-ups, and yoga. I played football (soccer) in the street on the way home. It was a great chance to practice Kinyarwanda.

I had Napoleon show me how to fetch water in the jerrycan. While we were waiting for our jerrycans to fill, a little girl who was walking down the road dropped the bucket of flour that she was carrying. The flour covered a little boy who had been nearby. It was quite comedic until the little girl ran away crying. A crowd of children gathered and started laughing. I wanted to help so badly, but I didn't know what to do. Finally, a couple of adults came over and scolded the children and helped the little girl clean up the mess. We headed home and I carried my jerrycan from the bottom with both hands because it is immensely heavy when filled with water. My host mother told me "that is bad" when she saw this, but it was better than having my back muscles pull to one side while carrying the jerrycan by the handle.

At home, I watched my brothers Napoleon and Bruno build forts with the sofa cushions.

September 21, 2011

I finally put some water in my water filter. Then I came home to my room flooded. My language skills are slowly improving. Mama yelled at me for drinking Coke straight from the bottle instead of using a straw. It's taboo here, probably for sanitary reasons. Mama and Napoleon were singing along to a song on the radio. I think its the Rwandan national anthem. Then I heard a line about genocide. Awkward.

September 22, 2011

I played football in the street again. I love playing with the kids because they make the best language teachers. In return, I teach them weird things, like how to make fart noises with their armpits. Because of the constant rain, playing football left my shoes very muddy. Mama took my shoes and cleaned them inside and out. They are cleaner than when I bought them!

Dinner was strange. We had cassava bread (which is more of a mush than a bread) and liver and intestine. I choked down a whole piece of liver with lots of tea.

September 23, 2011

I'm one week into living in the heart of Africa. Time to take my crazy pill (mefloquin has some powerful side effects, including vivid dreams and hallucinations). I got a new water filter - one that doesn't leak. Thank God! The water at the hub has so much bleach in it, it taste awful! Pineapple here is amazing. And french fries. And stars.

I helped Mama chop up potatoes. Rwandans cut everything in their hands. I told Mama that in America we use cutting boards to chop stuff. She told me that in America we are rich. It was the perfect retort. Mefl's kicking in. Roll film.

September 24, 2o11

The weather here changes so rapidly from cold and raining, to hot sunshine, and back to rain again. Today we did Umuganda, which is a required community service in Rwanda that takes place the last Saturday of every month. We dug new roads through the area using nothing more than garden hoes. It really is quite amazing to see how quickly work gets done with such primitive tools when you have so many people work at the project at one time.

When I got home, I washed my clothes. And then it rained. I wonder how long it takes clothes to dry here? This diet gives me bad gas. At least I don't have diarrhea...yet.

September 25, 2011

I went to church today. I liked it. I would have liked it more if it were less than four hours long. There was lots of dancing and singing and "Amens". Then I felt like the preacher was yelling at me. I went home and did some laundry, and then we ate. Mup, our training manager, took some of us out for drinks. It bothered Mama that I was out late. It's strange how 8:30 is late here. I think I ate goat today. I don't know, but it tasted good. It was nice to have something with some spice to it for once. Wow. It just hit me. I'm living in an African village.

September 26, 2o11

This is such an eye-opening experience. When I lived in the US, I knew that we take a lot for granted there, but you don't fully understand the extent of it until you live in the midst of real poverty.

Today, a boy demanded money from me and threatened me with a stick. I held my ground and laughed at him.

I managed to survive a whole week without American technology, but now I listen to Thrice on my Zune before I go to sleep. I might eventually pull out my laptop, but for now I am doing fine without it. It is startling to wake up and see the inside of a mosquito net rather than my bedroom in America.

September 28, 2011

This morning, Napoleon was singing Justin Bieber. And then I threw up. I had the runs all day. I downed 4 packets of Emergen-C (1,000 mg of vitamin C each).

September 29, 2011

I feel much better today. The vitamins worked miracles. Today Mama and Napoleon washed all of my clothes while I was in language class. I feel like such a mama's boy. I can't believe how much I have experienced in just two weeks. I'm wondering what site will be like...

September 30, 2011

A large group of us got together at a bar and had some beers and brochettes (that delicious goat meat) and we played a trivia game. We had a great time and the decompression was much needed.

October 1, 2011

We visited the market today, which is held every Saturday except for Umuganda. It was chaotic. I didn't buy anything there. I brought my bike home from the hub. The boys were very excited about it, and they and some neighbor boys washed it for me. I got a picture of them all posing in front of it as if it is some kind of exotic car. After dinner, I busted out a pack of UNO cards. It was an interesting experience trying to teach a game using broken Kinyarwanda/English. It was great practice using numbers.

October 2, 2011

We visited the Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali. It was some heavy stuff. I have been to the Museum of Tolerance in LA, but this was different. People living in Rwanda are still heavily affected by the genocide. It is possible that I will be teaching children who are orphans as a result of the genocide. I bought some things at the supermarket in Kigali - luxury items, like peanut butter, chocolate, ketchup, cookies, toilet paper, and name brand toothpaste. I got a chance to wander around the busy part of Kigali. It was hot and clear this morning, and then a storm starting dumping rain from out of nowhere. The thunder resounds here for up to thirty seconds at a time. Creation proclaiming His name!

October 3, 2011

I got to observe a Rwandan classroom today. It was interesting. It was similar, yet different from American classrooms. It made me very grateful for the quality of my education. Napoleon is addicted to UNO now.

October 4, 2011

I finally met my host father. We played football outside the house for a while before I realized who he was. At first I thought he was a teenager, but then I realized he was older. One of the trainees announced today that she is leaving. Napoleon beat me four times at UNO. He is getting good at it, which makes it very fun to play.

October 7, 2011

Today we had a very good but intense tech session. A man spoke to us who had lived through the genocide. He answered a lot of very tough questions. During his speech, one of the female language teachers suddenly let out a shriek and ran out of the room. She was obviously experiencing some form of PTSD.

In the afternoon, I went on a bike ride with Jon. We saw some incredible views of the Rwandan hills. Then we stopped for some Fantas. Jon bought a bunch of chocolates and shared them with everyone, including everyone in the boutique. The girl working in the boutique asked Jon if it was his birthday. Apparently chocolate, even the cheap kind found in the village, is a special item for Rwandans. The longer I'm here, the more I see how much we take for granted in the US and it makes me sick.

I had the most explosive gas in my life today.

October 8, 2011

My host family took me out for brochettes. It was a big deal for them. They got all dressed up. My host father can drink! He held my hand all the way home. Male hand-holding is acceptable and widely practiced in Rwanda.

October 9, 2011

We went to Butare to visit the national museum. The museum sucked, but we got to visit an ice cream shop that a PCV helped a women's coop group start up. The chocolate ice cream was heavenly! And the PCV who helped start up the shop was cute, too.

October 11, 2011

Last night I dreamed that I wrote my name down on a paper, but when I looked at it, it wasn't my name. The name was Noah Eastman. Alter ego?

October 12, 2o11

I am relieved whenever I hear the reassuring thud of a solid stool hitting the bottom of the latrine. Diarrhea is just too common.

October 13, 2o11

This morning, Napoleon was singing "Peanut Butter Jelly Time". This afternoon, he was singing "Bicycle Races" by Queen. These were proud moments. I started watching the film Tsotsi with my family. It's strange how much more I can relate to the film now that I live in Africa.

October 14, 2011

I found out where my site placement is going to be. I am excited and nervous to go visit. We have to find our own ways back to the training site after our site visits. My site is not too far from Kigali. I'm hoping for electricity! I'm going to try to get a modem while I am in Kigali.

October 15, 2011

There was a wedding today. I did not see it, but the music that they started playing early in the morning (well before sunrise) woke me up. A group of us trainees went to a field and played some ultimate frisbee. I lost my flashlight while playing. Bummer. I washed a lot of clothes. A mouse ran out from under my bed while I was taking off my shoes. I'm contemplating getting a cat when I get to site.

October 16, 2011

I went for a morning bike ride with Napoleon. We went back to the field to look for my flashlight, but no luck. When we got back home, we mopped the house, including my room. When I moved my bed to mop under it, I found the mouse's stash of food. We went to watch a football game in the evening. A girl followed me all the way home, harassing me, asking me for money. I wanted to beat her in the face.

October 17, 2011

I rode my bike to language class this morning. It was fun hauling ass down hill, but sucked coming back up. Napoleon ripped up a sugar cane from out of the front yard and we hacked it up and chewed on it. This morning, Napoleon proudly showed me that he had killed the mouse that had been in my room. I'm all packed and ready to leave for my site visit tomorrow.

October 18, 2011

We arrived in Kigali yesterday and got to meet the headmasters of our schools. I arrived to my site visit this evening after spending the day in Kigali. I talked to some of the students at my school and they were excited to meet me. I am covered in mosquito bites because we did not have enough mosquito nets in Kigali.

October 26, 2011

I just had the most incredible dream about a chocolate glazed cream filled Krispie Kreme donut. Then the roosters woke me up. And since I was still half asleep, I began to have lucid dreams about different ways to kill the roosters.

October 27, 2011

I haven't been writing as much lately. I guess that means I'm adjusting. Things are becoming more normal for me. My site visit went well. My school is really nice, the students are very polite, and my headmaster kind of looks like Shaq. My headmaster walked in on me bathing. Although, I find all of the public breast feeding in this country more awkward than that moment. I had a feedback interview with Mup. He informed me that my host family loves me.

October 30, 2011

Yesterday was Umuganda. That means I have nasty blisters on my hand again. If we did this kind of work more than once a month, I would be able to build up some callouses. Alas, my soft hands bleed. This morning, while Napoleon and I mopped the house, Mama killed one of the roosters. Bruno helped her clean the meat. Bruno took the head of the rooster and stuck it on one of the feet and made it walk around. I laughed the hardest at this moment since I have been here. The chicken was delicious. The hens thought so too when they ate the leftovers.

I had a conversation with a boy who attends the boarding school nearby. He shared his experience in the boarding school with me. He told me how there is not enough food for everyone, and in the boarding schools, they eat not for nutrition, but simply to fill their stomachs and ward of hunger. I wonder if I can help move toward solving this problem while I am here in this country?

More chicken for dinner. That was the most flavorful chicken breast I've ever had. I started watching one of the films on my computer and found out that it is dubbed over in Italian.

October 31, 2011

A frustrating part about PC-Rwanda is that it is still a new program and very inefficient. I have learned to shut off my brain for extended periods of time so that I don't go completely insane. Mama brought home sausages. They were spicy and delicious. I want training to be over. But I will try to enjoy the rest of it while I am still here.

November 4, 2011

The last few days have been model school, and we will continue to teach for the next few weeks. The first couple of days were very rough, but I'm starting to gain some confidence and become more comfortable teaching. The school that I am teaching at is a half hour drive away, and the village that it is in is beautiful. Today, during a break, I stood at the edge of a hill and gazed out towards the view of the mountains. I got to try pineapple wine, which is very cheap and 14% ABV. It tasted like a cocktail when mixed with Sprite. A little too sweet for my taste.

November 9, 2011

I just woke up because I thought I heard a mouse in my room. The mouse droppings in the corner prove my instincts to be correct. Model school has been going fairly well, although I skipped the last couple of days because I am sick with a sinus infection. I'm sure I could have used some of the time off to write lesson plans, but I read half of a book instead. And now I'm going back to my book to help me fall back to sleep.

November 10, 2011

My little mouse friend just ran by. But no worries. Mama put out some poison tonight, so hopefully that takes care of him. Model school went well today. I'm getting more comfortable doing this. Some of the other trainees have been experiencing problems with really bad bed bugs, but so far I have been fine.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Edit: Every three months this post gets lots of hits from new Peace Corps Trainees searching for a packing list. If this is you, click the 'Packing List' link at the top of the page to see my packing list as this post does not contain that list.

Today's been a productive day considering I don't have a job now. I listened in on two conference calls. I only had to call in for one of them, but I did both. Over-achiever, I know. It must be the marketer in me that has to collect as much information as possible, no matter how seemingly useless. I even stayed on the line at the end of each call so that I could hear the names of all of the other volunteers who called in. You may call that creepy, but I call it research.

I started packing last night. I didn't think it would be this hard. I mean, how difficult is it to take all of the stuff that I need to pack and stuff it into a couple of suitcases? I kept finding myself running into this weird emotional barrier. Once I saw everything laid out in front of me I felt overwhelmed. I'm not worried about going over my weight limit or that I will forget to pack something. It's more like the weight of what my life is going to be like for the next two years finally hit me.

I bought some seeds today. I'm not sure if they will make it past customs, but it's worth a try. It sounds like it is very easy to grow things in Rwanda, so I am excited to grow a garden once I get to my site. Of course, it's probably easier to grow a garden almost anywhere besides the High Desert! I got some basil (my favorite herb), tomatoes, zucchini, and cilantro. I should have gotten jalapenos too so that I can make salsa. Care package, anyone?

In between this illusion of productivity, I've been sitting in my room listening to Thrice's Major/Minor album over and over again. Dearest Thrice, you are going to be my crutch of sanity for the next two years!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I would like to take a moment to specifically thank certain people in my life who have made my entry into Peace Corps possible. Nearly everyone in my life has been very supportive, so I know that I am going to miss some names. My apologies in advance if I miss you. Know that your support is very appreciated.

Brett Dayton - You were the first person I talked to about the Peace Corps. Your encouragement is a huge reason why I decided to go through with it. So if it ruins my life, I blame you first. Thank you for all of your prayers, words of encouragement, and for writing me a letter of recommendation. I love you and will miss you. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to hold your baby before I leave!

Bobby Blackwell - You procrastinating bastard! You had me so worried that I would not get all of my letters in on time. But you came through for me and got it in on time. Barely. And I know that you probably wrote a very glowing letter for me, so thank you!

Dr. Newman - You taught me how to manage people. Leadership is a natural trait, one that I reluctantly see in myself, but management is something that must be learned and practiced. You pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me grow. You also told me to choose a career that I am going to be passionate about. Thank you for everything you taught me and thank you for the letter of recommendation.

Mykel and Kim Pickens - You have given me your support in so many ways, not only in the last year but also throughout my life. I admire you as role models.You provided me with so much more than I ever expected. You lifted a lot of weight off of my shoulders. I love you guys. Thanks so much!

Jubal and Holly Schneider - My sister, always the voice of reason, you made sure that I thought all of this out before taking the plunge. The two of you have supported me financially beyond any point that I ever expected. Thanks for everything. I'm going to miss you and the kids a whole lot. See you on video chat!

Jason and Jennifer Pasimio - Your pride in me is almost palpable. Thanks for putting up with us for two weeks when we took over your house! I will miss you and the kids. I'm glad I got to hold Natalie before leaving! See you on video chat!

Grandpa Burnidge and Toni- Thank you for providing me with luggage! That was a total life saver. I appreciate it so much. I love you guys.

Mom and Dad - So I stayed at home a bit longer than I ever expected I would. Thanks for having me and supporting me. You've opened up a lot of possibilities in my life. I love you and I hope I make you proud.

Thank you to all of my friends and family, the AVBC College Crew, all of the ladies (and gentlemen) at Union Bank, everyone who came out to support me at my party, and anyone who has said a prayer or spoken words of encouragement to me. I love all of you guys and will try my best to keep in touch with everyone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vacation Part 2

I'm home from vacation! Today was a lazy day, recovering from the long drive home. I have lots of pictures to share, so I'm going to post them as albums. Enjoy!

August 15

We browsed downtown Mount Vernon and strolled the River Walk. It was a beautiful sunny day.

August 17

We went to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. Sadly, my camera battery died early in the day so I didn't get as many photos as I would have liked. Taking photos of the animals was great practice with the camera.

August 19

We hit downtown Anacortis for lunch at a popular local deli. We worked off lunch with a hike around Whidbey Island. The island is on the other side of Deception Pass, so called because Vancouver had mistakenly thought that Whidbey Island was a peninsula. The area has an interesting history. The route was used by Ben Ure and Lawrence "Pirate" Kelly to smuggle Chinese immigrant laborers. Ben Ure would tie the immigrants up in burlap sacks to hide them. If customs agents approached, he would throw the sacks overboard. The bodies of the immigrants would float up into what became known as Dead Man's Bay.

August 22

Seattle was a lot of fun! It was a guys' day with my dad and my brother-in-law. We walked Pike Place Market, I got to see the first Starbucks store, and there was a very talented couple of street performers, or buskers. We ate lunch at a restaurant on the pier and then finished the day with a few races at K-1 Raceway.

August 23

We visited downtown Fairview, which is the old part of Bellingham. Plaques line the sidewalks describing intriguing historical notes. One of the plaques reads "Unknown Dead Men Displayed Here 1901". Apparently this corner was used to display the bodies of unknown dead people.

August 25

The guys got together again to hike Little Mountain, but this time we took the two older boys along.

August 27

We headed home on Saturday morning and started our 20 hour drive.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It has been awhile since I have posted an update, so here it is.

I got information on my orientation, which will be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania next month. My flight and hotel room are already booked. After spending a few days learning about my expectations as a volunteer, going over safety procedures and getting the last of my vaccinations, we will be departing JFK airport for Rwanda with a layover in Brussels. It is going to be a hectic and exciting week. But until then...vacation!

My last day of work was on Friday. It was also somebody's birthday, so we had a little potluck. As always, my homemade bread got devoured. The ladies at work pitched in together to get me a case and light for the Amazon Kindle that my parents got me for my birthday. It was a bittersweet day in that I was excited to be moving on, but sad to be leaving all of my friends at work. It hasn't really hit me yet that I don't have a job right now. I feel like I will be waking up on Monday to get ready for work.

My Kindle in its case with light

I am typing this right now from the living room in my sister's house in Washington state. It was a 21 hour drive from Southern California to Northern Washington. The long drive was good conditioning for all of the long flights that I will be on in the coming month.

My favorite cities to drive through on the way up here were Portland and Seattle. They are both very clean and pretty cities. I was the driver when we came through Seattle, so no photos until we go back for a visit, but here are some photos I snapped on the way through Portland.

Washington is a beautiful state. I have seen ferns for the first time! This place is a stark contrast to the brown color of the California desert. I snapped lots of pictures during a short hike we took up a mountain near my sister's house. We even found a couple of geocaches! Photos from our hike up Big Rock - only a couple hundred yards from my sister's house - follow.

The trail head is a local secret, hidden behind a wall of foliage.

The trail makes its way up Big Rock under a thick canopy of trees. The soil is a rich brown color, the trees are covered in moss, and the ferns on the ground are shaded by the umbrella of trees that grow above.

Sometimes a fallen tree will grow a young tree within its trunk.

The upper portion of the trail took a steep grade up to the summit.

Views from the top.

From the geological survey.


Berries grow wild up here.

The pub at the end of the road - also the end of a round-about.

I stitched together a panorama at the top of Big Rock. Unfortunately, it is too big of a file to upload. [edit: the panorama can be viewed here] Hopefully the rest of these photos do the view justice enough. All of the photos are from a new camera, so I apologize if they are not the best of quality.


Washington is so green!
Washington is so grey!
Everything is better after you travel. Food taste amazing, sleep feels great, and just showering and brushing your teeth makes you feel like a brand new person!
God's creation speaks of His majesty no matter where you are.
My brother-in-law was showing off a knife to me. Like any sane person would do, I tested how sharp it was by filleting my thumb.
God's blessing overwhelmingly abound in my life. I am thankful to be able to visit my family before leaving the country for two years.