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.