Saturday, July 4, 2009

Liberation Day

(Pictured here are some of the children from my health/English/art youth class enjoying the supplies that have been given to us by my generous friends and family in the states.)

Happy Fourth of July! Today is the birthday of the United States AND it is the day that the genocide ended in Rwanda. 'Liberation Day'! Today, therefore, is a big day for Rwandan Nationals AND U.S. Ex-pats. I hope everyone is having a great day!

I am so sorry for not writting sooner; I have been super busy AND the internet has not been working at the hospital, at which I have an office.

Before I get into the bulk of my entry, I'd like to say that I am officially done with my CNA...well, I am done with the first draft, but that is the hardest part, right? Also, I got some GREAT packages from Lockport Township High School and one of the school's most awesome clubs, Club Interact. This club is part of Rotary and its goal is to promote community service and internationl understanding. Thank you, LTHS and Club Interact for the great teaching supplies! I have already put them to great use and I am sharing the extras with my fellow volunteers here in Rwanda.

I don't think I have mentioned this before, but LTHS is a partner with me here in Rwanda through Peace Corps' 'World Wise Schools Match'. This program partners a school in the U.S. with a Peace Corps volunteer; doing so, enables the school to learn more about Peace Corps and the country in which the volunteer is serving. I was very fortunate to be partnered with LTHS! I actually graduated from Bolingbrook H.S. and I remember competing against LTHS students when I ran track and X-country for BHS. Anyways, they are a great group and I thank them for their packages and their support.

Okay, so on to the bulk of the entry. I realize that not everyone that can read this entry can access my facebook page to check out my photos. I have been posting photos as fast as I have been taking them and a couple weeks ago I posted a bunch of my house. HOWEVER, I realize many of you cannot see them. Therefore, I have included below a letter that I have recently sent to another American partner of mine, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Bolingbrook. (St. Francis is my home parish in the states and I have stayed in contact with them since I have left. They are currently collecting supplies for me as well. Thanks, everyone!) Below is a letter that I recently sent to them; the letter is about my house and a bit about my life here in Rwanda. Check it out!

(If you can check my facebook, take a look. I posted more pics just now.)

Work here is going well. I am integrating into the community very well and I am beginning to get into a routine. I suppose ‘routine’ is not the best word to use; there is nothing really routine about my days here. Hahaha! I would say that I am becoming acclimated to life in Rwanda. Yes, ‘acclimated’ is a much better term to use. Haha!

Life in Rwanda is much more different than life in the United States. In the states, I had a routine that would only be affected by small things like missing a bus or getting stuck in traffic. These inconveniences, though annoying, would only delay me a few minutes to an hour at the most. In Rwanda, however, the time it takes to rebound from these ‘smaller’ inconveniences can take hours or even a full day.

For example, my daily activities depend mainly upon the weather. Case in point, today I expected to go into town and run some errands until I had to teach my health class tonight. However, as I look out the window right now, I see that it might rain. (As you are reading this letter, Rwanda has entered its dry season; however as I am writing to you, Rwanda is still in the thralls of its rainy season.) I dare not walk or ride my bike to town (eight kilometers one way); getting caught in the rain far from home is dangerous for many reasons no matter where you are in the world. I can take a taxi into town, but if it rains while I am in the taxi, the road becomes dangerous (the roads in my area are not paved and get muddy very quickly). If I take a taxi and the rain does not begin until I am in town, I am still presented with a problem because no taxi will drive when the roads are wet and muddy. Sometimes it rains for a few minutes and sometimes it is all day; depending on the situation, I might be stuck in town for the night and, therefore, will miss teaching my class.

After thinking through the several possible scenarios, I have decided to stay at home and run some errands here in my village. HOWEVER, the rain even affects my chores at home…especially my laundry. I do not have a laundry machine or any kind of appliance that would help me in my efforts to clean my cloths. I use a bucket of water, soap, and my hands. I hang my cloths on a line outside, so they can sun-dry. However, because it is rainy season, catching the sun becomes a full-day activity sometimes. I generally end up draping my damp cloths all around the inside of my house to dry while it rains outside. (Draping cloths around the inside of my house looks a bit comical; I don’t have much space, so from the outside it appears as though my house has become a market for selling ‘American Eagle’ and ‘A&F’ clothing. Haha!)

Please do not misunderstand me, I am not complaining. It doesn’t rain all the time here and even when it does, I don’t mind it. Also, I know I said my house is small, but it is a great house; I have no complaints. It is rustic according to American standards and relatively modern for Rwandan standards.

I say my house is ‘rustic’ for American standards (or for Bolingbrook standards, at least) because it lacks most Western luxuries. My house is one story and has four rooms: a bedroom, a storage room, a living room, and a dining room. I do have a kitchen, where food is prepared and stored, and another storage area, but these rooms are outside of the house in an adjoining structure.

The ‘shower’ and ‘toilet’ are outside the house too, father away from the other rooms. The shower and toilet are two separate rooms, but have been joined under the same roof in a singular structure; they have been combined to form one unit, separated by a wall. The shower is an area of space in which I take a bucket of water and wash myself and the toilet is a hole in the ground that is a few meters deep.

Though the house is rustic according to Bolingbrook , IL standards, it is pretty standard, almost modern, for Rwanda . I have electricity, when it is not storming, so I have been able to have some light, charge my cell phone (yes, they have cell phones here) and camera, and listen to the radio. I could even buy and use a television or a refrigerator, but these items are so expensive that the appliances would not be worth the investment.

The structure of the house is concrete, but the adjoining kitchen and storage area are mud-brick constructions. Every part of my house, even the shower/toilet area, is covered with a tin roof; this may not seem like a big deal, but I have seen some houses that are using dried banana leaves for roofing. My fence is, I think, the coolest part of the house; it extends all around the property line and is made of bamboo shoots that have been strategically planted to form a living barrier.

I don’t feel like I am doing my house justice in its description here. Hahaha! I enjoy writing, but I do not pretend to be a great writer. I have posted a few pictures on facebook; feel free to visit it, see some pictures, and hear more stories.

Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers!

Imana ibarinde kandi ibahe umugisha.
(May God keep you and give you blessings.)

Amahoro (Peace),

Emmett V. Reeb, III

P.S. Ah, ha! It didn’t rain today after all; my cloths can dry in the sun! Thank God for small gifts!

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