Tuesday, December 8, 2009

PCT Site Visits, a Close Shave, and GLOW Camp

(Pictured Here: Dieudonne and Mugeni walking down the aisle.)

November 2009 closed out strong and December 2009 is looking AWESOME! This is becoming a great end to a great year.

Thanksgiving was pretty cool. A bunch of us PCVs got together and cooked at the Peace Corps office in Kigali. We had all the fixings: sweet potatoes, a turkey, and even apple pie for desert. Good times. Good times.

After Thanksgiving (on Sunday, November 29) I attended the wedding of two nurses, Dieudonne and Mugeni. As weddings go, it was pretty standard. Don't get me wrong, it was fun and it was AWESOME to see my two co-workers marry each other, but the wedding itself was normal and followed the same formula as the other weddings in which I have participated. However, I only attended the religious portion of this wedding. I missed the dowry ceremony, which took place earlier in the month; I couldn't afford to go to Gisenyi again, the site of the dowry ceremony.

Later that week, Peace Corps began scheduling some of the current trainees to visit me at my site. Their objectives were to live with me for a couple days, ask me questions, and get a general feel for living in rural Rwanda. I had three different trainees come at two separate times to visit me and each visit lasted about three days and two nights.

The visits went great, I thought. The trainees that visited me were good guys and I am sure they are going to do very well in Rwanda. These site visits are not standard practice, however. Usually, trainees are sent out to their sites for a week to see where they will be living and working for the next two or three years. Because these trainees have yet to have their sites finalized, Peace Corps Rwanda decided to send them to current PCV sites for a couple of days instead.

I am very happy these site visits happened. Not only did I get to know some of my colleagues a bit better, but our exploration of the countryside led to a few interesting stories. Most notable, I suppose, is the hair cut adventure that Scott, Kevin and I had last week. The long and short of it, quite literally, is that I had my long, golden locks shaved COMPLETELY OFF...I am talking to the scalp, people...bare skin! Ah! So the story goes a little like this...

...Scott and Kevin came to the Rwamagana country side (last Monday afternoon), where I live. I got their things in my house and we rested for a bit. After brief introductions, I asked them what they would like to do first. Kevin mentioned that he wanted to get a hair cut. Scott and I agreed that this was a good idea for us all, as we were all a bit shaggy looking. I was excited about this expedition because I had never had my hair cut in my village; I always went into Rwamagana city and convinced PCV Crissy to cut my hair. I have received hair cuts by Rwandans before...most Rwandans don't know how to cut white peoples' hair...I never really like the results...ha! HOWEVER, I did need a hair cut and I knew that I would not see Crissy for another two weeks, as she was leaving for Ethiopia the very next day. I figured I would just suck it up and get another Rwandan hair cut.

Kevin, Scott, and I walked next door to the barber shop. Though we only traveled a few yards, we already attracted a sizable crowd; it was time to see the white man get his hair cut! After briefly negotiating the price for our hair cuts, I volunteered to go first. I figured that Kevin and Scott would see me get my hair cut and decide if a Rwandan hair cut is what they really wanted; I just wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting into.

So I took a seat in the chair and I began making small talk with Kevin and Scott...you know, just shootin' the breeze...trying to be a good host. Well, I was looking at them while I was speaking and I was NOT paying attention to how my hair was being cut. When I did get a glimpse of the left side of my head, where he was shaving, I noticed how much hair he was actually shaving off...I became a bit startled to say the least. Every time I have had a Rwandan hair cut, my hair was cut very short, BUT I still had some hair on my head; I figured that this time would be no different. WRONG! This hair cut was to the freakin' scalp! He was sheering me like a sheep!

At that point in the hair cut, I had two choices: I could have him do the same shaving job to the right side of my head and have some sort of bowl cut or something OR I could just get it all shaved off. Well...I just let him shave everything off and now I am bald. I have only now really started getting used to how it looks and feels. It sure is a lot cooler, that's for sure, BUT I look like a giant baby! I really don't care for the look and neither do my neighbors in the village; they openly laughed and mocked me...kind of a humbling day. The whole thing was still pretty funny, though.

Cultural Lesson Learned: Make sure the barber has a guard on his sheers before he begins shaving!

The next day was December 1, World AIDS/HIV Day. The health center I work at organized a village-wide party at the local group school to educate people about the disease and celebrate healthy living. The party was great! It began with some speakers and short sketches organized by the cooperatives run by HIV positive villagers. Later in the evening a live band came and played for a couple hours. This live act was complete with drums, electric guitar, and bass guitar; the first live band of this kind that I have seen in Rwanda. They were great! We danced in this little classroom for almost two straight hours. It was soooooo fun! After the dance party, the nurses got together with me, Kevin, and Scott and we had a couple of beers and goat brochettes. It was so well organized and so much fun.

After I dropped off Kevin and Scott in Kigali on Wednesday of last week, I went straight to the Red Cross Center in Kigali to help my fellow PCVs in organizing and executing the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camp. The Camp hosted 80 girls, ages 14-20 years, from all over Rwanda for about a week. The Camp's purpose was to encourage and empower these girls to be leaders in their schools, communities, and, after graduation from secondary school, in all of Rwanda. The Camp had notable speakers talk about public health and nutrition, workshops about leadership and teamwork, and a bunch of fun events such as a dance party and a talent show.

I could speak more in depth about GLOW Camp, but it would seriously take like two or three blog entries to describe the week and what happened....it was AWESOME! AAAAAAAAAND, it was totally and completely organized and executed by PCVs; I didn't do much to help put this GLOW Camp together, but I did help execute it. I was a facilitator and I was in charge of escorting a specific group of eight (8) girls from session to session; I even taught a few health sessions to the girls myself. It was blast. I just got back from it and I am in a state of exhausted enthusiasm, if that makes any sense. I probably should have waited to write this blog entry, but I am going to Tanzania next weekend and I still have a bunch of things to do before I can go on this vacation.

Random Side Note: PCVs in Kigali found a place that is open 24hrs; it sells beer, Gyros, and other fast foods! This news is so incredible, you don't even know.

Well, that has been my life since the last entry. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone. Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as my friends and I trek through Tanzania. Peace!

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