Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Camp BE

Last year I was a councilor for a project called Camp GLOW. You may remember the blog entry I posted in April 2010; it included this website:

http://campglowrwanda.wordpress.com/

Well, we just finished another Camp GLOW. Though I was not a facilitator for this year's Camp GLOW, I was chosen to be a councilor for Camp BE. Camp BE is just like Camp GLOW as far as curriculum is concerned, the only difference is that GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) is a girl's camp and Camp BE (Boys Excelling) is a boys camp.

I don't have any pictures to post yet and there is no 'Camp BE Rwanda' website to refer you to as of right now (this was PC Rwanda's first Camp BE), but all of this is coming soon. However, like I said, both camps were pretty similar and the same subject matter was taught last year. I encourage you to take a look at the website I have posted above if you are interested in learning more about what happens at these week-long events.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Third Year Service Gets the Green Light

(Pictured here: Rwanda. West Province is in pink. Rusizi is the part of the West Province in red.)

Notification:

"Hi Emmett and congrats! You have been officially selected to be the PCVL [Peace Corps Volunteer Leader] in Rusizi [West Province, Rwanda]." - APCD Peace Corps Rwanda.
Message dated Monday, December 13th 2010 7:58am.

Some Notes:

Rusizi is a district (akarere) in Western Province, Rwanda. Its capital is Cyangugu, the major city of the Rwandan south-west and the district contains large parts of the former Cyangugu Province. The district lies at the southern end of Lake Kivu, where it empties into the Rusizi River (after which the district is named). Rusizi's capital, Cyangugu, is one of the three major Rwandan lake ports of Lake Kivu (along with Kibuye and Gisenyi) and it contiguous with the much larger Congolese city of Bukavu. The district also contains the western half of Nyungwe Forest, a popular tourist destination, being one of the last remaining forest areas of Rwanda and home to chimpanzees and many other species of primate.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Climbing Mt. Bisoke






Pictured here (from top to bottom):
*Our hiking group begins the trek up Mt. Bisoke
*The crater lake at the top of Mt. Bisoke.
*Nehemie gives a speech at a party to celebrate the health center and its new supervisor. (Pictured here from left to right: the executive secretary of Rubona Sector, the mayor of Rwamagana District, the mayor's wife, and the supervisor of the health center in Rubona)
*******
Volcano National Park is one of three national parks in Rwanda and it is probably the most famous. Located in the Northwest region of Rwanda (in the country's North Province), it shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is home to a collection of endangered fauna, such as forest elephants and mountain gorillas.
*
Hikes through the mountainous jungles to track the gorillas exist for tourists and nationals. These tours, however, were a bit out of my price range. What was more affordable for me was a hike up Mt. Bisoke.
*
Located in Volcano National Park, Mt. Bisoke stands at approximately 3, 700 meters. It is one of five volcanoes (all of which are dormant) present at the park; Mt. Bisoke is the third largest. Of these five volcanoes, two have crater lakes at the top; Mt. Bisoke has the largest of the two.
*
There were seven of us that Saturday morning, the 13th of November. We set out at about 6am from the house we were staying at for the weekend. We were able to get a free ride to the park office, but once we were there we discovered that we needed another vehicle to take us into the park itself. Calls were placed and negotiations were made and by 10am we were well into our hike.
*
The park office assigned us a guide and arranged for porters and armed officers to meet us at the beginning of the 'trail.' I have now visited all three of Rwanda's national parks; each time we were assigned a guide, but this was the first time that we were assigned porters and an armed escort.
*
Our guide told us that we MIGHT see elephants and gorillas on our hike, but probably not. We didn't see any animals at all, actually. He also told us that because it was rainy season it would be about 4-5 hours up the volcano and 3-4 hours back down. Again, his predictions were correct.
*
The hike up was exhausting and, after reflecting on the experience, it was probably a bit dangerous, too. The rainy season left the trail in ruins; it was really one big mudslide. Some places were pretty steep and rocky, too. We all made it to the top safe, but some wrong footing could have easily left some of us with broken bones.
*
I felt bad for our porters, guide, and escorts. Each time we stopped for a small break, we (the westerners) took something out of our bags to snack on or drink. I could tell that we seemed like a bunch of huge fatties to them - eating and/or drinking something every 20 minutes. I could tell they just wanted to keep going. We offered them food and drink, but they took it in a way that insinuated that they weren't really hungry or thirsty at all; they just took the gift to be nice. They also hardly broke a sweat, which made me feel that much more out of shape because I was huffing and puffing all the way up that damn trail. Man, I gotta quit smokin'.
*
Anyway, we made it to the top by about 1:30pm, ate lunch, saw the crater lake, and walked back down. The view was beautiful and the crater lake was really neat. We couldn't walk around it, though. We had to stay on the Rwandan half of the volcano; the other half was on DRC territory.
*
For me, the walk down was probably the most difficult and the most fun part of the experience. Slipping and sliding down the trail, we mocked our falls and laughed at our mud-covered clothing.
*
My situation was a very specific sort of comic relief, however. A few hours into our trip up Mt. Bisoke, I split my pants. As I retreated down the mountain, I noticed that the split had taken on a life of its own and ran almost the entire middle seam from front to back, exposing my 'Ghostbusters' boxers. It was about that same time (noticing the split in the crotch of my pants and the thick layer of mud collecting around my knees and ankles) that I realized I had foolishly only brought one pair of pants with me for the weekend - the pair I was currently wearing!
*
Some people had no clothing malfunctions and less problems with the terrain, however. The seven of us were grouped with three others (2 Belgians and a Swiss) that were also hiking Mt. Bisoke that day. One Belgian in particular took great pleasure in running down the volcano's trail without getting so much as a puddle splash on him. I tried to keep pace with him but I was less graceful and soon fell back. My slips kept him entertained for the brief time I was sloshing down the trail with him, however. I never fully fell, but I caught myself from doing so several times; each time was followed by his giddy laughter and a witty remark in French.
*
We made it to the bottom before dark, headed home, cleaned up, then went out for a much needed drink. Now, not only did I not bring another pair of pants, I also did NOT bring another pair of shoes. I did bring pajama pants, though, so I wore those out. My boots, however, were caked in mud. Luckily the person we were staying with had another pair of shoes - girl's tennis shoes, but shoes none-the-less.
*
It was a great trip with a great group of friends. I want to visit Volcano National Park again to see the gorillas. I don't know when I'll have the money to do so, but when I do return, I will be sure as hell to remember to bring a proper change of clothing.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What I have been doing the last two years: An excerpt from my third year application

Describe the most important things you accomplished during your two years of service.

Providing Americans with a better understanding of Rwanda is an accomplishment of which I am most proud. I have a blog (www.reebinrwanda.blogspot.com) and I update it with pictures, personal experiences, and current Rwandan news; I also post pictures on Facebook and I even started the unofficial Peace Corps Rwanda Facebook Group, which provides information about Rwanda and Peace Corps to new/potential volunteers and to family and friends of current volunteers. These electronic forums allow friends, family, and other interested parties to connect with me in a private interface where they can ask questions and acquire information.

Furthermore, I have a WWS contact (Lincoln Township High School); I have regular communication with Club Interact, a volunteering and community service club that is sponsored by the high school. I am also in contact with a special education school where my friend's mother is a teacher. In addition to communicating with students from these two institutions, I frequently write letters to my family, my friends, and my church community describing my experiences.

All of these groups have told to me that I have played a large role in helping them not only understand Rwanda better, but Peace Corps as well. Many of these groups, in turn, have provided me with support, both financially and morally, to be successful in Rubona, Rwamagana my current site of Peace Corps service.

Providing Rwandans a better understanding of Americans has been a successful objective for my secondary projects. After the first three months in Rubona, I created a pen-pal exchange between neighborhood children in Rubona and the schools with which I am partnered in America. I also have a pen-pal exchange for my adult English class; these pen-pal relationships are between my adult Rwandan students and my adult family friends in Chicago. Fostering these relationships has given my neighbors in Rubona a better understanding of my family, my friends, and the culture of America.

The adult English class I teach four nights a week from 6pm to 7pm also provides me with a venue to discuss American culture with my neighbors. Together we study health topics in English; these topics have included personal hygiene, how to recognize and avoid risk behavior, and the nature of the human body. Every other English lesson, however, is about American history or culture. These lessons may highlight a state or city or they may be about a particularly notable American, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. When the lesson is about one of these topics, we discuss why this person, city, or invention is important to American culture and history.

As a result of creating pen-pal relationships between neighbors and friends and sharing information about America in the classroom, my integration into the community of Rubona has been easy and enjoyable. Through respect, effective communication, and presence at site, I have received an excellent reputation among community members.

I not only enjoy a high level of integration within the community of Rubona, I am also well integrated into the Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) community. I participate in events with fellow volunteers and I have built positive and mutually beneficial friendships and professional relationships with my peers.

I attribute my successes to both village community integration and PCV peer community integration to being reliable, responsible, reasonable, and having a positive attitude; I also overcome fears and apprehensions very easily, which allows me to be more open to new experiences, conversations, and points of view.

Just as sharing American culture with my community has helped me integrate, integrating into my community has helped me perform my primary assignments successfully. I am a trusted member of Rubona’s community and my ability to mobilize and motivate neighbors and health center staff is a direct benefit of this achievement.

As a community, we conduct personal hygiene and work place cleanliness trainings and tutorials. Working with the health center staff members on these projects, specifically, has given them a strong sense of empowerment and accomplishment. The nurses and staff of the health center, in turn, are serving their patients with more efficiency and with greater pride in their work. As a result, a higher level of patient care is being practiced, which is giving the health center more credibility among the community members it serves.

Through our trainings and tutorials, Rubona has made great strides in educating people about disease communicability and prevention. What has made the most sustainable impact, however, has been raising funds to provide Rubona’s health center with running water. With these sinks, hand washing stations, and showers, the community members I teach are putting into daily practice the lessons they have learned. More importantly, because these fixtures are permanent structures, the community will be able to continue their personal hygiene and work cleanliness exercises and tutorials well after I have gone.

My Days Are Numbered

"The Senior Staff decided to move your COS (Close of Service) date from 14 April 2011 to the week of 24-30 March 2011."

About 20 more weeks until I take that big plane home.

If you are sending packages, please DO NOT send them to me after January 2011.

Still waiting to here about my third year application.

Will keep you posted when I know more.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Personal Hygiene



Pictured Here:
Before and after pictures of the newly installed sink in the Operation Room. The other half of 'Phase 2' installed a sink and pipes in the Maternity Ward.

Earlier this month was 'International Teachers Day' and my village had a ceremony for all of the teachers. It was great; we ate, we drank, then we went home.

As I was walking home, I received a text from Madison, another PCV. We texted back and forth until I reached my house. I sent another text to her as I was walking to my outhouse. Well, it is dark in my outhouse and I frequently activate my phone's flashlight ability and balance the phone on my door in order to 'do my business' with some light.

Just as I set my phone on the door and was about ready to...um...uh...you know. Madison texted me. My phone (which was on vibrate because of the ceremony) buzzed once, fell off of the door frame, hit the floor, bounced, then went right into the outhouse hole. Nothin' but net.

I got a new phone and a new number the next day.

In other news, 'Phase 2' of the water project in Rubona is officially finished. I just had a meeting with Jenny, the PCV in Rwamagana city who has been helping me with the grants, and we are starting 'Phase 3' this week. 'Phase 3' will concetrate on getting sinks and the appropriate plumbing installed in the men's and women's hospitalization wards. (These wards, like much of the health center, currently have only buckets of water available for nurses and patients to use.) The grant is pretty much finished, we just need to send it in and wait for the confirmation of approval.

In related news, I received a generous donation of soap, shirts, and shoes from Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village. In an effort to keep this blog short, I won't go into great detail regarding the village, BUT I will encourage you to check out the website:

http://www.asyv.org/home.html

Because they gave me 100 bars of soap, I figured the best day to distribute these materials would be on October 15, also known as 'International Hand Washing Day.' So, I invited some PCVs and some ASYV volunteers to help me give tutorials about hand washing at my house on that day. I also invited students from the adult English class that I teach during the week nights to come and translate for us.

Everything went great. Lilly, a volunteer from ASYV, and Tom, a fellow PCV, joined me on Friday to give the tutorials. I had recruited about 15 other volunteers from the village to help us out, most of them being my students from the adult English class. Together we taught almost 100 people: how to wash their hands; when to wash their hands; what to use to wash their hands; and why to wash their hands. Villagers that completed the lesson successfully received their choice of a shirt or shoes. The event last only three hours, but it served almost 100 people; if I had more shirts and shoes to give out, it could have easliy lasted another three hours and served another 100 people.

That is all for now. Peace.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Language Lessons Lead to Love

(Pictured Here: Verene [wearing the red blouse] and Callixte [wearing the grey suit and the red tie] at the Nzigiye Sector Office on their wedding day.)

Yesterday I attended the civil wedding of Callixte and Verene. The ceremony took place at the sector office in Nzigiye, a neighboring sector of Rubona (the sector where I live and work).

Civil weddings are pretty tame; at least, the ones I have attended are pretty low key. They generally take place at a sector office where the head of the sector conducts the marriage ceremony, which usually includes from two to eight couples. Each couple takes turns making the marriage official through the state of Rwanda - the public officials presiding over the group ceremony take the couples' finger prints and have the couples sign some legal documents and swear some oaths.

Civil ceremonies are generally attended by local family members and friends. This doesn't sound like it would be a lot of people, but because up to eight couples can get married at once, the room at the sector office can fill up quickly. These ceremonies, though modern in nature, are traditional in the sense that the civil wedding itself takes place in the sector where the wife's family lives. There is also a reception held afterwards; depending on the family's economic means the reception could be at a hotel or at the home of the wife's family. If the reception is held at the later location, you will probably find more traditional food and drink - these are the best receptions, I feel.

The dowry and the church ceremony usually come after the civil wedding, though not necessarily right away. I have been a part of some ceremonies where the civil marriage happened on a Saturday and the next day was the dowry and church wedding. However, I also know some couples that have had their civil wedding months ago and are still saving up money, and vacation days from work, in order to properly celebrate at a church. The order of these events really all depends on each couple's economic situation and work schedules.

I may have explained a lot of stuff about civil weddings in an earlier blog entry, but I am too lazy to sort through them to check. At any rate, I wouldn't normally even write about a ceremony that, though very important, is so bland. However, this particular civil wedding had a very interesting back story. Well, interesting to me, at least, because Callixte and Verene are both students in the adult English language course I teach on weekday evenings.

Verene is a bio-technician in the lab at the health center I work at and has been a great friend of mine since the day I arrived in Rubona; she has been registered in my class since it began. Callixte is a neighbor who has also been a student of mine for almost two years now. I am pretty sure they knew each other before the class began, but I was told that they really didn't get to know each other more personally until they started studying together. Apparently, they have been 'cultivating the love' (dating) for a while now and have decided to take the next step and get married.

I am not taking credit as a matchmaker or anything. I just think its cool that my English class played the role that it did in their love story.

Verene and Callixte, I wish you many years of wedded bliss. May God bless you both.

Friday, September 10, 2010

'Phase 1' and 'Phase 2'

The health center in my village officially has running water!

Thank you for your hard work, Jenny!

Before I had left for Malawi, Jenny (a PCV in Rwamagana city) and I began working on getting running water in the Birthing Room, the Lab, and in the main Consultation Office of the health center in my village. Jenny had done the leg work of completing the grant and getting the money and I was 'overseeing construction' - which means I was to make sure that the construction work actually got done at the site.

Before I had left on my trip, the construction was well on its way; when I returned, it was all finished. The nurses are so happy with the results that they have asked Jenny and I to find more money to get running water to the Operation Room and the Maternity Ward. I helped Jenny with the grant application for this 'Phase 2' project and now she and I are waiting for the answer, which should arrive any day now.

If/Once Jenny and I get the money, we'll be able to get 'Phase 2' construction started and begin getting money for 'Phase 3.' I would like 'Phase 3' to focus on getting running water to the two other Consultation Offices on the other side of the health center grounds, the Bathrooms, and the two Hospitalization Wards. I may have to split 'Phase 3' into three parts, which means the Consultation Rooms would be 'Phase 3,' the Bathrooms would be 'Phase 4,' and the Hospitalization Wards would be 'Phase 5'...or something like that...

...sorry, now I am just typing my stream of consciousness.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed for us!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The one when Emmett goes to Malawi

































Pictured Here: (From Top to Bottom)

* Brandon takes a coconut to the face in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
* Trena, on the train from Dar es Salaam to Mbeya, Tanzania, takes in the view.
* Nora hangs out at 'Big Blue Star Backpackers,' the lodge we stayed at in Nkhata Bay, Malawi.
* Me, Emmett, sips some 'Shake-Shake' - a local alcoholic drink in Malawi.
* Malcolm looks out over Lake Malawi in a dugout canoe.
* Kate gets some must needed rest while waiting for a bus in Mzuzu, Malawi.
**********
Malawi Trip: Play-by-Play
**********
Saturday, August 7th
*
The trip began. Malawi does not border Rwanda, so we had to go through Tanzania. Personally, I had no problem with this; I still had my Tanzania Visa and I wanted to see more of Dar es Salaam anyway.
*
We knew that going to Malawi through Dar was not the most time efficient move, but we knew that if we went to Dar, we could then get a train to Mbeya (a Tanzania/Malawi border town). Excited about the prospect of taking a train through South Tanzania, we didn't have a problem with going the long way around.
*
The bus we got on that morning was going to take us directly to Dar. It was going to take like 36 hours nonstop to get there, but it was going to get us there. Some of us took the same bus to get to Dar when we visited Zanzibar late last year, so we knew what we were getting into. (When I say 'we' here I mean me, Malcolm, and Brandon, so the girls just had to trust us.)
**********
Sunday, August 8th
*
The bus had left very early Saturday morning. We got into Dar around 11am on Sunday. The bus ride was kind of a blur. All I remember was falling in and out of sleep very often, going down some very bumpy roads at a ridiculous speed, and, consequently, praying for my life - so, I pretty much had the same experience that I had last year when I took the bus to Dar.
*
We made it out of the Dar bus station and checked into our rooms at the local YMCA. We unloaded our gear and explored the city a bit. We didn't get much exploring done, though. It was Sunday AND Ramadan was starting in another couple of days, so a lot of places were closed. However, it did feel great to finally be off of that bus!
**********
Monday, August 9th
*
We spent the day hanging around Dar and planning the rest of our traveling specifics to Malawi - the end destination being Nkhata Bay, Malawi. An important part of this planning was buying tickets, which required money, of course.
*
Here was my situation: I had about $400 American dollars that my folks had given me, but I still had about $200 Rwandan Francs to convert into Tanzanian Shillings. I did not convert my Francs into Shillings at the Rwanda/Tanzania border because I thought that the exchange rate would be better in Dar.
*
When we got to Dar, I learned that I made a big mistake. There was ONE place in Dar that could exchange Francs into Shillings and, guess what, they were not buying Rwandan Francs that day. We spent the better part of this day running around town, trying to convert Francs to Shillings. We must have went to 20 different For-Ex offices. Brandon and I even went to the Rwandan embassy in Tanzania to find someone to help us out. It was a long shot, but we were that desperate.
*
Every For-Ex gave us the same answer: 'No.' And when Brandon and I went to the embassy we didn't get any help. The embassy was closed in celebration of the presidential election happening in Rwanda. The guard merely wished us luck and sent us on our way.
*
I was so hell-bent on getting my money changed over this day, that I didn't get to enjoy the city. I was kind of upset. I mean, how can a country that borders another country not be able to convert its currency!? I can convert Shillings to Francs anywhere in Rwanda, which is what I should have done in the first place, I guess. Anyway, after an exhausting day of running around, we had dinner at a 'Subway' that was close to our rooms at the YMCA. The meal was delicious.
**********
Tuesday, August 10th
*
We spent Tuesday morning looking for a place to exchange Francs into Shillings. Before we started the adventure, however, I had resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be able to convert my Francs.
*
This trip was not starting well for me; instead of having $600 for this trip, I now only had $400. Was it even possible to do this trip with only $400? I was going to find out.
*
After briefly searching town for a place to change money, we made our way to the train station in Dar. We hung out at the station for a few hours, got on the train at about 5pm and started for our next destination: Mbeya, Tanzania.
**********
Wednesday, August 11th
*
The train was great. We reserved a second class car that fit the six of us pretty well. The beds folded out from the wall and the train staff provided us with some blankets and sheets. This was a good thing because Tuesday night was pretty cold, actually. On a side note: we were told that the train went through one of the national parks in Tanzania, but it was too dark to see anything when we went through it.
*
We arrived in Mbeya on Wednesday afternoon. We got off the train and got public transport to the Tanzania/Malawi border. We crossed the border into Malawi that afternoon and made it as far as Nkaranga, a Malawi town a few hours South of the border.
*
Once in Nkaranga, Malawi we got a place to stay and went to dinner. After dinner we called it a night.
**********
Thursday, August 12th
*
It wasn't until the next day that one of our party members realized that she had left her purse at the restaurant. An employee at the restaurant had brought the purse back in the middle of the night. Nothing was missing...except for $350! We went back to the restaurant to investigate where the missing money went, but our leads were not promising. Luckily she was able to get some money wired to her a few days later, so it wasn't a horrible emergency, just an expensive inconvenience.
*
We left Nkaranga well rested, but a little bitter about losing some of our funds. We pushed on farther South, however. We caught public transport to Mzuzu, Malawi and from there we caught another bus to Nkhata Bay, Malawi - our final destination!
*
Just a quick geography note. Nkhata Bay is right on Lake Malawi and is about half the distance between the Malawi/Tanzania border and Lilongwe, Malawi's capital city. I provided a map on the previous blog entry; you might be able to find Nkhata Bay's location.
*
We arrived into Nkhata Bay just after dark. We checked into our lodge, 'Big Blue Star Backpackers,' and hit the lodge bar immediately. We spent the night drinking and, let me tell you, we needed the release. At this point we had been on the road almost nonstop since Saturday morning; we were exhausted! We made great time, however; we got into the Bay a full day earlier then we thought we would. So, to celebrate this small achievement, we had a drink or two.
**********
Friday, August 13th
*
We didn't really do much on Friday. I don't know what everyone else did, but I slept in. After catching up on sleep, I did my laundry and walked into town to explore the market.
*
I was really blown away by our arrangements at Nkhata Bay. The backpackers lodge was really cool. It was right on Lake Malawi and the lodge had space for tents, if you wanted to camp, and it also had dorm rooms and smaller bungalows. The bungalows were the most expensive arrangement at about $7-$8 a night; we rented three of them.
*
The lodge also had a full bar, restaurant, kitchen, beach, computers with Internet access, and a lounging area (complete with T.V., cable, DVD player and DVDs). All areas were open to the guests. They also had canoes, rafts and snorkeling gear to rent for free; it was great.
**********
Saturday, August 14th and Sunday, August 15th
*
Honestly, these day were really the same. We just hung out and relaxed; nothing crazy to report. We did meet some Peace Corps Malawi Volunteers on Saturday and on Sunday one of them took us to a local beach.
**********
Monday, August 16th
*
This day was pretty eventful. I ate my first Chambo (a type of fish) and had my first drink of Shake-Shake (a local alcoholic drink). Both were delicious. Well, the Shake-Shake was pretty bad for the first couple of sips, but, like all alcohol, it doesn't taste as bad the more you drink.
*
The backpackers' lodge organized a boat trip that day that took us to another beach further down Lake Malawi. The boat trip was cool and the beach was beautiful. When we had first arrived to Malawi, it was very cold and very windy. Monday was a bit warmer and definitely not as windy. Therefore, the conditions were great for going out on the lake.
*
The conditions were also great for feeding the Fish Eagles. These are just what they sound like - big Eagles that eat fish. I had seen Fish Eagles at Akagera National Park in Rwanda, but I had never seen one as close as I had this day.
*
We were out in the boat and one of the local guys that was maneuvering the boat told his partner to cut the engine. So we sat in this boat for a little while and the one boat guy began putting two little fish on each end of a stick. He then began to whistle to the Fish Eagles, calling their attention. Apparently, feeding the Fish Eagles is something that is done pretty often by the employees of the backpackers lodge. The Eagles are 'trained' to come at this call because they know that they are going to be fed.
*
It was pretty cool. Once a Fish Eagle was spotted, the guy whistled very strong, then held up the stick with the two small fish on either end and threw it a few yards from the side of the boat. The Fish Eagle would see the fish, dive down from the trees, and snag the fish-stick (literally). The bird would then fly back to the trees and eat its gift. It was really cool to see them up close; they have an incredible wingspan. We fed them as we were going to and coming from the beach.
**********
Tuesday, August 17th and Wednesday, August 18th
*
These days were fun, but they consisted of pretty much the same activities: eating and drinking. Ha! I ate so much fish these two days and I drank so many Carlsberg beers - I know I gained weight on this trip.
*
Just a side note: Carlsberg is really the only beer you can find in Malawi; the company has a 99 year production lease or something like that. One of the PC Malawi guys was explaining it to me, but by then I had too many Carlsbergs and I couldn't keep up with/remember much of the conversation.
**********
Thursday, August 19th
*
This was our last full day in Malawi. What did we do? We ate, drank, and hung out on the beach, of course. This time, however, we borrowed the lodge's raft and stayed at the lodge's beach. In the afternoon we went into town and bought more Shake-Shake and Power. Power is a popular hard alcohol and it is most commonly sold on the street in little packets. We went into town and bought two full bottles of it along with some drinks to mix it with. That was a great afternoon/evening.
**********
Friday, August 20th and Saturday, August 21st
*
I woke up that Friday morning feeling a bit sick...okay, okay...hungover. At any rate, we packed up our gear that afternoon and checked out. Well, all but one of us. Brandon decided to stay another day or two and hang out, but the rest of us needed to get back.
*
We left Nkhata Bay and made it to Mzuzu that afternoon. The bus we were to take from Mzuzu was suppose to leave at 12 midnight, but it didn't show up until 2am! It was soooooooooo cold waiting at that bus station for all those hours...so damn cold. But we survived.
*
We made it out of Malawi on Saturday and we were pretty much taking the same route we took to get to Nkhata Bay, but in reverse. We would have done it exactly like that too, but we got stuck in Mbeya, Tanzania. The train we were going to take that afternoon from Mbeya to Dar es Salaam was delayed until the next morning. So, we had two options, really. We could sleep at the train station and take the train back to Dar the next morning OR we could stay the night in town and take a 10-12 hour bus to Dodoma. We chose the second option.
*
Dodoma is Tanzania's capital city. It is North of Mbeya and closer to Rwanda than Dar. In fact, if we went to Dar we would be going a bit in the opposite direction. We thought that maybe this was for the best. Skipping Dar, we thought, would shave some time off of our trip back too.
**********
Sunday, August 22nd
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We left Mbeya and went North to Dodoma, Tanzania. This bus ride was pretty cool because it went through one of the national parks and we did see some animals, specially Giraffes, Baboons, Warthogs, and Antelope.
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We made it to Dodoma with no problems and we were thinking we could get a bus from Dodoma to Rusumo, the border town of Rwanda/Tanzania. Wrong. We got to Dodoma and could only get a bus to Kahama, a city closer to Rwanda but still 5-6 hours East of Rusumo. This bus to Kahama, however, didn't leave until the next day, so we stayed the night in Dodoma.
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Monday, August 23rd and Tuesday, August 24th
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Exhausted reading this thing yet? Try living it.
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Anyway, we made it to Kahama and spent the night. On Tuesday we got up, took a bus from Kahama to Rusumo, and took a bus from Rusumo to Rwamagana. The End.
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Notes:
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Though I felt as though I spent just as much time in Malawi as I spent getting to and from Malawi, it was still a pretty awesome trip. The transportation wasn't all that bad, really. The fish in Malawi was delicious, the beaches were beautiful, and the people were very chill. I would totally visit Malawi again, though I want to go with more money in my wallet. I only spent like $400 total - that includes travel and everything. I was never able to change those Francs into Shillings. I didn't even try to convert my Francs into Kwacha (Malawi's currency); I knew it would have been a lost cause and I wasn't about to waste any more of my trip worrying about it.
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I know it seems like all we did was eat, drink, and travel, but some stories you just can't translate onto a blog. The story just doesn't make sense unless you were there and a part of it; I tried writing some of them out, but they didn't come across as funny or as entertaining as they were for us. I suppose that is because I am not that strong of a writer.
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Just another update before I sign off: the construction at the health center is finished apparently. I heard through the grape vine that the health center in my village now has running water in three of its facilities. I have heard that everything went so well, that they want to get the rest of the health center set up with plumbing. Giddy up!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Malawi, Kickball, and Construction



The vacation request was just approved! Going next week! Malawi, here we come!

On another note, the kickball tournament last weekend was fun. It was very well organized and it was great to see PCVs from the different training groups.

Construction has begun at my health center; they should have running water in the lab, the maternity ward, and one of the counseling rooms by the end of August!

Brandon has let me borrow his harmonica and its 'How to Play' book. We'll see if I can make more of a contribution to the band besides singing.

I still haven't received my photos and video of the white water rafting trip on the Nile River. Once I do, you'll know.

More to come soon!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Uganda




Pictured here:
The Nile River and July 4th dinner.
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Groast 2 took place on the 4th of July weekend at Tom and Malea's house. It was a great time; we drank, ate a bunch of food (not just goat), and Brandon brought his guitar and we sang some songs we have been practicing.
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The next weekend (July 9th), a bunch of us went into Uganda - the country directly North of Rwanda. We traveled from Kigali straight through to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The trip was like 9 hours - not all that bad, really. We hung out in Kampala that first night after we arrived. We had Mexican food and it was freakin' spectacular. I had not had Mexican food in almost two years, so I ate ferociously.
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The next day (Saturday) 'Adrift,' the company we hired to give us a tour down the Nile River, picked us up from our hotel in Kampala and took us to the rafting outpost. The drive from Kampala to the outpost was a couple hours; the trip was okay. Uganda's weather is very similar to Rwanda's, but the landscape is different; specifically, there are no hills in Uganda like there are in Rwanda. So, the scenary was kind of bland.
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We arrived at the outpost and got our stuff stored in our rooms at the lodge. We changed our cloths and immediately prepared to hit the rapids; this was going to be an all day event.
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Just a couple of quick notes. The source of the Nile is actually in Rwanda (or so say the Rwandans I know), BUT the white water part of the Nile (where the river gets really serious) starts in Uganda.
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Also 'Adrift' does have a place where people can bungee jump into the Nile; seriously, like into the Nile. They can adjust the cord so that you can touch the water if you want. Anyway, Tom and I were signed up and ready to do it, we even paid our money, BUT the guys at the outpost said that we couldn't do it as soon as we got there, which is what we were told initially. They said we would have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to do our jump. Tom and I had scheduled some activities with the rest of our traveling party the next day (Sunday). We didn't want to wait around all of Sunday to jump; we wanted to see some more of Kampala AND we still needed to figure out how we were going to leave Uganda on Monday. We begged and pleaded to jump as soon as we got to the camp, but they said it would be too much of a time crunch.

Tom and I think we'll hit up the bungee jump another time. Rafting was a blast and we both agreed we want to do it again with the same company - 'Adrift'. Anyway, we decided that we'd try to organize another outing to Uganda, but next time we will make sure we have plenty of time to do more stuff. We totally want to raft the Nile again, and we want to bungee jump over it, but we also want to see Lake Victoria (the largest lake in Africa) and I want to go on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. I heard that in this park you can see lions and elephants; Akagera National Park in Rwanda has these animals, but I haven't seen them yet. I heard that in Queen's Park in Uganda, you see them all the time.

Sorry, I got kinda side tracked there for a minute. Anyway, we got ourselves all geared up and we hit the river with our raft guide, Big J. There was eleven of us in the boat - Big J, me, my 7 other traveling companions, and a couple from Estonia. The Estonians were pretty cool. Apparently, they were both actors in a horror movie being filmed in Uganda; they had some spare time and the director let them have some R and R.

For the first hour or so, Big J kept us in still waters and reviewed with us what to do if/when certain things happen - what to do if/when you fall out of the raft, what to do if/when the raft flips, and so on. He introduced us to a couple of the kayakers that would be ahead of us in the rapids; he said that these guys would be plucking us out of the water if/when we fell out of the boat. Once the safety demonstrations were finished, we hit the river.

White Water Rafting the Nile River was amazing. We rafted a bunch of baby rapids (class 2s and 3s) but we hit five different class 4s and as many class 5s. There were some class 6s on our run, but we dodged them because they would have killed us. Seriously, Big J, our guide, said that he had done them in a kayak, but never in a raft full of inexperienced rafters. He said that even in a kayak, a class 6 rapid is not something an experienced rafter does every day.

It was a lot of fun, though. In the morning, I was sitting on the middle of the raft, across from Tom. We flipped over once in the beginning during a class 4 or 5 rapid, I can't remember. The last thing I remember before we flipped was that it looked like we were falling into a huge washing machine - like it was the belly button of the world, or something. Anyway, we were tossed over and I was trapped under the raft for a bit, but I was able to free myself and grab a kayaker.
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Once we made it through the rapid, we just got back on the raft and kept going. Later that day Big J told us that he flipped us intentionally, 'just for fun.'

In the afternoon, we stopped at an island and had lunch - probably the best lunch I have ever had in my life. After lunch, Tom and I were asked to take the front two seats on the raft; we accepted the positions. We got in the boat and hit some more rapids.
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The front seat was awesome! And sitting across from Tom the whole trip down river was really an experience in itself. After the flip we had in the morning, I started trying to time my breathes so that if/when we flipped the next time, I would have a lung full of air; thus, preventing another near-death experience. So the whole time we were hitting the rest of the rapids, I was holding my breathe in intervals, but Tom was screaming at the top of his lungs, 'It's wet! It's wild! I love it!'

The afternoon was fun. There was this one rapid that was a waterfall; it was a class 4 or class 5 and it began with a 12 foot drop - that was a fun one. At the end of the day there was this loooooooooong class 6. Big J pointed it out and said, 'Okay, guys, let's paddle to shore as fast and as hard as we can!' We had to get to shore, pull in the raft, and walk it further down river, past the class 6. At the end of the class 6 there was a class 5 (they said it was a class 5+, I don't know if those exist or not, but whatever). Once we got past that last rapid, we were finished. And right where we finished (on the shore) there was a BBQ with cold beer and roasted meat waiting for us. It was a delicious ending.

'Adrift' was a great company - very well organized. I felt safe and I had a great time while I was on the river. I totally want to go back and bungee jump, though; I hear that its pretty cool. They used to let people do the bungee jump naked. If you did it naked, then you didn't have to pay. My eyes light up at the possibility of doing something cool AND doing it for free. Big J noticed the look on my face and said that they don't do that 'offer' any more; he said too many people were doing it naked and they weren't making any money. Damn.

Anyways, the facilities were pretty nice too, though they were swarming with Vervet monkeys. The guides themselves were characters. Seriously, they were fun, knowledgeable guys.
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After rafting, everyone showered and hit the bar. We got seats, ordered food, and watched the World Cup match between Uruguay and Germany. After the first half of the match, one of the guides turned down the television and announced that the video was ready at the other end of the bar.

Oh Yeah! I forgot to tell you, 'Adrift' had people taking pictures and video of us from the shore the whole day. They made discs for everyone to buy. My picture disc and my video disc have not come in yet, but when they do, I will post what I can on here and on facebook.

The video was great; it was very well done. After that, we finished watching the game and went to bed. We got up early the next day (Sunday) and headed back to Kampala. Once in Kampala, we went to the big market they have (I wasn't impressed), we hit up a mall (a real mall, like in the states), and ate some really good Indian food. That night we saw the World Cup finals match at a bar.

The next day (Monday) we woke up super early, got on our bus, and went back to Kigali. We were a few hours into our trip home when we heard that bombs had gone off in Kampala Sunday night during the World Cup finals match. An Ethiopian restaurant and a Rugby bar had been suicide bombed by Somali terrorists and about 60-70 people were either dead or wounded. Later that week we received a message from PC stating that travel to Uganda was prohibited until further notice.

We made it back safe and sound. And that was our trip to Uganda.

As far as future trips and events are concerned, this weekend I am going to a Kickball Tourney in West Province Rwanda and the guys and I are still trying to finalize everything to go to Malawi in August.

As far as work is concerned...well...its work - same routine, different day. Its great and I love it, don't get me wrong, but there is really nothing to write about that I haven't already written about.

I am still helping out at the health center, though we aren't seeing as many patients now as we were a few months ago. This is because its dry season now (seriously, it has not rained in months) and malaria outbreaks die down a bit during this time. The staff at the health center are doing just fine. No news there.
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Oh yeah! There is news. Jenny, a volunteer in Rwamagana city, and I are working on a grant to get running water to the health center in my village. Jenny did a lot of the leg work because I don't have a computer or Internet access. She just told me that we got the money too; we need to get the money to the health center so they can hire local contractors to get the work started.

The adult English class I teach in the evenings is still in session. Everyone is doing well. Participation has dropped, though. This is mostly because everyone is so involved in the presidential election that is happening in August. There are a lot of community meetings happening in the evenings to prepare for the event.

Rutambi and his family are doing okay. Rutambi's English is getting better every time we meet. He is on vacation from school now, along with his brothers and sisters, so we get to hang out a bit more now-a-days. And, most importantly, his family is still giving me free bananas...

...and I'm still eating them.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yolanda's Visit
















Pictured here from top to bottom.
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Top: Yolanda teaches 'La Loteria' game to my evening adult English class, which, temporarily, was the evening adult Spanish class.
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Second down: The tea fields of West Province.
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Third down: A racecar flooring it down the main street of my village.
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Fourth down: Zebras from Akagera National Park in East Province.
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Fifth down: Umulisa, a nurse at the health center, prepares for her civil marriage in Kigali. This ceremony was held about a week or two before Yolanda came to visit.

These past few weeks have been pretty busy. It is time for an update, my friends.

Yolanda came to visit me in Rwanda from 05/28/2010 - 06/12/2010. Before I begin telling you what we did, I want to thank everyone that made this trip possible for her. Thank you to the friends and family members that encouraged her to visit. Thank you to the people who gave money to Yolanda to help my community. Thank you to my fellow Peace Corps volunteers who helped me to welcome Yols and show her a good time. Thank you to the people of Rwanda, especially those in my village, that opened their country to us. And, of course, thank God for our safe travels, clean water, and delicious food. God, thank you for putting Yolanda in my life; she is a great friend and has blessed every life she has touched.

Yolanda's visit.

Yols arrived on the night of 05/28/2010 at Kigali International Airport. We took a taxi from the airport to a restaurant called 'Heaven' to have a beer and to grab a bite to eat. 'Heaven' is a pretty expensive tourist place, but I encouraged her to enjoy it while we were there. Once we got to my village, we would be in a whole different world.
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From 'Heaven', we went directly to the room I reserved for us at St. Paul's (a hostel located in downtown Kigali). I could only get one night, though; these summer months are a popular time for tourists to visit Rwanda and St. Paul's was booked for the rest of the weekend. This was no problem, though, because the next day we would be on our way to Akagera National Park in the East Province.

We met up with Malcolm in Kigali the next day, then traveled to Rwamagana city and stayed the night with Brandon. The day after that (Saturday), we all went to the park and made camp. Camping, as always, was a blast. One friend in particular, Miles, really made the evening a memorable one...hilarious guy. Hilarious.

I didn't think that going on a safari the next day, right after camping, would be the best idea. After camping (and drinking - let's be honest here) you're tired, you smell, maybe your back hurts from sleeping on the ground, and so on; all you want the next morning is a shower and a cup of coffee. You do NOT want to get up at dawn to travel a bumpy road to see animals. I tried it before in January and I just remember falling asleep in between animal sightings. I had fun, but I missed the view.

After camping, we packed up our gear and Yols and I made our way to my village. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of that week consisted of touring the village, visiting some neighbors, and giving her a sense of what life is like for me and the community. Yolanda was great about everything; she even helped out at the health center AND she taught Spanish to my adult English class in the evenings.

Everyone that met Yolanda loved her. The only problem she and I had in my village during the trip was explaining to my neighbors and co-workers that Yols and I were NOT married, nor were we dating. They just couldn't understand why a woman would travel so far to visit a male friend. I figured we would run into this kind of confusion.

In Rwandan culture, men and women visit eachother, but they generally don't stay over night if they are not family. If a man does stay the night at a woman's house (or vise-versa) and they are not related, it is implied that their relationship is sexual. Before her visit I even explained to my students and the staff of the health center that Yols was a friend...ONLY a friend. They said they understood, but when they met her they began to bombard us with questions regarding 'our relationship'.

Some people even thought we were married and that our marriage contract was for only two weeks; many Rwandans think that Americans sign marriage contracts for various amounts of time - 2 weeks, 6 months, 5 years, and so on. When the contract is up, the two people split up and marry other people. (We have our incredibly high divorse rate in America to thank for this little piece of misinformation.) It was bearable the first week, but people just kept pushing it and I was getting a bit frustrated with the questions and comments towards the end of the second week.

Moving on.

Before Yols came, she asked that we accomplish three things while she was visiting; she said that if she was able to do these three things, she would consider the trip to be a success. These activities included seeing a market (we finished that one right away), going on a safari, and attending a wedding.

Like I said before, going on safari is difficult if you were partying the night before. So, I decided that on Friday, the 4th of June we would rent a car, get up super early, and go on a big game safari in Akagera. We did it and it was awesome. We couldn't get close to the giraffes like I did before, but we got some great photos of zebras and hippos.

Oh yeah, I have a side note for you all. So the last time I went on safari I listed all the animals I saw (I am not going to do that here because I pretty much saw the same animlas), and there was some confusion about the type of giraffe I saw. Well, I got the answer for you. The giraffes in Akagera are Maasai Giraffes. These giraffes are actually not native to the area; they were brought in from Kenya.

Yeah, Yols and I had a VERY knowledgable park ranger accompany us on our tour; he was full of bits of infromation about the park and its animals. The most exciting pieces of information (to me, at least) was that the park is planning on introducing Black Rhinos to the area AND the park rangers want to start giving night tours so people have a better chance at seeing the predators.

Anyway, after the safari, we returned to my village and began making preparations for the wedding the next day. The wedding was for Emmanuel and Nikuze; Emmanuel is an accountant at the health center that I work at. I invited a bunch of Peace Corps volunteers and friends from other organizations to come out to my village that day, see the wedding, and hang out; I got a couple of takers.

The wedding was to begin at the local Catholic church at 2pm, or so said the invitation. Yols and I went to the church at 2pm that Saturday afternoon (06/05/10) and no one was there. I totally should have figured that we would be on 'Africa Time', which means the wedding wouldn't begin for another 3 hours. So we returned home to wait. During those next couple of hours Malcolm, Brandon, Chrissi, and Kate showed up; an hour after them Miya and her friend arrived.

We had a couple of beers at the bar that Rutambi's dad runs/owns and spent some time catching up and hanging out. Well, it started getting late and I heard from some of my neighbors that the wedding was over but the reception was still in swing at the groom's house. Jean-Marie was in town and he was happy to walk our group to Emmanuel's home. The reception was fun and when it was finished JMV walked us home and we all made dinner - a delicious stew of everything we could find!

On a side note, JMV told me that he has a new job in Kigali. I forget the name of the organization, but they are flying him out to South Carolina for a week of training. He is VERY excited.

The next morning we woke up to the sound of hundreds of people in front of my house. We all went to my front gate to see what the deal was. We soon learned from Rutambi that a Rally Race was taking place this weekend. Racecars were flying down the the dirt street through the main part of town and turning left on the street towards Rwamagana city - so pretty much right in front of my house! We stood out there for a couple of hours and watched the cars go past; we got showered with dust.
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Another side note. It was a very exciting day for Rutambi because he got to see racecars, meet my friends, AND play video games for the first time ever. He was VERY excited. So excited, in fact, that he asked his dad to give us a gift - a whole vine of banana bunches!

After the race died out, we had lunch, and said goodbye to our guests. Yols and I then began to clean the house from top to bottom. Everything was covered in dust!

The following few days Yolanda and I helped out at the health center during the day and taught Spanish in the evenings. Yolanda was a great teacher. She taught them numbers, greetings, and the 'La Loteria' game, which is kind of like the Mexican equivalent of 'BINGO'. The game is a great learning tool because there are pictures that explain what the words mean. We gave out notebooks, pens, pencils, and crayons to the winners. We had a bunch of stuff left over at the end of the class, so we just gave the rest of the items out to the teams that didn't win. The class enjoyed it very much.
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The class loved her. Seriously, they loved her; they pooled their money together and bought her some going away gifts. They were so happy to meet her and learn some Spanish from a native speaker.

On Wednesday she said goodbye to my village and we traveled to the West Province to visit Kate at her site near Nyungwe National Park. We spent a day and a half walking through tea fields and the jungle. We didn't see any animals, but we did get an awesome tour of a tea factory from Kate's host mom. We also made 'umugali', a traditional bread made from casava, for dinner with a delicious meat sauce. It was pretty awesome for our first time making it.

On Friday (this past Friday), we got on a VERY crowded, very hot bus and headed North from Gisakura, Kate's site, to visit Mark at his site. Mark's birthday was last week and he invited us to go to Lake Kivu for his birthday. Kate, Yols, and I took him up on his offer and went to see him and the lake. We met up with a bunch of Peace Corps volunteers at Kibuye, had some beers, and watched Mexico and France tie their opponents in the World Cup.

The next day (yesterday) we got up early, went to Kigali, finished packing everything up, and said our goodbyes at the airport.

All-in-all, I think the trip went well. We got to do everything on Yolanda's wishlist and we didn't have any sicknesses or unpleasant events. Yolanda did get all chewed up by mosquitoes, though (yeah, sorry 'bout that, Yols), and there was a time or two we thought we were going to drive right off the side of a cliff when traveling from Kate's site to Kibuye...but we lived.

Yeah, it was great. I tried to write down everything I could remember, but I am sure I missed something somewhere. I will probably be updating this entry as I remember events and such. Yols, help me out here. What am I missing?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Super Quick April/May Updates

My friend Yolanda is coming to visit me at the end of May for two weeks! Karibu Sana kandi Murakaza Neza, Yols!

A new class of Peace Corps Rwanda Trainees are now officially Volunteers! Congratulations, new PCVs!

My boss at the health center was recently elected the MAYOR of Rwamagana District. There are 30 districts in Rwanda; he is one of only 30 mayors in the country of Rwanda! Nuko Nuko, Nehemie!
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Dieudonne, whose wedding I attended a while ago (a picture of him with his bride is on an older blog post of mine), has recently been appointed the new supervisor for the health center in my village. Felicitacion, Dieu!

I'm now 28! Bon Anniversaire!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! I love and miss you! Hurray for Mom!
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Going to Uganda in July to raft the Nile.
Possibly going to Malawi and Tanzania (again) later in the year.
Life is good.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Controlled Explosion

As I was writting my last blog entry, a landmine went off.

The internet cafe that I frequent while I am in Rwamagana is right next door to the city police station. I was there on Friday writting about how Rwamagana and my village are so peaceful, when I heard a very loud explosion; the air pressure changed, the windows shook, and there was a faint smell of smoke. No one in the cafe made a move in panic or fear; they merely looked up from their computers and went back to typing after a minute. Not knowing what to do and with no specific knowledge about what just happened, besides there being a very loud noise, I did the same.

Later that day, I found out that the city police practiced a 'controlled explosion' of a landmine. Judging from people's reactions, I assume this is a very routine procedure. That is all the information I got on that. Not much of a story, I know; just something I had never experienced before.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Groast, The Gauntlet, and My Indestructible Friend


(Pictured Here: 'The Iron Cross')

Things here are going well. I am still going in and out of being homesick; I'm told this is a natural phase for all volunteers. I'm pushing through it, though. I've been reading a lot - and I mean A LOT. It has helped me keep my mind off of things - specifically, America.

My best friend in my village was moved to another health center; I think I mentioned this in a previous entry. Now he and I get together every other week or so, but it is just not the same as joking around with him all day in the lab while we work. When we hung out earlier this month he had some bad news to tell me. He was working in his new village, testing people for HIV, when he accidently stuck himself with one of the needles. It turns out the needle with which he stuck himself was one used to test a person that ended up being positive for the virus. He got on emergency ARVs right away, but it will still be a few months before he knows whether or not he is positive.

He is taking his situation very well, though. He is telling everyone about what happened to educate them. He told me the same time he told the other lab technicians; he wanted to make sure that we continued to take all the proper safety precautions so that this doesn't happen to us. Please pray for my friend.

In other news, next month is the 16th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Peace Corps Rwanda has asked us to stay out of Kigali unless we have written permission. This is because of a few incidents that happened there these past few weeks. I will not write about anything specific here; they are all incidents I am sure you can look up on the internet. Nothing to be worried about, though. Apparently, incidents like these happen every spring in the major cities of Rwanda. I do live close to the East Province capital, but nothing has happened in Rwamagana. And my village...my village is just as it was 6 months ago. No problems.

Staying out of Kigali for a while is fine with me, though. That place is so expensive compared to my village. The only thing staying out of Kigali is preventing me from doing is posting pictures, which should be coming some time in April.

I should have written this entry like a month ago, but I just haven't had the energy for it. I have a pretty set routine now as far as work, teaching, and life in general goes, but this past month I always found a reason to not write. I think a part of it was that I didn't want to come off sounding depressed or anything, though I think that is EXACTLY how I'm sounding. I am not depressed, however. I am very much enjoying my time and work in my village. So much so, in fact, that I am considering extending my service for a third year. Nothing is for sure yet; I'm just researching all of my options.

What has prompted me to write this entry, you ask? A delicious event I attended last weekend at Tom and Malea's house (PCVs in Kibungo) - 'The Groast.' Goat + Roast = Groast. That's right, we roasted a whole goat. It was awesome. Tom hired someone to bring the goat over to his house Saturday morning and slaughter it in his backyard. The people that skinned the goat kept the head, hide, and the guts (though we got the kidneys, which tasted pretty good). Tom then strung the goat up on this contraption he made called 'The Iron Cross.' This 'Iron Cross' was used to prop the goat over a pile of hot coals.

It took like five hours to roast the whole goat, but it was worth it. This goat, though a bit gamy, fed like 20 people. We even had leftovers the next day; Tom, the master chef that he is, put the bones in a pot, added a little onions and noodles and, baby, we had ourselves a stew goin'.

Let's continue the good times, shall we. I sat down and thought of some humorous things that happened to me recently.

1. I was teaching my evening English class before I left for Zanzibar a few months ago and a bat fell through a hole in the ceiling. I stopped class to investigate it, ignoring my students' request to ignore the bat and continue the lesson. Well, on the third poke, it proceeded to fly around the classroom like that scene from 'The Great Outdoors.' Fun times.

2. Another time (before I had left for Zanzibar), I was walking home after my evening English class with some students (I usually get walked home by at least 3 or 4 of my students after every class) and I walked in a puddle. Wait. Puddle is the wrong word here. It was on its way to becoming a pond. And I didn't just step in it, but WALKED through it - calf deep, baby. I saw the puddle, and I wanted to get out of the way, but my legs just continued to move. I walked through the whole damn thing. As I walked, I thought to myself, 'Oh my goodness! I've lost control of my legs!' My students thought I had 'become a foolish man.' They had a good laugh.

3. You know how I know I need another vacation? Because just this last week I said hello to a goat. I was walking home, after my morning's work, through a part of the village I like to call: 'The Gauntlet.' 'The Gauntlet' extends about a quarter of a mile from my front door to where the shops end and the residential houses begin. Most people like to refer to this area as 'The Market' - where goods are bought and sold, but to each their own. 'The Gauntlet' is nothing bad, mind you, it is merely the area of the village where I get attacked from all sides by friendly neighbors wanting to greet me - especially children on their way to or coming back from school. 'The Gauntlet' is normal to me now, but when I first moved in it was a bit overwhelming.

Anyway, I was greeting everyone as I was walking home and I saw a goat mixed into the crowd of people. I saw the goat and my brain announced: 'Goat = Eat. Do not greet!'' Well, it was too late, I was already greeting the goat and asking it about its day. I turned quickly to make it look like I was greeting someone that was approaching me, but the damage had been done and the neighborhood kids saw a white man trying to talk to their dinner. I need another vacation. HA!

4. Rutambi is awesome and he always makes me laugh. At least once every week he comes over to my house to visit me and to practice his English. Usually these visits begin with a surprise. He sees me walking 'The Gauntlet,' runs over to my house, and is let in by Emmanuel, the guy I hired to watch the house and take care of it while I am out. Rutambi then finds a good place to hide in either my yard, one of my storage houses, or my kitchen. As I walk into my yard and pass said areas, he jumps out and yells, 'Hello! Emmett, my friend!.' Which usually scares the crap out of me, even though it has happened so many times that I should be expecting it by now. He thinks it is hilarious.

Wait a second. I don't know if I have ever written about Rutambi before. Meh. I am too lazy to look through my old entries to check, so I'll introduce him here. Rutambi is 12 years old and a son of my neighbor across the street, Tharcisse. Tharcisse (I think that is how you spell his name) owns the best bar in my village, which also happens to be across the street from my house (SCORE!). He is a very nice, very well respected man in my village. Rutambi, which apparently means 'unbreakable' or 'indestructible' in kinyarwanda (what an awesome name!), is very intelligent. He speaks English VERY well, studies very hard, and catches onto social cues very quickly. He wants to be president of Rwanda some day and, let me tell you, this kid could pull it off.

Anyway, just yesterday I was telling him about how I have been tired lately because my sleep has been so restless. He asked me why and I said it was because I am a little homesick; I miss my friends and family. He proceeded to try to make me feel better by naming people in the village that are really happy I am here and then he thanked me for all the time I have spent with him studying English. I was kind of blown back by how he articulated himself in English and how heartfelt his response was.

Before I could even respond to what he had said, he changed the topic back to dreams. He said that he had a bad dream recently, too. He said that in his dream he beat up one of his favorite action movie stars, John Rambo, in hand-to-hand combat. He said people chased him through the jungle to try to catch him. When they had him cornered, however, he said that he then became 'HUUUUGE with muscles and everyone ran in fear because [he] was doing kung fu so, so good.' Hearing his rendition of this dream was hilarious. He told it with such vigor and in such great detail; I was captivated. When he finished, which was after several minutes, he paused and smiled devilishly. Then he asked me if I believed him. I said yes as I laughed. Then he began to laugh heartily while saying, 'No, no, my friend. I lie!'

Oh Rutambi, you got me again!