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 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!