Friday, September 23, 2011
On another note, the conference we hosted earlier this month was a hit. The kids gave great performances and shared a wealth of information. Forgot my camera, so no pics.
I bought a modem the other day. I was getting sick of the internet cafes in town. The machines weren't the best and, on some days, the power would surge like every 10 minutes and reboot the computer. It was, therefore, very difficult for me work on anything for an extended period of time. Anyway, I got this modem so I can work from home now. The speed isn't great, but MTN, the service provider, is doing this promotion where you pay about $1.50 for roughly two days of unlimited internet connectivity. So far so good.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Part of my position as PCVL in Rwanda is to visit volunteers in the Cyangugu area. Lately I have been making a weekly trek to a town called Mushaka to help a volunteer paint a 'World Map' at a school near her house. She is almost finished and it looks great. I'll post some pics when the project is complete. She also wants to paint a map of Rwanda and a map of the human body. These are all projects to help the students learn a bit more about themselves and the world around them.
This Saturday there is an HIV/AIDS conference that the education volunteers in the region are hosting. They have asked me to MC and give a presentation about the disease, how it harms people, how it is transmitted, and how it can be prevented. The conference will be all day and the audience will be about 60 secondary school (high school) students from four different schools. Each school is also doing a skit about HIV/AIDS education/prevention. I get to be a judge. It should be a great time. I'll get pics from that too, if possible.
I also made a visit to a village, located in Nyungwe Forest, called Banda last month. A couple of volunteers are stationed out there and they hosted or regional meeting last month. (Every month the volunteers in Cyangugu meet up for an afternoon, day, or weekend to exchange ideas and hang out.) The pics here are from Banda.
Monday, July 18, 2011
It was pretty cool. For all you Rwanda RPCVs and current PCVs, the wedding was held at St. Paul's this last Saturday. The first reception was held at the garden in 'Car Wash.' The second reception was held at the house her and her husband are renting in Kigali. The receptions had traditional dancers, Rwandan Pop-Singers (Kamichi was there and sang a few songs before he had his radio broadcast), and plenty of food and beer. Do-Do is working on getting her Visa so she can move with her husband to Europe, where he works. Congratulations, you two!
Tradional female Rwandan dance.
Tradional male Rwandan dance.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I have been invited to teach English at an organization called Caritas Wednesdays and Fridays from 2pm-5pm. I had my first class yesterday. It was great. Got to run. More to come.
Friday, July 8, 2011
The volunteers in my region met at my house for the 4th of July and we had a small party and meeting. It was cool. Other than that, nothing exciting has been happening really. I have been getting to know the community and the volunteers in my region, which has been great. I started an English club that meets Tuesday and Thursday nights. The attendance isn't what I want it to be, but its new and it may take a while to catch on.
Sorry I haven't written more; I just haven't been in the writting mood lately.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Everything is going well here. The volunteers in my region have been visiting to help clean the house and show me around Kamembe. Everyone has been very welcoming. My big project for this next week, besides finding furniture, is finding some work in the community. Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted on how my search goes.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Today there is a marathon in Kigali. MANY Peace Corps Rwanda staff and volunteers are running. I am not feeling well, so I stayed behind; I don't have the energy to be part of the cheer squad. We all had a party last night to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps and to load up on carbs for the race; I had been working these past couple of days to get everything together for it. I have been running around so much...this morning I just didn't have any energy left in me. The party went well, though, so that was nice.
Good luck, runners!
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
I pretty much spent the entire day sitting in front of his bar eating goat meat, drinking beer, and greeting people I know as they walked by. I didn't really call anyone to tell them I was coming besides Schadrock. I called him because there were some documents I needed to pass his way. I didn't call anyone else because I didn't want to be swamped with people to visit. News travels fast in the village and I knew my dance card would be full soon after my arrival. Also, I figured if it was a surprise, it would be more fun for them anyway. I did call Nehemie in the afternoon, though.
Anyway, I was able to get a lot of socializing done, which is very important in Rwanda. I bought my friends some beer, fanta, etc. I was able to see Rutambi and his family, catch up with Nehemie (Rwamagana's mayor), and distribute pictures to everyone. They got a big kick out of the pictures that Yolanda gave me. They love her so much. (Yols, if you are reading this, I think they miss you more than me!) They also enjoyed the pictures of my family. My mother dressed up in the traditional Rwandan gown I bought her for Christmas and Paul wore his U.S. Army uniform. They loved it. Both of my brothers are bigger than me, so people had a hard time believing that I was the oldest of the three.
There was one problem, though. I forgot my camera. So, no pictures this time around. Well, I guess I'll just have to visit again soon.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Besides answering questions and giving presentations about culture, my main duty was to get the water filters up and running. Every volunteer is given a water filter to use for the duration of their service. For whatever reason, some of them were not working. I spent the better part of two days working out the kinks. Fun stuff, I know, but important.
Oh yeah, one more thing, there is NO electricity there. I am used to frequent power outages, but no power at all was a new thing for me. I pushed through it, though. I guess it is better for the new volunteers this way. If they can get used to living with no electricity now, then they should do just fine when they get to their sites, which will probably have electricity.
It seems like they are all having a good time with their host families too. Two of the volunteers have already left, but the other 18 seem to be going strong. Anyway, I might be going back there to help out next week; I don't know yet, but I really hope I get to go there again soon. I think the work that goes into PC trainings is very interesting.
At any rate, I am back in Kigali. I still don't know what is going on with my new home/office in Kamembe; I'm suppose to find out more on Monday. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Until I move, I'll probably be hanging around Kigali and working with staff on projects. I am staying at the new guest house that PC Rwanda has bought/built and it is freaking AWESOME. It can accomodate like 30 people; it has a full kitchen; and it has HOT SHOWERS!
That has been my week, pretty much. Tomorrow I am going to Rubona, my old site, to visit some friends. I am really looking forward it. If I get some time tomorrow, I'll let you know how it went.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Anyway, I got in just fine. Right now I am on my way to Kamonyi to help train the new volunteers that came in last week. I'm looking forward to it; I have never really got to participate in any other training besides my own. I'll be there all week.
This is the fifth group of volunteers that have come to Rwanda. They are the third health group. These new volunteers are living with host families, instead of on compounds, for the duration of their training. PC Rwanda staff want me there this week to help answer questions and ease their transition. I am also there because I don't have a house yet.
Before I left for the states I was in Kamembe looking for a home/office. I found an awesome place and since April the PC Rwanda staff have been working on getting it ready for me, but it is not quite ready yet. I am VERY excited to get down there and start working with the volunteers and the community.
This year should be pretty cool. I don't have much new information right now, but I bought a computer when I was in the states and the home/office should have an interent connection. In short, expect more frequent blog posts from me.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Thank you, family and friends, for such a great time.
It has been fun, but I am ready to return and get to work. I leave tomorrow and I am very excited about starting my new position in PC Rwanda.
As always, more to come.
Saturday, April 9, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
My departure date has been delayed until the first full week of April.
My home/office hunt was a success. I have found some housing options in Kamembe, but staff are not available to see them, approve one, and sign a contract for another two weeks. We could wait to do all of this stuff until I get back from America, but I am afraid the houses will be rented out by then and I really don't want to search for a house all over again; I would rather have all this set up before I go.
I promise I'll be home soon, though. Ihangane (Be patient).
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
From Top to Bottom:
Immaculee talks about our time together as a class...in English, of course.
Schadrock and Immaculee present a gift to me from the class.
Nicole presents her 'Certificate of Completion' with me.
Rutambi and I get a photo together.
Justine poses with me.
Some students listen as their names are announced.
Finally, Schadrock, our MC for the night (and the class president), tells some jokes (as usual), in English.
Friday, March 11, 2011
From top to bottom:
Jean Marie (the MC for the night), a nurse, talks about our time together.
Two nurses (on my left), Vestine and Dion, present me and Solange with a gift.
Me and the director of the Health Center at Rubona.
Finally, the guy the nurses hired to sing for us all night.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
In February, I visited Rusizi a couple of times to look for a house/office, check out the capital city (Kamembe), and visit some of the PCVs that live in the area. As far as an update is concerned, I am still looking for a house/office. Kamembe is awesome (there is a bar there that has LIVE music [pop and traditional] from the DRC [the Congo] EVERY weekend!). The volunteers in the area are fun, excited, and hardworking; I look forward to working with them. I am actually headed out that way again really soon...to look for a house/office, of course. In fact, I may be in Kamembe for the rest of March, until I leave for America.
Because I might be in Kamembe, Rusizi for the rest of the month, I have been in the process of finishing everything up in Rubona, Rwamagana - handing over projects, packing, and saying 'bye' to people. It has been hard and easy at the same time. People are sad that I am going, but they understand AND they are very happy that I will be in Rwanda for another year; hell, they want me to move to Rwanda permanently.
Anyway, I finished my last day at the health center and I taught my last English class in late February. We (my friends, neighbors, nurses, students, and I) then scheduled two 'going away' parties, which occurred this last week. On Monday, February 28th the nurses, my neighbors, and I had a party. We had fried potatoes, roasted goat, beer, and Fanta. There were about 50 people there; the Mayor of Rwamagana District was there to celebrate with us, as well as the Executive Secretary of Rubona Sector, my landlord (Rusagara), and Rutambi's parents, just to name a few.
People gave speeches, of course. There was also a guitarist there that the nurses hired to play traditional music (as well as a few songs that they wrote for me, which were awesome and hilarious!). The nurses gave me some thoughtful gifts and I, of course, gave gifts to the nurses. We drank, ate, took pictures, and danced well into the night. It was great.
The second party was Thursday, March 3rd. This party was in honor of the students enrolled in my English class; of course, some nurses were there and a few other neighbors. In all, this party rolled about 50 people deep too. It was at the same place as Monday (in my classroom at the health center), it was at the same time, and the same type of food and drink were served.
The speeches were plentiful, the food was delicious, and the evening was very nice. We took pictures like CRAZY! I am still a little blind in my right eye because of all the flashes. The students also bought me some great gifts. I gave the class some presents as well; in addition to the notebooks, books, pens, and pencils I distributed, I also awarded students with 'Certificates of Completion;' they were especially excited to receive these certificates.
I have pictures of all of this, of course. However, the power has been out in Rubona for about a week now. My camera died Thursday night and I have been unable to charge it. The power did come back on for a few minutes yesterday, though. However, because of a huge power surge, it blew out all of my light bulbs, my phone charger, AND my camera charger! ARG!
I think I have enough juice in my camera to get the pictures onto facebook AND I want to post a blog entry with the pictures very soon. However, photos of Rusizi will have to wait until I buy another battery charger for my camera, which may not be for another month or so. *sigh* Meh.
Okay. They are kicking me out of the computer lab now. I gotta go. Keep a look out for those pictures because they are coming really soon.
Mom, Dad, brothers, and friends, see you in a few weeks!
Saturday, February 5, 2011
The town is pretty cool. It is right on Lake Kivu and right next to the DRC; seriously, I am so close to the Congo that I can see into people's houses! Ha!
I got a tour of Rusizi from Christa and Kate, two volunteers that are stationed in the area. They took me around and showed me all the important places in town. They introduced me to a few of their friends and showed me a couple prospective houses/offices.
Speaking of housing, I still don't know where I am going to live in Rusizi, but I still have time to get that in order. I expect to get most of those specifics out of the way before I leave for the states at the end of March. Speaking of which, I only got a couple of weeks left. See you soon, Chicago!
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Every city, town, and village in the world experiences some form of violence. I don't care who you are or where you are from.
I feel that Kigali, and Rwanda as a whole, is a pretty safe place. However, just like any city in the world, it is not immune to violence.
Below is a message I received from the Peace Corps Rwanda administration that was given to them by the US Embassy in Rwanda.
Please see the warden message sent out last night from the US Embassy.
Please remain calm and vigilant.
U.S. Embassy Kigali, Rwanda
January 28, 2011
The U.S. Embassy in Kigali learned that a grenade explosion occurred in the Remera-Giporoso area of Kigali near an Engen petrol station at approximately 7:00pm this evening. Two people are dead and more than two dozen have been injured. The Embassy urges U.S. citizens in Rwanda to remain vigilant, exercise caution, and avoid crowds, demonstrations, or any other form of public gathering.
This is not the first time an attack like this has occured. They happen every few months, usually around elections or important dates that are observed because of the genocide in 1994. This is, however, the first time I think I have mentioned an attack like this in my blog. I mention this attack because some people have seen the 'Rwanda News' section on my blog and have asked me about it.
This was the worst attack that I have seen so far. Peace Corps Rwanda takes these attacks very seriously and has policies and procedures in place to protect volunteers from situations likes these.
What was the cause of this last attack? Well, April 2011 will be the 17th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. So there is that to consider. Most probably it was because of the local elections that are taking place this month (February). Below is a message I received from the Saftey and Security Officer of Peace Corps Rwanda.
I wanted to remind you that the local leaders’ elections are scheduled to begin this Friday, 4 February 2011 at the Umudugudu level throughout the Country. Every Rwandan at the age of voting and who has the rights to vote has been called to be at the designated site by 7am that day. It is expected that people will be done late in the morning and go back to work.
The elections will continue in the indirect way to choose those who go upper in the structures up to the District level, and all voters country-wide will be called to vote again for the District Advisory Council on February 21st.
It is expected that these elections will go smoothly and fast. But, please remain cautious about your safety and avoid any interference in this important action for Rwandans.
Please check with your supervisor and the counterpart to know whether you should go to work. Otherwise stay at home, at least for the morning.
Again, these attacks are very infrequent. They may pick up a bit as April approaches and they may continue until the end of June. No one should be worried or scared, but merely cautious and, as the US Embassy has advised, vigilant.
Rwanda is an awesome place to work, live, and visit. If my previous blog entries haven't made that clear, then the fact that I have willingly chosen to continue my service in Rwanda should. However, there is just as much danger here as any other country in the world. Even Chicago, the city that I will always, ALWAYS call home, is no more or less dangerous than Kigali. So, to potential volunteers and travelers my message is clear: Visit, Have fun, but BE SAFE.
Friday, January 28, 2011
I am currently in the process of wrapping up my life in my village. I am saying goodbyes to people; organizing my farewell party for the nurses with whom I have been working; coordinating the graduation ceremony for my English class; and enjoying my last "Big Brother/Little Brother" time with Rutambi.
I am also in the process of completing my Close Of Service (COS) paperwork. I have to do a few reports about my work, my site, and, especially, my health. In fact, the week after next I am going into the capital to have a three day-long physical exam. They are going to test EVERYTHING. That's good, though, because I need to be medically cleared to officially finish my PCV service AND to start my third year.
Speaking of my third year, I was able to sit down with PC Rwanda's APCD (Associate Peace Corps Director) during my COS conference in Gisenyi earlier this month. Our conversation focused a lot on my duties as the very first, official PCVL for the PC Rwanda program.
So, as you know, I will be moving from my village in Rubona (in the East Province of Rwanda) to a little border region called Rusizi (in the West Province). They want the PCVL out there because it is so remote. It takes 8-10 hours to get from Rusizi to Kigali, the capital, where PC Rwanda HQ is located and, thus, the nearest staff member.
The position will be for a full year. I will be in the states all of April to visit and I will return to Rwanda in early May to begin my work. I will still have volunteer status, but I will be part of the full-time staff as a para-professional. It sounds like most of my time will be in the West and South Provinces of Rwanda fielding volunteer questions, comments, and concerns. I won't bore you with too many specifics; everything that the APCD and I spoke about regarding the position's duties can be summed up in two important objectives: Site Development and Volunteer Support.
Site Development means prospecting and preparing sites for future volunteers. This includes traveling around Rwanda and introducing myself and Peace Corps to prospective host communities; and meeting with local government officials, authorities, and prospective partner organizations (NGOs, NPOs).
Site Development also means surveying each prospective site for possible safety and security issues. These duties include, but are not limited to, researching and evaluating: the community's need for a volunteer, the community's receptiveness to having a volunteer live and work with them for two years, the volunteer's housing situation, and the volunteer's proximity to food, water, and health care. This is all just a taste of how I will be 'developing' sites for new volunteers.
Understand, however, that I do not have the rubber stamp of approval on all this. I collect and compile the data; I do not actually approve the sites myself. I give my recommendations, but PC Rwanda professional staff have the final say.
Volunteer Support is also a broad sounding objective too, isn't it? But it is just what it sounds like. Once volunteers are placed at their sites, I will be visiting and contacting them regularly to make sure the volunteers are safe, healthy, and meeting programming objectives. This may mean lending knowledge and experience regarding cultural integration or programming; or it may mean assisting volunteers with issues regarding safety and security in their workplace, homes, or personal lives. This will also mean that I will have to do some PC Rwanda policy and procedure enforcement, but in my conversation with the APCD I was told that the PCVL position wasn't to be one of a 'PC police officer' or, at the other end of the spectrum, any kind of errand boy for the volunteers. The PCVL in Rusizi is to act as a resource for the volunteers to receive meaningful advice and prompt, efficient assistance.
All-in-all my conversation with the APCD was very exciting. This kind of work experience will be very helpful to draw upon as I continue my career in foreign service and international development. I was very happy to hear that my expectations and his expectations of the position were pretty much the same. Next week I have some time with the Director of PC Rwanda and I look forward to speaking with her about the position. I am sure it will not vary much from what I have already been told.
Anyway, I am very excited to be continuing my service in Rwanda. I loved my experiences in Rwanda as a PCV. Recently, however, I have been feeling like it is time for some kind of change in regards to taking on more responsibility and work. Therefore, I am very much looking forward to starting my new position.
Most importantly, I have been feeling like it is definitely time for me to visit home. Speaking of which, I come home in two months! See you all soon!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
I am on my way to my Close of Service (COS) conference in Gisenyi so I gotta be quick.
Christmas and New Years were fun.
Phase 3 of the Rubona Water Project has been completed (picture of the new sink in the women's hospitalization ward).
I have my COS conference this week (more to come).
I do not have more information about my 3rd year extension (more to come). I'll probably have a lot of specifics about it after this conference.
The most important thing I wanted to post here was to remind people to STOP sending packages to me. If you send them now, I will not receive them before I leave Rwamagana. When I leave Rwamagana in March I am closing my P.O. Box and when I return to Rwanda in May I will NOT have the same mailing address because I will be on the other side of the country. Please do NOT send anything until I post my new address.
With that said, THANK YOU to everyone who has ever sent me anything: from the biggest care-package to the smallest letter of encouragement. From the bottom of my heart, Thank You and God Bless You!