13 November 2016
- My family situation has changed with no warning: I came home from site visit a couple weeks ago to discover our umukozi has gone. I have no idea how, when, or by whom this decision was made. I hope she left on good terms and is doing something that makes her happy, because she was probably my favourite person. It’s kind of a vulnerable feeling to know that what felt like a stable situation can change so quickly and with no warning—that I have no say in or control over an aspect of life so fundamental that I hadn’t even considered it changeable until it changed.
- I had my site visit and now know that I will be located in Gatsibo district here in the eastern region, only a few hours from here. I like my site already and appreciate the convenience of being within a few hours of Kigali, being located on a main road, and having a regional town I’m already familiar with. I heard this week that they may have found a house for me, and I’m excited to find out if that’s official and, maybe, where it is and what it looks like (I asked if they could take pictures when they inspect it, but that may not happen).
Where am I?
- Rwamagana, Rwanda
- I’m living with a host family outside the actual town. I walk about five minutes to my language trainer’s house and about thirty (forty if I’m walking Rwandan speed 🙂 to the Peace Corps training hub. I’ll be studying here until mid-December, when I’ll swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer and move to my site assignment for the next two years.
- For anyone curious, my host family consists of Papa and Mama Hiro (parents here are known as the parent of their child, not by their names); Hiro, Simbi, and Nziza (my little host sisters, aged 8, 5, and 3); and the umukozi and her baby (most families have an umukozi, a sort of live-in housekeeper who does tasks like cleaning and looking after the kids and who’s treated as a member of the family. I haven’t figured out the name of ours yet because it’s an extremely long Rwandan name that sounds nothing like what the family actually calls her…she’s really great, though, and patiently tries to teach me Kinyarwanda despite my total lack of comprehension of most of what she says!) The family has been fantastic so far. Sometimes we don’t understand each other, but they’re taking good care of me and teaching me new words at every opportunity. They also keep feeding me more and more!
- My house is small but clean. There’s an outbuilding containing the pit latrine, shower (a cement room with a drain and door where I can bucket-shower in private), kitchen (another cement room with a built-in wood-burning stove and room to cook over the charcoal-burning imbabura, though we usually take that outside unless it’s raining), the umukozi’s room, which doubles as the pantry, and a dirt-floored enclosure filled with jerrycans of water (or empty of water, if it’s been a few days since the spigot worked). The house itself is separated from the other building by a narrow cement courtyard of sorts, all closed off with a wall and iron gate, and most of life happens in this space, from nursing babies to hanging laundry. My room is extremely small—my twin bed takes up at least half the room—but it’s comfortable, clean, and adequate. I have my water filter, jerrycan, and shower bucket in a corner, a low table for miscellaneous belongings, and a set of pegs on the wall to hang my clothes. With my mosquito net hung, my bed becomes a grown-up blanket fort. I covered it with an afghan my mother crocheted, and it’s become my safe place when the language barrier and constant attention overwhelm me.
What’s happening in my life?
- Site Visit
Since getting assigned to Kiziguro in the eastern province, I’ve been looking forward to seeing my site, and this week I finally did. It’s a beautiful area of farms riding the backs of rolling hills. My town is tiny—I have to take a twege fifteen minutes to the next town to get to a market—but calm and welcoming. The school is run by the Catholic church and government jointly, and I spent the week at the parish making friends with about eleven priests and going-to-be-priests. We had loud, multilingual family dinners in which I could actually participate because it turns out they all speak Spanish! I’ll need a housing change, but I’m really hoping I can stay at this site.
- Language Training
I passed my first language proficiency index just before site visits. Based on that index, we’re all being assigned to new language trainers, and I’m excited to find out who I’m working with. I can hold very small basic conversations now, but I still have so much to learn!
- Free Time
We have more free time than I ever expected, and while studying fills a lot of it, it doesn’t eliminate hobbies. I’ve read seven or eight books since getting here and I’m hoping to participate in NaNoWriMo again despite my lack of internet. We’ve also discovered the delights of igitenge—the distinctive patterned cloth sold in the markets—and many of us spend our spare money on new outfits from the local tailors.
- BloggingStill no great internet, but here I am!
How can you pray for me?
Everything about this is exhausting, from the early mornings to the flood of new information and experiences. My body is tired and my brain is tired. The constant attention at home, on the streets, and in training is exhausting especially for someone with mild social anxiety, and the endless interactions wear on my introvert psyche. Pray that I’ll have the energy to stay awake, pay attention, and retain the things I learn, and that I’ll be alert enough to be cheerful and friendly with my trainers, colleagues, and host family.
Rwanda is a beautiful country, but it’s also a malarious country full of germs and diseases that my body has never experienced before and that my immune system is therefore totally unprepared to handle. Keeping healthy is a real concern in a country where, especially when I go to my village, everything from brushing my teeth to eating fresh vegetables becomes a hygiene concern. Malnutrition is also a concern with PCV’s since with unfamiliar food it can be hard to know how to maintain a balanced diet. Pray that I will stay healthy, that my immune system will adjust to Rwanda’s climate and various bugs and germs, and that I’ll find ways to eat well.
I do not like being out of control or ignorant! That makes this entire venture uncomfortable for me. Learning is a great adventure, though, and I want to get the most out of this. Pray that I’ll be brave enough to admit when I don’t know things, courageous enough to ask questions, humble enough to try new things even when I feel stupid.
I’m living with a host family for three months, studying under new teachers, and building relationships with new colleagues. As someone who has always feared encounters with strangers and suffered anxiety over new friendships, this is a big hurdle. Pray for courage as I continue to navigate an entire world of strangers; pray that I will have patience with new relationships in a new culture and that I will build strong friendships.
I’m grateful for all the encouragement and support I’ve received so far, and I can’t wait to take you along on my next great adventure!