Friday, November 2, 2012

Bringing it to a final farewell

Alright, so with this blog update I’m hoping to finally be caught up updating everyone.  And it’d better be worth the 2hrs I’ve spend sitting at the internet cafĂ©, haha.

I’ve filled you in on GLOW and weddings galore. That brings us up to the last trimester of school which was a breakneck 8 weeks long.  8 weeks to teach is basically nothing. I was able to get 2 short units in for my Biology classes, the Urinary System and Non-Flowering plants. I’m not sure how much the got out of either, but it was good to finish up there…I at least finished further along than last year which is good for the students.  With my English Literature students, we attempted, key word attempted, to read the first couple chapters of a book called Nervous Conditions, which is about an African girl and her story about her battle for education.  Well, we read, but I don’t think we understood much at all. Instead, we developed some serious critical reading skills. They did exercises every week where they had to answer questions about things in the text, got really good at identifying and looking up unknown words in their dictionaries AND they got really good at telling me “Teacher, we have no idea what this book is saying but we’re really happy to practice speaking.” Okay…so I guess that’s a win?  But yes, third trimester was super fast and now…well, it’s over and basically has been for the past 2 weeks.  We started exams super early, actually the week my replacement came to visit site, not very ideal for her, and now it’s just correction and deliberation.  But really, that’s all that’s been happening in the last trimester at school.  I’ve been grading, filling out report cards, giving “second chance” exams and marking those.  Next week all the teachers will finish up, my S4’s will have a “celebration feast” which I’m invited to (I don’t really know what it entails) and then we’ll have a teacher celebration the day after on November 9th.

And then, then (here’s the kicker), the next day I move out of my village. That’s right friends, family and all readers…it’s been 2 years. I move out of my village in one week, I will no longer be a Peace Corps Volunteer in 1.5 weeks and I leave Rwanda in 2 weeks.  Things just got real.

But let’s take a break from that real quick and let me fill you in on some awesome news: my site is getting a new volunteer in December! Hoo-ray, this is very very exciting because I know that Muremera is one of those places that will thrive with another volunteer in place.  Anyways, her name is Julia and she came to visit the second week of October.  I kind of wish we hadn’t started exams that week, would’ve given her a chance to watch teaching/maybe teach herself BUT all in all I think we had a solid 4 days during her site visit.  Julia is an awesome girl and reminds me a lot of myself when I first visited Muremera.  Loved the scenery and view, was really freaked out about living with no electricity.  However, I think, given time, she will adjust (like I have) and do really well at Muremera and teaching at Munanira.  She seems like a very focused individual with many ideas.  So, I’m hoping that she will be able to implement some secondary projects that never came to fruition in my time since I focused mainly on getting the village used to having a foreigner there.  So, shout out to Julia, my replacement volunteer, I think you’re going to do great!!

And now back to the reality of leaving. It’s hard to believe I’m leaving. I’m pretty sure I’m in denial. Who wouldn’t be in denial? This place has become home and I’m leaving in a very short time.  It’s very surreal and strange and I’m pretty sure I haven’t fully accepted that I’m moving out, leaving and (eventually) going home to the USA.  Weird.  Enough moody thoughts, I’ll leave you with some fun photos from this past weekend when we had the baby naming ceremony for Euphron and Aloysie’s new baby, enjoy:

The happy new family

My best friends: Euphron and Twaza

And we continue…

So, last time I left off we had finished up with the month long of weddings and now I do believe I’m backtracking to fill you in on GLOW camp.

A little background first. GLOW is a Peace Corps program to empower girls around the world. It stands for Girls Leading Our World. (There is a boys version, but no, we do not call it BLOW). Peace Corps Rwanda has been doing GLOW camps for the past 3 years. Last year, I did not participate due to various factors. My region (Muhanga) also did not participate at a whole, but we decided this year, we were going to put together a GLOW camp!  And, lo, we did.  With the power combined of Pamela and Gelsey (and the rest of our administration team; Jamie, Daniel, Michael and Meredith) we held the 1st regional Muhanga GLOW camp from August 27-31st at Mpanda Vocational Training Center (Jamie’s site). In total we had 30 teenage Rwandan girls from 6 different schools, including 5 from GS Munanira!  We had a really fun week teaching the girls all sorts of important things having to do with life skills: HIV/AIDS awareness, goal setting, teamwork, etc.  But we also decided our camp was going to be as “camp-like” as possible, so they learned what it’s like to go to an American camp…well, as American as we could make it!  So, when they weren’t in sessions learning something, there was recreational time, a ropes course, movie night, dance night and all girls were organized into “teams” with cheers.  At the end of the week, there were many tears as the girls headed back to their homes, leaving their new found friends and experiencing something that they will likely remember for the rest of their lives.  At the end of the week, all us PCVs were…exhausted but happy I think. We pulled off GLOW camp with no major snafu’s and the girls clearly had a good time.  And in the end, that’s what counted, the girls having a blast.  And, just to give you an idea of GLOW camp, here’s a summary in photos:

Me and fellow PCV Susie with some of our Rwandan co-facilitators

Checking campers in!

Playing Basketball (Knock-out actually)

Happy PCVs! Kay, myself, Jamie and Nate

Learning good hygiene: hand washing!

Rec time: Volleyball

Rec time: Painting

Rec time: Yoga
Affirmation Wall time

Team Cheer: Go team Oprah-Obama!

Ropes Course: Team building

Ropes Course: Trust Sit

Kay teaching a session

Me and a bunch of the girls

Me and my girls from GS Munanira!! (so proud of them for smiling!)


Last day with their shirts

Loading them up onto the bus to go home

Group Shot with special guests Steve (our CD) and the US Embassy’s DCM (2nd in Command)

And that was GLOW…stay tuned for the next update!

Friday, October 19, 2012

GLOW/Weddings Galore/Last Term/Site Visit…ye baba we!

It’s been a while, yeah? Last time I was at my Close of Service (COS) conference.  And now it’s October, wow!  Lots of stuff to cover here, so it’s going to be a doozy of a post, with pictures and words and and and lots of good things!

So, first things first.  After my COS conference, I’m pretty sure I hung out in my village for 3 weeks.  However, it being a long time ago and my mind is currently in “OH MY GOD YOU LEAVE RWANDA REALLY REALLY SOON” mode, I couldn’t really say for sure what I was doing most of the month of August.  However, the one big event I do remember in those 3 weeks, the beginning of my month of weddings!  So first, we’ll hear about my crazy month with 3 weddings, then we’ll back track a little bit to hear about GLOW camp, fast forward again to the last school term I will EVER teach in Rwanda and finish up with the site visit for my replacement volunteer.

Weddings Galore

Okay, so, from August 12th-September 15th (a span of a month people) I was at/in/part of/partaking in 3, count it 3 Rwandan style weddings.  First up, Sylvain’s brother’s wedding.

Wedding I: Sylvain’s Brothers Wedding

Who is this Sylvain character?  Sylvain is my counterpart up at school. He’s the person I go to when I’ve got any questions/issues/am confused/etc. He’s also currently in University studying Biochemistry so we always have something sciencey to talk about.  Overall, Sylvain is an awesome guy, very down to earth and I am able to talk candidly to him.  That’s a HUGE deal, being that he’s a Host Country National (HCN) and that can sometimes be difficult to do.  So Sylvain’s my man, my buddy, my pal.  We usually play games in staff meetings…we are model teachers.

ANYWAYS, his brother was getting married.  And I got invited to the wedding!  Cue wedding day, Sunday, August 12th.  Aka, longest day of my life.  Step 1) Wake up at 5 am. Step 2) Get a wake up call from Sylvain at 5:30am to make sure I’m actually awake. Step 3) Go meet Sylvain at Bihembe (Adventist church) at 7:30am to walk to the dowry ceremony. Step 4) Walk like 2ish hours to the village of the bride, leave Ruhango district, go into Nyanza district and see Nyamagabe district in the near distance.  Step 5) Dowry ceremony: the cow runs away, we sing songs, we sit and begin to drink fanta, we are rushed in drinking our fanta and then the dowry ceremony is finished. Step 6) Turn around and walk BACK to Bihembe church (another 2ish hours). Step 7) Wait for the pastor who ends up being an hour late. (side note, during this wait time, I determined I was very dehydrated from walking all day and only drinking Fanta and almost passed out at the church. Smooooooth Caroline, smooth.  Lesson: learned) Step 8) Religious wedding is a go!  And, done in record Rwandan time, one hour only! Step 9) Walk to Rwe Sero where the reception is being help…oh right, that’s another like hour walk Step 10) Tell Sylvain I’m going to die unless we find me some food and water (he laughs and ends up pulling through finding a meal of beans/cassava root and water.  it’ll do, it’ll do). Step 11) Reception, I was busy eating so I missed it.  Step 12) Go home with Ephron and Aloysie, my bodyguards (kind of?) back to Muremera.

All in all, this whole thing was 12 hours. and I think a solid half of it was walking.  Needless to say, I was hurting the next few days.  However, I brought my camera and once the camera man ran out of film (yeah, they use film here!) my camera became the official wedding camera.  So then I had like 300 photos on my memory card from this wedding.  Want to see? Yeah you do, here’s a few of those wedding photos:

Dowry Ceremony: Bride meets Groom

Religious Ceremony: Bride and Groom

Me and the girls

Fifi, me, Vincent (so angry!) and Slyvain


Wedding II: Fanny’s Wedding

So then the next wedding came on September 1st, right after GLOW camp (which we’ll back track to in a bit). This was the wedding of my Language Cross-Culture Facilitator during training.  Fanny and I have continued to keep in touch and she made sure that I was going to be in attendance at her wedding…little did I know I was going to be IN the wedding…well, the dowry at least. And so, on August 30th, I made my way to the deep deep south of Rwanda to Cyahinda, Fanny’s hometown.  Unfortunately, I was just coming off of GLOW camp so I was kind of a pre-wedding day all night party pooper.  Meaning, everyone else partied and was happy and excited and me, well, I went to bed.  Better than me being a grumpy gills.  And then in the morning Fanny goes “Are you better now?” sign of a good friend right there.

September 1st: Early in the morning because we all wake up when the sun comes up (no electricity, remember?).  Everybody’s put to work doing something to prepare for the dowry ceremony. I get the simple and wonderful job of cleaning plastic chairs.  Hey, I was just happy to be useful. After finishing cleaning chairs and the whole dowry stage is set up, it’s just basically everyone running around bathing/getting ready/eating/running around doing nothing/sitting doing nothing.  And, lo and behold, true to Rwandan fashion this time, we end up running 2 hours late.  Originally we were supposed to start at 9am, but we didn’t really start until 11am.  But, everyone got all dressed up, since I was part of the dowry ceremony I was wearing an imishanana (traditional Rwandan dress) and carried the gift for Fanny’s mother-in-law.  Overall, the dowry was a whole lot of fun. I caused quite the ruckus being 1) a white person and 2) in the ceremony…whoa, what’s going on?!  Fanny looked absolutely gorgeous, I got to be her makeup artist which was loads of fun and then finally at about 12:30pm the dowry finished.  And then at 1pm we all piled into a twegerane (taxi bus) and took the 2hr ride into Butare for the religious ceremony (Catholic this time).  Unfortunately, because we were running 2hrs late, we didn’t get to Butare until about 2:45 and school was starting that Monday.  I made the decision to not go to the religious ceremony and instead went halfway home to Jed’s site where me, Gelsey and Jed spent and entertaining but exhausted overnight.  More on that later.

How bout some pics from Fanny’s wedding? Yeah? Yeah:

Getting Fanny (the bride) ready

Dowry Wedding Party- Where’s Waldo??

In the midst of the ceremony

Fanny meeting her Husband


Lots of people in attendance

A short milk drinking thing before heading off to the church

Wedding III: Francoise’s Wedding

And last, but certainly not least, there was Francoise’s wedding on September 15th.  Now, Francoise is one of my best girlfriends in the village.  She previously lived about a 20min walk away in the neighboring village of Kabuga, but now (after the wedding) she’s lives a whole like 20feet from me!  Talk about awesome.  Anyways, I had been so busy during the break I had missed both her civil ceremony and dowry ceremony.  I was not going to miss her religious ceremony.  And nor was she going to let me miss it either.

So for this wedding, I was not an “official” part of the wedding party, but Francoise decided I needed to wear traditional Rwandan dress (imishanana) and then somehow was adopted into the wedding party.  This whole ordeal, the religious ceremony and reception, took about 12hrs as well.  It was another long day but it was loads of fun because it was Francoise and she’s awesome!

Francoise married an Adventist man so her wedding was Adventist…a little different from Catholic.  Not that weddings in Rwanda are anything like weddings in America.  They are a whole different sort of breed.  But this Adventist wedding was the second one I had attended, the first being Sylvain’s brother’s.  A long day, lots of pictures, lots of fun, lots of cake and in the end, Francoise got married off!  Woohoo!  Here’s some photographic evidence:

Getting the bride ready (that’s Francoise)

Church setup

Groom and Bride

Me forcing people to smile

Intore dancing (traditional dancing) at the reception

Lots of people at the reception

And that’s my crazy month of weddings.  I’m going to take a break here for a couple reasons: 1) My head hurts. 2) I need to go pack my stuff and go back to site. So, to be continued…

Friday, July 27, 2012

Coming Down to the Wire

It’s been a long time. I know this. I realize this. And I’m sorry, I’m not sorry. See, here’s the thing.  When I first started Peace Corps, everything was new, crazy, hilarious, frustrating, etc.  And yeah, I’ve still got those feelings…I just don’t have the time to blog about them.  My Mom’s been bugging me for literally 3 months to “update my blog” and truth be told, it’s been on my list of things to do and I have wanted to.  However, the only time I really have to update my blog is when I go to Kigali and every time I go to Kigali I have a list of other things to do.  Those things unfortunately take precedence over updating my blog.  Sorry.

But here it is, the blog of all blogs.  Well, kind of.  I’m going to give you a nice, brief, concise update on life and then recount the past few days because those are the ones most fresh in my brain. And, I will try, try, try to give you that picture update from Linda’s visit. But like I said, things take precedence over my blog (sorry) and loading pictures can take an especially long time. But I will try! Last time I left you, I had filled you in on 4 months. Now, it’s July. So that means I need to fill you in on May-now. Let’s see….what happened? Not sure if I can remember.

Well, definite fun part was participating in the the Kigali Peace Marathon again. I did the relay again this year, but my relay team had some issues to it ended up being me and Kay on a 4person relay team.  We thought about running a half marathon each. And then we realized that it was a better idea to run our leg of the relay, then go back to the Case de Passage (Peace Corps hostel) and shower before everyone else. So we got hot showers. And it was worth every second. June was pretty laid back, not much going on besides school school school, teach teach teach, run around and look (and sometimes be) busy. Before I knew it I was writing my end of term exams…and then typing up half the school’s exams because I have “speed” on the “machine” (I can type fast on my computer).  Then we had exams, I graded exams and failed half my English class, but they deserved it.  And I’ll tell you why! We have studied summary writing, using your own words and that whole deal. The seemed to have got it and I was happy. Their exam asked them to summarize some readings…they copied the readings. ZERO. So yeah, that was a bit annoying but I got over it. Biology went pretty okay, had some really good exams and then had some exams where clearly they didn’t study.  I can’t remember any epic answers, but I’m sure there were some.

I will admit to y’all that I did hit one of my low points. There came a day after many stressful things had been building up and then there was a trigger and I found myself wanting to beat the crap out one of my students. Naturally, that freaked me out. And I recognized that that was not good.  Don’t worry, I did take care of it (Mom and Dad can attest to that) and talked to someone and now I’m doing a lot better. But I was not a happy person for about a week there and it worried me. I didn’t like seeing that person in the mirror and feeling like that. I guess I’m lucky that this was the first time, I saw it and I realized I needed to talk to someone. So things are good now, I promise but I think it’s also important for everyone to know that even I hit low points. I’m not always happy and peppy, even I get down sometimes.

Annnnd moving on!

For the past 3 days I’ve been at my COS conference.  For those of you not familiar with Peace Corps, COS stands for “Close of Service” or “Continuation of Service” and it is our conference to get us ready to head back to the good ol’ USofA (or for some of us to continue(extend) our service).  Me, I went into Kigali last Friday (for legitimate reasons, don’t worry).  Left the village early Friday morning and avoided the mad rush of students leaving.  Arrived in Kigali late morning to get everything prepped and ready for Judges teaching Saturday morning.  Saturday was a pretty nice day.  Taught judges in the morning then met up with one my old LCFs (Language Cross-Culture Facilitator) who now studies in America but had come back to visit Rwanda for a month!  And that was lots of fun and lovely.  Sunday rolls around, went off to visit Gelsey at her site because it’d been a while.  We had a lovely night of just doing nothing, well we visited her headmaster, and then lazy breakfast in the morning.

Now, oy, come Monday morning…the most stressful 3hrs of my life.  Gelsey and I were on a mission. This mission was to find the Indian Embassy in downtown Kigali.  However, it is not easy to find. Not helped by the fact that all the information online was incorrect: addresses, phone numbers, maps, street names. So we walked around for an hour and a half, then got info from Brittany on the actual location…walked around for another hour. Still no success. Hardest place to find EVER. So we gave up. And then we tried to get down to Nyabugogo to catch our bus to Kibuye.  Whoops, giant traffic jam.  So naturally, in standard Rwandan fashion, we almost missed our bus. But we didn’t!

Went down to Kibuye on Monday afternoon to celebrate a fellow PCVs birthday.  We called it the “end of an era” party.  I’ll just let you run with that.  It was a whole lot of fun, there is photographic evidence (nothing bad, just entertaining) and it was a nice relaxing time for all of us.  However, Tuesday morning was a slow start. That tends to be what happens when you stay up late.  But, eventually we all got up and moving and made our way over to the Centre Bethanie where our COS conference was being held.

For the past 3 days, we’ve been having our COS. That’s a bunch of sessions where we talk about what readjustment back to the states will be like, saying goodbye to our village and really just getting prepared for the next three months.  And these next three months are really just all about saying goodbye, prepping people for us leaving, and preparing ourselves for leaving. 

It’s weird. It’s surreal.  Do I really only have like 3.5/4 months left?  Where did all the time go? It’s crazy. I’m not sure I like it. But at the same time I’m excited.  I really just don’t know how to feel about all of this, it’s a ton.  On November 14th (actually probably 3 days earlier) I will leave the place I’ve come to call home.  My village. Muremera. Tiny ass village of ridiculousness and happiness. People I’ll never see again. People I’ll try to keep in touch with, but will I actually?  Will I stay in touch with all the PCVs from my intake group (Education group 2)? What about PCVs from other groups?  All of a sudden I question relationships. Are they strong enough? Will I stay in touch with the people I call my close friends here?  Will we fall out of touch?  Has this been a joke to some? Where when it comes down to it, the relationships formed don’t really matter?

These are all things going through my head, at this exact moment. I just wrote that as a stream of consciousness because not even I sometimes know what’s going through my head. So there’s a little tidbit of how ADD and all over the place my head is at. And it all rotates around the fact that, I’m leaving. In like 4 months. I’m going back to real life. But what is real life? Was this not real? Was it all a dream? No. This was, this is real. I know I’ve been changed since coming to Rwanda. I am not the same person.  I’m a lot stronger, I’ve grown up, I’ve pushed myself to my limits and beyond. But I know I’m still that person I was 2 years ago. I know one of the first things I want to do when I get back to Connecticut is to go to a spa and get pampered. I want a nice haircut, I want a massage, I want a pedicure, I want a manicure (maybe tips, I do like them!), I want to do all those vain things that make me feel good. So sue me if I want that, there’s nothing wrong with it. I want to wear my 5inch heels, I want to show my knees, I want to get back to my culture.

I realize that more some days and other days I don’t want to go back. But at this point, the readiness for returning is growing and I know I need to go home. Home. It’s a weird word. It means roughly 3 different things to me. 1) Connecticut. The place I grew up. Where my family is. Where my childhood and history is. 2) Santa Clara. My university. Where I figured out what I love. Where I met some amazing people and made some absolutely fantastic friends. 3) Muremera, Rwanda. My village. Where I was the first foreigner to really live there. Where I was accepted for all my American quirks and never really felt some of the problems other volunteers felt.  But when it comes straight down to it, Connecticut is where I want to be in 5 months. I will be so happy to hug my parents, see my childhood friends and be back in the place where I am me, fully me and nothing else.

So it’s a weird dynamic. It’s a weird time in my life. And this conference brings it all to light and talks about it. And for someone who doesn’t like to talk about things until I’m good and ready, it’s been good, overwhelming, stressful, sad, fun. Really, just a roller coaster. But it’s been a good conference overall. It’s the last official time we’re all getting together. And it’s obvious to see that we’ve all grown and changed. Before, our conferences would get a little…crazy.  This time, things are much more mellow, like we’re realizing that things are winding down.

No one ever said saying goodbye was easy. But I think saying goodbye to this will be one of the hardest things I’ll ever have to do.  And now I’m done being sentimental, so I’ll sign off here and say love you all, keep it real and until next time!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What's going on in the Daily Life??

Oh dear. Last time I updated it was January.  It's now May. My bad, really, my b.  I can't say I didn't warn you though, right?  As I spend more time living in Rwanda, the less I feel like exciting things happen to me and more just "normal" every day stuff is happening.  And sorry, I'm not really one to write an entire blog about the mundane daily activities.  But, it IS indeed time for a long and much needed blog update because, well, it's been 5 months and stuff HAS happened!

So, here goes.  Back in January, the second school year started.  As usual, it got off to a slow start (no surprise there).  However, all of us teachers buckled down and made the weekly schedule giving me 3.5 day weekends (worth it).  At that point, I was teaching 5 classes of S2 Biology (8th grade).  Little did I know that a month, yes, a month before the trimester officially ended we would be switching everything up again.  Alas, about 2/3 of the way through the first trimester my headmaster calls a staff meeting and, guess what we do.  We redo the entire.schedule. TWICE. Not only that, we have to switch around who's teaching what because we're short some teachers, yada yada, every Rwandan teacher needs to be teaching 30hrs no more no less, yada yada.Then this convo happens:

HM: Caroline can you teach more than 15 hrs??
C: Nope, no I cannot. 
HM: Why?
C:My work doesn't let me. 
HM: Can you teach English? 
C:Do I have to? 
HM: Please?? It's your native tongue, it will be so easy for you.
C: I really don't want to, do I have to?
HM: Yes, you will teach S4 EFK, Literature in English.  7 hours a week. And only 3 classes of S2 Biology.
C: I'll only teach English Literature if you give me a Sport class and only 2 classes of Biology.
HM: Okay.

So, with 2 weeks left of teaching in the 1st trimester, I went from teaching 5 classes of S2 Biology to teaching 1 class of English Literature (7hrs a week), 1 class of sport (2 hrs a week) and 2 classes of biology (3 hrs each a week).  Worst part was breaking the news to my biology students I'd be leaving with another teacher...some of the started crying but alas, not much I could do and I'll be honest, I was pretty damn stoked to be teaching sport!!!

I'm still stoked about teaching sport, it gives me an excuse to go to school in gym clothes, how much better can you get??

I digress, so yeah that was the first trimester in a nutshell. Then we did exams way to early (per usual), my kids did..ehhhh, they at least tried hard.  And then it was HOLIDAY BREAK!! Wa-hoo!

What'd I do during my last first trimester break of Peace Corps? Well, I'm so glad you asked.  I received an absolutely wonderful and fabulous visit from my Aunt Linda! And we did all sorts of stuff like Gorilla Trekking (it rained hard), Chimpanzee trekking, Colubus monkey trekking (it rained hard again), Canopy walking, chilling at Caroline's village, visiting Caroline's host family, hanging in Kigali and being spoiled at the Nyungwe Forest Lodge in Nyungwe National Rain Forest.  Talk about a good time.  Next blog post, that whole visit in pictures, I promise.  I'm just to lazy to write about it here because I know pictures are better.

Anywho, Linda was here in Rwanda for a week and a half and it was great, absolutely wonderful having her here.  We had a great time and I was pretty bummed to send her back to America, though I know Uncle Pietro was probably happy to get her back. After sending Linda on her way, it was a pretty quiet rest of the holiday.  I had some things to get done, so I was in Kigali a couple days but otherwise I tried to spend the rest of it in my village.  Because I leave them soon, and yes, 6 months is soon, it's really really soon!

Fast forward a little bit to April 23rd annnnnnd, it's the beginning of the 2nd trimester!  Again, we get off to a slow start.  We've finished the first 2 weeks and I've taught maybe like 5 lessons.  Goooooooo Rwanda!  Upside though, I've been corresponding with my World Wise School matchup.  This a partnership between Peace Corps and American schools to essentially do a pen pal type thing.  At the beginning of break, I received some letters from the class I'm connected with.  And finally, this last week, my EFK (English, French, Kinyarwanda Language Option) students were able to draft and write their response letters.  Talk about excited. I have never seen those kids work so darn hard.  They wrote draft after draft and really tried to use their heads to be creative (which is often a challenge here).  They put in about 9 hrs of class time to write, and rewrite, and rewrite their letters.  I was very happy with their final drafts which got sent out yesterday and are on their was to America!  Very proud teacher right here, they sure rocked it.

Then this weekend I'm in Kigali teaching for the Judges program.  That was fun and now I'm just working on organizing my life and updating things that are severely outdated (like this blog)!  And as soon as this one posts, I'll begin working on a post to detail Linda's visit to Rwanda, complete with pictures!

Keepin it real, Rwanda style!

Friday, January 6, 2012

3 Month Word Vomit

A lot has gone on since the last real blog update.  But, I hope you liked the last one with all the pictures…it was sure a pain in the butt to upload.  And, as promised, here is my word-vomit update.

As you know, I’ve been on my “summer” break here in Rwanda.  School came to a pretty clean end, lots of exams to grade, grades to calculate and record and then, oh right, write a second exam for students to take if they failed (just barely?) the first one.  That makes sense…right?

Everything from school wrapped up and then before I knew it, my good friend from high school, Dawson, was arriving in Rwanda for a 3 week visit!!  We had a great time.  He met a bunch of PCVs, we went gorilla trekking (pictures above) which was amazing, we had some nice R&R on Lake Bunyoni in Uganda and then we celebrated Thanksgiving at my village.  We killed a chicken, it was cool!

3 weeks went by fast!  I said bye to Dawson, hung out in Kigali and went to training for the new Education group, then hopped on a plane for the 1st time in over a year to go meet Mom and Dad in Cape Town, South Africa!

South Africa. Wow. I mean, yeah. Talk about different.  Stepping off the plane in Cape Town it was like stepping back into America…kind of.  While it is a very westernized place, there were still those moments where I went “Yup, still in Africa.”  But, all in all, it was amazing and wonderful.  I ate sushi, Subway and steak. It was delicious.  I got to drink water out of the tap and take REAL, like actual REAL showers with unlimited hot water.  It was just so nice.  And I mean, doing the tourist sites was fun too, but my sights on what’s interesting have slightly changed.

While in South Africa, we stayed in Cape Town, right on the beach at our friend Mimi’s home.  We went up into wine country and went wine tasting.  It was wonderful.  And delicious.  And better than ANYTHING California has produced (and it’s okay for me to say that because I’ve done the California wine tasting!).  We did standard touristy things like riding Ferris wheels, walking around tourist shopping centers, going to Cape Point and the southernmost point of Africa.  Overall, it was a very relaxing and enjoyable vacation…and I got to see Mom and Dad too which is always nice.

But wait!  Their visit wasn’t over yet!  The 3 of us hopped back on the plane for a week long tourist vacation in Rwanda, woohoo!!  That was a completely different experience as well.  For the past year I’ve been living in a rural Rwandan village, trying to be as close to a villager as I can and then I got to see what it was like to be a tourist with money!  (Jeez…I know that sounds really bad but, it’s true, yeah?).  We stayed at the Umubano Hotel in Kigali and Serena Hotel in Gisenyi.  Both were…well, they weren’t my house in the village, that’s for sure.  We visited my village –>Mom and Dad got to see where their baby girl is living and meet some of her friends, see the school.  We also did an 8hr (really actually 14) day tour to Akagera National Park.  We saw lots of animals.  We went to the Gisozi Genocide Memorial in Kigali and bummed on the lake in Gisenyi.  And I got a massage, that was cool.

Eventually I had to say bye to Mom and Dad, they needed to get back to real life and I needed to get back to the village…it had been about 5 weeks!

Parents left, new training group became volunteers a couple days later and after all that was done, THEN, I went back to the village because I needed to back to attend Euphron’s wedding!!!

Euphron’s married.  It was a tiring weekend full of wedding festivities.  But now he lives across the street from me and that’s fun.

Then came Christmas.  Jed and Gelsey came over and we spend the day over at one of the new volunteer’s house which was close to me.  there were about 12 of us total, we just hung out and had a wonderful Christmas dinner of tacos! (Anything different from Rwandan buffet is very welcome).  We didn’t feel like sleeping on the cement floor, so we did go back to my place after dinner…which meant we got to have banana pancakes with REAL (from Canada) Maple Syrup!!!  Thanks Mom and Dad for the inclusion of deliciousness in the suitcase of wonders they brought me from the states.

Keeping with the timeline, New Years was up on the list.  I spent New Years at site.  Why, you ask?  Well, I like my village, I’d been gone for a while and I was leaving Jan. 3rd for my groups Mid-Service Conference (MSC).  So it just made sense to hang out in village.

And that brings us up to the current day.  I’m in Musanze at MSC.  I’ve been a Peace Corps Volunteer for 1 year.  I’ve got one to go.  School “starts” Monday.  I’m not prepared, but that’s okay.

I’m ready to see what this new year will bring.  It feels like it’s going to be a good one.  ‘Til next time world…

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Past 3 Months in Pictures

Hey all! So, I know it’s been a while, and I apologize.  Things got crazy busy with the end of the school year, then Dawson visited, then my parents visited, then I had a wedding to go to, then it was Christmas and then it was New Years and you see, here we are at the current date.  So, I will do a word vomit blog update, but I figured first I’ll post a bunch of pictures so you can see what I’ve been up to in the mean time.

Per usual, enjoy!

Some of my students on their last day of school.  This is their best attempt at smiling.

Milo has grown to full size and proven to be quite an adventurous, but pain in the butt, cat.

Like I said, pain in the butt. That’s his kibble…guess he was hungry?

Dawson came to visit…our friendship in a nutshell.

PCV Thanksgiving, goodbye party to leaving PCVs…aptly named “A Primus TIe Affair” where wearing clothing with Primus Beer paraphernalia.  This is typical.

Primus print cocktail dresses.  Even in Africa we know how to party.

At the start of Gorilla Trekking

The Gorillas!  And a picture of me with our awesome guide.

Then we went to Uganda…to an island on a lake called Byoona Amagara for some lovely R&R.  The 3 of us stayed in a Geodome (me, Gelsey and Dawson) and had a wonderful time.  This is the billboard which welcomed us back in to Rwanda…Primus is a kind of beer.

Then I went to South Africa and met the parents! Here’s Cape Town and Table Mountain


Then we went wine tasting in Stellanbosch…Napa Valley doesn’t even come close to these wines!

We went to the Southernmost Tip of Africa!  It’s where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet and straight south is Antarctica.  Pretty cool.  Plus, I guess we’re a pretty good looking family…minus Greg.

And our last tourist destination in South Africa was Cape Point.  Yet another gorgeous view and lighthouse…and a marker saying how far it was home.  That’s a loooooong way back!

The parents came to Rwanda!  This was the courtyard at our hotel.

They even ventured out to my village.  Behind is a view from by my school, a picture with Twaza and then Donatira.

A day trip to Akagera National Park and we got to see lots and lots of cool animals!

We spent a couple days at the Serena Hotel in Gisenyi

Then the parents left and I went back to site for Ephron’s wedding.  A couple pictures of that before my camera died.  Whoops.


Post Christmas bumming.  Jed, Gelsey and Milo lounging after a nice Christmas with some new volunteers.  (That’s my house now, by the way)

And I do believe that brings us up to present day.  Later tonight I’ll hopefully write and upload a word version of what’s been going on in the Land of a Thousand hills, but really it’s typically just another day in paradise.  I’ll leave you all with a couple panorama views from vacation!

Panorama 1
Cape Point- South Africa

Panorama 2
Akagera National Park…lots of Giraffes.