Sunday, March 29, 2009

WEEKS 6-8 (Mar 21-Mar 29):

Some friends and I have been working on creating a peace corps t-shirt. So we have taken a couple trips to Kigali to meet with the t-shirt guy. On the morning of the 25th I was laying in bed half asleep when all the sudden my bed started shaking and I heard a rumbling. It took me a second to realize it was an earthquake (my first ever). Once I did, I ran under the doorframe. I later learned that it was a 6.1 on the Richter scale. It was the biggest one since last year that killed some people and destroyed some buildings. This time the epicenter was in Cyangugu to the west. Luckily, nobody was hurt and no structures were damaged (at least none that made news).
This last week was health week for women and children. So we all went to different health clinics around town to help out. I went to a clinic and helped distribute vitamin A to children. Blindness is a serious issue here so vitamin A is important to prevent it.
Many of our language teachers graduated from the national university here in Butare this week. I went to the graduation ceremony. The entire town shut down. Everyone was in fancy clothes too.
We had our farewell party to our resource families. Afterwards my mama took me to her neighbors wedding. It was VERY fun.
Oh yeah. My kinyarwanda name has been given to me by a friend who has been naming the trainees. It’s Mahire, which means one who is lucky/blessed.
I hope all is well back home. Amahoro (peace).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

WEEKS 6-8 (Mar 5-Mar 21):

As many of you already know, by birthday was March 5th. I had a nice laid back celebration with friends. We had some drinks and then went to the only Chinese restaurant in town. It’s called, “Chinese Restaurant”. The food was very good but nothing like the Chinese food we’re used to in the US. The day after, we found out what our sites are. Because this blog is public I can only give you a general idea of where my site is. My site is in the Eastern Province in the district of Rwamagana. We also were informed of what organizations we have been paired with. It’s not clear what I can reveal in this regard. All I will say for now is that I will be assisting a fairly small faith based organization that works for the mitigation of preventable diseases through behavior change.
The next week we all left to for Kigali to meet our counterparts (the people in our paired organizations who will assist us in working for the organization). We stayed in Kigali for one night and had meetings with our counterparts and others. The next day we departed to our individual sites. At site, I was introduced to my future colleagues, the community and my apartment. I have a very nice place that over looks a beautiful valley. After the volunteer swearing in on April 15th I will live there for 2 years.
We all found our way back home by Sunday. On the 18th there was a reggae show in town that I went to. It was free and had a VERY good reggae band. On the 20th, we all went to the market to buy food for our cooking lessons that were to follow on the 21st. I went to the market with a group that had to bargain for chickens, salt and more. I helped bargain for the chickens and carried them home. In Rwanda, they tie their legs together and carry them upside down. Afterwards, there was a music competition at the University in Butare. I bought a ticket and went. I was surprised to find very little live music. There were some hip-hop dance groups that were very good but for the most part there were just, although entertaining, lip singing groups. There was an award ceremony for several categories of music throughout the event.
On the 21st, I was also in the cooking group that had chickens. I learned how to kill them, pluck them, and gut them. I am one who believes that if you can’t kill it, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat it. I have been eating meat since I have been here and felt that it was necessary for me to go through the steps of killing the animal myself. Aside from that, it was overall a good experience. I can’t say that I necessarily enjoyed it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

WEEKS 3-6 (Feb 15-Mar 5):

The last couple of weeks have slowed down. On Saturday the 28th of February we had language tests by an outside group. They went well I think yet they were very difficult. On Sunday the 1st a big group of us went to Nyungwe Forest National Park. We saw three different species of monkeys there. One of the most beautiful sights we saw was of Lake Kivu.
On Tuesday the 3rd, we had our last interviews with the Peace Corps concerning our site placements. Although most of the sites have already been decided on we won’t know our sites until Friday the 6th.
On March 4th, we visited an orphanage and an organization that assists women in distress and people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. The orphanage was one of six in Rwanda. It is being run by a couple of Catholic nuns but isn’t doing so great. Their funding is insignificant and much of it (if not all) will be cut later this year and sent to Burundi. Since Burundi is now becoming more stable after many years of instability and war, many organizations are moving their focus from Rwanda and to Burundi. I don’t know what will happen to the orphans who range in age from 2 weeks to 18 years old. Normally when the parents of a child die they are taken in by family members but these children have lost all connections to their families. The orphanage is the only place they can go.
I am starting to miss everyone more. I hope everyone is doing well. Until next time… take care.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cultural Notes

I thought I would dedicate a post solely on Rwandan culture. Here are some interesting facts.
1. In Kinyarwanda, there are only words for 6 colors. I believe (don't quote me yet) they are blue, red, grey, black, white, and green. Therefore, what we know as purple... they would call blue. However, more recently French words for other hues have been adopted and are used today.
2. When shaking a persons hand you always use your right hand and lay your left hand on your right elbow. I am not SURE why this is but I suspect that it may have something to do with showing where both your hands are so you aren't perceived as trying something sneaky with the hidden hand.
3. There is no word for please in kinyarwanda. There is a word that translates as please but it only used when BEGGING.
4. When addressing elders you do not present your hand before he/she does. And you do not ask how they are doing before they do. It's viewed as disrespectful but is losing its potency.
5. Friends and acquaintances of the same gender hold hands often. However, hand holding between genders (even in young couples or married couples)is rare.
6. White people are known as "umuzungu" (singular) and "abazungu" (plural). It is a daily experience to hear children yelling in excitement "umuzungu!".
7. In photos, Rwandese typically don't look into the camera and typically don't smile unless it is a TRUE smile.

I will continue with more cultural notes as time goes on. I will try to post my recent activities soon.