Saturday, April 25, 2009

WEEKS 9-11 (Apr 10- Apr 21):

Week 9 was our last week of pre-service training. We had our last tests and interviews and said our last farewells. On the 14th we left for Kigali. The next day a total of 32 trainees, including myself, were officially sworn in as Peace Corps volunteers at the US ambassador’s house. Many people were there to congratulate us including some of our counterparts and returned PCV’s. National news reporters attended the event too and filmed and interviewed a couple of us. There is a picture on the Peace Corps website of our swear in. The next day we went to Lake Muhazi (north of Rwamagana) for a celebration. The lake is gorgeous and bigger than I thought. A couple people, including me, did some wake boarding. Unfortunately, at the end of my run I fell off but I let go of the rope a little too late. My life jacket brought me to the surface right away and I was nailed in the face by the wake board. It cut the bridge of my nose and my eyebrow. I had to get 2 stitches in my left eyebrow (the 7th time I have had stitches, all on my face) but my nose didn’t need stitches luckily. On the 18th, I departed to my site. Now the 2-year commitment begins. Kinyarwanda is coming along. People are impressed that we are learning Kinyarwanda because most people don’t put forth the effort to learn Kinyarwanda.
Every morning here at site it is very foggy and beautiful. Sometimes I am even lucky enough to hear the Muslim call to prayer.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

WEEKS 8-9 (Mar 30-Apr 9):

For several weeks, we prepared for our “practical activity”. For this assignment, we were supposed to identify a target group that we would eventually give a health presentation to in kinyarwanda. I gave a presentation about HIV/AIDS to a huge group of primary school children ranging in age from about 6-16. Doing the presentation in kinyarwanda was difficult and took a lot of preparation. Overall, it was a success. I gave a presentation about the transmission of HIV/AIDS and a colleague gave a presentation after mine concerning the myths about HIV/AIDS.
We held a party for our language and cross-cultural teachers and for our resource families. It will be sad to see everyone part but exciting to go to our sites and get started. Training ends Saturday the 11th. We will go to Kigali on Tuesday and on Wednesday the 15th we will be sworn in AS VOLUNTEERS!!! From Kigali we will go to our sites and begin our service. After the party for resource families my “mama” brought me to her neighbors wedding. It was very fun and more traditional of a wedding than the last one I attended.
Genocide Memorial Week began on April 7th. On April 6th 1994, the president of Rwanda’s plane was shot down. On April 7th the mass slaughter was already in full swing. It is a national holiday here and is taken very seriously (as it ought to be). For the entire week, everything will close at noon and the public is expected to attend genocide conferences where guest speakers will give their testimonies etc… Movies concerning genocide will be shown everyday throughout the entire country. People will also visit their families and gravesites of their lost loved ones. It is a time for mourning, reconciliation and remembrance. On the 7th, we joined a silent parade through the streets to a memorial site (mass grave) nearby. It is strongly discouraged and stigmatized to not attend these events.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Kinyarwanda is VERY difficult

I thought that some of you might be interested in the language that I am learning. Here is a little bit of info on kinyarwanda.

1. Kinyarwanda is tonal meaning that the way you pronounce things or use inflection can change the meaning of the word entirely. For example, the word gusura can mean both to fart and to visit. The only difference is that if you prolong the second “u” it means to visit but if you say it fast, it is to fart.
2. There are 16 noun classes. Each class of nouns has a different plural form and just about everything in the sentence will change according to the noun. Which means that there are many ways to say the same word. For example, ni byiza (it’s good), ijoro ryiza (good night), uri mwiza (you are good looking).
3. In kinyarwanda, there tends to be new verbs for every behavior. For instance, in English we can “sprinkle” about anything. You can sprinkle spices, dust, water etc…
Well, in kinyarwanda there are completely different verbs for sprinkling spices versus salt etc…

Anyway, this is just a taste of its complexity. I hope it interests you because it just frustrates me!

Facts about Rwanda

1. Life expectancy at birth is 47.3 years. The life expectancy at birth in the US is 77.85 years.
2. Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa
3. 60% of Rwandese live below the poverty line
4. Rwanda is slightly smaller than Maryland at 26,338 sq km.
5. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is between 3% and 6%.
6. About 90% of Rwandese practice subsistence agriculture.

Cultural Notes #2

1. If you are invited for food or drinks it is expected that the person who invites the other will pay the bill.
2. In order to get married the man must offer the woman’s family a dowry. Many times it is a cow. It isn’t required by the government anymore but is traditional and widely practiced.
3. When buying something, it is expected that you bargain with the seller.
4. When greeting someone you haven’t seen in a while you greet in a similar manner as in many places in Europe. Instead of fake kisses on each cheek though, you hug them three times while asking them how they are.