Keep Calm and Avoid Stress [Fractures]

First thing’s first: music!

  • “Scotland” – The Lumineers
  • The Serial Podcast (the absolute best source of entertainment for the three-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Butare to Kigali)
  • “Morning” – Beck
  • “Only” – Nicki Minaj (a dedication to my cohort)
  • “The Last Goodbye” – Billy Boyd (The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Soundtrack)

Though it’s been only nine days since my last post, I’ve got quite a few updates.

On Friday, December 5th, a new group of Rwanda Volunteers swore in. There are now thirty-six new Education Volunteers in Rwanda. Bottom line: They’re fantastic! They seem just as tight-knit as our little Health 6 group. I see successful collaborations on horizon.

On Saturday, a few of us headed to the Case (the Peace Corps transit house) to cook (and ultimately save money). After eating, we went to spend time at Mamba Club (the unofficial Peace Corps hostel in Kigali). We met up with some other PCVs who happened to be in town and spent the evening playing cards, chatting, and grubbing. After a while, we decided to go out to a nearby club. Twas a pretty tame night, save for some serious networking. (To be talked about further down in this post.)

Over the course of the next couple of days (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday), my left foot started hurting and swelling. I didn’t really take notice at first; the same foot had been hurting on and off since August-ish. On Tuesday morning, I went to see the PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) to get my second shot in the Hepatitis A series (as is required by Peace Corps). While prepping the shot, the PCMO noticed the swelling in my foot. We talked a bit about other symptoms and he gave me a full exam. In the end, he decided that I should go for x-rays immediately, convinced that I have broken my foot. Imagine my surprise, given that I haven’t so much as bumped or stubbed by foot since being in this country.

Less than an hour later, I was sitting in Rwanda’s largest hospital, waiting to get x-rays. From 8:00AM to 9:00AM, I hobbled back and forth from the “waiting area” (which was basically three chairs in a back hallway) to the reception, trying to explain to them that I wasn’t responsible for settling the payment. (Peace Corps pays for all of our medical care while we’re here.) After dealing with that (in English and Kinyarwanda, yay!), I waited ninety minutes to see the x-ray technician. Once I was ushered out of the x-ray room, I was seated, again, in the back alley waiting room. A solid three hours later, I was still waiting around to receive my x-rays (so that I could take them back to the PCMO). At around 1:30PM, I found myself fed up (knowing full well I had to leave for a Leadership Retreat at 3:00PM) and went to find someone in Customer Care. After another thirty minutes, I got word that the tech. who handles all the x-rays was “on lunch” and wouldn’t be back for another hour.

At this point, in America, I probably would’ve flipped out. (I mean, really! The tech’s been “on lunch” since 9:00AM. Get real.) However, fully understanding that I’m currently in Rwanda…I just left. Called the PCMO and let him know that the driver should come get me; the x-rays were a lost cause at that point in the day. The PCMO apologized furiously, over the phone, but he had no reason to! The systematic flaws were certainly not his fault. And, let’s be honest, this kind of crap happens tenfold in the States.

I headed back to the Peace Corps office, showered quickly, and jumped in the car headed to the Leadership Retreat in Kibuye (on Lake Kivu).

The Retreat lasted from Tuesday night to Thursday morning; definitely not enough time to make final programming changes…but enough time to get the conversation started. I also really appreciated the ratio of ten staff members to ten Volunteers. It was nice to get immediate answers from certain staff as to why some changes just aren’t feasible. We spent the Retreat discussing the Frameworks of Peace Corps Rwanda’s Education and Health Programs, as they relate to Rwanda’s Vision 2020 strategic plan. We brought up changes that we felt would benefit the Programs and each cohort. As I said before, it was a good start. Rome wasn’t built in a day, ya’ll.

After a number of ridiculously hot showers, comfy King-sized-bed sleeps, and seven pages of Programming notes, I was ready to head back to Kigali.

Lake Kivu, view from the room’s balcony

Lake Kivu’s many islands.

Failed selfie.

Five o’clock sunrise.

After the Retreat, I went back to Kigali and straight to the doctor. My foot had begun to swell even more. The pain was definitely bearable, so I wasn’t too concerned. The x-rays had come back that morning and showed a very slight stress fracture. Really, nothing to be concerned about. Still, the doc is worried because we’re not sure how the fracture happened. We can only assume it’s a result of all the walking I do (in inappropriate shoes) and my lack of coordination (I trip over my own feet on a regular basis). However, the fracture combined with my current (and frequent) flu, is putting the doc on edge. He thinks I might have an auto-immune something-or-other.

Six or seven vials of blood, and a TB test, later the doc sent me on my way. He apologized throughout the entire visit for not being able to do more, which I thought was very sweet. He told me he appreciated my patience (probably the first time anyone has ever said that to me) and that he would boot my foot if I wanted (I definitely don’t because it would make getting around in the village nearly impossible and I do not want to be stuck in Kigali).

At this point (Saturday afternoon), the swelling has gone down significantly and I feel a bit better (flu wise). I’m just taking it very easy hoping that by Monday, I can avoid the schedule MRI and get back to my site. We’ll see how that goes. I walked a very short distance to a cafe this morning and foot swelled up for a couple hours. Not very practical to return to the village when my only mode of transportation are my feet…if my foot is just going to become a balloon every time I try to go anyway. On the flipside, I really don’t want to stay in Kigali. I miss my site, my home, and my co-workers (though they’ve all been so incredibly understanding!). We’ll see.

Enough about my foot! Time to talk networking.

As I briefly mentioned above, I spent some time networking last Saturday night. A group of us met a couple gentlemen who work for Prepex, a company that makes a non-surgical male circumcision device. This was an incredibly lucky find, as Rwanda’s Ministry of Health has put a lot of emphasis on male circumcision (in an attempt to lower male-to-female HIV transmission rates). Basically, I got really excited about a potential collaboration and arranged a meeting yesterday (Friday) between myself, a Prepex representative, and Peace Corps’ HIV/AIDS Coordinator, Nicole.

The meeting went better than I could have ever expected. Essentially, us Peace Corps Volunteers would be responsible for handling all of the community outreach (advertising, education, finding the right location in our communities, follow-ups, etc.) Prepex has (incredibly) said that they would pay for everything involved in the trainings of our Health Centers’ staff.

Basically, Volunteers would bring nurses form their Health Centers to a three-day training in Kigali. After the training, Volunteers and their nurses would return to their villages to advertise and perform the (completely free) procedure. Ultimately, the Ministry of Health wants to complete 700,000 male circumcisions by 2015. Now, with Prepex’s help, Peace Corps can help them achieve that goal. Right now, everything seems to be moving in hyperspeed, but I can only hope that the universe threw this into my lap for a reason. I can’t imagine a better first project. I’m thanking my lucky stars that everything is going this well. (And keeping my fingers crossed.)

Well.

That’s about it for now.

Until further notice, I’ll be wasting my money in Kigali and trying to stay busy planning my upcoming projects (that will, if everything continues to go well), begin in January/February. I also have a holiday vacation planned to neighboring Burundi, starting December 24th. I’m thoroughly excited, so my foot better get its shit together in time. Though the borders from Rwanda to Burundi just opened back up for us Volunteers, they’re likely to close again soon. The upcoming elections are creating a heated atmosphere across the border, so we’ll see. We’re all holding our breath, hoping we don’t get a phone call the night of the 23rd, telling us to turn back.

[As an aside, there was an “accidental rocket projectile” launched into Rwanda on the 9th. The rocket touched down, and exploded, in the far northwest of the country and no one was harmed. We have one Volunteer in the area and Peace Corps is still decided on whether or not they’ll move him out. (They’re expecting more action in the coming months, from the insurgent group in the DRC that wants to get back into Rwanda.) Another wait-and-see situation. I’m all safe, fam bam, so no worries.]

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