An Attitude Adjustment

First up, two very exciting pieces of news:

Thievery – As many of you know, I was robbed (but more like pick-pocketed) last Friday, but the thief just got away with my wallet.

On Friday morning, I had a PAC (Program Advisory Committee) meeting in Kigali. Following the meeting, I headed straight to the bus station to try and avoid the busy weekend of student travel. (Many students in Rwanda, even those who don’t attend boarding schools, stay somewhere during holiday breaks outside of their school town. So, when school time rolls around, and the government assigns students one of three travel days, you have a literal flood of teenagers heading back to their respective schools.) Unfortunately, this “student travel” period fell on a weekend that had both Umuganda (mandatory monthly community service day) and Heroes Day (a holiday similar to our Memorial Day). Essentially, students would have just Saturday afternoon and Sunday to return to school. So, I opted to travel back on Friday, hoping I could miss a big chunk of the student travelers (and avoid the dreaded 3+ hour wait for a bus that I had previously experienced).

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This is the line just to purchase a ticket. Sometimes, when you get to the counter, you discover a 3+ hour wait for your bus to arrive.

When I arrived to the bus station, around 3:00PM, I was surprised by the amount of people. Turns out that many students, though assigned to a different travel day, decided to travel home on Friday…probably using the same line of thinking I was. Here’s how my Friday turned out

  • 3:00-4:00PM – Wait to purchase bus ticket. Discover your ticket is for the 5:00PM bus.
  • 4:00-4:30PM – Hang out with fellow PCV (shoutout to Maureen!) while waiting for bus to arrive.
  • 4:30-5:00PM – Linger around the area where the buses are arriving, with backpack on ground in between your legs (wouldn’t want someone pulling something…say, a wallet…out of your bag now would you?).
  • 5:00PM – Throw backpack over shoulder and rush over to large crowd of people impatiently waiting to get on their/your bus. Push through crowd for ninety seconds or so and end up seated on the bus, next to a lovely window.
  • 5:00PM-7:00PM – Enjoy a smooth bus ride to Butare, your regional town. Worry a bit about taking a moto back in the dark. Remind yourself to check headlights before hopping on.
  • 7:15PM – Go to boutique at the bus station and pick up two ramen packets (no way you’re cooking tonight). Go up to register to pay and – welp – discover your wallet is not in your bag. Mumble apology to man at counter as he says, “So sorry you can’t find your money.” Me too, man.

Given that timeline, I’m thinking I was robbed at the 5:00PM marker. The thief had probably been watching me since I had been lingering for such a long time (not than I enjoy lingering at the bus station) and snagged my wallet as I pushed my way through the crowd, bumping and jostling along the way. As many of you saw on Facebook, I’m really glad that I had just enough money on me to get home for the night.

And, now, I’m even happier becaaaaauuuuusssseeee…

A woman at the bus station (presumably at a lost and found desk) texted me a couple of days ago to tell me that…THEY FOUND MY WALLET. Following that text, a staff member offered to go to the bus station to pick up my wallet.

That’s right, ladies and gents, the thieves in Rwanda are so kind that, after they rob you of your paper money, they make sure to leave behind everything they can’t use (i.e. bank cards, family photos, coffee stamp cards, your Peace Corps ID, etc.) and then proceed to leave it somewhere so that it can be easily found and returned to yours truly. I kid you not. I’m getting back all of my bank cards, including the Rwandan one, since I’m sure the thief realized he or she couldn’t figure out my PIN. I’ve already canceled all of my cards, but my bank here in Rwanda is trying to cancel my new card so that I can avoid paying 10,000Rwf for a new one.

This ordeal has been made so much easier thanks to the kindness of strangers. Am I a fan of my thief? No. But do I blame him or her for taking what they, undoubtedly, needed more than me? No. I’m still madly in love with this country and it’s apt for kindness.

My neighbor, David – In my last blog, I spoke a little bit about David and wanting to take him to one of the Africa Cup soccer games. Unfortunately, I couldn’t because he returned to school in Gisenyi (a lakeside town about three hours away)…or so I thought.

As it turns out, he went there only to gather his belongings and then hopped on a bus back to my village. He now lives here at the Red Cross, permanently, and will be attending our local school! After school, he’ll return to the compound to care for his sister. I’m honestly too excited. He is a wonderful kid and I was going to miss him being around the Red Cross compound. David reminds me a bit of another David I knew; always smiling and whistling and eager to help out in any way he can.

Though David doesn’t speak more than two or three words of English, he reads at a proficient level and I’ve begun helping him with comprehension. In fact, today he asked for a book and, when I told them that I only had difficult-to-read books, he said no problem. He wasn’t kidding. I handed him The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and he immediately (and quickly) read the entire cover and the reviews on the back. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the things I miss about not being in the Education Program is not being able to form lasting bonds with the teens in my area. Now, that issue seems to have resolved itself!

Now on to the real juicy stuff (I know you’re riveted):

After posting about my robbery, I received some very gracious comments about my seemingly sunny disposition. Some people commended me for remaining upbeat. It got me thinking about my day-to-day disposition and if I give an accurate description of what I’ve felt throughout my service. Am I a bouncing ray of sunshine or am I gloomy ‘ole Eyeore?

The truth is that I’m a bit of both on any given day. The thing I’ve noticed, over the course of my service, is that Volunteers become hyper aware of their own feelings. (One of my colleagues wrote a more detailed blog about her own emotional journey…check it out.)

As we venture out into our villages, we’re constantly mindful of how we are being perceived. Am I smiling enough? Am I smiling too much? Did I laugh too loudly at that joke? Did I do something to make that child cry? It’s all a very precarious balancing act until you get far enough into your service that you stop caring. And that moment that you stop caring? That is the moment that something glorious happens. You become integrated enough into your community that you morph from this foreign “American Volunteer from Peace Corps” into a neighbor or a co-worker or a host child with real human feelings. You leave behind those attempts at giving the right impression and move on to giving whatever impression you damn well please.

It’s at that completely-unknown-to-me point in my service where I stopped monitoring my emotions and realized that I was content in focusing my energy on the good. I let go of the bad by releasing it in whatever form I wanted to (without worrying about if I was giving the right impression). Sometimes, it came in the form of skipping a day (or two) of going to the Health Center while I focused my energy on a different project in the community. Other times, it came in form of turning off my phone for the day and immersing myself into a new book series. Over time, I’m not sure that I’ve become any cheerier of a person…I’ve just gotten better at knowing my moods and knowing what things do make me happy. I guess mood monitoring is just another perk of Peace Corps that you don’t know about until you’re almost done.

So what have I been doing lately?

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I went to two of the Butare Africa Cup games and watched Cameroon both times. They beat DRC during the first game and were subsequently stomped on by Ivory Coast. Before going to the second game, I went to a bar with two other Volunteers and watched Rwanda lose to DRC. With a beer in hand and the big screen in front of us, it was all very “bro moment”, but enjoyable nonetheless. (Especially when Rwanda scored and the whole bar went insane.)

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A couple weeks ago, I had a big meeting with all of my WASH Club leadership team members and the outcome was…well, unexpected. While most of the villages were behind schedule, as I’d assumed they would be given the long rainy season, two of the villages were already finished and asking for a “review day” of sorts. Since some of the Club members missed important lessons, they wanted to briefly review all the material…so as not to miss an important health message. Moreover, I was told that each of the Clubs has around 150 members (50 more than the target population).

No matter what the data shows (when I’m finally done with these truly exhausting WASH surveys), I feel that I’ve made an impact in the health care in my community. This labor of love is now one that the whole community stands behind. The Club leaders are talking about moving on to other Cells, despite there being no more grant money to pay them, just because they feel the lessons are so important. I won’t know until the end of March if I’ve lowered the rates of water born illness, but I know now that the idea of community-based learning has made a difference here in Kibilizi.

Back to work I go. And by “work” I mean watching Frozen with the kiddos and trying to sing “Let It Go” in Kinyarwanda.

Seven Plates of Fries, A Pool, Gone Girl, and Eight Weeks Later

The past eight weeks have been a blur. I feel like I just wrote a blog entry, but it’s been three whole weeks and I’m already well into my fifth month in Rwanda and 9th week at site (where does the time go?!)

Here’s my listening list for this week:

  • The XX’s album, Coexist
  • Braveheart – Neon Jungle
  • Stolen Dance – Milky Chance
  • Fleetwood Mac

The past three weeks have probably been my busiest since coming to Rwanda. I’ve been on the go, go go. I can proudly say that I’ve attended all but two of my 7:00AM staff meetings. And the only reason I missed those two meetings was to travel to the cities (Butare, Kigali) for meetings. I’m a firm believer in attending the health center staff meetings. Being a Health Volunteer is difficult because of the lack of structure. I’ve found that attending the meetings and showing my face each and every morning has helped so much with integration. In turn, my co-workers have been extremely receptive to me joining them during their day-to-day services. Aside from the staff meetings, I’ve been working in the maternity and family planning services pretty consistently. I really had no inclination toward pediatrics before coming here. Now, I can’t imagine not working with the mamas and babies every day. There’s a distinct energy that buzzes around new life and I’m loving it.

On top of my normal goings on, there’s usually a day or two every week where we have a one-off health training or community day. I was lucky enough to have been told about Community Outreach Week (October 7-9) before it actually happened. (That’s a rarity given Rwanda’s go-with-the-flow work ethic.) I spent the three days, from 7:00AM-5:00PM at a primary school in Duwani (one of the rural villages in my district). It was overwhelming to say the very least – think 200 children screaming “muzungu” and running up for hugs – but I had such a great time. I got to introduce myself and Peace Corps to the kids (4-12 years old) and got to explain to them that we were there to give vitamins and medications. I struggled through the speech, in Kinyarwanda, but my counterpart was there as backup for when I couldn’t get the tenses right. It was definitely a good reminder to keep studying…”buri munsi” (every day).

Before going to the school in Duwani, I hadn’t really been able to explore the most rural villages. By moto, Duwani is 25 minutes away. Given the hills, that would be 90-minute walk or so. I will make the trek at some point, but right now I’m trying to focus my energies on work and research (Community Needs Assessment). In the meantime, I’ll take motos to interview families in the rural villages. I don’t think I could ever do meditation (just don’t have the brain for it), but the vistas in Rwanda certainly allow for some meditative thoughts. When I look out over my villages, I can’t help but be reminded of why I’m here and why it’s important I stay focused in the next two years. I find myself falling in love with Rwanda over and over again.

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Overlooking one of the Southern Province’s many valleys.

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The lack of smog/light pollution does a country good.

After the hectic week of community outreach, I was stoked to go to Butare for a little pool party action. We had a get-together to say goodbye to the Education 4 group and to welcome the five new Education 6 trainees to the South. It’s always a good time when the dirty South gets together, but I am bummed to say goodbye to some of the Ed 4 group. (I s’pose that’s life, eh?) On Sunday, a fellow volunteer and I headed back to my site for some light hiking (aka walking) and to take in the vistas. I spent the rest of the week working full days at the Health Center since I knew I’d be taking off Friday (Oct 17th) and Monday (Oct 20th) for my trip to Kigali.

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Classy pool party activities.

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Speaking of Kigali, last Friday I attended my first PAC (Program Advisory Committee) meeting. It was stressful, to say the very least. At times, I felt like the Health Program needs were being overlooked, in favor of the more successful Education Program. I left the meeting feeling frustrated and understanding why the Early Termination (ET) rate is so high in Rwanda’s Health Program. I have no intentions of leaving this place before my time is up, but I understand why others have already left/are planning to leave. On the bright side, my co-PAC-member, Lavar, and I now feel invigorated and ready as ever to rejuvenate the Health Program. It’s going to take a lot of work, organization, and planning, but it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that the Health volunteers here feel useful and understand why President Kagame welcomed us here in the first place.

After the meeting, there were shenanigans plenty and fun goings-on. In fact, on Sunday, I went to see Gone Girl at an actual movie theater. With actual popcorn. It was fantastic. I’ll refrain from commentating on the movie, given that every critic in the world already has, but I do think it was a good adaptation of great novel.

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“Vacation” means a hot shower and a soft bed.

My most troubling experience since coming to Rwanda…happened this weekend. I had been planning to visit my family on Saturday. Instead, plans just kind of fell apart (people got sick, rain made traveling near-impossible, etc.). The problem came when I tried to explain, to my host family, that I wouldn’t be able to go for a visit. If you’ve been reading any of my updates, you’ll know that my host family and I are very, very close. Unfortunately, there was a serious breakdown in the relationship when I explained that I couldn’t go to Rwamagana. I explained that I had zero options and that I could not visit; they did not understand. There was literally nothing I could do to get the point across to them; they just didn’t want to hear it. I even had a fellow volunteer, well-versed in Kinyarwanda, explain it further. Nothing worked. Essentially the conversation ended with them knowing I wasn’t going to visit that day, but not understanding why. As everyone else has told me, they’ll be fine when I do visit (Nov 22nd), but for now…they’re upset. It’s been a perfect example of a culture clash and breakdown between Americans and Rwandans.

Anyhow, I spent Sunday and Monday pigging out in Kigali and Butare and having an all-around wonderful time relaxing. By Sunday evening, I was missing site. By Monday morning, I was terribly missing site and my neighbors and my co-workers. I think this is what integration feels like? When I hopped on a moto and headed back to my site, I started really relaxing and feeling at-home again. I guess the Kigali city life just isn’t for me. Moreover, being away from site for four days just isn’t my thing.

Looking forward, I really want to focus on getting a micro-finance group going (but I have to wait until February)…so that I can potentially fund a small village co-op. Ideally, I would like to work with HIV+ mamas and mamas of malnourished babies to open a little cafe that would serve tea and baked goods. There is literally not a single restaurant or tea-serving cafe in my village, so I’m hoping we would make a killing. Ultimately, I want some of the profits to go to the mamas and the rest to help fund a human resources type area of the cafe. I’m envisioning a couple of computers where locals would go to type up resumes/CVs that they would then use to land jobs in Butare (since it’s so near). My co-workers, district officials, and the HC patients have all confirmed that our villages’ biggest needs lie in joblessness, so I’m hoping to teach some classes on resume-building and interview skills. It’s all in my noggin as of now, so we’ll see how the next few months play out in regards to village needs and wants.

Given that things are getting pretty busy for me, I’m lucky to have such wonderful people back in America who’ve been willing to send me goodies for the kids and goodies for myself. I can’t thank you all enough. As for now, I’ll just let you know that I’m in love with life right now. Rwanda has become more than I ever expected. Time is already flying by and I’m trying to take advantage of every moment. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.

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Thanks, Tammy! I’ve seen more smiles in the last week than every before.

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My parents know me well. ❤

 

All Work and A Little Play

Well, well, well.

I’ve been at my site for three weeks now. Three weeks of socializing, integrating, and working. It’s been a blur, but every day is exhausting in the best way possible. My little home away from home (Kibilizi) is truly wonderful. My health center isn’t perfect…but it’s damn near close to it. This is due, in large part, to the tituilare and the great staff. My tituilaire (supervisor) is fabulous, you guys. She’s intelligent, kind, and stubborn. So…naturally…her stubbornness appeals to me and I feel eternally grateful that my supervisor is a take-charge female. My counterpart is a young guy who’s currently in university, getting his masters of development. We get along splendidly…he’s basically the nicest guy ever. He’s responsible for the ninety-something Community Health Workers that work for our health center. Needless to say…he’s got his hands full. Even still, he’s always willing to help me with whatever I want to do (project-wise or research-wise). In return, I’ve been helping him translate his thesis. (Who needs a tutor, anyhow!) The rest of the staff is just as awesome. They’ve been incredibly willing to let me shadow them to learn the ins and outs of our health center.

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Our health center’s lovely little garden/maze area. Not too shabby a view.

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View out the back…this is the Sector hospital next door. And a beautiful view of Southern Rwanda.

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My counterpart, Maurice, teaching the Community Health Workers how to properly counsel mothers on breastfeeding techniques.

It took a bit to get settled into my new home. (And by a bit I mean one day only, because my tituilaire wanted me to start work asap.) After some weird hours the first week, I’ve finally established a schedule.

Monday through Friday I go into work for our 7:00AM staff meeting (thank the lawwwd the health center is only a 5 minute walk from my house.) We sing our prayers (I stand there and sway, since everything’s in Kinyarwanda). Then, we all go off to our separate service areas. I usually head straight to the community health room…since that’s really what I’m here for.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I help one of my co-workers weigh malnourished babies and distribute milk and supplements to the mamas. It’s hard seeing some of the infants who are very obviously malnourished. I can only be grateful that my health center has a clear action plan. And, out of ~3500 infants weighed since January, only 6 have been malnourished. That’s extremely low for Rwanda. The milk distribution usually lasts until noon…and that’s my quittin’ time. (At least for the time being, while I work on my research.)

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My “office”. It’s taken everything in me not to reorganize this room. -_-

On Tuesdays and Thursdays I take time to shadow different departments. My favorite thus far has been observing patient visits. Every patient is like a new episode of House. Seriously. There’s not many instruments or tools available to the physicians out here. They have a scale and a blood pressure cuff. That’s it. So the patient comes in, tells the doc his or her symptoms and then BOOM! Doc makes a diagnosis. Anyone exhibiting signs of a fever are tested for malaria. Here in the South, nine times out of ten, they test positive and are treated right away (the test takes only 20 minutes). The most interesting case I’ve seen thus far involved a young female who came in to report seizures. She had kept a very detailed notebook of the four seizures she’d had in the last year. She even wrote down what she had eaten that day, where she went, etc. (This is super out of the ordinary in Rwanda; she was on top of her stuff.) The doctor and I talked about it for a bit, after she left, and I discovered that the only treatment for epilepsy, in Kibilizi at least, is medication. (In all honesty, they push meds here just as much as they do in America.) The problem with that is that this poor girl will probably never know why she’s having seizures. They just started out the blue and she’ll take medications to manage it. No dietary restrictions (you can’t really work around those here). No counseling (not many counselors know what to say about epilepsy). No “stay away from flashing lights, etc.”. The doctor said, in all likelihood, the girl will never return to the health center and will just “deal with” the pain of monthly seizures.

It might sound all bad, but it’s really not! In fact, America could learn a lot from this place. One of the best things about Rwanda is their health insurance. Here, it costs 3000 RWF a year for one person. (That’s roughly $4.42 and about three weeks’ salary for a middle-income Rwandan.) From what I’ve seen…the insurance covers most everything. Yes, there are deductibles and what not…but nothing like America. Most people can get seen, tested, get medication, and get counseling without having to pay anything out of pocket. I’m a fan.

Most days I’m done by noon and then I go home, cook, and work on my research (Community Needs Assessment). I’m having a great time with it! I miss being in school…a bit and this is helping with my term paper blues.

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That little yellow sector (Gisagara) is me! The blown up portion shows all the cells in my sector. Home sweet home is “Kibilizi”. Western border cell.

It hasn’t all been work, work, work, though.

Last weekend we had our Southern regional meeting, so I got to see some of my H6-ers. When I’m at site, I don’t really get the chance to get lonely. There’s always something to do or someone to see. Howeverrr, it’s always nice to get a little American time. And even though we’re a bunch of rag-tag idiots when we get together…I love my fellow volunteers. It was also nice getting to meet the H5, E5, and E4 volunteers who live in the South. (Since I had originally been in the East, these were all new faces.) You never know what to expect when meeting new volunteers…we’re all so different. As it turned out, I had a blast and everyone was more than welcoming in showing us around Butare. I feel a lot more comfortable going there now that I’ve explored a bit. (Found a store that sells homegoods and I bought a non-stick frying pan. REVOLUTIONARY, I tell you.) Anyhow, we drank, ate, danced, and we were merry. After, we went back to our hotels and slept.

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Hotel Africana…it really was a beautiful view. But nothing makes up for the 6:00AM church chanting on Sunday.

I had an awful night’s sleep; got a solid 3 hours in. (Not that Vanessa snores or anything…) I guess my body just knew it wasn’t “home”.

Speaking of which, here’s what the main street into my town looks like:

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That giant Red Cross sign…that’s the compound I live on. Not too sure if Red Cross actually does anything in my village. But the “apartments” are nice!

My favorite aspect of the last few weeks has been getting used to living entirely on my own. Before I left the States, I had only one roommate (and let’s just say we weren’t exactly besties). But even one roommate isn’t the same as living alone. IT’S BLEEPING AMAZING, GUYS. Sometimes I get slightly lonely (or even scared…it gets DARK here, ya’ll). Howeverrr…nothing beats being able to spend all Sunday wrapped in a igitenge and not having to look presentable in the slightest.

On top of that…figuring out the cooking aspect has been a blast and a half. I can’t really have a charcoal stove (even though it’s the cheapest option). There’s just no room on my front porch and it’s too messy. (I am going to figure out how to manage a campo stove/oven, though! Must cook banana bread!) Instead, I’ve been using a little petrol stove and it’s been working out great. Quick, easy, not too messy. I hate the smell, but bi baho! Most days, I cook green beans, onions, potatoes and pasta (usually flavored with taco seasoning, alfredo, chicken broth, or a soy sauce mixture.) Sometimes I get cray and decide I just have to have fried chapatti, scrambled eggs, and home fries. Other days, I try to switch it up and have avocado rice and veggies. I’m trying to avoid pasta as much as possible, but it’s so damn filling. On the weekends, I usually eat oatmeal with fried bananas and honey straight from Southern Rwanda. I’ve never been a fan of honey…but this stuff is delicious. If I’m feeling up to it…I boil milk and make coffee. But it would be so much easier if I could get my french press sent to me…coffee every morning would make me a happier camper. (Cough…mom…cough…dad.)

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Average lunch…can’t thank my Rwandan mama enough for the petrol stove. I’d have starved that first week, without it.

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Nobody here to tell me I’m making a mess! (Chapatti in progress.)

As far as how things are going on a more global scale…I’m not sure what’s getting out, news wise, about ebola. As of now, there are over 2,200 deaths in West Africa. The virus has spread to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Senegal, and Nigeria. Additionally, a separate strain of ebola has claimed over 35 lives in the Congo…in just the last three weeks. Without a doubt, both outbreaks will spread without further precautions. Many countries have shut their borders, but still expect at least one or two cases to make it through. The problem is…it feels as though the world has abandoned West Africa. That, if borders are shut and the virus is contained within those few countries…that’s it. That’s the best that we can do. But it’s absolutely not. Here’s an article that just about sums up my feelings: Liberian President Pleads with Obama.

Anyhow…there’s my rant on ebola. Let me reiterate: The contents of this website are solely mine & do not reflect any position of the United States government or the Peace Corps.

All Moved In and Now a Peace Corps Rwanda Volunteer

The last week has been a wild ride.

Well, since our final LPI (Language Proficiency Exam), things have kind of been non-stop. After the test (Which I passed well enough to go to site! Yay!)…it was a whirlwind of packing and goodbyes with our training community. I knew saying goodbye to my family would be tough, but I certainly didn’t expect the outpour of thoughtful goodbyes from community members I had only met in passing (store-owners, neighbors, street kids). If we were able to integrate that well…in only 3 months…I can only imagine how the next two years will go. (Here’s to hoping!)

We had a going-away party, at the Peace Corps “Hub”, with our host families. We ate, drank, and of course danced. It was nice getting to see the stark differences in our interactions (with our host families) from the first day to the last.

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My language class: Brooke, Vanessa, myself, and Laura

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My OG language group: Carrie, Vanessa (I just can’t get away from this girl), our teacher Immacuille, and myself

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Jenny from the Block, myself, and David (He can’t just let us ladies live.)

I spent my last night in Rwamagana at a bar (of course) with my host family, drinking Fanta (of course). After we had been there 30 minutes, or so, a young man came in with an old digital camera. I figured out, after a while, that my host brother had “hired” him for the night…to take family photos of us. I can only assume my family will be printing those out at some point.

I really have no words to describe the amount of love I have for these people:

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Me, Paci (host sister), Diana (host cousin), and Benoi (host brother)

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Myself, Mama, Diana, and Benoi

Move-out morning was kind of a shit-show. Peace Corps says they run on “American time”, but they really run on “Rwandan time”. We were scheduled to leave at 10:00AM. We didn’t get out of Rwamagana until 12:30PM…because somebodyyy did not reserve a truck and we spent hours trying to figure out how to get 24 people’s stuff into one, tiny moving truck. Eventually, and with the help of two small Peace Corps vehicles…we were on our way to Kigali for Swear-In.

We all spent that afternoon buying anything and everything we could get our hands on for our new houses (on Peace Corps’ dime, of course!). The next day, we became official Peace Corps Volunteers at the U.S. Ambassador’s house. Needless to say, we were all incredibly stoked.

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Here’s my gorgeous, perfect Health 6 family…with Jen (our Country Director), JD (our training manager), and Donald Koran (the U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda)!

After Swear-In…we…well, we went a little crazy, so I’ll spare you the details. But everyone made it back safe and sound. And we all had a great time exploring the night life in Kigali! (Especially since we barely been out after dark before this week.)

It seems like forever ago, but Swear-In was only four days ago. Since then, I’ve moved into my two-year home…Kibilizi! (In Gisagara District and the Southern Province). I live on the Red Cross compound, but work at the Kibilizi Health Center. So far…I’m loving it!

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Home sweet home! One of the units on the right.

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Secluded front yard, so the munchkins can’t stare at me constantly.

My modest “office area”. Soon-to-have a nice, fluffy rug!

My “living room” area…complete with day bed and lots of light!

My bathroom! I know it looks dirty…this is after two days of cleaning. IT FLUSHES.

My bedroom. Soon to have a nice rug and some shelves…maybe a dresser, too.

I went to the 7:00 AM staff meeting, at my Health Center, yesterday and today. Getting up that early every single day is going to be a bit of a struggle for me. I got this! My Health Center is run pretty damn well…my supervisor is a young woman and she’s definitely been greasing the wheels. I love it! I feel like I’ll definitely be able to set consistent hours and have a pretty defined job…which I’m incredibly happy about. My biggest fear in coming here, was that I wouldn’t have enough to do…or wouldn’t have the means to do it. All of my co-workers have welcomed me with open arms and genuinely want to help me and to receive help from me. It’s wonderful! That hardest part is understanding Kinyarwanda names to write on the immunization forms. Ha!

As a last note…to any future PCTs/PCVs out there…I just want to reiterate that if something doesn’t feel right…you don’t have to “sit with the weirdness”. Things were just not right at my old site. Besides the obvious safety concerns…my old Health Center/staff just didn’t meld with me and my personality. I am beyond glad that I requested a site change. I feel happy and whole here. I truly think I’ll be able to make a difference in Kibilizi. And I’m stoked!

As a last last note…I finally updated my packing list for Rwanda! Located here: Packing List!