Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy December

It seems like quite some time has passed since my last blog post.  Well, we all knew that was going to happen... but I do want to fill you all in on what’s been going on over here.  I’m still chuggin along through training; a tedious and fun process. A little over a week ago (the week of November 15th- 19th) we all went out on site visits.  If you are my mom (or a similar breed of cyber-stalker) you’ll have read other trainee’s blogs and already know about site visits, but for the rest of you, let me explain what that means.  So “site” is the word Peace Corps uses to refer to the places volunteers live and work.  In my case, my site is in a small village called Kiruri, near a town called Base, in the Rulindo District, in the Northern Province of Rwanda.  Maps of this country are fairly hard to come by, but if you care to try and pinpoint my location, that information should lead you in the right direction (pun intended).  My actual house is surrounded by tea.  Yes, a real live tea plantation.  This means that I’ll be in an area that remains lush and green year round, which’ll likely be really nice during the dry season.  There are many other types of farms in the area, and the land is sectioned off so that nearly every inch is cultivated to produce something.  The agricultural variety around here is really quite nice, and the cultivation tactics and techniques are nothing short of antiquated.  I mean that to be an observational statement rather than a judgement.  Coming from America: land of machines and industry, it’s different to see such small scale farming, and farming that implores traditional methods. Seeing people work so hard and devote such time and energy to survival is something I’m not used to, and the effect? Well I can’t yet say... I will admit that the nerd in me wants to know all about farming techniques, and the soil, and erosion, and nutrients, and secret Rwandan farmer knowledge.  Hopefully since I’ll be living in such an agriculturally rich area I’ll be able to learn at least a few things.  My living accommodations at site are as such: I’ll be living in a housing complex type thing with a Rwandan family living in the front house, and myself and another teacher sharing the back living quarters.  I’ll have two rooms all to myself, and perhaps a bit more private living space, and I’ll be sharing a kitchen house, bath house and courtyard area.  The house is still in the process of being built, and I’ve been assured that it’ll be finished by January, when I’m scheduled to move in.  I’ve been told that I’ll have both electricity and water, which is more than I expected, and will be wonderful.  I’ll be such a lucky PCV!  Now, how soon I’ll have these commodities is totally up for interpretation, but at least electricity seems very common in the area.  I’m pretty excited about that because as much as I’d like to rough it and experience life with out electricity, it gets dark here before 7 every night, and I’d like to be able to be productive after that hour if possible.  
Changing gears.... my current life in Nyanza as a trainee.  So I’m really enjoying training thus far.  I’ve found many fellow trainees that I get along with quite well, I’m used to the routine here, I’m learning Kinyarwanda, I’m absorbing information in our technical training sessions and I’m getting better at leading a Rwandan life in general.  I’m getting really good at washing laundry by hand, I’m gaining experience with the charcoal stove and I am a bucket bath pro.  Not that I really anticipated having difficulties with any of the above tasks, it’s just that all of the above are new types of “chores” and are time consuming (and are more interesting to talk about than my language classes).  Last night our house made a family dinner, which has quickly become our Sunday tradition.  This week the menu was: breakfast for dinner.  We made scrambled eggs with veggies, pancakes with chocolate and bananas, fruit salad, avocado slices and toast.  It was excellent!  Each week our cooking skills seem to have improved tremendously.  We try and take advantage of being in charge of our own meals on these occasions and make them as “American” as possible, and we also take time to cater to our cravings. I’m excited about going to site and really getting the hang of cooking over here because there are some fabulous ingredients at my disposal and I’ll be able to make some awesome meals!  Thanksgiving was this past Thursday and I think I’m absolutely accurate in saying that we did the holiday justice over here.  The trainees cooked a good ol’ traditional American Thanksgiving feast, Rwandan style.  We dug a hold in the backyard of the kitchen house, which is where the 10 turkeys were cooked.  I guess I should say “a few of the guys here” dug the hole, because I was not involved in that process at all.  I was on “team drink”  (as in make the drinks for dinner) with my friend Mason.  We made African tea and apple cider to the best of our ability over here.  The tea consisted of water, fresh milk, tea, sugar, masala spices and ginger, all boiled on the charcoal stove in a huge pot; the cider consisted of concentrated apple “juice drink,” water, sugar, masala spices and ginger, and both turned out to be surprisingly good.  There were heaps of mashed potatoes made, and equally large amount of mashed sweet potatoes made, green bean casserole (with beer battered fried onions to top), stuffing, gravy, apple crisp, pineapple/ mango cobbler, pineapple “chutney” to top the sweet potatoes and a ginger/lime syrup glaze that ended up on all of my food because it was so tasty.  Our Rwandan teachers and colleagues loved the food, and so did we.  I think many of us overate that evening, in true Thanksgiving spirit.  After dinner a dance party ensued (surprise, surprise), then many of us went out for a Thanksgiving drink.  In all, it was a wonderful way to spend the holiday and though I missed being at home, I enjoyed every minute of the day here.  

PS: when did it become December? Before I know it, I'll be off on my own at site.  I can't wait!

Monday, November 29, 2010

photos are.... UP!

Check em out! http://picasaweb.google.com/allison.l.snyder

and a new blog post is forthcoming, I promise.  I have many things I want to tell you about. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures.

also, check out this website I found: http://kigaliwire.com/category/photos/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nibyiza cyane!

Posting pictures is an American luxury.  Well, it’s a luxury I was used to in America, I’m quite certain you can post pictures to the internet from many places, but the living room of our house in Nyanza is not of them.  I did just buy more credit for my internet modem though, so the least I can do is give you a little written update.  I’ve been slacking on my communication, and for that I’m sorry.  Aside from general lack of time and ability, I’ve felt like I either have too much to say or not enough.  At this exact moment, I’m near the “too much” end of that spectrum.  I suppose I can do this in a chronological fashion and fill you in on my past week.  So the walk I took last Sunday was completely amazing!  The whole day was nice, really, but walking for hours in the Rwandan countryside (for the most part) was rejuvenating.  It was like the bus ride from Kigali to Nyanza that we took a few weeks ago... being able to see this country and interact with different people is really wonderful.  I think that I can most suitably describe my experience with this walk as inspirational.  I went with a fellow trainee, and he and I were able to get off the paved road, and into a rural farming community that’s situated about an hour out of the center of Nyanza.  Our interactions with the people who lived there were pretty limited due to our lack of finesse with the local language, but the dialogue we were able to have was really good.  However, it was pretty strange for two muzungus to waltz into a neighborhood in the middle of the day with smiles on their faces and backpacks on their backs, so the experience overall was pretty awkward and new for all parties involved.  I’m glad I was able to go with Alex because he was great company AND male.  Not to value him only due to his gender (sorry Alex, if you ever have to read this). But this is relevant!  I can’t go walking an hour outside of town with no phone and limited knowledge of Kinyarwanda as a foreign female.  This is a reality I knew going into this lifestyle, but one I’m going to have to take some time to adjust to.  If I were in Tallahassee (or anywhere in the US) I would have no qualms with walking around alone in the middle of the day.  I guess being here is making me think a little differently about culture appropriateness and safety (particularly the point at which those two factors intersect).  Speaking of which, on that same Sunday, I ended up joining a sizable group of other trainees out at a bar in order to have a few Halloween beers.  That was a pretty interesting experience.  The beer was pretty standard and relatively cheap, the bar we went to was fairly large and the number of Americans there was really disproportionate.  For many of us, this was the first night we decided to venture out for a drink, so there were more foreigners there than had been on previous nights.  It was a fun experience overall, but not one that I’m trying to adapt as routine.  Since I’m American I am afforded some leeway when it comes to cultural expectations, but it’s still not looked favorably upon for women to be out at bars around here.  In fact, when I get to site I’ll almost certainly never go out drinking (even for one drink).  I’m a-ok with that being the reality, but it is something that’s certainly different from my life in Florida.  
So, as far as this week goes, I’m certainly getting into somewhat of a routine over here.  It’s always early to bed, early to rise, bucket baths, classes, more classes, sessions, time with my RF etc.  It’s going well, although I spent Monday and Tuesday with a suspect stomach ache.  Due to my ability to sleep well for long periods of time, I think I was able to successfully ward off any potential illness, and I’ve felt great the past couple of days.  I’m trying to do at least a little yoga every morning- a habit I intend to keep, and I’m eating as healthy as possible.  This is super boring to read, and I’m sorry for doing that to you, but these are the thoughts that end up ruling my mind and therefore become the subject of my writings.  On Wednesday (yesterday) we went to Butare as a group to a national culture museum.  That was a really nice experience because, once again, we got to ride through the Rwandan countryside.  I say countryside, but it’s all pretty much a healthy mixture of land and people and crops and houses.  I was able to snag a window seat this time around, and put on my headphones for the entire 45 minute ride.  Let’s just say I was beaming by the time I got off the bus (van).  I don’t know how I can emphasize the beauty of the country, but it really is breathtakingly beautiful.  By this point I’ve made it into my mosquito net, on my bed and am ready to hit the hay (or foam I should say, since that’s all my mattress consists of).  Hope all is well with you!! I’ll try to have another enjoyable and proactive Sunday to share with you in a few days. Until then <3

Also, Nibyiza cyane means very good (essentially). you pronounce it like" Neeebgeeza chaanay