I should probably be getting dressed to go to the market right now, but I think instead I will wait for my floors to dry and write a little update for all you folks back home. It’s Saturday morning here. Calm, cool, foggy; like all the mornings I’ve experienced since being at my new house. I am situated in a valley, surrounded by hills and mountains, in the middle of a gigantic tea plantation. It’s beautiful here, it’s relaxing, it’s serene, and it’s slow. This past week has certainly been a week of adjustment, but life is turning out to be quite enjoyable out here. My actual living quarters are improving daily. I finally got furniture the other day, so my mattress has a bed, my butt has a chair, my food has a surface, books have a bookshelf and this computer is perfectly situated a top a table. That all sounds pretty standard, but living here without furniture for the first couple days was, well, rather depressing. So, this house is slowly but surely becoming a home. I mentioned that I’m waiting for my floor to dry: I just washed it, after bathing in the living room. The floors here are all concrete and it’s actually quite common for people to wash themselves then wash the floors (via squeegee) and call it a day. I think it’s the perfect mixture of convenient and practical- always an excellent combination.
School started this past Monday. Well, officially, school started; realistically, I think we held one day of actual classes. I am exceptionally pleased with my school. It’s fairly small, which means that even with the Peace Corps regulation that I am to teach no more than 15 hours a week, I will be able to teach all the Secondary students. I will be teaching a S1 English class, and teaching each level a listening and speaking intensive English lesson once a week. I also get to teach a section of a class called “creative performance.” I’m still not entirely sure what the official objective of that last course is, but I can tell you one thing, we’re gonna have some fun during that hour each week. Basically, my schedule at school is great! I get Fridays off, which will make any weekend travel feasible, and will provide time for me to concentrate on doing other things around my home (either in my physical living area, or in my community here). Peace Corps advises that you stay at site for the first three months of your service, in order to promote integration in your community. Now, while I can see how that could be very productive and beneficial in some situations, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary. Granted, everyone adjusts at their own speed and in their own ways, so for some, I’m sure that hunkering down and remaining at site for three months is perfect. For me, I think it is not my preferred method. I’m not trying to leave my area every weekend, but I do plan on little day trips here and there, and possibly an overnight trip sometime in the near future. As trainees, we were told to have no expectations (a nearly impossible task, but I tried my hardest to keep expectations down and enthusiasm up) and as volunteers we are supposed to make integration a number one priority. Ok, I’m on board with those goals, but, I am quickly noticing that Peace Corp’s expectations for us volunteers and the expectations of my community (and of Rwanda as a whole) are rather different. I really do think that the disparities present in what is expected of me as a volunteer allow for some leeway, and actually cater to personalized integration mechanisms. As long as I feel that I am being an effective volunteer (being a successful teacher, getting along with my community, happily adjusting to a Rwandan life) then I think the ends will justify the means. Essentially, I doubt I’ll be at site constantly for the first three months, but that’s not because I feel the need to escape, it’s really due to my personality and how I like to live my life, whether I’m here or in any other country. I feel at home in this community already and I will soon start visiting my neighbors and spending more time hanging out with the locals. It’s a slow process, and I’m definitely placing integration at my school at the top of my priority list, but so far, so good: I really feel good about being here. My mom sent me an e-mail asking how school was going, if I was nervous, if I was a giant spectacle. Well mom, it’s going well! I’m slowly but surely teaching all the kids my name, in order to reduce the cries of “muzungu!” (which means “white person”), so I now am nearly constantly surrounded by kids saying “aaallliiiiisone.” I think it’s fun. The young primary school students flock to me each time there is a break at school, giggling, talking, staring. I think I’m still a bit of a novelty (which was bound to happen really) and though it can be a little annoying to be constantly gawked at, it’s not too bad! One of the best moments around the students is when they actually want to speak with me, actually want to practice their English. There are some pretty competent and motivated kids at school so I’m hoping that this year will prove to be really enriching and enjoyable.