Thursday, February 10, 2011

On to month 2 as a volunteer!

As I’m waiting for my beans to cook (I swear that spending 4 hours cooking is rarely worth it...) I think I will sit down and finally update my blog.  I have so much I want to share with you!  I hope you’ve looked at the photos I posted the other day, they give you an idea of what my everyday looks like.  I took most of them last Sunday, and it was really sunny here so I think that the result is pictures that make this place look hotter than it actually is.  I’d like to give you a run-down of what a typical week here looks like for me, so allow me to fill you in on what is turning into my routine.  I teach for a few hours for four days, then I get a 3 day weekend.  Sunday is usually my fun day... rather my sit around and do nothing day.  I try to get some cleaning done and get prepared for the week.  I also like to cook on Sundays, so usually I eat good food then.  One of my students comes to help with the laundry and cleaning every other weekend, and she’s really helpful.  So, after a lazy Sunday, I’m ready for work on Monday morning.  Mondays tend to never be predictable.  Sometimes they’re quiet, but this past Monday was a little hectic because we got our final wave of students.  The Senior 1 students finally arrived and we had to get their classrooms in order, which we actually did by the end of the school day Monday!  These students just finished Primary School, so they were waiting for their national exam results, hence the delay.  They are here now!  And they have a really diffucult time understanding me.  Go figure.... Tuesdays are maybe the quietest day of the week and this Tuesday was no different.  Teaching in the morning then a lot of “relaxing” at home (because it’s not like all I do is relax...).  Wednesdays are one of my favorites because not only do I have a full morning of teaching, but it’s also market day.  So, I teach, then I walk down the road to the market (30 minute walk each way).  I always end up finding someone to talk to- whether I know them or not- and I get to be out in the afternoon... it’s just always really nice.  Thursdays mark the end of my work week, and I get to spend some quality time with my favorite class, so I’m having a good day today.  Friday is my day off and I almost always end up doing something fun.  Occasionally end up leaving town and getting a jump start on my weekend, but I really enjoy hanging around here and walking into town, or down the road to a really delicious bakery.  Saturdays are really fun! And this Saturday will certainly be no exception.  I’m going to my first Rwandan wedding on Saturday and I am very excited.  One of the Primary teachers from my school is getting married in a village not far from here and I will be there along with many of the other teachers.  I am excited!  Then I plan to relax on Sunday, then start this crazy routine all over again.  Yeah, I know, my life is really hard over here isn’t it?  My challenges include adjusting to the diet and general lifestyle over here, using my time effectively and finding a way to actually teach these kids.  Not to belittle my challenges, but I just end up thinking about how little I have to worry over here and it’s kind of amazing. 
Last Saturday was spent in Musanze (Ruhengeri), attending a family party of a Rwandan friend/ colleague.  Her name is Jane, and she’s the wonderful woman I share my living space with.  Really, she’s a riot and we have tons of fun together.  She’s the secretary at our school, single mother, weekend student, intelligent, modern.... overall, I am really lucky to have her here.  This party was at her family’s house, in the big town about an hour North of here and it was in honor of her mother (who passed away at the beginning of this year).  I guess it’s pretty customary around here to have a big, happy celebration when the mourning period is complete.  And this party was just that.  They were tons of people, everyone was having a really good time- talking, drinking, dancing, cooking, eating... it was really nice.  Being welcomed into this intimate celebration of family and friends was really quite amazing and I had a great time.  I got to practice my Kinyarwanda, I got to go out on a walk and stare at the volcanoes that litter the skyline, and I had an adventurous ride home with two other teachers (Clementine and Mama D)... it was really nice.  And then, on my lazy Sunday, after cleaning was finished, I was visited by two boys from the village center here.  They are young guys who just graduated from Secondary school (maybe early twenties...) and they came to chat and practice English and just hang out with me.  It was fun!  I showed them my photo album of family pictures (that span many years) and they were a really receptive audience.  After telling me that my pictures are proof that all Americans are “bosses” (rich people), they offered to take me on a walk to the top of one of the surrounding hills to show me “how the poor men live.”  Those were their words, but I don’t know if I would phrase it much differently.  I tried to convey to them the idea of the American middle class, and I think they understood, but they made a really good point.  I see the world through an American lens, despite trying to remain with out preconceived notions or prejudice, and the American lens is rather privileged.  So, these new friends of mine reminded me that even when I say my family is not rich, that compared to how some people live, I’ve gown up like a total princess.  I’m excited to go hiking with them and I feel that if my seemingly purposeless meandering is done with a Rwandan by my side, it won’t appear so strange.  But, even as I say that, I don’t know if I fully believe it... I am resuming this blog post after eating (maybe it was worth the 4 hour process... dinner was good!) and after going out for an evening walk.  I am going to have to do this everyday! It was fantastic.  Not only is the weather perfect at this hour (between 5 and 6), but everyone I meet in the road is so friendly and it puts me in a really great mood.  Since I am met with smiles and salutations, I think that maybe I’m not giving people enough credit.  I’ve been under the impression that if I venture outside of my home to exercise, I’ll be met with glares and confusion... I’ll have to test this hypothesis more, but I’m thinking that exactly the opposite is likely to occur.  Maybe it’s just my community, maybe it’s Rwanda in general, but the folks around here are really accepting and enthusiastic and friendly.  
I don’t know if I have much more to update you on... ask me questions if you’d like to know more about anything particular and I’ll try to be a little more frequent with my updates.  Time to go make some tea and try to find some way to rigg the radio so we can get a signal to listen to some special Rwandan skit that happens on Tuesday and Thursday.  So much cultural exchange happens in this house! Thank god for Jane.  Sending you hugs from Africa! xoxo
ps: we’ve successfully passed the one month mark! I’m not going to say how many more there are b/c I feel that may be counterproductive.... but, this is still good!  If the following months are as crazy as January, I’m surely going to have tons of stories to torture my grandchildren with.


  1. Another vivid-fantastic Blog post from my Ally! Thank you for letting me experience Rwanda through your eyes! I love the portrait you paint of the people and the country – it sounds so beautiful! I can’t wait to visit you this summer. How can people not be friendly and welcoming to you?! Your beautiful smile, laugh and wonderful spirit are all contagious! Got to say – “I told you so…“-you are perfect for the Peace Corps!! Love you! Stay happy, healthy and safe!

  2. Hi Ally - great post. all americans should live outside of the us for some period to see how others live. we love you, take care!

  3. Hey Ally!

    Your blog is so interesting it's great to read first hand about your experiences. It keeps me excited about my tentative future.

    Of course, I have questions for you:

    First, food! What do you eat on an average day?

    Second, just about how much do you speak in Kinyarwanda and is it effective for the classroom and living there?

    I look forward to more posts and the wedding update and about what teaching methodologies you explore with your students.