Monday, May 14, 2012

Rwanda: First Impressions

It’s hard to believe it’s been a week since I left Omaha. It’s been a whirlwind, from two days in Philadelphia for staging, then to New York to catch our plane to Brussels, then Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) for two days, then to Kimonyi, the site of our pre-service training (PST). Whew!

I’ve moved in with a Rwandan host family, and I’ll be here for the next 10 weeks. The family is WONDERFUL.  It’s been a little challenging since I’m just learning Kinyarwanda, the native language, but I really love it here.

Kinyarwanda is unlike any other language I’ve studied. For starters, most of the words seem to start with u, m, k, or i.  This makes it pretty difficult to differentiate. The beginning of the word, rather than the end, generally changes to adjust to singular/plural and gender.  Luckily, my host family’s children (Bonheur-7, Denise-5, and Divine, 3) and the neighborhood kids have put their whole hearts into helping this clueless umuzungu learn Kinyarwanda.

In return, I’ve taught the kids hopscotch, some hand games, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”, AND a super awesome secret handshake, which they began to teach other kids in the village. I love playing with them, and they don’t mind when I make language mistakes…at least, I think.

The family is well off by Rwandan standards, but poor by American ones. Their house has five rooms, one of which is my bedroom. We have two cows, three goats, and a few chickens. The family sometimes has electricity, and we have a water spigot outside (the water isn’t clean, but other Peace Corps volunteers have to tote water various distances, so I’m lucky).  They use a squat latrine in the back, and I take bucket showers with about a half-gallon of water every other day.  The kids don’t have any toys except one tiny toy car, and Bonheur likes to play with a broken cell phone charger. They often wear the same clothes for several days straight, no matter how dirty they get. The other day, Papa Daniel brought home a small TV. ..and the kids promptly started to cry when he turned it on. Haha.

The food is simple but good: a lot of rice and potatoes, bananas, some bread, some vegetables. Pineapple and avocado are incredible here: huge and super cheap! Meat is a luxury and served sparingly.  Fanta and Coca cola are the fancy drinks of choice. Milk is common, as well as a VERY VERY sweet tea, kind of like a chai latte on crack. They also make homemade banana beer, and sorghum beer, both of which I’ve been warned are made using very poor sanitation. The other day, I was at a village gathering with about 50 people, and they passed around some beer in a huge vegetable oil jug, with one straw. Everyone drank some, even the old ladies, and I became slightly anxious that they’d offer it to me. Luckily, Maman Bonnet (my host mom) brought me a Fanta, and I avoided the possible awkardness of refusing to partake in the communal germ swap/public health hazard.

Well, that’s all for now folks.

Murabeho! (Goodbye!)



  1. What's the weather like? Is it uncomfortably warm? Just perfect? Do you go to bed sweating? That's one of the main things I remember from Africa. But Rwanda is obviously very different from Mali.

    How are you connecting to the internet, by the way?

  2. Hey Anna! The weather here is GORGEOUS. It's the rainy season, so it's been in the 70s in the day and 50s/60s at night. It's pretty nice--no airconditioning or heat needed. The downside is that it POURS every single day. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours. I've been caught in a downpour a couple times, and it sucks.

    Luckily, Rwanda has a 3G network (telecommunications is a growing industry here, and even poor people have cell phones), so I bit the bullet and bought an iphone back in the US--it's been a huge blessing.


  3. So happy you're doing well and that you bought the iphone so we can hear from you!
    Good luck on the language part, if Kinyarwanda is anything like bugunda (which I actually think it is) it sucks to learn! I still don't really understand what is even considered a verb...
    <3 Kaitlyn (the real one)