Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Day in the Life


I thought I’d give you a little insight into what my day-to-day life is like here in Rwanda. Right now, I’m in the very last week of our 10-week Pre-Service Training (PST). I’ll be swearing in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer at the US Ambassador’s house in Kigali on Wednesday, and then permanently moving to my new site, in Rusizi district, in the far southwest of Rwanda near the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I’ll be living with 7 amazing Franciscan nuns, and I’ll have a completely different schedule working at the community health center there.

                                                   Me pointing to my new region, Rusizi.

My group of 23 (Health 4) is in training about an hour west of Kigali, the capital. Then we’re further divided into Kinyarwanda language groups (3-6 people). We have intensive language lessons on Mondays, Wednesday, and Thursdays. Tuesdays and Fridays are our “Hub Day", so we come together at the Peace Corps building in my town for technical training (ie about the health system and public health in Rwanda).  So without further ado, here’s what a typical weekday is like for me right now.


7:00 am: wake up to sounds of roosters outside my window, or my family blasting Rwandan music on their radio.

7:30 am: bucket shower! The first few weeks I was here, I would shower every other day and I’d use about a half-gallon of collected rainwater. Now it’s the dry season and our rainwater storage has run out. There isn’t enough water to shower and cook every day, so I can shower only once every three or four days. Gone are the days of luxurious hot showers and baths with unlimited clean running water…


7:45: Quick breakfast of icyayi (Rwandan tea: very sweet and mixed with milk from the cow that’s 10 feet from my bedroom) and possibly a piece of stale sliced white bread. This has definitely been an adjustment for me.


7:55: Walk to either my Language and Cultural Facilitator (LCF/Peace Corps looooves acronyms)’s house to get Kinyarwanda lessons, or to the Peace Corps “Hub” for health training.

8-10 am: Class.


10:00: Break!  There’s a little store across the street that we go to for a cup of icyayi, a banana, a hardboiled egg, or a cheche (kind of like a less sweet and much drier scone/muffin, but basically the closest thing to a pastry you can find here). Prices are very cheap: any one of those things cost about 10-25 cents (US).

10:30-12: more class…

Noon: If it’s Hub Day, they bring food in for us. If it’s a language day, we walk about 20 minutes to the next town to go to a small restaurant, where we get a full meal for $1. It’s my most nutritious and fullest meal of the day, although it’s bland and repetitive (variations of rice, pasta, cooked cabbage, beans, plantains, potatoes, and fries).

1-4 pm: Even more class. My brain starts to fuzz over and the Kinyarwanda becomes a blur…must find external hard drive for my brain!

4-6 pm: Freedom! Depending on the day, I either hang out with a couple other PC volunteers at one of our houses or at a little cafĂ© (ok, ok, or the bar : ), or I head home to be with my family. Sometimes the kids and I go for a run around the village. An umuzungu running around with no real purpose except to run is a little confusing for some Rwandans. They ask me why or where I’m running to, and usually kids will start running with me. I’ve had 40 or 50 kids all running after me at one time. It’s fun, but solitary….not so much.

6-9 pm: Family time! We do chores (cooking, washing dishes or clothes, cleaning) and then I play with the 3 kids. Some of their favorite things are hopscotch, memory match with my card set, and dancing to the radio in our living room. We often study together too: I help them with English and they help me with Kinyarwanda. It’s often by lamplight, since the sun goes down around 6:30 and our electricity only comes on for about 2 hours occasionally, around 8-10 pm.


9 pm: Dinner! It’s still a bit hard for me to eat this late. I’m usually really hungry at about 7, and I burned through my trail mix supply a long time ago. Dinner always features potatoes, plantains, or rice, and sometimes beans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes. My family rarely eats meat (I don’t partake in it…I’m confident that seeing a Rwandan butcher shop can turn even the most voracious meat eater into a vegetarian). Dinner can sometimes be a little awkward since I’m still learning Kinyarwanda. But complimenting the chef is always a safe bet in any country!


9:30 pm: I brush my teeth (while the rest of my family lines up to watch me, even after 10 weeks of being here!), wash my feet and shoes, write in my journal, and practice some yoga in the 4 feet of available floor space in my room. And if I’m not too exhausted by then, I’ll read a little using my (now-broken) headlamp for light.


10:30 pm: Go to sleep underneath my mosquito net, with earplugs in so I can’t hear the mosquitoes buzzing outside my net or the cows and goats outside. 

xo
Claire