Friday, August 3, 2012

My First Week at Site

I was sworn-in as an official Peace Corps volunteer at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Kigali. I made a speech in French, wore Rwandan dress, and all of us volunteers gorged ourselves on the refreshments provided (anything other than plain rice, beans, potatoes, cabbage, and plantains is a cause for celebration in my book).

I was interviewed by a Rwandan newspaper at our swear-in ceremony, which includes the hilarious and highly embarrassing line, “Prior to her arrival in the country, she strongly harboured the long held myth that she would come across lions and leopards roaming in the streets of Rwanda.” Take a look here, if you’d like.

It was hard to leave my host family that I stayed with for the 2.5 months of Pre-Service Training. On our last day together, they gave me a gift: a leopard print maxi dress. To be honest, I would never be caught dead wearing it in the US, but I was grateful for their generosity, and I like to imagine it’s something J.Lo would have worn in the 90s. I’ve worn it around in my village a few times and I always get a lot of compliments on it. Hakuna Matata.

I had my first brush with illness in Africa after swear-in. A bunch of volunteers went out for Indian food at a restaurant in Kigali, and I unfortunately got a case of Delhi belly. I can now confirm that Indian food doesn’t taste nearly as good going up as it does going down. Getting sick was actually one of my biggest fears about Peace Corps. The idea of being sick without my Mom on speed dial, a bevy of Western medications at every pharmacy, and the familiar comforts of tea, orange juice, and bad TV shows was hard to imagine. But the Peace Corps doctors and my fellow volunteers made up for the lack of Lipton and Real Housewives.

I’ve been at my permanent site, in the Rusizi district of Rwanda, for a little over a week. It was a bit scary seeing my fellow Health 4 Peace Corps volunteers leave one by one; most of them are in the east of Rwanda, while I’m in the far southwest, about 8 hours from Kigali. It was even scarier seeing the Peace Corps van driving off after dropping me off. But so far things have been good, and I really love my community.
                                                                  My Health Center

I live with 7 Franciscan nuns in a compound near the Community Health Center where I work every day. I have my own room, which finally feels like home after a bit of decorating. The nuns are teachers and nurses, and they are amazing.  My room is right next to the chapel, so I wake up to them singing every morning.

I also live with the cutest little kid I’ve ever met. His name is Francois d’Assisi, he’s 4, and the nuns adopted him. I look forward to playing with him every day after work.

I’ll post soon about my work at the Health Center and more about my community soon. Keep tuned.



  1. Congrats Claire for successfully making it to your assignment station! You are soooo awesome to go halfway across the world to help people and I really admire that--and about the really inspires to be kinder in thought and action to my family and people right here in Good ole Omaha.
    So glad you could decorate your room-that would be one of the first things I would do!! It's great that you are having such an amazing journey in Rwanda. And Francois is so adorable!!!!
    haha, watch out for wild animals on your runs through the village. :P
    Lots of love and prayers, Cousin Rosie XOXOOO

  2. Love the hair garb! So true that what is fashion in one place might be way out of style in another.Of course, if you explained the hair piece and how to wear it to your girl cousins, perhaps they would set a trend here :-) How sweet that your host family gave you that dress.
    We are also following your blog and love reading about life in another country/culture. You will help us learn more about the continent of Africa this year.
    Hope that you are feeling well and that the bug was short-lived. Tell us more....