I just returned from two weeks away from my site, the longest amount of time I’ve been away from Rusizi. I was attending In-Service Training (IST) and it was the first time I’ve gotten to see the 21 other people in my Health 4 group since July (I’m the only volunteer from Health 4 in either the Southern or Western Provinces).
I travelled all the way to the northern part of Rwanda, to Musanze, near Volcanoes National Park. This is the area of Gorillas in the Mist fame; Dian Fossey, who worked on research and conservation efforts for the mountain gorillas and was assassinated in the 1980s, is buried here. Rwanda has since stabilized and worked to protect the mountain gorillas. However, seeing the gorillas comes at a non-Peace Corps stipend-friendly price tag (I think it’s $350 for residents, $750 for foreigners) so I just enjoyed the insanely beautiful scenery; I’m hoping to hike one of the volcanoes later in my service.
IST turned out to be a great two weeks, and it was good to get away for a bit and refocus. The first week was a training just for volunteers, where we learned more about topics like cooperatives, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and nutrition, and the second week our counterparts from our Health Centers joined us for trainings on Behavior Change Communication and Program Design Management. Since Peace Corps has only been in Rwanda for four years, there are definitely some kinks to be worked out in the trainings, but I felt a lot more confident about my skills and working with our community health workers here in Rusizi. I'll be writing soon about the projects I'm planning.
Learning how to make soymilk
Our days were packed with lots of Peace Corps health training, but we were rewarded for it with three great meals and snacks twice a day, plus RUNNING HOT WATER at the hotel the conference was at. You know you’re a Peace Corps volunteer when you think it’s luxurious to be washing all your clothes by hand in the hotel bathtub because there’s unlimited hot water and free soap :)
We even managed to have a Halloween party during IST. Almost everyone dressed up in costumes we were able to scrape together (I’m still waiting for a Hobby Lobby to open in Rwanda…), we had a dance party and then went out in Musanze town.
I went as Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings, complete with an Elvish cape (my quick dry towel), a cardboard brooch and sword, a ring of power secured around my neck with dental floss, some chest and foot hair drawn on with eyeliner, and my hair flipped to look like hobbit hair. Nerd success.
And as I was riding the grueling 7-hour trip back to my site through Rwanda’s mountains and forests, I realized that I was excited to head back home, and that my little room inside the nuns’ convent is really what I consider home right now. It’s a bit of an odd feeling and I felt a little sentimental about it. I’ve been thinking about all the places I’ve been lucky enough to call home, at least for a little while: Nebraska (my one true love), Minnesota for my freshman year of college, Notre Dame, France for a semester studying abroad, Ireland for a summer of working, Boston for a year post-graduation, and Costa Rica for two months in January and February of this year. I felt homesick for so many different “homes” across the world and my friends and family who are spread across the hemispheres. It seems that in seeking to be a citizen of the world, I’ve also become somewhat of a woman without a country. And I’m not sure how I feel about that. I love learning new languages and being immersed in different cultures, but sometimes I just want to be able to understand everything people say to me, to not have people staring at me everywhere I go, to have a dog, put down roots, and give my family a hug. But for now, the nuns' hugs and their "Murakaza Neza-s" (welcome!) will do.
Love from Rwanda.