Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I'm Halfway There

Last week, I travelled to Kibuye, Rwanda on the shores of Lake Kivu for my Mid-Service Conference (MSC), for all of the volunteers who have completed one year in Peace Corps Rwanda. It's a big milestone: one year down, and one year to go!

I travelled to Kibuye on the boat from my regional city, Kamembe, which is at the south end of Lake Kivu. The boat runs a few times a week up and down Lake Kivu, on the DR Congo/Rwanda border.

Even though I could probably swim faster than the boat, it was a beautiful trip nonetheless.

The boat was brightly painted in the colors of the Rwandan flag, and another Rwandan flag waved on the bow of the boat, in case you were confused about the boat's country of origin.

Inside there were benches for around eighty passengers, and heaps of bananas, bags of rice and flour, metal door frames, and a cluster of miscellaneous other goods on the floor of the boat. 

Mothers nursed their babies, Rwandans of all ages stared out the small windows, and a man scurried in between the benches, selling peanuts, eggs, hot tea, and Rwandan fried dough, amandazi.

We started out on our journey as the sun was coming up over Lake Kivu. The boat stopped a couple times; a wooden plank was thrown to land, and even more people and things came aboard. 

I brought a book to read during the trip, but most of the time I couldn't help but to stick my head out of the little window and stare at the world moving past me.

The islands and shores of the Congo faded into the distance, and the glittering waters of Lake Kivu stretched before us.

There's something about being on a boat that just screams adventure. Even if you've travelled the same route before, there's always an air of uncertainty that keeps things exciting. 

Six hours later, the boat docked in Kibuye, and I walked over to the the hotel where Peace Corps was hosting our conference. It was gorgeous, complete with a 180 degree view of the lake, palm trees, fishermen's boats on the water, and some amazing sunsets.

The week went by quickly between the planned Peace Corps sessions and catching up with other volunteers--some of whom I hadn't seen since our last conference in October. All of us took advantage of the relatively fast internet, Rwandan buffets for three meals a day, and somewhat hot, somewhat functioning showers. It made me think of how far I've come: before Peace Corps, I probably would have complained about our broken bathroom door, low water pressure, and mosquitos in the room. Now, it seemed like paradise.

Our Mid-Service Conference ended with a visit to an island off the coast, Napoleon's Hat Island, apparently named for the similarities between the island's shape and the French leader's chapeau.

The island is home to a bat colony, which most PCVs found interesting but I found mostly terrifying.

Where's Batman when you need him?
I finished up my time in Kibuye by visiting my friend Andrew's bridge being built over a river in a nearby district. It was cool seeing the bridge almost completed, and it also made me happy that I'm not an engineer :)


Some other volunteers and I headed out for some dancing at Boom Boom Nights, which was as awesome as it sounds. There may or may not have been a fog machine, and they played "Who Let the Dogs Out." Basically everything you'd want in a nightclub, am I right?

With a name like that, how could you not?
And I was able to skype into my sister's wedding back in the U.S. around 2 am (a bittersweet moment to be sure). It wasn't the same as being there, but I was grateful that technology at least helped me bridge the gap.

I'm finally back at my site and can't wait for all the adventures this next year has in store for me! 


  1. WhooHoo ClaireB -
    One year down, one to go! So many of us are looking forward to having you back with us.
    Enjoyed your comment about the perspective one year in the PC gives you --- Running water!A door/privacy!A room with only a few (hundred) mosquitos!
    The boat trip sounded so interesting. I would have had my head out the window (or at least not IN a book) the whole time, too. Miss you. Adventure of a lifetime.
    Thinking of you and all the B's on this weekend. xo

  2. Claire!!! We missed you so much at Megan's wedding, but can't wait for the other 26 Safranek wedding WITH you! Glad to hear you're doing well--I miss you and think of you often. Can't wait until I see you again :) Keep up the blog posts--they are so fun for us to read and talk about; we feel like we're so close to you even though we're halfway around the world! Keep up the strong work--I love you!