I realize I’ve been a little off the grid lately. When I see that my last entry was a whole three months ago I’m amazed at how quickly the summer has flown by, and on top of it, just how busy I was. So much has happened and yet sitting down at the computer to write about it all seems like such a difficult task. I’ll try to summarize as best as I can.
In the beginning of June I headed to Kigali with some other PCVs to take the Foreign Service Officer Test. The test, which is offered twice a year, is a computer based test that quizzes you on your knowledge of currents events, random trivia, the English language, etc. It’s hard and the truth is that there no way to study for it unless you consider reading The Economist everyday studying. This was also my first trip to the US Embassy in Rwanda, which I have to say, is posh. The bathrooms were so…clean! Despite showing up almost an hour early, there were some technical issues, and after waiting another four hours we were told to come back the next day. It really shattered my but everything is perfect in America bubble and reminded me that yes; even in America there are technical issues. After returning the next day we were finally able to take the test, and three weeks later I learned that I had passed and was being sent to the next round for consideration.
The next day of few of us were off to VAT Training. VAT stands for Volunteer at Training, and they assist Peace Corps staff to train new groups that enter the country. I was excited for the opportunity but the quick two-day training on how to be a VAT turned out to be a bust, which seems to be the only way Peace Corps knows how to run a training. Staff was late, unorganized, and there really didn’t seem to be any reason for dragging us all the way out of our sites. The first day I was feeling a little light headed, and by the time I went to bed I broke out into an all out fever. Luckily Darren was there to pile blankets on me, but no matter how many clothes I slept in I was freezing! After vomiting several times throughout the night, I finally caught a little bit of sleep. The next morning I called our Peace Corps Medical Officer, who sent a car out into the country to bring me back to Kigali. Luckily, the initial fear that I had malaria turned out to not be the case. I had some kind of viral infection coupled with a low white blood cell count. I stayed in Kigali for a couple of days and then was released to go back to my house. What followed was about six weeks of off and on fevers, and a constant cough that took almost two months to subside!
The first week of July it was finally my turn to head to Kigali and meet the new Health training group. I stayed at the training site for a week and helped assist in teaching the trainees about nutrition and gardening. All in all it was a very successful time and meeting the new group was refreshing (PCVs tend to get a little negative after a while). Unfortunately for me, I picked the week that had two national holidays; July 1st (Rwanda Independence Day) and July 4th (Rwandan Liberation day, the day the RPF overtook Kigali, effectively kicking out the old regime and ending the 100 day genocide). I spent most of the Fourth of July alone trying to find out how I was going to eat, as all the shops and restaurants were closed. Not the best planning on my part…
|Preparing for our cruise!|
After a week back at home, I was once again racing across the country to head to our Mid-Service Conference. That’s right, I’m over halfway done with my Peace Corps service! As a special treat, we were being put up in a nice hotel in Kibuye, Rwanda, overlooking the mountains as they plunge down into beautiful Lake Kivu. Yeah…the hotel wasn’t that nice, in fact it was pretty disgusting. Our toilet leaked everywhere, we had bed bugs, and the ice water came out of the shower in a trickle. But I suppose for a Peace Corps volunteer that is luxury. The conference went all right, most of it was tackling issues related to future groups, and so despite it being our Mid Service Conference, it didn’t always feel that way. There were a few good sessions where we were able to reflect on our successes as volunteers, as well as point to the failures and come up with solutions as a group. During the conference our Program Manager kept telling us we were going to finish the conference with a ‘special cruise’ around the islands of Lake Kivu. We were all excited about this special little treat, as Kibuye is jawdroppingly, breathtakingly beautiful. Of course, we later found out, Peace Corps simply reserved the ‘cruise’ for us, we had to pay for it ourselves. Weird. But it was worth it. We took the boat around and headed to an island named ‘Napoleon’s Hat’ (mostly because of it’s shape), which happens to be home to thousands of bats. And yes, our guide was nice enough to descend into the cave and wake them all up so they could fly around us! After our conference was finished I headed back home for about a day, only to leave again for our annual GLOW Camp.
|Cristina, a fellow PCV, teaching girls important life skills|
GLOW stands for Girls Leading Our World, and is a leadership camp for girls that PCVs put on all around the world. Our camp was being held at the Kayonza Modern School where we were able to teach health and life skills to around 80 high school aged girls. The week was fun and exhausting, but I think most volunteers would agree that teaching girls at GLOW and boys at BE (Boys Excelling) are some of the most rewarding parts of service. Of course, the camps are more than just classes; we also do campfires, talent shows, career panels, sports, and this year we were even able to bring in some local artisans to teach the girls how to make traditional Rwandan art (which I should add is made out of cow poop).
|Teaching about the biology of HIV/AIDS|
|Playing games with mosquito nets to teach the importance of malaria prevention|
I’m finally back home now and in less than two weeks my dad will be here in Rwanda! I’m excited for a our trip and I’m sure the next entry is going to be pretty entertaining.