January 14, 2013
Coming into Peace Corps, I knew that one of the hardest parts was going to be being away from home during the holidays. There is nothing about this time of year that I hate. I love the peace I feel when I walk through my red, front door to be greeted by hounds then parents. I love that my parents make sure there is firewood stocked for my visit. I love the smell of Christmas Eve morning and the oven schedule my mom makes every year. Knowing that it wasn’t going to be the same in Rwanda. It’s hard to feel the holiday spirit living in a perpetual summer day, where the temperature doesn’t dare deviate from mid-seventies to mid-eighties. Where there is no commercialism to speak of (outside of downtown Kigali that is) and Christmas isn’t a season. Thinking back, I am grateful that it didn’t feel like my normal Christmas, as it would have been so much harder to not be with family and friends.
However, we PCVs were determined to make Christmas special, however we could. All the PCVs in the Northern Province gathered together at Josh’s house, Josh being the one who agreed to graciously host us. We spent three days eating, drinking and generally enjoying one another’s company. My hand-sewn stockings adorned the wall as twinkle lights wove in and out of them. The climax of our Christmas had to be Christmas Eve dinner. We bought two, live chickens which Josh and Betsy then killed, plucked and butchered. They then passed them off to me where I deep-fried them, Southern style, to accompany our green beans and mac-and-cheese. Somehow we all pulled it off and it was delicious. We all said goodbye on Boxing Day to make our way back to site for a few days before we were to come back together for New Years.
For New Years, around 25 of our training group came together in Kibuye, a city that borders the beautiful Lake Kivu (seriously, look it up), absolutely gorgeous! We stayed at a hotel that had a 270 degree view of the lake. One day we spent most of our daylight hours on a boat on Lake Kivu, with the DRC within eyesight. We stopped at this island named Napoleon Island, as it looked like his hat. When we stopped, we saw all these birds, must have been thousands of them, flying around the island. Then we realized they were not birds. They were huge bats. And there were four million of them. It was seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. I spent that evening ringing in the New Year with my wonderful boyfriend and 24 of my favorite people in this country. Not too shabby.
Coming back to site after so much together time with my fellow PCVs was rough. We had a week of downtime before school was scheduled to begin. Alex and I took a day trip to Musanze to collect some mail and happened across another American who lives in Musanze and told us about a place where we can get pedicures for only 1,000Rwf, or approximately $1.75. It was not the exact same as a pedicure in the States, but it was incredible all the same (even when the lady who was working on my feet asked if her friend could touch my foot, ehh this is Rwanda. Ntakibazo, or not a problem, the answer to everything here). Alex and I decided it will be an “every time we go to Musanze” thing. I got home and was treated to a great surprise visit from Todd (the aforementioned wonderful boyfriend) that helped me assuage my fears that school was starting the next day and I would be a legitimate teacher (EEEEK!).
Monday morning came and I made my way up to school (not that it’s a journey, I can probably get there in twenty steps), stomach full of butterflies. You see, I didn’t know what levels, courses, days or hours I would be teaching or even if I would be asked to teach that day. Nerves abundant. Thankfully I recognized some faces from my site visit as I waited outside the teacher’s room for our meeting to begin. My headmaster spoke for a while (not that I understood any of it, my Kinyarwanda is not NEARLY that good) and then we broke off into primary and secondary teachers (I am teaching secondary). It was obvious that we would not be teaching that day. The students who had shown up were busy cleaning the school and the grounds (HELLO difference from America), including cutting the grass by hand.
The rest of the day we “supervised” the students until it was our chance to meet with the Headmaster. I found out that I will be teaching English Communication to all the classes of secondary. It totals 16 hours a week (technically we aren’t supposed to teach more than 15, but whatever). Every teacher in Rwanda is guaranteed one day off during the workweek so I have every Monday off and three-day weekends every weekend (Ohhh HELL YEAH). I also don’t teach before 9am every day, so everyone that has ever known me knows that I am ecstatic over that. I spent the rest of the week teaching and lesson planning, trying to remember names and faces as I have around 300 students every week. So for now, I am still trying to get into the swing of things and figure out how every day is going to unfold. It’s coming buhoro buhoro (slowly by slowly).
ALSO, a belated Happy Birthday to my wonderful sister, Hilary!! I hope my phone call actually went through. Miss and love you!!!!!