The New Normal

February 20, 2013

So life has become normalized lately as I get into the swing of things at site. So I figured I would make of list of things that I have learned about life here or things that make me happy
• My daily alarm clock – At 5:00PM everyday the Primary School lets out and hundreds of kids run by my compound (thank goodness it’s gated or my visitors would grow exponentially), eager to be finished for the day. You can hear their glee from inside my house and it never fails to bring a smile to my face.
• My host family- So for the first three months in country, I lived with a host family in the district of Kamonyi. Now, I may be partial but I had the greatest family that I could have asked for. The other night my Papa (my Rwandan Father, not to be confused with Dad, my American Father) called me simply because it had been a while since we spoke. We only chatted for a few minutes, but hearing his voice and knowing I have a Rwandan family that is here for me and cares for me was incredibly. I also told him about my sister’s upcoming visit and how we wanted to visit the family and I swear he giggled with happiness.
• Rwandan Weather – So I have figured out that there are only 5 temperatures in this country and they are as follows.
o Sunny- aka HOT. Rwanda is only about 2-3 degrees from the equator and add in my elevation and you are literally just closer to the sun. When there is no cloud coverage, I burn when I think about walking outside. Probably it is only like 85 degrees but I have become too acclimated to the mild Rwandan weather.
o Cloudy – My favorite of Rwandan temperatures. It is usually a good 10-15 degrees cooler than the sun and there isn’t a huge fear of turning into a lobster. Watch for the impending dark clouds though, as they spell soaking rain.
o Raining – Subtract another 10-15 degrees from our initial 85 degrees and it gets quite cold (for Rwandans and me). A storm can bring strong rains and possibly hail but will definitely bring out every Rwandan’s coat.
o Night – The night is beautiful here. During training, when my family and the surrounding area had no electricity, you were most likely to find me outside staring at the sky every night. The magnitude of the starry Rwandan night sky is absolutely incredible. It also is the perfect temperature: sweatshirt weather. I can sleep with my window open (with a homemade screen over it to keep out the bugs) and be perfectly comfortable snuggled under my covers.
o Rainy night- The coldest of the five temperatures, as the rain is a powerful temperature changer here. Makes you wish for open flame.
• Greeting everyone – I believe I’ve mentioned this before but Rwandan communities are incredibly close knit. Whenever you go anywhere, walk into a room, pass someone on the road, you greet them. I can only imagine how this ingrained routine will play out on my visit home this Christmas.
• Something that keeps my sane in this country is watching movies and TV shows. It allows you to escape for a while and I have guiltily had days where I watched entire seasons of a show (looking at you F.R.I.E.N.D.S.). However, something you NEVER think about while watching TV in the US constantly plagues us PCVs. In movies and TV shows, the characters are constantly eating and drinking, making it hard to watch anything involving fountain sodas, take out and good alcoholic drinks. I don’t think I have ever watched a movie with other PCVs where there hasn’t been at least one comment along the lines of, “I would actually kill someone for that hot dog and Diet Coke” or “uggggggh Chinese delivery”. Think about it the next time you turn on the TV and pour one out for me.
• Getting mail is actually the greatest thing in the world. I am so lucky that my parents can pack a mean care package! I am also lucky that I grew up in a wonderfully supporting Church family. Extra special shout outs to Mrs. Franks for reminding me it was Christmas, the Robertsons for a wonderful care package and the Barker family who hasn’t missed a holiday! It makes me realize what a wonderful and loving support system I have at home. Doing everything I can to make y’all proud of me!
• Roosters- I didn’t understand what true hatred was until I lived in the same compound as a rooster. Every morning between 4AM-7AM the beast is awakened and will continued to sound off for a solid fifteen minutes. I swear the demon knows that I sleep with my window open and loves to station himself by said open window. And if you have never had the pleasure of hearing the decibel of a rooster’s call, count yourself lucky as I have no idea how something so small could make sure an incredible noise. One day I may kill this thing. I don’t think my neighbors wo;; be happy.
• Chickens- So as much as I hate the rooster, I love the chickens. When you live in a village where no one else has the same mother tongue as you, you begin to talk to things that don’t talk back. The chickens have become my friends (DON’T YOU DARE JUDGE). I know their temperaments and their favorite foods from many hours of stoop sitting, watching them. I also can measure the amount of time I have been at site based on the growth of one set of three sisters. When I arrived in December they were hatchlings and now they are almost the size of their mama!
• The invitations have been sent out and the answers are coming in! The Health 5 group is due in June and we finally won’t be the new kids on the block! It’s crazy to think all that we have learned and experienced since our own arrival in September (almost half a year in country!!!) and I can’t wait to meet the new guys!
• Teaching- Coming into country, this was my biggest anxiety. Rwandan teaching is nothing like being in the states. I have minimal resources consisting of my notebook with my lesson, my creativity, chalk and what seems to the students as a never-ending source of energy. Most of my classes hover around 50 students with vast differences in English comprehension. I teach in two-hour blocks to three levels of students who vary in age from 11-20. This is due to the government’s guarantee that every student has access to a nine-year basic education. After the genocide, huge numbers of Rwandan citizens fled the country and they are still coming back (It is completely normal to hear that people studied in Uganda for a few years while they fled). So now these people came back and insist upon getting their promised education. My friend Alex has an S4 student (equivalent of 10th grade) who is in his mid-late thirties and happily is excelling! It is also common for students to drop out of school for a year to work for school fees. Even though the government guarantees nine years of schooling, you have to pay school fees at every school in the country. Since my school is a public, day school, these fees for a year are 15,000 Rwf or about $25. This can still be a stretch for some families, leading to large age differences in my students. Even though I had no formal teacher training, I find that I am beginning to enjoy myself when I teach. I have no idea if I am helping my students with their English skills but I am becoming comfortable in my job.
• Break- So even though I like teaching, I am eagerly looking forward to the break after first term. I have two more weeks of classroom teaching, exam week and then a week of marking. Then it’s break! Since I don’t have to give an exam, those last two weeks will be a breeze. After the term is finished, I am off to ZANZIBAR with my friends. The ten of us will lay on beautiful, white sand beaches for over a week, drinking fruity drinks and generally not having a care in the world. I. CAN’T. WAIT. Following vacation, on the seventh of April, Genocide Memorial Week begins. I’ll talk more about this week after I been through it as I am still slightly confused as to how everything is going to go down. In the middle of the week, MY SISTER IS COMING TO VISIT. This will be my first visitor since being in Rwanda and the first time I have seen Hilary in over a year. I can’t wait to show her around the country and have her meet Todd and my friends!! Hilary will be here for two weeks and her stay will overlap with IST for a few days. IST (In-Service Training) is a week-long training conference for my group. It will be the first time our group will be together since the end of training! I am so excited to see everyone and have all food and lodging paid for!

Sorry for the rambling and at sometimes ranting update, but it had been too long for a concise or coherent post! And again I will promise that I will try harder to update more often. I am kinda running out of ideas so if you have any questions about me or my life here, feel free to comment and I will get back to you!

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8 thoughts on “The New Normal

  1. Hey baby girl, I know you will be so happy when Hill gets there. By the way I have a great recipe for Roster and dumplings. Keep the updates coming, I love hearing from you. Love you, Auntie Karen

  2. Taylor, glad to hear that things are going good and I am so proud of you let me know about the friend named Todd when you mention a guy my mind goes to work—who is he—I want all the details girl–Love you—Ms. Peggy

  3. And a footnote glad Hill is coming to see you, I know you are so excited to see her. And you know what a live wire she is–tell her hello for me and please give each other a hug from me I miss you two so much but I know you are both happy right now and doing what makes you happy—Love to you both—Ms. Peggy

  4. Haha those rooster are THE WORST!!!!! I thought I was a deep sleeper until those things appeared in my life (ie behind my house). I’ve finally learned to sleep through it though – hope you do too!!

  5. Beside my hotel in Pokhara is a small farm with chickens and roosters. They roam around the courtyard, just seeking a little relaxation and the occasional worm. They must feel a little too at ease because our roosters don’t start until after 6:30.

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