Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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It has been quite a while since I last posted on my blog, but I figured that this would be the perfect day to add one last reflection on my Peace Corps service in Rwanda. In case you don’t know, Peace Corps helped facilitate an early departure for me since my grandmother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and was given months to live. I was very happy living in Rwanda, but family always comes first. I was extremely close to finishing my service, so it was difficult to leave but was the best choice for me. In my final weeks I worked at a GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp, attended my group’s COS (close of service conference) and spent a lot of time visiting my friends in the village and trying to say goodbye to everyone. Pulling away for the last time was one of the saddest moments of my life. My friend Alice stood in the road with her son and a group of school children chased the car waving and shouting. I spent a few days in Kigali filling out all the government paperwork, and in a matter of days I was on a plane home.

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Final visit with Alice and Arsene

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Saying goodbye to my students

Other volunteers had warned me about the struggle involved in the process of integrating back into life in America, but to tell you the truth, I though it wouldn’t be a problem for me. And boy was I wrong. It was very difficult, and as much as I wish I could say I handled the transition with constant grace and kindness, reflecting on the past few months I can see that my demeanor has not always been very cheery. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be home. I love my family and the privilege of living in America comes with so many wonderful amenities. I still shower all the time because the thrill of having hot running water is just too much to resist and I continually marvel at that beauty of indoor plumbing. But even with these perks, I found myself missing Rwanda with a fierce sadness that greatly complicated my transition home. I was used to living very independently and suddenly I was living with my family again. I was used to having an impact in my community on a daily basis, and suddenly I was not working and it felt like I wasn’t contributing anything to the world. Everything is just very different, and I am (somewhat) patiently trying to find a new normal.

One of my favorite people in Rwanda is Divine, the beloved student of my friend Heather. One day Heather was feeling sad about leaving and Divine shared with her a local proverb in Kinyarwanda:

Nta mvura idahita: there is no rain that doesn’t stop

So I suppose no matter how cranky or frustrated I am feeling about this transition I find comfort in the fact that eventually it will get better. The rain will stop and I will be fully happy again, it just takes a little time. I have been blessed with lots of babysitting jobs and spending time with children brings an enormous amount of joy to my life. I signed up to be a volunteer on the pediatric floor at the hospital and I look forward to starting my shifts when the mountain of paperwork finally goes through. And most importantly I am signed up to start school again to finish my prerequisites for medical school. In January I will finish the organic chemistry series, physics, and calculus. Not exactly my favorite topics but they are required for school and will hopefully help me succeed on the MCAT exam that I will take at the end of the summer. For now I am enjoying spending time with my grandmother and preparing for a future career in medicine.

I am still in touch with many of my friends from Rwanda and managed to get myself a little bit in over my head with sponsorship promises. My good friend Goreth is finishing college and even with the help of an amazing former teacher from Cheyenne I still need more help to assist her with school fees and living expenses. I hate to use my blog to solicit financial donations of any kind, and yet I don’t hate it enough to stop me from doing it. So here is my request: take a moment on this beautiful Thanksgiving day to reflect on all of the many blessings in your life. I am guessing for many of you that your education falls somewhere on your list. I never realized how fortunate I was until I lived and taught in Rwanda. I hope that some of you might be willing to contribute to Goreth’s education fund. Even a small amount would go a long way in helping her change her future. I will include the link to my fundraising page at the bottom of this post, please feel free to pass it along and share with anyone who might be interested. I felt a little weird doing this, but the last time I was on the “gofundme” homepage there was a girl raising money for a father/daughter weekend vacation and she had raised $900. So I figure if people can raise money for their vacations I can certainly buckle down and travel outside of my comfort zone on behalf of a dear friend.

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Goreth at GLOW camp

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Hanging out with Goreth outside the big church by my house

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving, enjoy the day with your loved ones!

http://www.gofundme.com/5cgncg

 

GLOW Camp 2013

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Another year of GLOW camp is in the books! We gathered 85 teenage girls, most from rural villages and very poor families, to learn about HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention, family planning, goal setting, and GIRL POWER! :) GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) camp is always an amazing experience. The girls arrive on the first day of camp completely overwhelmed, shy and timid like many Rwandese girls, and leave four days later completely energized and confident. So many aspects of Peace Corps are all about doing the work to lay the foundation but you don’t get to see the results in the short 27-months of your service. GLOW camp is a great exception. You get to watch the transformation of the girls with your own eyes, observe as their confidence grows with every lesson and activity, and for those five days everything else in the world seems to melt away. I attended camp in the East this year, which is not where I live, but it worked out well since I was able to share a Hero Group with my awesome friend, Heather. There were ten hero groups and our inspirational woman was Jeannette Kagame (she is married to Paul Kagame- the president of Rwanda) so we had lots of fun with our decorations and name tags. Jeannette is the founder of the Imbuto Foundation, an organization that provides services and support for many of the vulnerable populations in Rwanda like people living with HIV/AIDS and children who cannot afford school fees. Imbuto is the Kinyarwanda word for seed, but it is also the word for fruit, and we drew inspiration from the latter to construct our name tags. To tell you the truth Heather chose the symbol- that girl loves her bananas.
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When the girls first arrived they took a quick pre-test (monitoring and evaluation is a necessary component if you want grant money) and then decorated their journals with images from magazines. They love cutting out white girls and plastering their covers with a mosaic of white faces from glossy magazines. Kind of creepy in my opinion, but to each his own- they seemed quite happy with their work. You can see in the picture below that each girl has a piece of fabric and that helped to identify which Hero Group they belonged to for the duration of the camp. Every day they could choose how to incorporate their fabric into their outfit so some wore it as a hair accessory while others opted to construct a belt or scarf.

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For most of the meals we sat with our Hero Groups, and although the Kagame group was small, we had lots of energy and had cheers about bananas in three different languages. I am not sure any group could top that accomplishment. The food was good but pretty basic and never changed much. Breakfast was bread and tea (and porridge for the girls) while lunch and dinner consisted of beans and cabbage served over one of three carbohydrates- potatoes, rice, or plantains. When I traveled home at the end of camp I stopped in Kigali to get a big salad since it had been a week without anything green on my plate! Here are the Kagame girls enjoying their dinner together the first night:

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Every day the girls had three lessons an each day had a theme, like HIV/AIDS or self-confidence and girl power, and all three lessons corresponded to this theme. On the first day they had a big discussion about gender equality, which was pretty interesting to observe. Gender equality is a term that most Rwandese people know but I think very few people really understand what it means outside the context of regurgitating words announced on the radio. Rwanda is making great strides to introduce a culture of gender equality but, like everything here, it is process that goes buhoro, buhoro- slowly, slowly. The girls worked in small groups to discuss gender roles in Rwanda, the notion of gender equality, and how to promote the idea in their villages.

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One of the activities was to draw a visual depiction of what they saw as examples of gender inequality in Rwanda. In the first image you can see the mother is at home cooking with a baby on her back while the husband is shown in a chair drinking out of a gourd full of locally brewed banana beer. In the second half of the drawing they show how the couple could share chores, the mama sweeping and the father cooking.

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I thought this was a particularly clever drawing that was done by my favorite camper, Smayah.

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Every afternoon, after the last lesson, there was a time allotted for afternoon activities. They could choose between a variety of sports like volleyball, soccer, or frisbee, and other cool options like crafting, dance lessons, and even a class on the science of cooking. Heather and I taught baseball, and although it it was not a super popular option, we did manage to convince three girls to come give it a try and they seemed to really enjoy it! As it turns out, baseball is tricky to play with five people, so we eventually moved on and I went to check out the crafting room. Crafting actually meant beading, actual crafts, and nail polish- I think you can imagine it was slightly more alluring than swinging a piece of wood at a ball I was throwing near their faces.

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As I mentioned before, our group was small but mighty! We had the smallest amount of campers but tons of camp spirit and the other groups were often treated to a variety of lovely cheers and songs, frequently centered around our symbol- the banana. Here is a picture of our group after we constructed a large banana out of paper and yellow rope. Working in a country that leaves you in a constant state of lacking resources really does foster creativity! :)

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The picture below is from a lesson on the science behind HIV and AIDS when the girls played the “lion and elephant” game. One girl is selected to be the baby elephant and stands in the middle of the room. We selected the smallest girl at the camp, Angel, and she played the role beautifully. Then Ian, the PCV teaching the lesson, picked five girls to be the adult elephants who stood around the baby elephant to protect her from predators. Then Ian chose three girls to be the lions, who had the job of trying to attack the baby elephant. This photo shows the first attempted attack when all the adult elephants were still present and successfully protected the baby from the lions. After this the girls had to identify what each animal represented. The baby elephant is the the human body, and the adults are the immune system. Most of the girls guessed that the lions represented HIV or AIDS, but they were actually illnesses and infections trying to attack the body. Then Ian reveals that he was representing HIV and proceeded to “kill off” a few of the adult elephants, leaving the baby much more vulnerable to attacks. Each lion was told a disease or illness that they represented like tuberculosis, malaria, or diarrhea in order to show the girls that even something that has a simple cure can kill a person with a compromised immune system. They learned some facts and had fun playing an active game- double win! :)

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One day the girls had lessons about family planning and safe sex. I think it was awkward for some girls but as a group they had TONS of questions and I was a bit horrified by some of the popular myths that are perpetuated in this culture when it comes to sex. In America, when a teenager wants to learn about sex, they have many (probably too many) ways to research the topic. In Rwanda the girls believe what their friends or boyfriends tell them because they just don’t know any better. So when a boy tells her that he will die if they don’t have sex, or that the lubrication on condoms is best used for curing acne, the girl has to trust his word. We encourage all girls to study this topic because even if they choose to not have sex right now they can share their knowledge with other girls in their communities. There are way too many teen pregnancy situations in this county and even though abstinence is the ideal method for prevention the reality is that a lot of these girls have sex before marriage and need to learn how to be safe. The condom demonstration is always an interesting experience and the girl’s faces in this photo sum up nicely how many of the girls felt about the activity:

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The picture below is a shot of my favorite camper, Smayah. She was a favorite for most of the PCVs but I was kind of the head of her fan club. I had a long conversation about her family the first day and she told me how there are 15 (yes fifteen) kids in her family and her dad died when she was five. Her mother has raised them alone ever since and sometimes struggles with all the responsibilities. She wants to be “a journalist and business woman” when she finishes studying and I have not a doubt in my mind that she will accomplish whatever she sets her mind too. Smayah was extremely intelligent and articulate but also compassionate and sensitive. She would often braid my hair for me in the mornings and made me a pair of earrings in crafts one day since I had forgotten to put in a pair that day. Since our camp ran during the end of Ramadan she couldn’t eat during the day and sometimes had to miss parts of activities to pray yet never once complained. She and another girl woke up every day at 3:30 am to eat a small breakfast in the dark and then didn’t eat again until 6:30 pm, after a full day of lessons and activities. This didn’t faze her in the least. She never sat out and even participated in sports one day- such a strong girl. On the last day many of the girl were excited to return home but Smayah cried and cried. She is one of the girls who is just a genuinely amazing person and I have so much respect for all of her hard work, and one day when she is a BBC correspondent I will track her down for an autograph.

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One night we had an “I can’t bonfire.” Each girl wrote down something that someone once told them they couldn’t do and, after reading their statement to the group, they threw the paper in the fire, destroying the negative words and embracing the praise and encouragement from the other girls. It was a really inspiring activity and hopefully an empowering experience for the girls since they live in a culture that tells them “no” a lot of the time. After this the girls tasted s’mores for the first time. I cautioned the first girl to hold the stick with her marshmellow above the flames and she immediately proceeded to thrust her poor mellows into the belly of the fire and they of course came out a gooey blob of sugar on fire. I blew out the flames, she smashed to goo in with the chocolate between two crackers, and I imagine it tasted just fine given the rate at which she consumed her final product. After s’mores we had a big dance party under the stars. No speakers, just us singing a mixture of modern pop songs and traditional songs and hymns in Kinyarwanda. This was perhaps my favorite experience of camp. At one point a girl came to feed me a bite of her s’more (which I of course accepted- wouldn’t want to be rude after all) and then she gave me a big hug and said, “I love you sooo much, Suzanna.” A perfect night indeed. Chocolate, dancing under the open sky, and lots of hugs and cute comments from awesome girls.

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There was also a field day event that was pretty awesome. They competed in three events: three-legged race, tug-of-war, and the dizzy bat race that made me feel sick just watching. We competed the whole time against team Obama and, although we dominated the first race, it was sadly our one and only win of the day.

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Here are the girls right before the tug-of-war competition. Looking oh-so cute and excited, confident that even with our small numbers we stand a chance. Little did we know…

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That we would get absolutely dominated. It was ugly. All of the girls ended up on the ground, and even though Heather was allowed to compete since our team was so small her fate was not so pleasant.

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Here is a shot of Heather after she got pulled along the ground for a solid ten feet when she didn’t let go. Now that is commitment. Well played team Obama, well played.

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After we lost three times in a row we decided to use the rope in a new capacity to foster a friendly activity between the girls. They enjoyed the game but didn’t understand right away that the jumping rope part wasn’t a competition so they would yell at anyone who messed up, which was a little intense for a school-yard game. This is a shot of Divine, Heather’s very best friend from site, showing the girls how it’s done. :)

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During the dizzy bat competition, which Obama also dominated, I had the opportunity to observe a few tug-of-war matches and it made me feel better to see that one team almost always ended up like this:

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We also had quite a few people show up to watch despite the fact that I can’t for the life of me remember sending them invitations to GLOW camp. A fence in Rwanda can mean “stay out” or also “please crawl through me.” I do believe the second translation is the most frequently adopted protocol, especially when foreigners are on the other side!

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The camp had 75 campers and 10 junior facilitators (JR’s). The JR’s were all campers last year who were selected to come again in more of a leadership role this year. One of their responsibilities was to attend a daily class on malaria prevention and then teach that lesson to their Hero Group. There were mosquito nets hanging from trees and thrown over lunch tables during lessons, and every girl even got to take one home for her family.

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A shot of the Kagame cuties hanging out under our mosquito net:

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At the end of camp Heather led all the girls and facilitators in a trust sit. It stated out looking pretty good:

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But then the circle had some issues with structural integrity…

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But practice makes perfect! Love to see all of those beautiful smiles! :)

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The last activity was a closing ceremony and each group was able to dance around the stage and preform their cheers for everyone. Our Kagame girls nailed their performance and did Jeannette, and bananas, proud. The last exercise was showing the girls how their knowledge can spread and be a powerful tool in their communities when it comes to issues like gender equality, disease prevention, and family planning. Mike, the PCV leading the session, lit his candle and then in a few minutes the whole room was full of burning candles, representing the powerful knowledge that these girls cans spread in an effort to build a brighter future for women, and all people, in Rwanda. What a beautiful way to end an amazing camp!!!

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People on the bus

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The only way travel in Rwanda (unless you are very rich and can afford a car imported from another country) is using public transportation. I have spent the past two years riding on motorcycles, twegeranies (vans that they squeeze way too many people into), and buses of various shapes and sizes. I have met a lot of people on these trips. Nice people, mean people, smelly people, funny people, sick people, happy people, aggressive people, creepy people, and just about every other adjective you can think of, they have sat next to (or on) me. I could probably write an entire book just about the characters I have met on buses during my journeys across Rwanda. Two different mothers have tried to breastfeed their infants by pushing them into my chest in order to fortify them with muzungu (white person) milk and I kindly explained, much to their annoyance, that I cannot magically produce breast milk upon their request. A teenage girl has wet her pants and soaked me in urine. A crazy woman chewed on my hair and an adorable old woman once asked for a sip of my water and we spent the entire three-hour drive discussing the best church hymns in Rwanda. People have vomited on me and others fell asleep on my shoulder. Men have tried to get a bit handsy for my taste and were subsequently publicly shamed as I lectured them in Kinyarwanda on their bad culture while the mamas on the bus cheered and laughed. I have played and chatted with awesome kids who have genuine curiosity about either me or the English language and also interacted with brats who try to slip their little hands into my purse. It is a mixed bag and you never know what type of interaction you will get, but most days it is worth making the effort to interact with people because the really great experiences totally make up for the bad. Plus the bad ones make great horror stories to earn me street cred with the other volunteers and really horrify the people back home! :)

Today I was traveling home from GLOW (girls leading our world) camp and was totally exhausted. After days of screaming cheers about Jeannette Kagame (she was our hero group role model), dancing and singing with 85 teenagers, and running camp activities I was ready for a good meal and a long night of rest. I was not in the mood to chat with strangers. I got on an empty bus and started to dig in my backpack for my headphones in hopes of deterring conversation so I could sleep the entire ride to Kigali. A few minutes later a girl climbed on and sat in the seat across the aisle from me. I was slightly annoyed. Then she started talking to me and I was really annoyed. I was tired and grumpy and feeling altogether grinchy. I knew I had a choice to make- engage her in conversation by answering her questions or be rude and put my headphones in and crank up my Glee soundtrack. I decided to talk with her and I am so glad that I did. She was awesome.

Her name was Jasmina and she is studying at a prestigious boarding school in Kayonza. She is a student in primary 6, about the equivalent of sixth grade, and speaks English better than most of the adults in this country. She has a sticker collection and likes to study English way more than her native language. She was headed home from school to celebrate the end of Ramadan with her family. She even showed me the permission slip the school gave her. She explained that her family practices Islam but admitted that she finds the religion confusing and her lack of ability to comprehend Arabic leaves her feeling disconnected from her religion. Since she attends a Christian school she is contemplating asking a sponsor to purchase her a Bible. She has a big family and loves to eat cooked bananas with beans.

Everything she said I found fascinating and soon it was me asking all the questions. I moved to sit next to her and she stored my huge backpack at her feet so that I could have more space. At a bus station stop she bought a small pack of gum and bought me one as well. She was such a sweet girl. After about thirty minutes of conversation she asked if I had any films on my phone so I lent her my Ipod and she watched Modern Family episodes for most of the ride. When we got closer to the city she switched to music, rested her head on my shoulder and fell asleep for a few minutes. We parted ways at the last stop and I dug out a few sheets of stickers from my bag to add to her collection and she headed home to celebrate with her family.

I am so glad that I decided to talk with her instead of following my initial inclination to ignore her questions and listen to music. I wish I could say that I always take advantage of these opportunities to interact with people here but unfortunately that cannot always be the case. Sometimes the music wins, and that is OK. Jasmine was a success story and one ride with her washes away the trauma of at least three bad rides! :)

I hope to write more about GLOW soon since I have lots of pictures and stories to share!

Writing

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I have found writing to be very therapeutic in this country. On the happy days I can reflect on my adventures and appreciate with newfound gratitude how fortunate I am to be here, on the bad days I can rant and rave about the crazy school policies or creepy men, and on the boring days writing can provide an alternate activity to watching the same movies over and over again. It can also be very therapeutic for the days when I encounter problems that I cannot solve since it gives me a medium to sort out my emotions. When really awful or sad things happen in my life here I find it extremely helpful to put the events into words, I suppose the process transfers some of the pain from my heart to the paper because I always feel a little lighter and happier afterwards. I usually keep these entries to myself since they are very emotional and personal, but recently I have been writing short stories about some of my experiences in Rwanda that I would like to share with others. Rwanda is a beautiful but extremely complicated and often frustrating country so I hope my stories can capture all the different aspects of my daily life.

I have included in this post an excerpt from a story about one of my students, whose name I changed to Jeannette to give her some privacy, who came to visit me seeking advice about a personal problem. I think about 1% of my readers have actually met my students, but since it is not really my story to tell I wanted to protect her identity. Teen pregnancy is a big issue in this country and it has drastic consequences for the mother since they are kicked out of school when the pregnancy is discovered and rarely return. The father of the child goes on his happy way and continues life as normal. Don’t even get me started on this aspect of the school system.

I am still working on the story, and at my current pace I will finish in approximately twenty years, but this is a small section from the middle of the piece:

Her visit falls on the day before my trip to the market so I have almost no food to offer. My usual protocol for guests is to serve fruit but the plastic basket that is often full of delicious offerings now houses a molding avocado and a passion fruit shriveled to the size of a grape. It’s really quite embarrassing so I throw a towel over the basket to hide my slovenly tendencies and search my cabinet for something else to give her. About the same time I find tea and box of crackers she pulls a small banana from her pocket. Barely recognizable as a banana, the skin is completely brown and some gooey banana mush is leaking from multiple cracks. She casually wipes the sticky discharge on her skirt and, while I am overwhelmed with the urge to retch, I cannot refuse when she hands me the mushy disaster of a fruit. I lay it on a plate and carefully divide the small banana into equal globs of brown paste and we sit down together. With our heads bowed I say a short prayer in Kinyarwanda, and although my eyes are shut, I can practically hear her smile as I muddle through the collection of new prayer vocabulary I learned last week. She carefully eats her banana in a delicate and graceful manner while I shove the entire portion into my mouth and never chew once.

I know that she has something to tell me but after two years in Rwanda I am accustomed to long silences, so there we sit. I study the map of Africa posted behind her head and dream of the countries I want to visit. The rain starts to fall and the gentle but persistent rhythm of the rain on the tin roof lulls me into a sleepy haze. And still we sit in silence.

Her weary eyes scan the floor, never rising to meet mine, and she clasps her shaking hands together as she whispers, “ndatwite.” I don’t recognize the word she uses but the slight movement of her hand to rest gently on her stomach is universal. The gesture pulls the fabric flush to her body to reveal the slight curve of her belly that is usually concealed under her baggy uniform shirt. She closes her eyes while her hand rubs back and forth across her stomach, a gesture eerily reminiscent of a student cleaning the blackboard, as if the movement will erase the person growing inside of her. I want to pull her into my arms, envelop her in love and take away all of her pain and sorrow. Instead I rest my hand on her bony knee and ask her how many months the baby has lived inside her. I stumble over the awkward phrasing but she nods and takes a moment to count.

“Maybe five months now,” she whispers. I ask her how she knows it is five. She tells me that after she stopped bleeding she visited a health center to see a nurse. Not willing to risk someone seeing her at the local health center she walked three hours to a different sector since she was not able to afford the 50 cent bus ride. I ask a few more questions and suddenly she switches from English to Kinyarwanda, seeking comfort in her maternal language as she opens her heart to me. For thirty minutes she talks so fast she barley has time to breathe, a steady flow of words that I struggle to understand as they rush into my ear. Finally she stops and hangs her head, and in a moment when words in any language are superfluous, tears slowly cascade down her cheeks and splash at my feet.

The Cyangugu Experience

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Last weekend my friend Katie and I decided to venture down to the far south of Rwanda to an area called Cyangugu. You can see on the handy map above that the town is very close to the Congo, and my site is in between Kigali and Gitarama. Katie lives in Kigali, since she is a 3rd year volunteer running the judges teaching program, so I spent the night at her house Thursday night. Friday we woke up nice and early to catch a bus to the bus station and we were welcomed with a rude surprise that the usual bus had been replaced with one of the awful big buses. Three seats on one side, the world’s most narrow aisle down the middle, and two on the other side. So many people on one bus. I knew it was going to make for a rough trip since the big buses take the curves just as fast as the smaller ones but with less stability. We left the bus station almost an hour late and the driving was crazy as usual, but the first three hours were not too bad. Once we got closer to the forest (where the road becomes a twisty vomit-inducing race on crumbling paved roads) people started getting sick. Over the noise of the blaring music videos you could hear people retching and vomiting into their tiny plastic bags.

We stopped at the “pea stop”, an area well known for their pea production, where men climb up the edges of the bus and thrust bags of peas in your face while fervently negotiating prices despite your annoyed silence and attempts to slap their hands away. It was at this break that perhaps the most horrifying event of the entire trip occurred. A man walking from the back of the bus to the front dropped his entire vomit bag on my feet. Yes, on my feet. It was so utterly disgusting that even now I feel a little ill writing about it. I am a person who has no problem changing diapers and cleaning up vomit when children are sick, but having a full grown man drop his bag of vomit on me was just so gross. I had to spend the rest of the break dumping my bottled water on my feet and picking vomit chunks out from between my toes. Memories in the making I tell you.

Once we started again things only got worse for the poor passengers on our bus. As we raced through the forest more and more people started throwing up, and the awful turns and pungent smell of vomit started to take its toll. Of course I didn’t bring a bag because I usually don’t get car sick so I had to refer to the Rwandan method of pulling out my piece of fabric that I use as a towel. I spent the rest of the trip with my head down trying my very best to not through up in my make-shift bag. I successfully arrived on the other side of the forest without vomiting and after another 40-minutes we arrived at the stop for Kari’s site. When Katie and I went to get off the bus we had to skate along a sea of vomit to get down the aisle and still managed to slip several times. It was such a relief to get off the bus that we just sat on the side of the road for a few minutes.

Kari’s site is a 30-minute motorcycle ride from the main road along a beautiful rural road and the fresh air was wonderful. We spent the night at Kari’s beautiful house next to the boarding school where she works. She is a teacher at a Catholic boarding school for girls and has a really nice house where we spent the night cooking and hanging out. The next day we caught a small bus from her site to the biggest town in the area, but before leaving we had to wait for the bus to fill up. There was a crazy man dressed in a blazer, with no shirt underneath, and a pair of dress pants rolled up to his mid-thigh, dancing around with an umbrella and coming to greet us every two minutes. He was always very cheerful so we pretty much ignored him until at one point he put his in the window and spit in my face. Another wonderfully disgusting experience. The locals on the bus were horrified and a couple of men chased down the guy and proceeded to confiscate his own umbrella and beat him for a while. When the bus finally filled up we took off and saw the man on the road and the driver chased him down until he ran off the road, screaming at the crazy guy how he was going to beat him. Always an adventure.

We spent the day at the lake and the Congo was so close it was hard to believe. In the picture below the left portion is Rwanda and the right side, across the blue bridge, is the Congo. Pretty cool experience. It was a nice time and even with all of the spit and vomit it was a wonderful trip and a beautiful area to explore!

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