Most mornings I wake up between 5:30 and 6 to the (slightly obnoxious) sounds of the goat causing a ruckus out back. Occasionally the cow and chicken join in to create a soulful barn choir that serenades me as I dislodge myself from my mosquito net to get ready for the day. I pour myself a cup of filtered water to brush my teeth with, gather my towel and shampoo and head out back for the morning festivities. Normally my mom is in the kitchen (which is outside), but sometimes she has already left to work in the fields. My first order of business is to see who is up to make my preliminary round of greetings. Greetings are a crucial part of Rwandan culture so it is very important to always greet everyone you see. After I say hello and brush my teeth I am ready for my morning bucket shower. My mom pours boiling water into a blue bucket and then my older host brother, Gasana, usually pours some cold water in as well to even out the temperature. One morning this step was skipped and I submerged my hand in boiling hot water (which not surprisingly did not feel very good). I have since learned to always test the water temperature before making any drastic movements. I am slowly getting used to bucket showers, and with the exception of the copious amounts of spiders that have permanent residency in the shower room, I actually enjoy the process. The one difficult aspect of showering out of a bucket is the fact that it is hard to get all shampoo and conditioner out of my hair, a factor that has led me to skip washing my hair a few mornings. Given this pattern, I fear that my hair may be in a constant state of nastiness for two years and I will most likely need to invest in something to cover my head. If necessary I make a trip to the latrine, however I am currently struggling with the obscene amount of little black flies that swarm the outhouse in the morning. If I decide that it is absolutely necessary for my health to use the latrine, I arrive armed with my 98% deet bug spray ready to do battle. I spray a bit down the latrine and surrounding area while keeping constant surveillance on the spider situation as well. You may ask: is this a waste of your limited supply of bug spray? The answer is: perhaps, but the peace of mind is well worth it. After my shower I return to my room to get dressed and pack up my bag for the day. By the time I am coming out of my room, Gasana has breakfast set out for the two of us. I have yet to see anyone else eat breakfast, an observation which leads me to suspect that they are eating while I am still deep in slumber which makes me think that perhaps I should get up earlier (although this has yet to happen so far). We usually eat bread and drink some sort of tea and milk concoction. I must admit that the drink combination is not really my absolute favorite thing in the world and I do my best to beat Gasana to the table so that I can pour my own cup and give myself less than he usually does. Another lesson that I have learned is that Rwandans love sugar. The first morning I allowed Gasana to prepare my tea and before I knew it he had added six large spoonfuls of sugar! It tasted like I was drinking melted sugar cubes and I had to brush a few extra times that day to remove the layer of sugar coating my teeth. Breakfast is usually a pretty quite, and sometimes awkward affaire, but hopefully as my Kinyarwanda improves we will have more to talk about! After breakfast I take the mugs out back to the area where the house girl does dishes and then I make another trip around the house to say goodbye to everyone. I usually leave about 7:30 so that I have plenty of time to get to school. Even though I only have about a ten-minute walk to class, when you factor in greeting everyone you see and playing with various children along the way, you never get anywhere as quickly as you plan to. My house is along the main road in town and so is my language teacher’s house where we meet, so it is a pretty easy walk. The only hazard is the fact that motorcycles and cars drive rather quickly and the concept of a pedestrian having any rights is non-existent. While it pains me to share what happened on today’s walk, hopefully you all will find it amusing. I was walking my usual route, greeting everyone and as happy as can be, when some old women stopped me just before I arrived at my destination. After an exchange of greetings they kindly pointed out to me that my skirt was caught up in my backpack. I was of course mortified that I had walked all the way to school like this, but at least they were nicer than all the school girls who I passed that said nothing! I can already feel a change in myself in that this scenario only bothered me for about 5 minutes and then I was totally over it. I do believe that the pre-Rwanda Suzi may have had a small panic attack. So, let me get back to the daily routine. Most mornings consist of intensive language training from 8-12. My instructor is Gerandine and she is wonderful. She is about 6 moths pregnant and has left her husband and three other children back home to be a Peace Corps teacher until November. After language we have a one hour break and usually head over to the district office for lunch with the hopes of using the internet their, however today I spent an entire hour working on my blog and only managed to post one picture! Please be patient with the progress of my blog, we have pretty limited access to internet and electricity. After lunch we usually have technical training and cross-cultural sessions. Recently tech training has been instruction for writing and implementing effective and student-centered lesson plans. Since I have no formal teaching experience it is a relief that they are preparing us so well to teach, especially since we will be responsible for classes with 40-60 students with extremely limited access to resources. We usually finish about 4:30, and most days I head home to start homework and chores. The past few days there have been massive rainstorms right around 4 so I have been hanging out with friends at the Peace Corps building until it clears up some. When I get home I bring out my notebooks to study and do homework with my father. We usually study for a couple of hours and then I am in desperate need for a break from Kinyarwanda so I search for Thierry to play with. Some days we play outside with his friends (they love bubbles, Frisbee, taking pictures, and dancing to music). Sometimes we watch movies on my IPad or draw pictures. We eat dinner pretty late (between 8 and 9) so after dinner I am ready for bed!! This is what most of my days look like, although twice a week we have HUB days where the whole group is together at the Peace Corps building for medical sessions (lots of shots and lectures on taking our malaria pills) and safety and security training. HUB days are nice because it gives us a chance to be with friends away from the pressure of learning Kinyarwanda and adapting to a new culture!
Sending everyone lots of love from Rwanda!!! 🙂