As my title hints, and by hints I mean pretty much states as a fact, I have moved out of the convent. I still have a wonderful relationship with all my nuns and I really cherish the time I was able to spend with them and I am eternally grateful for all of their love and support that they gave me during my first year in Rwanda. This being said, it was time for me to find a new living situation. The convent was great for a first year but I wanted to spend my second year more connected to my community and one of the greatest ways to achieve this goal was to actually live in the community. Housing in my area (and pretty much everywhere in Rwanda) is hard to come by. When you have 11 million people crammed into a country the size of Maryland there is not a lot of wiggle room and you can only build so many houses. So when I went home for Christmas I asked some of colleagues to look for a place for me while I was gone. And find me a place they did. It was not as ideal as I once I imagined since I wanted a little house surrounded by neighbors, but it is more in the community than the convent and located in a safe place- so Mom you can worry a little less. Actually this whole blog is pretty much designed to reassure my mother that I will be safe, I think she is imagining that I am moving from the convent into some shady bat cave that rests between a rowdy bar and a brothel. I assure you my new place is very safe and I live across the street from the biology teacher at my school who keeps an eye on me.
My new place is actually two rooms that some priests rented me. I guess I am destined to forever be linked to the Catholic Church when it comes to my housing in Rwanda! It is a further down the road from my school so I get to spend more time in the community whenever I want to walk anywhere. This is great because it forces me to be social and the dreaded mobs of primary school kids (when I see them descending down a hill in their giant mob I can’t help but humming the Jaw’s theme song in my head) are actually learning my name since I see them now on a more frequent basis. I will be cooking for myself and for now I am doing my own laundry. I predict the second job mentioned will soon be passed along to someone else as I kind of hate doing laundry by hand.
Peace Corps has been very supportive of my decision and really helpful throughout the whole process. When Rukundo, my project manager, came out to approve my new place he did mention that the safety and security manager would require that I change the locks to assure that I have the only keys to my room. I was fine with this and started looking for a locksmith in my area but then learned I could just buy a little screwdriver, find new cylinders for the doors, and change the locks myself! Alexis, the guy who lives on the compound and works as a groundskeeper, helped me with the process and we installed the new cylinders in no time at all! This went pretty well until we discovered that the locks I purchased were not of great quality and one of the doors wouldn’t open once we shut it- oops! I saw him later walk by with a huge metal bar and his machete, not really sure how he got the door open again but I was grateful I didn’t have to do it. Here was my first set of locks:
So at the request of my panicked mother, here is the virtual tour of how to get to my new digs:
So you continue past the convent and my school on this road and go down a hill. The road has always been awful but now it is in especially poor condition after rainy season. This is the flat part and shortly after there is a hill that leads down to where I live.
On the left side of the road there is a blue gate. This is a picture of the gate from the inside. I was planning on getting a shot from the outside but there were some really obnoxious teenage boys outside so I had to resort to this photo. So any who, you go through this gate to find my new rooms.
This is the first view when you walk through the gate- so beautiful! To get to my rooms you go down the steps and turn right at the little doorway with a blue tin roof.
Then you can either go up the stairs to the priest’s office or to the left, which leads to my rooms.
This is the little pathway that leads to my space. The shower room and latrine are on the left and my rooms on the right.
Here is the view of my little porch, the room on the left will be my sitting/storage room and then the door on the right that you can barely see is my bedroom.
View of my bedroom. I kept two beds so I can easily have visitors!
I do have electricity which is great. My little light bulb doesn’t have a lot of power but it does its job well enough.
This is my back gate, if I go through it there is a small wall of dirt and some neighbors who live up above me.
And the BEST PART: here is the view when I walk outside my bedroom:
Other added perks include beautiful flowers, an awesome view of the forest down the road, and a little slide for when I entertain adventurous company, although the slide is reserved for my guests with documented proof of a tetanus shot since it is pretty rusty and has jagged pieces of metal sticking out everywhere. Plan accordingly if you are visiting and want to play on the slide.
Overall I am really excited for my new place! I think it will bring a whole new set of challenges but I am really looking forward to living on my own. My kids don’t come to school until February 7th so I still have some time to set up house and I suppose do a little lesson planning as well!