Disclaimer: These are the thoughts and words of one Brittany Johnson and do not reflect the policies or thoughts of the Peace Corps.
Ok so I finally put my Blog together, don’t act like your shocked, yes I know many of you are rolling your eyes. Anyway, I can’t promise I will write often, but I will do my best to keep you informed of the many crazy things that I do, case in point eating fried katydids!!! Yup that happened, they kind of taste like pumpkin seeds!!
This first post is a mass post, and probably won’t happen again, so this post will be spanning a time of about a month. Sorry about that, but it should catch you up and get you all up to speed on my oh so exciting life!!
So enjoy the three or so page post……
Sunday November 7, 2010
I do apologize for not posting something sooner. Even though there is internet and even wireless it is not like I have it in my home. But I will try my hardest to make it to the internet café a little more.
It is Sunday as I am typing this; we finally have an entire day off for ourselves. I am eating peanut butter (yes I bought it here in Rwanda), and a Nutella wannabe, listening to music and forcing myself to actually type this.
Rwanda, the land of thousand hills, which is an accurate description of this country, is beautiful. It is full of rolling hills and mountains. Picture the Blue Mountains continuous and never ending in the distance; but in Hawaii! The weather is just about perfect. It is November and while you all wear jackets and sweaters I am in sandals, shorts and t-shirts. The down side, we may get caught in a torrential down pour at any given moment. But life is about trade-offs and if you ever find perfect let me know.
We are living in a town called Nyanza. It is a city, I guess, with a population of about 250,000. There are now 68 of us in my training group, we started with 71 and three have left. I don’t blame them or think any less of them, cause God knows I know how this feels and how hard it is and frankly I don’t want someone thinking less of me if I come to the decision to leave as well. So I wish them all well!!
So 68 of us left going into week three of an eleven week training. We are living all over the city, in about 10 different houses. In my house there are 12 of us plus three language instructors. We have four bathrooms, and one outside latrine, we do have electricity but no running water. We take bucket baths and they are usually cold, unless we heat up water in the electric kettle then we have somewhat warm bucket baths. Chances are that I will have to do this for the duration of my service here. But it is a minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, and I will be able to add yet another useful skill to my resume: Can use a minimal amount of water to bath, how very eco-friendly of me!
We go to training Monday-Saturday, we are served breakfast starting at 7am and classes start at 8am. And we go until about 7pm when they serve us dinner. After that we go back to our houses; our curfew is 10pm, and some of us go into town to hang out for some down time, but for me it is a twenty minute walk home so most of the time I go straight home after dinner.
Twice a week we go and have dinner with, what Peace Corps is calling a resource family. Instead of having a host family, we go and have dinner with our reference family, and do other activities with them. We are supposed to be a part of the family learning how to cook and clean and wash clothes and everything to help us become more integrated into the Rwandan culture. My family so far is great. They have two little girls, the mother is a teacher and the family has had two or three volunteers before me so they know what they are supposed to do and what they are supposed to help me with besides my Ikinyrwanda.
When we aren’t in a language class we have what are called tech sessions; essentially teaching us how to be teachers, how to write lesson plans, telling us in every conceivable way that we need to learn to be patient and flexible. Amazingly, no matter how many times they tell us that we will never fully understand that concept until we actually have to be flexible and patient. However they are giving us a crash course in it by changing the schedule at every turn; so that being flexible has been the name of the game from the get go.
My resource Mom thinks that I am hysterical, her and her neighbor just laughed and laughed at me and with me for two hours tonight. IKinyrwanda, not only is a Bantu language but also is a tonal language so that the meaning of some words change depending on how you use them. Take the word, inkoko, chicken, if you say it fast it means chicken. However, if you say it slowly and drop the tone of your voice a little lower, it means the basket they use to separate out pebbles from rice. Also, they have 16 noun classes, compared to English that has 2. So depending what the noun starts with determines the rest of the sentence, the verb, the possessive pronoun and the adjective all change depending on the noun; this also includes the numbers.
You are all dyeing to know what the food is like right: Ok every day we have a combination of the following; rice or pasta, potatoes or plantains (or both), a meat of some sort that you have to chew for five minutes, a tomato based sauce or a green leafy like sauce and a fruit, pineapple, papaya or passion fruit. So basically I eat starch all day long. It is probably a good thing that I have to walk 3-4 miles a day just to get to and from school.
Monday November 8, 2010
Don’t get to excited two days in a row is going to be few and far between. It just so happens I was unable to get to the internet café today and have now gotten stuck at our center in a rain storm. This rain storm includes thunder and lightning and is seriously right on top of our heads. Kind of cool if I were sitting in a comfy chair, in front of a big picture window with tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, or maybe hot cocoa and a book and wrapped up in a fleece blanket, not planning on a 20 minute walk home on some unpaved roads.
I am hoping that in the two hours between when I am writing this, and we get served dinner the rain will at least taper off so that we aren’t completely soaked when we get back.
Saturday 13, 2010
Site assignment week!!!! Thursday we were given our site location! I will be living in the north western part of the country in the District of Musanze. This district is located right next to the Volcano National Park, which just happens to be the home of the Mountain Gorillas! On Monday I will be able to give you more information, because I will be going to my site!! I am super excited to see another part of Rwanda and I am even more excited to see my site and school where I will be living and teaching for two years.
The North part of the country gets a little cooler than the south and rains a lot more. But at least I won’t have to deal with too little water. But I don’t mind a little cold, because their idea of cold is nothing compared to ours.
Today in fact we are getting a little taste of the rainy season, as it started raining this morning (on my walk to school, I was drenched by the time I got there) and it hasn’t stopped raining. So this is what we have to look forward to for the next five months. Sounds like my rain boots will come in handy!!!
November 21, 2010
Sundays are usually for the most part our own. However, after being so scheduled for the whole week sometimes we really have no idea what to do with ourselves. Today I decided to write again, to catch up on the last few weeks and tell you all what has been going on. We received our site assignments and already went on our site visits.
My site is located in the North Province in the District of Musanze. When you look up this district, which I know most of you will, you will find that I live near the National Park of the Volcanoes. In fact this is where you go if you want to go Gorilla trekking. So yes I am living near Volcanoes, again, and have the mountain Gorillas in my back yard.
My School is a 2km away from where I will be living, which is about 40min one way (a little forced exercise!). It is a beautiful walk, and I think I am going to enjoy walking it every day; well mostly, it does rain a lot and the road is dirt and rock. So the mud boots that I packed will come in very handy!!!
I will be teaching Biology, at a middle school level. I will probably have 40-50 students in each class, maybe even more. This year is the first year where every exam has to be in English, so all of the lectures have to be in English. Which is good for me, but since all of Rwanda has been using French in their schools and for their exams, it is going to be a hard transition. Many of the students probably won’t know any English. So that will be a challenge for them and for me. But one I think I am up for, or at the very least willing to give it all I got!
December 14, 2010
Yes, I get that it has been a little while, but come on give me a little break it is just the next month; and besides that I am posting all of this at once so you get it all in one blog post; instead of having to wait a month!
Two weeks ago we started what is called a Model school. This is a practice for us, and mimics what we may encounter at our schools in January. Right now the kids are on vacation and the powers at be were able to find enough students from around the area to fill a school, so the 68 people could teach classes with upwards of 30-50 students per class. No small feat for sure. We were put into groups, animal groups my group is the Baboons! And there are four teaching hours a day, my group only has four people so we teach everyday, other groups have more people so they were able to have days off; when you aren’t teaching you observe and then give constructive criticism at the end of each day. It is tiring, trying to write a lesson plan each night, have technical training, medical and safety sessions and try to study Ikinryrwanda. Luckily, it is coming to an end, for my group, this week. And I will be able to focus a little more on the language aspect of training instead of the teaching aspect. Model school has been good for me, I feel like I can go to site and be a teacher, one that is respected and knowledgeable and I know that I can write a lesson plan that makes sense and flows nicely. In that regard Model school has been an asset, however, my language skills have suffered for it. I am going to push myself in the next few weeks to practice and use the language that I do know and try and learn more before I take my language interview.
I will try and have more for you in a shorted amount of time, and hope to make this a regular thing, I make no promises at this point we will see how it goes!
Peace love and laughter my friends!
Make comments, ask questions!!!!