The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

PST schedule and Halloween

18 days ago, I boarded a plane in Minneapolis and started a journey that
will encompass the next two years of my life. Prior to departing for the
Peace Corps and Rwanda, I decided to not dwell on what was about to
happen to me and just jump in feet first. This way, I was guaranteed not
to psych myself out over leaving. However, this has had the unpleasant
side effect of major culture shock. I spent very little time preparing
myself to leave for fear of changing my mind, leaving me wide open to
all the unknowns. While Rwanda itself is in no way bad in any sense of
the word, Pre-Service Training does suck the life out of you. Here is an
example of a standard day:

5:00AM - Alarm goes off. I ignore it
5:30AM - Charles (my roommate) wakes up. I ignore that too.
6:00AM - I stumble from my top bunk and get ready to shower. A 'shower'
consists of standing in one or two liters of water and splashing it as
effectively as possible onto your body. We have no hot water. We have no
running water.
6:45AM - Meet up with the other Farsiders (the collective name for Jed,
Charles, Dylan, Caroline, Annie, Nicole, Caitlyn, and Me since we are
the furthest from the training center). Load bus for downtown Nyanza.
7:00AM - Breakfast; tea, bread, and cheese. Sometimes eggs.
8:00AM - 2 hour Language session where we spend most of the time
attempting to translate our teacher's pantomimes.
10:00AM - Half-hour tea break.
10:30AM - Back to Language
Noon - Lunch usually consisting of rice, potatoes, bananas, and perhaps
meat. Use spare time to hit up internet cafe or nap under a tree.
2:00PM - Technical Training session where we learn to teach well.
3:30PM - Pointless 15 minute break
3:45PM - Back into the classroom for a safety and security lecture,
medical lecture, or some other important information....
5:00PM - Random 2 hour break which can be filled with napping under a
tree, Medical Officer consults, vaccinations, more security lectures, or
some random debrief activity which usually dissolves into questions
about our sites.
7:00PM - Dinner (similar to Lunch)
8:00PM - Bus returns to pick up the Farsiders
8:15PM - Arrive home and start getting ready for bed.
9:00PM - Charles is out like a light. Peter and Valans (our
Facilitators) are still playing guitar in the living room.
10:30PM - All is quiet, yet I'm still typing this out as I fight to stay
10:31PM - Approx time of falling asleep.

As you can see, our time at PST in Nyanza is very structured. However,
just because the schedule says one thing doesn't mean it well happen
then or at all. Just trying to stay flexible...

Last weekend was Halloween (as you know...). From my observations,
Rwandans do not celebrate Halloween. Of course, we didn't let that stop
us from celebrating Halloween. Without many structured events, most
Trainees ended up on a pub crawl that was more of a circle (there are
really only three good bars in Nyanza). We would pretty much walk into
any of the three and ask 'Abazungo bari hehe?' or 'Where are the
foreigners?' and be directed to a table surrounded by merry Trainees. A
good time was had by all, although we did get a coincidental reminder of
the dangers of alcohol use as a coping method a few days after. Its
almost like they know...

Contrary to the schedule I posted above, tonight we actually visited
with our Resource Families and ate dinner with them as we do twice a
week. Today, there was another young man at dinner with my family who
was a student in lower secondary (Equivalent to grades 7-9) and just
finished his national exams to pass to the next grade. Unfortunately,
cheating is a large problem in Rwanda. The students recognize that they
need to pass the national exams in order to continue schooling and feel
that they need to achieve this goal by any means possible. Also
unfortunately, some teachers don't do anything about it. Some teachers
take it one step further. Our dinner guest was telling me that one of
the local teachers was just JAILED for 20 YEARS because he gave a
student the answers to their national exam. Strict? Yes. Effective? Also
yes. I'm not sure how accurate that information is, but it doesn't
surprise me as much as it would have a month ago.

Don't Forget To Be Awesome


  1. Shawn
    I know your mom and Paul from Rosemount Middle School. I look forward to reading many great stories! Keep that open will serve you very well! Peace Corps was an unforgettable, life changing growth experience for me! I wouldn't trade it for anything. Ruth Zouzouambe (RPCV Cameroon 1994-97)

  2. Happy Birthday Shawn! I hope you're getting more accustomed to your schedule and I can't wait for the next update!