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, December 25, 2010

The End of Model School

From now on, I will post a quote from the past few days at the beginning of these blogs. Some of them may be juvenile, immature, or just not right. Just a warning.

“Shawn, I’d just like to tell you that I was just sexually harassing Scott and said your name instead….”-Jed

Last week represented the final week of PST Model School in Nyanza. With the chalk finally off my hands and no more lessons to plan at 11:30 at night, we decided to throw a celebration (even though the other half of the Trainees still have a full week left). The gang gathered at Inzu Ubumwe, one of the larger houses in downtown Nyanza close to all the action, and was joined by Mary our Country Director and most of the senior training staff. A small band of amazing Trainees made tortilla chips to much success as well as some other smashing-good food. Toasts were made in honor of our APCD, Kassim, who coordinated all of model school and Allison, our main Tech Trainer. We also cheered to Charles for his newly-created role a faux-pseudo-interim Science Tech Trainer, probably the only Trainee to ever fill a vacant PC Staff position. Unfortunately, Charles likes to go to bed rather early and, although we held the party at 6pm, he had already made his way back to Farside (although he claimed to be lesson planning). I only feel comfortable poking fun at him because he’s my roommate and I have been informed that his grandmother reads these blogs. Yeah, that just happened. After the toasts, a typical Peace Corps dance party started, which was continued in spirit at the bar. I really should say plural ‘bars’ because there were many stops involved. And there was much rejoicing.

During PST, we occasionally catch a lucky break and are given a choice in what we do. Ok, that may be a little unfair to the Peace Corps Training Staff, who are all excellent at their job. Sunday was one such day when we were given the opportunity to visit Nyungwe National Forest for some hiking. Nyungwe is a standing protected rainforest in southern Rwanda and contains one of the believed sources of the Nile River. Even though it is rather close to my school, I decided to go along with the group and visit the park so I could stretch my legs for once in 2 months.

From Nyanza, where we are housed for Training, we loaded onto buses and headed for Butare, the next city over. There, we met up with our Training Manager, Mup, for a short breakfast. By some random chance, I ended up in the back of the Peace Corps Landcruiser with the driver, Mup, and Chelsea (a fellow Trainee) when we left Butare to continue south to the Forest. The two hour ride down poorly-maintained roads would not have been so bad (and really wasn’t) save for the fact that the seats in the back of the PC Landcruisers face sideways instead of forward. For the first hour, it was pretty awesome to watch the landscape roll past in front of me. After that, it became a little nauseating to endure and Chelsea and I ended up attempting to not look out any windows while occupying our minds with German punk rock and Blue October.

At the park, we took a 3 hour canopy walk that circled around the main trailhead and info center. On the far edge of the trail, a suspended metal bridge had been erected that jutted out from the hillside. By the time we had arrived at the Canopy (as they call it) it had started to rain. Imagine that. Rain in a rainforest. Only 8 of us were allowed to accompany the guide at one time out onto the walkway for safety reasons, so the rest of us huddled under umbrellas and behind raincoats while the rain grew heavier. The first section of the Canopy takes you 45 meters away from the hillside to the first metal tower. From there, it is a 90 meter stroll on a steel gangplank about 10 inches wide, holding on to the side-ropes with both hands. We stopped about halfway along this section to enjoy the view while suspended about 200 foot or so above the forest floor. By the time we made it to the final tower and over the last short section to the hillside, it had begun to hail and lightning. It was then a quick strut back along a short trail to where the Canopy began followed by the return trip to the trailhead. About halfway back, the rain stopped and the clouds lifted enough for us to be able to see Lake Kivu to the West, a short but surprising distance away.

On the ride back to Burtare from Nyungwe Forest, we cracked the windows of the buses in a futile attempt at drying our clothes. After a further futile attempt at obtaining hamburgers in Butare for lunch, we settled for more traditional Rwandan food (‘pizza’ and brochettes) before zipping back to Nyanza at last.

This one is for Jed’s family. Yeah, I know you read this, too. For all of you who are scratching your heads right now, Jed is one of the Farsiders who lives in Inzu Amahirwe with me in Mugandamore, 3 miles from Nyanza City Centre. Charles ( yet another Farsider) and I were discussing codependency in the context of the Peace Corps Experience when Jed bursts into the room and begins to sing “No Air” by Jordan Sparks and Chris Brown (I’m told). Charles turns to me and says something to the extent of “Do we really need to be codependent with him too?” My response: “I keep Jed around for times just like this. See, Jed does his normal thing like bursting into a crappy song at the top of his lungs, which is in no way normal. But as long as Jed still seems insane, I know my own sanity is intact. It’s the moments that Jed starts making sense that we need to start getting concerned.”

-Don't Forget To Be Awesome



  1. you posted on christmas. CHRISTMAS SHAWN. and not a hint of "don't forget to remember jesus"... where was your christmas spirit?... hmm?...

  2. Hi Shawn - thanks for the personal message. Sounds like Jed is still the wonderful Jed we know and love. Bursting into song is something we love to do together. I'm glad he's spreading the tradition. Thanks for your detailed updates -- I know I'm not alone in appreciating them and you. Might you be able to video Jed's speech at the swearing-in ceremony? We would sure love to see that! Good luck with your language test, your swearing-in and your new village life. Looking forward to hearing all about it. Take care and stay awesome. Jed's Mom Judith