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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

This is a conversation I had with a man on the street on Nyanza Sunday morning as I was walking back to Mugandamore.

'Mwaramutse" he says to me, dressed in his Sunday best, no doubt just off the bus on his way to Chruch. Good Morning.
'Mwaramutse' I reply. Good Morning.
'Amakuru?' he asks, tilting his jaw slightly to his right. How are you?
'Ni meza, wowe?" I am good, and you?
'Nanjye ni meza. Ugiye he?'I am also good. Where are you going?
'Ndatembeye gusa, ariko ubu ndagenda mu rugo i'Mugandamore.' I was only wandering, but now I am going to my home in Mugandamore.
'Ahh, ni byiza. Ufite Noheli Nziza?'Ahh, it is good. Did you have a good Christmas?
'Yego, niziza cyane. Yes, very good. He smiles a broad, nearly toothless smile as he extended his arms and nearly shouts his last words.

Normally, it would be near blasphemous for me to celebrate Christmas without snow. However, for Rwanda I will make an exception. With only 1 week of training left, Christmas was descending on Nyanza and the Peace Corps Trainees.

To start the Holiday off right, Friday morning found most of us undergoing a Mock LPI (Language Proficiency interview), which we will take for real next Thursday and must achieve at least an Intermediate-Low level. The plan was to take over a bar we had rented for the occasion and have a White Elephant gift exchange, talent show, and dinner.

For the talent show, the Farside houses performed a rendition of 'Crayola Doesn't Make a Color' in which many instruments we played, including two guitars, a glass-fork combo, and some rice in a bottle. Other talents included spoken word for one of our visiting Fulbright Scholars, several house songs/raps, and a rather brilliant retelling of the 12 days of Christmas as the "The 12 days of Model School." Halfway through the Talent Show, our kitchen staff arrived with our dinner and a small feast of meat and potatoes commenced. Before we could resume the Talent Show, however, a typical Peace Corps Dance Party broke out. Tables we pushed out of the way and more than a few Primus bottles we broken before or Talent Show MC's were able to rein everybody in (after they had they own fill of dancing for the moment) and finish the last few acts of the talent show.

With nothing left on the Christmas Eve agenda and it only being 8:30, the Dance Party once again hit full swing. A Peace Corps vehicle arrived at 9:15 to bring those of us living in Farside home, but many of us had already received prior permission to stay at other Peace Corps houses closer to town. The party continued longer into the night and eventually had to be moved in respect of our curfew.

Breakfast was served on Christmas morning, although many of us at the house where I crashed slept through it. A few Trainees were kind enough to liberate some food from the Center and bring it back to us. The morning was bright, albeit cloudy, making it a rather nice day to go for a walk. Just south/southwest of Nyanza City Center is a small reservoir with a few walking paths around it and some places to sit and enjoy the day. By the time we returned to town and ordered a cold Sprite to offset the now hot sun, it was almost time to return to the Center for Lunch. A few of the Trainees (Aaron and Deanne, I believe) had come up with one of their award-winning chili recipe and a few other Trainees helped make it and some cornbread-ish muffins.

After lunch we had scheduled a Christmas Movie Marathon in one of our Tech Training classrooms. We covered the floor in borrowed mattresses and pillows form the Infirmary and covered the windows with blankets as best we could to darken the room. First up, out of tradition, was A Muppet's Christmas Carol, followed by Love Actually and then Elf. Last up at 8pm was set to be The Big Libowski. Not really a Christmas movie, but still none-the-less great. We also filled in some time gaps with clips from Top Gun. I have to say, it almost gets no better than watching two Peace Corps Trainees reenact 'She's Lost That Lovin' Feellin'' while it's also being projected on the wall.

On Sunday morning, Farside came together to make breakfast American style. AS I was the last straggler to return to Mugandamore from Nyanza around 11am that morning, it fell to me to pick up the last of the supplies needed for the banana bread and French toast. Unfortunately, I didn't get the text message until I was already halfway home and knew that it would be difficult to find vegetable spread on the way. Alas I finally tracked some down (in the last shop remaining shop no less) and made my way to the girls' house where I was handsomely rewarded for my efforts with a full plate of French toast and bananas.

After a rather productive afternoon of rewriting lesson plans for my portfolio and taking some 'me' time to work on a rather nerdy math project for another Trainee, I returned to the girl's house to make Macaroni and Cheese. I have to say, it wasn't Kraft, but it was still awesome. We bummed around for a few hours playing catchphrase and Kinyarwanda Balderdash with Cate's boyfriend Joe who was visiting from Kenya where he works with an educational-based NGO (I think). He also reintroduced a game to us called 'Chinchilla' in which essentially the point is either to receive the fewest burns on your hands or be the bravest, and stupidest, player. One person will start by removing a glowing coal from the charcoal stove and lobbing it in the general direction, or towards the face of, another player. The goal is then to keep the coal in the air using nothing but your hands. It is actually much preferable to use only your hands because the hot coal tends to do a number on hair and clothing. By far the hardest part by actually picking up the coal as it involved the most time of direct searing contact, although the spectators also had an interesting time dodging the rogue coals.

As this is being posted (9:20AM local time on Thursday), I am just getting ready to take my Language Proficiency Interview. After that, I have to jaunt into Butare for some last minute shopping (read: ice cream) and then I have an interview with my training staff to discuss their recommendation for my service. I received a few emails with some questions in the last few days: I promise I will answer them in a timely matter (within 1 week).

Don't Forget To Be Awesome,


  1. Happy New Year Shawn,
    Love reading about your adventures and life in Rwanda. Sounds like you have some interesting friends. Didn't your Mom or Dad teach you not to play with fire???
    God wath over you and keep you safe - have a very happy and healthy 2011.


  2. Shawn....If I were to send you a package, what would you like? Hope things are going well for you- You are missed. Amazing as I watch Abby at times how her action I can see you in her! lol Looking forward to the upcoming Weddings in the family- First Jason's----and then I understand Tommy and Pam and Derek and Brianna also are engaged!
    Send me a message and let me know what you would like sent to you- You have a better I dea than I do!
    Take Care-