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Friday, January 14, 2011

At Site (the long version)

Understanding that the last blog I posted was rather short (ok, really short), I figured I'd elaborate a little.

During the last week of training, we had very few structured activities in order to give us time to prep for our Language Proficiency Interview, which as I've said before we were required to hit intermediate low. My LPI was on Thursday, so I spent most of the week prepping for it. On Wednesday, Jed and I got permission to travel to Kigali so he could sort out some banking things and I could help, aka buy a guitar. Finally, at long last, I had a guitar back in my hands. My brand new guitar, of which there should now be a picture posted of, is a wood-grained blue Janson. Although not of impeccable quality, it is pretty nice and cost me a pretty penny as well. While in Kigali, I was also on the hunt for some Champagne to ring in the New Year correctly. Unfortunately, real champagne in Kigali runs almost as much as my guitar (to the tune of about 95,000 FRW (or about $160), so I settled for 2 bottles of some South Africa import instead.

Thursday was filled with the LPI and my Recommendation Interview with the Senior Training Staff. In my interview, they informed me that I did make Intermediate-Low and that they were recommending me to swear in.

On Friday, we rented out a bar for a celebratory farewell to out LCF's, which devolved and morphed into the New Year's pub crawl. Since we started rather early (around 4 pm), some of us were concerned about our ability to make it all the way to midnight. In fact, I had to take a 2 hour nap around 8:30 in order to stay awake the whole night. At midnight, most of us found ourselves in the bottom half of the Nyanza Heritage Hotel, where there was much dancing and drinking. The night ended well for the soon-to-be volunteers in Nyanza.

The next day, the Farside Houses organized a farewell to our respective resource families at the girl's house. We cooked a mixture of American food and traditional Rwandan food and feed over 50 people, not including the Fence Kids we invited in to help finish it all off. After dinner we took many pictures with our families (once again, up on Picasa) and retired for the night. It was off to Kigali in the morning.

Feeling ambitious in the morning, and with certain people still needing to pack for Kigali, a few of us woke early and made the trek on our backcountry shortcut into Nyanza. The busses whisked us off to the Capital where we first took care of some administrative paperwork (Peace Corps code for any official thing that simply requires you to wait around a lot) and then it was off to downtown for some last minute shopping.

In the morning, we got dressed in our finest threads (and faux-hawk for yours truly) and made our way to the American Ambassador's Residence where our ceremony took place. Speeches were given by soon-to-be volunteers in English, French, and Kinyarwanda. Yes, I did tape Jed's speech. It's difficult to upload an 8 minute video in Africa, but it's going….

After the ceremony we had 'cocktails' (not the drinks) which turned out to be more like lunch given that there was lasagna involved. After leaving the Residence we headed over to the Peace Corps office for the real lunch and to take care of some more paperwork. After a brief time downtown, we loaded the busses back for Nyanza.

The installation process (Peace Corps' name for bringing us to our sites, was set to start on Tuesday, although some Volunteers wouldn't leave until Friday. Kim, the nearest Volunteer to me save the one in my town, and I were picked up by Mup, our Training Manager, early Tuesday morning and installed by midafternoon. It's quite a different feeling going from being constantly engaged in training for nearly 14 hours a day to having absolutely nothing to do for near a week.

The school year was set to start on Monday the 10th. Of course, I arrive to school on Monday to find only a handful of the 700 some students have arrived. This past week has been almost exclusively retakes of the national exams so students can move up to the next level. I'm told that the teaching schedule will be hammered out and implemented by Monday, although many of the new Senior 4 students won't be here until near February because they just had to take their exams to move from Ordinary Level (S1-3) to Advanced Level (S4-6). I also found out that I will be teaching 1 S2 math class which will meet for 6 hours during a given week, and 2-3 S4 ICT/Computer Science classes, which meet for 2 or 3 hours per week. This means that until the Senior 4 students get here, I will not have much to do save for my 1 math class. No complaints here, I'm sure I can fill my time by making my unused ICT skills useful in the computer lab (although we only have power at night…)

Speaking of power. For the last week I have been watching work crew dig seemingly random holes in the group all over my village. They would dig this hole and drop a tall wooden box, maybe 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, inside it and then cement it in place. After a few days they would come back and remove the wooden frame, leaving a nice square concrete hole in the ground. I watched them do this about 15 times before I asked Anatole, my counterpart, what they were doing. His response: power lines. Can you believe it? They are digging these holes in the ground so that when the power is ready to be run, all they need to do is drop the towers into the holes and then cement them in. Depending on whom you ask my village will have power either in March, July, or 2012. Not holding my breath.

For now I bid my time in my village. The good news is I'll have plenty of time to lesson plan and grade homework!


-DFTBA (Don't Forget To Be Awesome)

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