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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Again and Again

Two bits of news:

1) Email change: I've been having problems with my email account, so I
have switched to gmail. The new email address is
2) I have also discovered that I can update Twitter through text
message while here. While I was never really one for Twitter (who
chose the name, anyway?), I think it might be a good way for me to
send out small witticisms and the other random crap that comes into my
head. The username for my new twitter is @LivingInRwanda. I'll try to
post a link if possible. In the future, look for these messages to
also be tied to my facebook account. Hey, I'm an IT volunteer, what
exactly did you expect form me?

For once in the past 6 months, I feel like I'm actually repeating
something I've already done. Let me explain.

October, November, and December were Pre-Service Training (PST).
Although rather monotonous, they were brand new experiences that I
will (hopefully) never have to repeat. Not because it was bad, but
because it would mean Peace Corps Rwanda was shut down. January,
February, and March brought the first term of teaching, by almost
every account a new experience for me. April saw the first school
holiday and In-Service Training (a topic I'll get to in a minute).
Now, the last week of April and May, June, and the first week of July
brings the second semester. Finally, I feel like I've actually done
something before, know what I'm doing, and know what to expect.

The day before IST, the Volunteers in my area scheduled a regional
meet-up. In Rwanda, PCV's are broken up into roughly 7 'regions' based
around our consolidation points in case of a country-wide emergency or
PC evacuation. See, mom (and all other PCV mothers who happen to read
this), they do take our safety seriously. In fact, sometimes too
seriously, I feel (once again, in a minute). Peace Corps Rwanda Senior
Staff (aka Mary, our Director) has been encouraging us to start
monthly or bi-monthly regional meetings, so we took the opportunity to
escape a day early and meet up.

Even though Rwanda is a rather small country, it would still be
difficult to get out of our sites, have a regional meeting, then get
back without breaking at least 3 travel policies. For that reason, we
chose a PCV with a more 'posh' house so we could all spend the night.
Side-note, Peace Corps Rwanda sometimes gets referred to as 'Posh
Corps,' perhaps for good reason. While my site is not posh by most
standards, I have a rather sturdy house (it survived a 4.8 earthquake
a few weeks back) and access to normal, albeit bland, food. However,
there are PCV's that live in houses or complexes with several spare
rooms, flushing 'western-style' porcelain toilets, appliance-full
kitchens, and living room furniture. I can see why the post wouldn't
receive any awards for being 'hardcore' by Peace Corps standards.

You might be asking, "Shawn, what exactly do you guys do at a regional
meet-up? Discuss teaching methods? Trade horror stories? Talk about
how awesome you all are?" Well, we did do some of these things,
although with less griping than you'd think (I hadn't seen most of
these people in 4 months). True, we did have a formal meeting where we
discussed business. After an agonizing 35 minutes of that crap, we
went to the bar. Did you expect anything less? We still talked shop,
although with much less formality and way more enthusiasm (probably
due to the alcohol…is that a bad sign?). Needless to say, we
accomplished a lot more (professionally, at least) in the 35 minute
meeting that we did in the 4 hours at the bar.

In the morning, the handful of us Education (Group 2) Volunteers left
Nyamagabe, where we had our regional meet-up, for beautiful Kibuye on
the shore of Lake Kivu. Once again, even though Rwanda is small, it
still takes the better part of a day for travelling any good distance.
Maybe it's all those hills. Even though Kibuye is sub 100 kilometers
north of Nyamagabe, we had to take a 30 minute bus to Butare, a 2 hour
bus to Gitarama, and then a 2 and a half hour bus to Kibuye. If you
ever visit Rwanda for any reason, renting a private car would be a
VERY wise decision.

Prior to heading for IST, Peace Corps had told us it would be in
Kibuye at the Centre Bethanie. What they didn't tell us was how to get
to the venue, nor that it would take 45 minutes on foot to get there.
Had I known that, I wouldn't have packed so much. Centre Bethanie,
however, was well worth the walk. Situated on a peninsula with great
views of Lake Kivu (see Picasa for sunset photos), Bethanie was our
secluded paradise for a week. Peace Corps provided us lodging,
breakfast, and lunch every day. Dinner was on us in an attempt to
allow us to 'get out and see Kibuye,' although the 25 minute walk into
'town' and the lack of public transport made it rather difficult.

Similar to PST, we had several sessions each day, mostly led by other
PCVs or ourselves. The aim was simply to give us an easy and clear
forum to express concerns and discuss successes/failures at our sites
as well as to update us on some new policies and projects. At night,
well, what do you think happened? 64 20-somethings isolated in
paradise on a beach resort well-stocked with beer. The 6:30am wakeup
was brutal. The night before we left, Peace Corps took us by boat to
Amahoro (peace) Island, a small island just up the shore that is
popular with western tourists. Complete with hammocks, private
cabanas, their own cows, and enough beaches for all of us, we were now
truly on vacation. However, Peace Corps forbade us from swimming due
to one nasty disease or another in the water (oops), so the beaches
were more a slap in the face than anything else.

Now that school has started again, we're back into the swing of
things. Classes are underway, I have homework to correct, and I'm once
again being told that tomorrow will be the day we get power in
Cyahinda. While I doubt that, I did watch some workers string
electrical lines all day yesterday. Its only a matter of time now.


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