Moving On

I have created a new blog about my life back in America. I also plan on posting my blogs about my trip to Europe in there so if you care to read about that then ch-ch-check it outtttt. It’s really a blog about being a vegan now but I’m bad at blogging so it isn’t really a food blog…its more of a Katy blog. I would say that is the best way to put it, a Katy blog. Get on it:

http://nomnomandthensomenom.wordpress.com/

Well, I hope you keep on reading about my life and I apologize for not posting about Europe sooner!!!

I’ll return to this blog when I am once again 8,500 (give or take a few) miles away from ‘home’.

Categories: From Texas | Leave a comment

My New Pets

This is kind of funny. Also, the following four posts are ones that I wrote in Rwanda but never got around to posting and my life has been crazy enough since I left that I obviously did not even realize I hadn’t posted them. Here you go, enjoy.

As part of a miscalculation on the part of our program, we returned to Uganda to do the wrap-up, evaluation and re-entry sessions. When you enter Rwanda as an American you do not have to apply for a visa. You are granted 90 days within the country as a tourist and can renew it by simply leaving and coming back. From the last time we left Rwanda to go to Uganda we came back with about 99 days left to go before everyone was to head back to America. We considered applying for visas with immigration but that got a little hectic as we discovered that we technically should have applied for visas long before since we were completing internships with Rwandan organizations. Oops. So we bypassed the visa drama and decided to relocate the end of our program from the beautiful shores of Lake Kivu in Kibuye to Lake Bunyonyi in Kabale, Uganda (a short drive from the border).

The trip was short and interesting. We stayed at a neat little place where we had the option of sleeping in safari tents, which I did. We woke up in the morning and unzipped our tent to see the valley lake right in front of us and beautiful flowers and birds all around.

Our first day there we went ahead and got our business out of the way and spent the entire day sitting, talking, eating and drinking. It was a long day. Fortunately, Uganda offers a wider variety of food than Rwanda so we were very content with our food options. After a full day of meetings we decided to go adventuring on the following days. The menu at the ‘hotel’ we were staying in dedicated its first page to touristy things that guests could do while secluded in the hills surrounding Lake Bunyonyi. These included village visits to an orphanage or school that they had little donation buckets out for, boat rides on or across the lake as well as a ‘cultural tour’ of a pygmy village.

Rwanda is more or less made up of three different ‘ethnic’ groups, Tutsi, Hutu and Twa. This is something I knew before coming to Rwanda but we also learned it on several occasions. However, the Tutsi and the Hutu are the ones anyone hears about the most because they were involved in the genocide and that is what most people know about Rwanda. The Twa are also said to be pygmies. As far as we knew we had never actually met a member of the Twa (they are also only 1% of the population) so whenever we would see people who were verrry small we would give each other looks like “hey, its a Twa.” I know we are not the most culturally sensitive people sometimes.

So naturally we wanted to go meet the Twa and they were going to sing and dance for us so we thought it would be interesting, plus we were excited to go on a boat ride across the lake. The boat ride lasted about 45 minutes and we ended up being pretty close to Rwanda actually. It makes sense because the Twa/pygmies/whatever the most PC thing to call them is are Abanyarwandans. We were excited about that because it meant there was decent chance they would speak Kinyarwanda and we would be able to communicate with them.

hahaha

On the way there our ‘tour guide’ (who basically just rode in the boat with us and called one of the Twa to tell them to come up to the short to meet with us) told us that the pygmies were very rough people. We were not quite sure what that meant but he explained that it meant they were dirty, not clean. This was very apparent when we reached the shore near their village. It was about as rural as you can get. There were a couple of banana leaf mats laid out with things drying on them. One had coffee cherries and a few others had sorghum (for sorghum beer of course).

Turns out they speak a totally different Kinyarwanda than the one we learned, Abacyica? No idea how to spell that. We went up the hill and they lined up and danced for us while they sang and one person beat on a jerry can (using it as a drum). About half way into the first dance I realized that not only were these people very rough but they were also very drunk. Very drunk as in sorghum beer is probably all they had consumed for the past couple of days….or weeks, who knows. They danced to three songs and then upon finishing immediately approached our tour guide for their cut of what we paid for the little excursion. We paid $100 (in Ugandan shillings of course) and they got 10% or $10 of that. Their performance wasn’t necessarily deserving of more money than that but as a percentage of the entire trip, yeah they probably deserved more. After they got their money we took a couple of pictures with them and headed down the hill.

I built a LOT of character this day by using their “toilet.” Yeah, that is about all I have to say about it. Just that it was the worst one I have used thus far in my life.

After a thorough application of hand sanitizer I found everyone inside the little mud house near the shore. We liked to refer to it as their own Sundowner. The place was small, just two benches against the walls and a table in between. About a quarter of the inside was taken up by a little shop thing. The wall decorations were the best part. They had a slew of Museveni’s super awesome campaign posters. They also had a Osama poster with a hodgepodge of his pics on it and a couple other interesting political posters that I really don’t know what they were about. While we were in there we were naturally offered some sorghum beer and what kind of guests would be we if we turned it down. Me and another of my classmates drank the majority of it and one other had a drink or two. We seized this opportunity to get our hands on some Museveni posters and bought them off of their walls.

Once that transaction was finished we headed back to our hotel and had dinner and just relaxed.

When we got back to Kigali later that week I noticed that I wasn’t feeling too hot. There was not anything particularly wrong with me but I had no appetite (which is weird if you know me) and every time I did eat I had terrible cramps in my upper abdomen and felt like my stomach was ripping in half. On top of that I kept getting chills and hot flashes and felt very weak. I ignored it and figured I would get over it soon. Plus, I was able to drink beer without feeling bad so I had just been running off of that and decided that it was totally normal to have all of my calories for the past week be made up of Primus. (:

Finally after it kept going on for about a week, while we were out to eat with our director, I mentioned to him that I had not eaten in almost a week and told him my other symptoms. You can imagine how excited I was when he said “Katy, I think you have worms or an amoeba.” I didn’t question him because he definitely knows more than me about it. The good news was that there were three pills I could take and they would kill anything in my stomach.

I put off getting the pills for a few days because I was unsure about which ones I needed but eventually I ended up at the pharmacy with my director and the pharmacist gave me a single antibiotic pill and told me to take it. Unfortunately I had to wait eight hours after taking it to drink so I made sure to wake up early the next morning and take it so I would be good to go by the evening.

Although I never went to the doctor or had it confirmed, I would believe that I had worms because I feel better now and I can eat! It was good that I ended up with a few extra days in Kigali because I probably would not have found that medicine elsewhere and especially not for as cheap as it was. I also would not have been able to enjoy any of my favorite foods for a final time before I left. Don’t feel too bad for me though because we determined that I got them from drinking sorghum beer with the pygmies in their village. My bad.

Categories: From Rwanda | 2 Comments

Three Tickets Later…

It seems crazy to think this was not that long ago. More of my new/old posts.

Things have been pretty hectic since I last posted. At this moment I am still in Rwanda. It is my last day in Kigali (for the third time) and I am just relaxing a bit. I already went ahead and checked in my luggage this morning, for the second time now.

I was supposed to depart on May 31st as originally planned in order to meet my boyfriend in Brussels to start our tour of Europe. However, when I went to go check in on the morning of the 31st I discovered that my ticket had been cancelled. My original flight back to America on the 31st that I purchased as part of my entire round trip ticket to Rwanda was comprised of three parts. I had a flight to Brussels, a flight to New York and then finally a flight to Austin. When I decided to go to Europe contacted the airline and told them that I wanted to cancel two of my three tickets that made up the entire trip. This seemed simple enough to me and I thought the fact that I used the ticket numbers specific to the segments that I wanted to cancel and even included messages stating that I wanted to cancel only the last two legs of my flight that the airline would proceed as I wanted them to. Not surprisingly, this did not happen. I checked with the Brussels Airlines office in Kigali to confirm that the parts of my flight I wanted to cancel were cancelled and discovered that the entire flight was cancelled instead. Although this was frustrating simply because I had to purchase another ticket out of Kigali I cannot say that I was upset about spending a few more days in Rwanda.

I arranged a flight for Saturday night and used my last two more days to say goodbye to people without having to rush. My days were more or less booked with appointments. Staying for one last Friday night also meant that I got to go to Sundowner one more time! One of my classmates let me stay with her at her homestay family’s house for these extra nights so I did not have to find anywhere to hole up as I extended my stay.

Saturday evening rolls around and I was hanging out with some of my closest friends, eating my last brochette & chips and drinking my last Primus. It was about three hours before my flight so about an hour before I had to go to the airport and get checked in. My boyfriend texted me and asked me to call him and I quickly learned that there had been an emergency back in Texas that caused him to not get on the plane. Naturally I was concerned considering that I was supposed to check-in for my flight in an hour and was not prepared to go travel around Europe on my own at that moment. I freaked out a bit and had no idea what I was going to do. I already spent quite a bit of money on the trip to Europe and did not want to lose most or all of it but I also did not want to do it alone. I told him how much time I had before I was supposed to leave Rwanda and asked him to figure something out within that time frame so I could adjust my plans accordingly.

I went back to freaking out while my friends tried to comfort me. Before my boyfriend confirmed that he would not be coming to Europe I decided to call my best friend in America and see if her parents and her schedule would allow her to join me. Needless to say she was caught a little off guard. I don’t think anyone sits around waiting for calls from their friends asking if they can hop on a flight overseas and travel with them for close to three months as soon as possible. I told her about my time crunch and she went about to try to evaluate the reality of her traveling Europe with me. As I was still stressing despite potentially having someone new to join me on my adventure my friends advised that I should try to push my ticket back a couple of days so I would have some time to figure things out and I would be able to do it somewhere that I knew and not in a foreign city in Europe. One of my friends and I hopped on motos and went to the airport to cancel my flight.

We arrived shortly before check-in began and I got my flight canceled rather easily. They gave me the flexibility of just telling them what date I would be leaving and having until the following Monday to pick where I would be flying to. This was most helpful as I did not know who would be joining me, if anyone, and needed to see where I could pick up my travels from in order to still use the majority of my train and other travel tickets within Europe.

My friend and I ended up waiting at the airport for close to three hours trying to get a hold of my luggage. After canceling my flight they went to go find it and bring it to me. I had two pieces, a suitcase and then a very small bag, only to avoid and charges for my large suitcase being overweight. They found my suitcase relatively quickly and brought it out to me and I actually had to point out that I had another bag (despite having two luggage identification stickers on my temporary boarding pass) . The gentleman went to go look for the other bag and after quite some time I thought he might have gotten sidetracked so I went back up to the Brussels Airlines office to make sure that someone was still looking for it. They told me someone would bring it out to me so I went back to my friend and continued waiting. Another thirty or so minutes later I went back up to the office yet again to check on the status of my bag. I ended up going to the office three times and going through security four times in a three-hour period this day. While I was up there for the third time I finally asked them if they could just take it back to their early check-in office for me to pick up on Monday when I came in to get my new ticket. They agreed and I was free to go. I am sad to say that I did not go back to Sundowner for a final time on Saturday night because I was absolutely exhausted after all of this.

I spent most of Sunday sitting at Bourbon Café trying to figure out if I would even be going to Europe or if I had wasted all of the money I already spent and would just stay in Kigali for the rest of, or at least the majority of, the summer. Turns out that Catherine is joining me in Europe and we decided to meet up in Italy and just pick up the travels from there. I am very excited to see her and to travel with her. We have basically been apart for a year because she studied abroad last Fall and I’ve been abroad this semester. It will be good for us. The only downside to this change in plans is that it is costing quite a bit of money that I did not plan on spending. I wish I could come back to Kigali afterwards but I do eventually need to go back to America I suppose.

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

I Am Rwandan

Another of my recently discovered posts.

I really feel like Rwanda is my home now. I frequently point out that I am a Rwandan and not an American or a Muzungu and my Rwandan friends and family are very supportive of this change.

Going back to America will be beyond strange and other than seeing the people that I love and miss, I am not excited about it at all. I would much rather just bring those people here than ever go back to America.

I have a Rwandan name now – UMUHORAKEYE Katy. My Rwandan name means ‘the one who is always smiling.’ It is kind of funny how I have come to have this name. It is actually my homestay family’s family name and being a member of the family it is also my family name. One day on a bus I was talking to a stranger about my time in Rwanda so far and he pointed out that I should have a Rwandan name and proceeded to pick one out for me. He named me Umuhorakeye and naturally I had a bit of a hard time understanding him because it was a word I thought I had never heard or seen before. After the man gave me this Rwandan name I took out my phone to show him what my family name was. Once he read it he exclaimed that it was the same as the name he had just given me. We realized that this clearly was the perfect name for me considering that it was my family name and it had been given to me based on how well it fit my personality. This explains the title of my website by the way.

Nvuga ikinyarwanda gike or I speak a little Kinyarwanda. Depending on my audience, how impressed people are with my lingual skills varies. I also am pretty decent at speaking more than I think I can. Since we stopped having classes in the middle of February and especially since I moved out of my homestay I have limited opportunities to speak Kinyarwanda. I know this sounds silly since it is the most spoken language in the country but the majority of the people I interact with speak good enough english. I would say most of my Kinyarwanda speaking takes place with strangers on buses or when I am walking, during moto rides, when I talk to strange children and at restaurants/bars. Sometimes my Rwandan friends will make me speak Kinyarwanda to them just for fun but we usually converse in English. There are quite a few things that I say in Kinyarwanda instead of English now and I definitely get things really jumbled when I try to speak Spanish now. It comes out as a combination of Spanish, Kinyarwanda, French and English and my housemates are surprisingly good at deciphering it.

The other day we went to visit the homestay family of one of my housemates. Every time you greet people you do some combination of hugs, kisses, arm grabs and handshakes. All of these are very gentle when you are interacting with Rwandans. The firm handshake is not something that exists here and whenever I stumble across one it startles me. Not sure how I will handle the multitude of them back in America. I hugged and shook hands with my housemate’s brother and shortly after received one of the highest compliments that I have received since arriving here. I was told that I hug like a Rwandan now. This basically means that my hug was very awkward and soft. I could not have been more proud of myself though for mastering an aspect of Rwandan culture.

Later that day as we were walking to watch a football match at a bar the same brother was walking and chatting with me about how I am a Rwandan. This might be one of the proudest moments of my life. He told me that I am a Musaza. The word musaza means brother and whely n you are talking about your brother you refer to them as musaza or musaza wanjye. For men they would never technically call their brother musaza as it is to be used by females only but musaza also refers to a person that you respect or an elder. So for me, I only call my brother musaza wanjye otherwise it means that he is an old man. For my guy friends they can call their brothers musaza and it is more of a cultural translation than a literal one. My friend’s brother told me that I was a musaza though and this particular meaning meant that I was a respected Rwandan which I greatly appreciated.

There are more things about my life that make me pretty darn Rwandan but I cannot think of them at the moment. I’ll add them as I remember them.

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

Getting Scalped Does Not Feel Too Good…

I just realized that I had a couple of posts that I never loaded onto my blog!! Here they are :)

We have been trying our best to take advantage of our remaining time here in Rwanda so my housemate and I went to go get our hair braided. We carved a full day of our time out because we knew it was going to take a while. We were not too concerned about getting out of the house super early so we headed out around 10:30 in the morning to go find a salon and headed towards the Nyamirambo market because we knew there was at least one down that way. Naturally when we walked past it slowly while looking in there were making shouts of “Karibu” (welcome in Swahili) and women waving us into the salon. We accepted their invitation and the women who were out on the porch braiding some other women’s hair quickly sprang to their feet and came to assist us.

Figuring out how much it was going to be and what type of hair we could use was a little challenging and we did a lot of confused nodding. Luckily one of the women spoke a bit of English and we figured it out after not too long or too much trouble. We settled on the price and they told us that we would each need three packages of hair. Thee packets of hair is quite a bit by the way, especially when each thing of hair is cut into thirds before it is braided into your head.

The women laid down a mat and two chair cushions on the ground in the back corner of the rather tiny salon and instructed us to sit. My housemate and I obeyed and sat down, waiting for the braiding to start. One of our friends had gotten her hair braided before and it took about seven hours with breaks so we expected around the same or maybe a little less time. We each had two women working on our heads and after the first couple of braids were completed we felt like it was going pretty quickly.

I should say that having your hair braided is what we imagine scalping feels like. They put your hair up with a rubber band and then use toothpicks to pull out the tiniest pieces of hair; I would guess each separated piece has less than 10 strands of hair in it. Then they take a chunk of the synthetic hair and wrap it ever so tightly around the base of the separated hairs. I am pretty sure they somehow get some skin in there too but I could not watch so I can never be sure. That is definitely what it felt like though. It also feels as if at any moment the small bit of your real hair that they are braiding into the synthetic hairs is going to rip out your head. This is especially bad around your temples, the nape of the neck and the edge of the forehead. We were essentially paying to be slowly tortured.

About three hours into getting our hair braided I was surprised that neither our scalps had started bleeding nor that either of us had cried yet. I was impressed that I had not even teared up. We still felt like the process was going by relatively quickly and that we should definitely finish in less than the expected seven hours.

Four or so hours in we took a break. It was not much of a break but we got to stand up and feel our legs for a couple of minutes. We got back to braiding quickly after the break began. Our other housemate graciously brought us snacks to eat around the fifth hour. This actually made the pain considerably less noticeable. I guess that when we were eating our minds were focused on the food instead of our hair being pulled out of our head so it didn’t hurt quite as badly. Or it might have been the banana beer. Who knows? Whatever it was that helped us get through the braiding was greatly appreciated though.

I am not sure when it was that we noticed we were going to be definitely spending longer than seven hours at the salon getting our hair braided. It might have been when the sun went down or maybe when two more women came over to help speed the process along. My housemate’s hair is a bit thicker and longer than mine so they had to go and purchase a fourth packet of the synthetic hair before they could finish her head. We were both sitting on the ground trying to encourage one another that they were almost done. The surface area of our head that was still covered by our unbraided hair seemed to disappear more slowly as it got smaller. Each of us would try to gauge how much hair the other had left. Our measurements were usually made as a comparison to different sized yarmulke. The range was from regular down to infant yarmulke and then finally the size of a quarter.

A couple of hours earlier our classmate who had gotten braids at the beginning of the semester called to check on us and see how things were going. During this phone call she also let us know that after they finished the actual braiding they were going to trim things up and then, oh yeah, pour boiling hot water over our heads. Needless to say, as excited as I was for them to finish braiding, I was not looking forward to this final step in finishing our hair.

The women finished braiding my hair and began checking each individual braid to trim any flyaways. Then I was finally told to stand up. Any doubts I had about if I was going towards the boiling hot water were erased as I heard the women saying “amaze shyushyu” or “hot water.” Another woman told me with a smile on her face, “it is hot water, you will cry.” I was super excited for what was waiting for me.

They took me to the porch of the salon and sat me in a chair. I leaned my head back over a wash basin bucket and had to make a conscious effort to remain upright due to the weight of my hair. I did not actually know what they were doing until I watched them doing the same thing to my housemate a little bit later but they poured boiling water carefully over the braids and let the water fall into the bucket, submerging the braids. While it was happening, I could only tell that there was a lot of hot water because of the steam cloud coming up around my face and that they were doing a very good job because they had not burned my scalp yet. I was really impressed that I had not felt any hot water against my skin and figured they must have been doing an awesome job. The hot water treatment was not bad at all and the only part that hurt was when they took a cloth dripping with hot water and pressed it (rather hard) along the top of my braids. I think this hurt mostly because my head was so tender in that area more so than because it was hot. After setting my braids with the hot water I was able to go sit inside and watch them finish my housemate’s hair.

Altogether we were at the salon from about 10:45 am until almost 9 pm. It took eight hours to do my hair and nine to do my housemates. The braids were extremely tight and rather painful for the first couple of days. I experienced some trouble when I tried to find a comfortable position for sleeping the first night. They have loosened up quite a bit by now and do not hurt hardly at all. My next challenge with them is to figure out how often/how to wash my head. It has been almost a week since we got them done so I will have to come up with answers to this pretty soon if I want my friends to still hang out with me.

I am pleased with the braids and am glad that we got them. I would say it is most likely a once in a lifetime experience considering how much it hurt and that it was a full day’s worth of work. I have also been told that it cost upwards of 200 dollars to get hair braided like this in America and am pretty sure I would get much more weird looks there as well. Overall it was a good experience and now I have 457 beautiful braids in my head and more hair than I could ever know what to do with.

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

Farewell Internship

I really do not know if I should post about things like this but oh well.

I have decided to leave my internship a week and a half earlier than I was supposed to. Basically I decided that if I am going to learn about anything I want to learn about I am going to have to get out and conduct my own study project. Using the word ‘research’ is not allowed and requires approval from the government. I decided to try to contact other coffee exporters, NGOs, government bodies and the national export board to see if I could meet with them and talk coffee. My goal is to learn what it takes to access the outside markets and what resources are available to help those who need it.

I have to write a 15-20 page paper for my internship and unless I write about the differences between working for a company in America and working for one in Rwanda, I pretty much have nothing to go off of. I expected to learn so much more about the process during my 2.5 months here. By this point, I feel like I am wasting my time by being at my internship. I only have so many weeks left and I still have quite a few unanswered questions about the coffee industry here. I also do not see why I should spend my day sitting at a desk on facebook because they do not have anything for me to do/the things they want me to do I have not been prepared for when I could be out experiencing Rwanda. I would much rather spend my days exploring and really being in Rwanda than behind a desk.

For example, I got to work at 9am today and typed some answers to questions I had distributed to a group as a project that my boss wants me to implement. On a side note, this is a project that I know way too little about to be able to implement and no longer have the time to deal with it. This task took about 40 minutes to complete. As a result, for the past two hours I have been on facebook and blogging. Although I do really enjoy both of these activities, I also feel like I am wasting my last couple of weeks in Rwanda by doing so.

I have emailed a handful of people who I am interested in talking with and so far have had one interview with another exporting company. This interview in itself was possibly more enlightening than my two and a half months with my company. I got to cup coffee, learn about market basics and now probably know more about that company than my own. The person I interviewed was wonderful and extremely helpful. They gave me wonderful information and also totally understood my situation in wanting to learn more and having a hard time accessing information.

Today is my last day at my internship and I will hopefully be in contact with other people for interviews soon. If I do not get any responses to my emails I am going to start popping into the offices that I am interested in speaking with and beg them to give me some of their time. I also might actually start writing my paper. I am unsure what exactly it will be about. It mostly depends on how many people I get to talk to before this is all over.

Mwirigwe stage!

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

So Much Left To Do

What I only have three weeks left in Rwanda?!?!

I definitely still have days where I feel like I have been here forever. Actually, I always feel like I have been here forever. I feel like I live in Rwanda now and I really like it. What I meant to say was that I still have days where I miss my friends and cannot wait to get back to them. My other days I realize that I hardly have any time left here and worry that I will miss doing something incredible and then regret it when I am 8,500 miles away.

We have about a week and a half left in Kigali. Then we go as a group with our program to Kibuye for our program evaluation. Kibuye is on the lake and is famous for all of the gorgeous islands around it. I think we will spend the 22nd through the 25th there. Afterwards we will return to Kigali for our last five nights.

Having such limited time left I decided to make a list of what I still really want to do here in the hopes that I can look back at this blog entry some day and be proud of myself.

Get my hair braided
Get all of my fabric made into clothing
Climb Mt. Kigali
Visit Akagera National Park to see giraffes & zebras (I’m doing this one this weekend!)
Visit Nyungwe National Forest and go on a canopy walk
Learn how to make chapatti
Get a picture with my homestay family
Buy more gifts for my friends & family back home
Eat Pakistani food
Eat Indian food
Learn some Arabic
Learn some Urdu
Visit the Kimironko market
Learn more about coffee
Write my final paper…..I don’t actually want to do this one but I kind of have to

Okay so there are not quite as many items on my to do list as I thought. Hopefully I will get these all done in the next couple of weeks!

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

Did I Mention I Am Going To Europe?

I thought I would blog about this because I am beyond excited for it and when I get upset about having to leave Rwanda I think about my upcoming travels to make up for it.

Before coming to Rwanda I bought a one-way ticket because I wanted to travel after the end of my program but was unsure about how much money I would have, where I wanted to go and how easy it would be to plan a trip around Africa. My plan was to head south and end up visiting one of my ADPi sisters who is working with the Peace Corps in Namibia. Unfortunately, I was told that they would not let me in the country without having purchased a return ticket as well. So I cancelled that one and bought a ticket (thank you second family) that brought me back home right after my program ended. This flight connected in Brussels, Newark and then ended in Austin.

Since I have been here I tried to convince my amazing boyfriend to come to Rwanda so I could show him why I love it so much. Unfortunately, the plans for my program were not too solid and depending on whether our visa applications are approved or not, we might be in Uganda our last week here. We were supposed to only spend 90 days in Rwanda after going to Uganda but somehow that did not quite work out so we have to try to get visas now. If we don’t get visas we will have to return to Uganda for a couple of days so that our 90 days will start over again and we do not get arrested or deported or whatever it is they would do to us. It would have been silly for him to come visit me not knowing what country I would be in so we decided that we could meet in Europe and travel around for a bit.

I leave Rwanda on May 31st and will arrive in Brussels, Belgium on June 1st. We are going to stay there for three nights then head to Paris, France. We will only be in Paris for a night and the next day we leave for Genoa, Italy. We have three nights in Genoa then take the train to Ancona to hop on a ferry. We will stay the night on our ferry as we head to Split, Croatia. We spend two nights in Split then fly to Berlin, Germany. We have three nights in Berlin and then head to Amsterdam, Netherlands. We will spend four nights there and then fly to Dublin, Ireland. We spend a night in Dublin and then go down to Limerick, Ireland for four nights. Then we will head back to America on June 23rd.

It is basically going to be the most amazing trip ever. We are taking trains for most of it and then two flights. We are going a little bit of everything as far as accommodations go. We will stay in a couple of hotels, one of the worlds best hostels, we found some amazing hosts on couchsurfing and even a gorgeous resort in Croatia. Our main objective is to see beautiful things and taste as many delicious foods and drinks as we can. Altogether it is a celebration of me coming home, my boyfriend graduating and most importantly my 21st birthday! I will unfortunately never have an illegal drink again but will spend half of my birthday in Amsterdam, hop on a plane (go back an hour through timezones so I get an extra hour of birthday), and then spend the other half of my birthday in Dublin. I really do not think I could have a more exciting birthday.

I am also very excited about visiting so many countries. In the first half of 2012 I will have visited more countries than my whole life put together. Just to add to the jealousy here is a list of them all:

Rwanda
Uganda
Democratic Republic of Congo
Belgium
France
Italy
Croatia
Germany
The Netherlands
Ireland

(: (: (: (: (: (: (:

Our travel plans are concrete but we are very open for suggestions of what to do in each city we are going to. Having only a couple of nights in each place we are somewhat limited on how far we can go but we are willing to try anything!!

All I can think of off the top of my head for plans are visiting the Cliffs of Moher and also doing some organic farming in Ireland. Oh and eating a lot of food and trying lots of beers, wines and chocolates!

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

House Hunting In Kigali

Our program is structured so that we spend the first four months of our stay here with our homestay and have the option to either stay with them or live on our own for the final month. Two of the other people on my program and myself decided to move out of our homestays and rough it on our own.

We really were not sure what to expect when we started looking for a house. We knew that we wanted to live in Nyamirambo and how much money we had to spend and that we were looking for a three bedroom, fully furnished house. Other than that we were pretty unsure how to find our house or what we were going to end up with. Some coworkers and family members tried to lend us a hand so that we could avoid hiring a commissioner (pronounced with a french accent of course).

Our first day looking for a house was pretty unsuccessful. We only looked at two houses but one had too few rooms and the other had too many and was much more than we wanted to spend. We waited pretty late to look for houses because we thought that we were going to end up renting the house that one of our other classmates homestay families had just moved out of but it ended up being more expensive than we were hoping to spend as well.

The following weekend we tried our luck again. One of our friends said that there was a house for rent behind his home so we went to go check it out. There ended up actually not being a house but our best friend here (who is one of the most incredible people I have ever met) told us to be patient and that he would find us a house. The next day he took us to look at maybe four houses and they kept being too expensive. By this point we were using a commissioner so we realized that we were going to end up spending more than we originally planned.

We found a beautiful house that we got down to the price we were willing to settle at. The view at the house was gorgeous and overlooked a valley and was basically our justification for spending more than planned. The only downside was that we were going to have to buy our own pots, dishes, etc. One of my classmates and I shook on the deal with the commissioner and headed to Kacyiru (where our learning center is) to meet our director and pick up the cash we needed to pay for the house.

We grabbed our stipend for the month and some lunch. Let me just say that having over 800,000 francs in cash in a paper bag does make one feel a bit like a drug dealer. About three hours had passed since we shook hands with the commissioner and we called up our friend to ask where we should meet to pay for our new home. I was heartbroken when our friend told us that ‘someone else took the house.’ We were pretty upset to hear that after searching for two weeks and finding a beautiful home with a breathtaking view that someone else took it from us after only three hours. We hopped on some motos and headed to Nyamirambo as our friend said he had one more option for us.

Per his directions we met up with him and walked down yet another dirt road to yet another available house. This house was also far nicer than anything we expected to be living it and had another balcony with an incredible view. This one also had a kitchen with an oven and a fridge! (WOAH) Not to our surprise they wanted more than we had to offer for the house. We left the house feeling let down yet again.

About 30 meters down the road away from the house, our friend was about to get on a moto to go back to work, the cousin of the owner of the house came out and told us to come back. Things were starting to look up again! They called the owner to come talk with us and see if he would be willing to accept our offer. My classmate went to go meet our other future housemate who had been at work to meet up with us and see the house while I waited around with our friend, the commissioner and the cousin. Once the owner got there he said the price was fine. We finally had a house that would soon be our home!

I waited around for my classmates/housemates, paid for our house and the commissioner and got the keys to our house and our gate. It was during the week and our director agreed to have his driver help us move the next day so we did not have to pay for a taxi to move our bags. Naturally I was too impatient to wait until the next day so one of my friends agreed to drive me to my homestay and move my things for me in their car.

I cannot express how excited I was to live in my own house again and have a dresser. My dresser/vanity has a shelf and two pretty small drawers but I was psyched to finally, after four months, unpack my suitcase. Having a place to put my things away made me feel like I actually was going to live here instead of just visiting for a while. I really cannot say how good it felt to put my suitcase in a different room and not have to touch it for a couple of weeks.

Anyways, our house is beautiful and super muzungu. We have three bedrooms and two indoor bathrooms with flushing toilets. Still no hot water though so I’m proud of us on that account. Our kitchen has a stove/oven and fridge as I mentioned above as well as a sink. We do have to actually light the burners though. We have a huge water tank outside. Our balcony has a clothesline attached to it. The view looks out over the compound below us and then across the valley and hills around us. We can hear a couple of mosques extremely well during the call to prayer and then a few others pretty quietly.

That is my favorite part. Sitting out on our balcony, seeing Kigali in all of its beauty, watching the last rays of sun squeaking away over the edge of hilltop, drinking a cup of Rwandan coffee and listening to the call to prayer. It is a huge incentive to get home by 6pm, even if it is just for a couple of minutes. I also love that looking out my window looks like a forest, even though it is just an undeveloped plot. It sounds gorgeous when it rains too. I recorded a rainstorm the other day and will try to post it on here. It sounds a bit like white noise but you can tell it is rain if you know what it is.

We have cooked so many delicious things at our house. Carrots and green beans, rolex, chapatti pizza, spaghetti, cheese fries, pili pili fries, beer battered fried avocado slices, tofu stir fry and are planning on tofu brochette and fried snickers and oreos soon.

A couple of days into living at our house we discovered that we had a pet cat as well. She is all black so I named her Panther. Then we discovered that she is slightly evil and aggressive so we also named her Biels. Then our neighbors (who are all awesome and have all greeted us) told us her name is Ibuki, or honey in Kinyarwanda. The last one does not quite make sense to us since she is basically a monster. She belongs to a muzungu who lived in the house before us and clearly decided that they didn’t want to take her when they left so they abandoned her. We figure that she probably does not get much in the way of food or water during the day because she likes to scavenge in our kitchen. It is pretty entertaining actually. She destroyed a paper bag that had a bowl of cookies in it the other day and pulled my Rolex onto the floor one night. She also enjoys salami, muffins, avocado, eggs, cheese, chappati…basically anything that we would eat. We have to throw her out sometimes because she gets a little too eager about sharing our food with us. This weekend we threw her out because of this. A little while later I went into my room to find her snuggled up and looking all sweet and adorable. The sneaky little booger crawled around the edge of the house and came in through the balcony door so she could nap in my bed. She is actually pretty darn cute when she is sleeping.

All in all, things are good at our house.

Categories: From Rwanda | Leave a comment

Have You Ever Seen A Market Come To Life?

The first market I ever visited was the one in Old Kampala in Uganda and it was beyond overwhelming. I am sure that if you are reading this then you are an avid follower of my blog who reads every post religiously and have therefore read about my experience there. At least I am pretty sure that I blogged about it…

Old Kampala market was crazy. Food, people, clothes, trinkets, baskets, garbage, sitting water, flies everywhere. That might be the best way to explain it. There is no way I could ever do it justice. You should just go and visit it when you have a free weekend.

The second market I went to was in the Congo. Don’t ask about when I went there. I technically did not go. This market could be best described as depressing. The booths were scantily draped with items for sale and the area was not quite enclosed. A man tried to sell me a bag of water. Yes, the kind of bag you would get when you buy a goldfish only this one lacked a fishy and the water was probably less safe to drink.

The first market I ever went to in Rwanda was when we went to Gisenyi for Spring Break which I am sure you have also read about in my blog. It was a million times calmer and exponentially smaller. It was mostly clothing with an outer ring of booths, I guess would be the best word for them, with other items such as shoes, belts, wallets and plastic goods. Then there was the much smaller and separately enclosed area that had food.

Shortly after moving into our new home we decided to make guacamole and chapatti chips. So I decided that we needed some citros. I am pretty sure these are limes. They may be their own thing but they are more or less the same. Might also be a lemon. Or maybe a combination of the two. Point is it works miracles when you need to make guacamole and are lacking lime juice. In addition to needing our citros we also needed more onions seeing as we all really like onions and would be needing a decent amount to go with our six avokas (avocados) that were quickly becoming even too ripe for guacamole. One of my housemates had recently had a moto take them anywhere to buy carrots and this particular moto had just driven her out of our dirt roads and to the main road then crossed right over it and up to another dirt road where there were a good number of women set up with their baskets of produce.

A few days later when I left the house around 8am to go fetch the necessary ingredients for a long awaited dish I naturally went towards the women and their baskets across the main road from the road to our house. Not too far down the road I began to remember that in my excitement over consuming guacamole I had left the house probably earlier than I had since school time and had a slim chance of finding someone already set up along the road. Moments after I sent an SMS to my housemate informing them of my rather tragic realization, I came to a fork in the road and recognized where I was. I had come up through this back road before when we were looking at houses the first time and remembered that I was actually very close to the entrance to a small market.

I picked up some onions from a man who had his onions spread out on a jute sack in front of a doorway. Luckily a random guy came up and helped to clarify that I wanted four onions and not four kilos of onions. Then I headed towards the market to find some citros. I entered and walked along an outer aisle with stores on the outside and smaller booths set up on the inside. They were mostly household items, shoes and toiletries. About half way down the aisle I started seeing fabrics and clothing. Once I reached the opening that gave access to the center of the market I was in awe. The market was considerably larger than it looked from the outside.

Mostly women and couple men were setting up tables and hanging rods. Draping second/third hand clothing and panels of fabric, strategically stacking yams and cassava and making sure that the mountains of flour remained erect while scoops were removed and bagged. I quickly found some citros and tried to take in as much as I could before I returned home. I love markets but I think I love seeing them set up even more. There are just so many people setting up an unfathomable number of items. I feel like majestic is a pretty accurate way to describe it.

I hurried back to my house and told my housemate that we HAD to go back as soon as we had our guacamole. Our plans for the day already involved going to a market across town to buy fabric to get made into clothes and I happily informed them that we only had to walk across the main road to our market and that there were so many beautiful fabrics there. You can see the pictures of all our different patterns we have now.

We prepared our guac and chapatti chips (which were phenomenal by the way) and headed out to the market. This place has everything: seamstresses, fabric, fruit, vegetables, palm oil, a huge area of flour, another one of potatoes, used clothing and linens, trinkets, toiletries, plastic items, earthenware charcoal stoves, meat and anything else you could think of. It actually made us feel rather foolish for ever going anywhere else to buy things. Is fabric fever a thing? Because I think we caught it. We bought so many fabrics and they are all beautiful. I think we now have 36 yards of fabric. We still have yet to take them to a seamstress but that will happen this week. As will getting our hair braided.

I wish they had markets like these back in America. The only thing we could not seem to find at the market was mint. We did get some rosemary and thyme though. This was one of my better days. I love getting out and just discovering new parts of Kigali and Rwanda. I feel like it is much more beneficial and enlightening than any class or internship I could have had here. It makes me really appreciate having five whole months here and also makes me worry that I only have three weeks left to experience everything that I haven’t yet!

Categories: From Rwanda | 1 Comment

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