Thursday, January 5th
This was a pretty hard day. Class started at 9am, it was still during orientation so we were just having a discussion of our hopes, fears and expectations of our time here in Kigali. At this point my biggest fear was the potential inability to communicate with everyone here. Not necessarily because I wouldn’t be able to get around or do things on my own but more so because I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to create the human connection with the people of Rwanda that I so dearly want to make. That connection is what is going to allow me to really know Rwanda and Rwandans. It is such a beautiful place with a beautiful energy that if I wasn’t able to communicate well I feel I would have such a lesser experience. My other fear was that I would not fit in with my homestay family or be able to make that same connection with them. My homestay is such a vital part of my experience here that if I do not connect with them I will be stunting my experience here so much. We talked about these fears among others and I realized that no matter what happens all I can do is embrace them. This is such an immersive program that there is no way to avoid these things and just pretend that they don’t exist. If I were to do that I might as well change my flight and head back to America. After our lesson we walked down the road to Danico Villa for lunch together and ate the usual Rwandan buffet that I talked about earlier. After lunch we had our first Kinyarwanda lesson and our teacher, Jean-Pierre, is wonderful. He is very energetic, funny and makes learning a completely foreign language so much easier.
After class was when the day got a little challenging. One of my friends and I walked to the bus to go to town to get a couple of things from the store. People here stare A LOT! Being the minority is such a different feeling from living in America. Adjusting to being a muzungu (white or non-Rwandan person) is an interesting and new thing to have to do. Additionally, being stared at so much can feel very degrading. I have a new respect for people who have to deal with this sort of hardship every day. It was also very hard to communicate with people since we had only had our first lesson earlier in the day. Most of the time Rwandans will laugh when I speak to them in Kinyarwanda and I have yet to figure out if they are laughing in good humor at my incompetence and the way I am destroying their language or if they are making fun of me. Either way it can get very frustrating. People’s receptiveness varies as well. Sometimes Rwandans will be extremely friendly towards me and sometimes they will ignore me completely. For the most part though, they are very kind and welcoming. Muzungus also get taken advantage of if you aren’t on your toes the whole time. My friend and I were dropped off a ten minute walk from the bus stop we were supposed to be at and then on the way home a taxi driver over charged us. I have never been treated differently because of the color of my skin before. It is disheartening and hard to cope with.
On a happier note on the way into town three adorable little girls came up to me and held my hand while we walked to the bus station and talked to me a little bit 🙂
Friday, January 6th
Kinyarwanda started at 9am. After our lesson we had a drop off challenge where we had to go accomplish different things around the city in pairs and find our way back to town afterwards. My friend and I got to go check out the Stade (sports stadium) in Kigali. We interviewed the minister of culture and sport and got to check out the stadium. Our adventure to get back to town was interesting, we couldn’t communicate to the bus driver where we wanted to go and he tried to drop us off in the middle of nowhere. We refused to get off and he eventually took us to a connecting stop to get where we needed to go. After dinner the guys in the group and I went out to a club in town and danced until 4 in the morning. The journey to the club was interesting. We weren’t sure where we were going and the buses stop running after 9 or 10 so we walked a ways until we found a taxi, went to a club but decided to go to a different one and did the walking thing again. Motos (guys that drive motorbikes around and charge for rides) were being really aggressive and trying to give us rides. A group of them actually surrounded us and it was pretty intimidating. A guard eventually walked near us and they left us alone. The night turned out really fun.
Saturday, January 7th
This was a pretty lazy day – overview of rules and policies in the morning at the SIT center. After that we went and bought capatis and cut up some very fresh fruits and avocado for lunch. It was the best food ever. The mangoes were so juicy and flavorful and the avokas (avocados) were delicious on our warm capatis!! Afterwards we all napped until dinner time when we went for Ethiopian with Apollon. The food was good but surprisingly not as good as it is in Plfugerville.
Sunday, January 8th
This was a very good day, we got to meet our host families!! I also got to skype with Peyton for a while this morning which was really awesome 🙂 My new mom, Eugenie, came and picked me up from the Mocecore in a taxi and took me home! I have a beautiful sister who is 18, a brother who is 21, cousins who are 11 and 25 and then my mom and her sister both live in the house. Our home is very small – a living room, four bedrooms and a bathroom and cupboard room (I think that is pretty much what it is). I got my own room though which is very nice. It again is extremely small. I have a tiny bed and a cardboard box that is flipped over with a sheet over it for my bedside table. My first night was hard because the shock of how different everything is was overwhelming.
– no hot water
– we boil our drinking water
– no internet
– no light in the bathroom
– the shower head doesn’t work
– the sink in the bathroom doesn’t work
– a charcoal burning stove
– not sure where we do laundry, I think in the back of the house with soap and a bucket
– it is totally fine to be peeling a potato and then put the half peeled potato & knife on the ground outside to do something else and then resume peeling
– no trash can (this is pretty common in places – it is rather difficult to find them. Even so, everything in Kigali is SO CLEAN!!)
– the ants are HUGE!!
But some things are awesome –
– the food is delicious
– there is an avoka (avocado) tree in the front yard=fresh avoka with every dinner 🙂
– my family is so welcoming and kind, they love teaching me Kinyarwanda and are more helpful than I could have hoped for
– the cockroaches that I find on/in my bed are only like a third the size of what I am used to
– the cold shower wakes me up in the morning
– I have a gorgeous view of Kigali from my porch. Our house is on top of a hill kind of so I can see so much. This is especially enjoyable while eating my breakfast in the morning standing on the porch 🙂
I know this has been a lot but that gets all of my first week done!