Somewhere between my last post in February until now (November 2014) I forgot to record my time in Rwanda on this blog. Or I was just too lazy. One of the two. Recording my daily life has never been my specialty. I usually would only break out the camera for the big trip, or for a weekend outside of where I was living. Documenting daily life is way more difficult.
This has obviously held true during my (almost now) year living in Rwanda. At some point, this became less of a daily adventure, and became (something better, I think) my everyday life. Now with five weeks left in my stay here, I feel good: comfortable and confident of how to get through my daily routines (grocery shopping, taking motos, the bus system). I’m also realizing there are so many things I still want to do and experience here.
It really is amazing how a country the size of Maryland can still leave you curious, engaged, and can still have corners left for you to discover. Rwandans are more introverted than their other East African neighbors. Rwandan culture takes time, lots of time, to even begin to understand. There is so much depth here underneath the initial shock of beauty, that it makes it very hard to walk away. But that’s something we all have to do at points in our lives. So when I leave Rwanda in December, it will either be see you soon or see you in a while, but I know I will be back.
When I lived with my Rwandan host family in a rural community, it was definitely hard. Probably the most challenging thing I’ve undertaken mentally and physically. Three months of limited access to running water and electricity. But when I came out, I found I had fallen in love with Rwanda. Its easy to appreciate how nice a place is to live, its another thing to feel head over heals with a place and the people who live there.
To all my friends and family, who were excited about me keeping this blog, my bad. To make it up to you…. drumroll… here’s a list of some of my favorite moments from the past 10 months. As told with photos!
Tanzania… you are my boo. You have amazing scenery, delicious food (seafood, Swahili food), and semi-stable infrastructure. I will forgive you (just this once) for that 100 USD on-arrival tourist visa, because you are home to my now favorite place on the planet: Zanzibar. After emerging from three months in the village, my coworkers and I met in Tanzania for the most glorious vacation of all time.
2. UGANDA AND BURUNDI
Visiting two of Rwanda’s crazier neighbors, Uganda and Burundi, resulted in two awesome extended weekend trips in February and May. I got to go on my first safari at Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, and experience Ugandan roads. I also ate all of the street food. In Burundi, we met up with a tour guide who drove us around the country for three days. Meaning we got to not only see the better known capital city, Bujumbura, but also see other parts of the country that are less traveled.
3. MY RWANDAN HOST FAMILY
I don’t know where to even begin with this one. There are no words to accurately describe the bond you can have with a family when neither of you speak the other’s language fluently. I ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner with my host mom for three months. She boiled my bath water (even when I told her not to), and sat at the end of my bed when I got food poisoning. She also stole my clothes out of my room to wash them when I was too lazy to do it every three days like she required. I had so many moments with this family. Cackling with them about the little kids doing crazy stuff, gossiping about my scholars and their host families, and going to church every Sunday. I can’t imagine moving forward in my life without them being a part of it. Luckily they’re still only an hour away by bus, but it will never be the same as the summer I spent with them.
4. SUMMER INSTITUTES (3- AND 8 WEEK)
This summer, my coworker and I undertook the intense task of running two summer Institutes with 24 students total. By the end, we had facilitated the curriculum in a rural village, kept all of our students alive, and came out with (most of) our sanity. I was able to mentor and bond with a particularly special group of students for the eight week Institute, and watched as they created micro-enterprises with local community members. Then I came home and napped for a solid week.
5. KIBUYE, RWANDA
Kibuye, Rwanda is unreal. Located on the coast of Lake Kivu across from the DRC, its a pretty amazing place for a weekend getaway. I’ve gone there a few times now over the course of the year, and I love it. I got to take my BFF, Carley, there when she came to visit. You can take boats out on the water, swim, and get sunburned. The three hours motion-sickness inducing bus ride is totally worth it.
6. NYUNGWE FOREST (PART TWO)
The best weekend trip I’ve had so far was renting a car a few weekend ago, and driving to Nyungwe National Forest with Derek. With the car, we were able to do and experience so much more of Rwanda along the way. We got to eat roadside snacks several times, visit the National Museum of Rwanda, and go to Cyangugu on the boarder with the DRC. Cyangugu was particularly awesome because its the very southwest corner of Rwanda. We were able to have lunch looking over into Congo, and see a part of the country we would not have been able to visit without our own transportation.
7. MY KIGALI HOUSE/MZUNGU MANOR
My house is the best. No seriously, I live in the best house in Kigali. Its cheap, I have awesome roommates, and I live in a great neighborhood. Coming home to this house everyday has made my year here so, so much easier. It comes complete with hot water (most of time), stable electricity, and a gorgeous view of the valley. Coming home on a moto down our hill when the sun is setting, is my favorite moment of the day.