So much to share. This week has been an emotional rollercoaster as one minute there's a house and next minute there isn't. Was meant to move in tomorrow, now it's next week. Today I made progress (I think) with voicing some concerns. Doesn't matter. What I'm finding is that at the end of each day, I have to answer to myself. Have I been productive today? What could I do differently? And most importantly, is my approach to these situations sustainable? The answer to the third question right now is a big: NO! I have had some trouble adjusting to the food here and working at an appropriate pace. Typically me, I'm either going full steam or not at all. Funny though, at home that works because there are certain things one can do to restore their energies- catch a movie with a friend, hit up DQ or go rollerblading. Here, the decompression techniques are much more limited. I've watched a bunch of DVDs on my laptop, done yoga in my room and been out with friends. Today- in an effort to be proactive- I bought a basketball. I used to shoot hoops in the driveway to relieve stress in high school, so I figured I could find a court and who knows, maybe show some local Rwandans my "moves". Haha. My IPOD is getting used A LOT ! I've found that in the evening, I can go for long walks listening to my music and basically tune everyone out. On the bus commute, this also comes in handy as everyone tries to strike up a conversation with the "muzungu" and it can be tiring trying to accomodate.
Funny bus story: so there seems to be varying degrees of acceptable contact between Rwandans and foreigners. Notably, they will want to touch your arm, or leg and don't ask before doing it. Apparently it's for any number of reasons: to see if your whiteness rubs off, for good luck or just pure curiosity. Rwandans themselves are very "hands on", it's not unusual to see men walking hand in hand or with their arms draped around each other. Like in Ghana, I find this kind of open affection quite charming- except when it comes to me ! Okay, back to the funny story. I'm sitting on the bus with my headphones on and a group of university-aged school girls get on. One of them, reaches over and gently takes the hair elastic out of my hair and starts running her fingers through it, seemingly amazed at the colour and thickness. (I do have great hair !!) We get into quite a lovely conversation with her friends and at the end of the 20 minute bus ride (and some exchanges in Kinyarwanda, French and English) she pays for my fare on the way off the bus. Like I said, if at first you can get over your startled reaction and enjoy the charm and warmth behind her actions, it's actually quite nice. That being said, there have been some unpleasant exchanges but I'm not going to dignify those with blog air-time.
Life here is in constant motion and the need to adapt quickly to challenging situations is a key survival skill. Sometimes at the end of the day, I sit for a minute and let my mind just process all that it's seen/heard for the day. It's quite a lot to ponder. My goals for the next few days are to get some sleep and refuel. I was charging my iPOD and camera the other day and lay down for a second thinking- I also need to recharge MY batteries.
Work is by far the best part of the trip so far. My employer seems quite keen if not a little curious about working with me. She has been helpful and communicative which I gather is not always the case when volunteers show up to work. I am the first volunteer in the Kamonyi District so I feel a huge responsibility to make a good start. I spent the day pouring over school statistics for the 20 primary schools in my 3 sectors within the Kamonyi District. The photocopier was broken so I ended up copying the information out by hand. It will be useful to have school statistics such as performance levels, numbers of boys/girls, staffing info and whether they are "groupe scolaire"/catholic/sponsored schools. The next step is to have a meeting with all the Headteachers so that my Director of Education can give me a proper introduction. I will then prepare letters to send to each school explaining exactly what my role as Primary Methodology Volunteer is and what they can gain by collaborating with me. Headteachers who are interested in participating (or becoming "model schools") will then contact the Director and I can plan school visits. Needless to say there is a "crawl, walk, run" stage here that requires some patience on my part. I want to jump right in and do QDPA with the kids ! However, there are many steps to take first; some of which might take several weeks. Another fun part is that I can't get my hands on a proper map of the sectors so another volunteer suggested I take a blank piece of paper, draw the sectors on it and add the schools to it one by one as I find them. Sounds like it's going to be a fascinating couple of weeks.
I have met some really great people working for various other NGOs. The common link within our type of jobs and the similarities in cultural backgrounds make it very easy to relate to other expats. I have heard that the Right to Play organisation is based in Kigali and I can't wait to meet some of their employees. I would love to witness them in action- it is still a longterm goal of mine to work with R2P in the field.
In other news, a friend from London emailed to say he will be in Tanzania in July. I was planning to visit Crystal (nurse VSO) in TZ anyway. This is something to look forward to for sure ! Now, the question is, should I try Kili then or just go for a visit and wait to try Kili in January or something. The hills of Rwanda are challenging me at the moment so I think perhaps some training is an order before Kili. We'll see. I think I could probably "will" myself up that mountain right now.. haha.
Okay, so this blog is becoming basically like my journal. I am not holding back, and I write what I feel at the time. For me, it's quite liberating to write in an uncensored manner, knowing full well that people will be reading it. I am making quite an effort to leave names and details of other people off my blog and to keep it positive/not critical and above all- HONEST.
Thanks for reading. Take care,