Small Wins

11 Jun

Muraho. Amakuru? Nitwa Mahoro Heidi. Ndi umusitageri wa Peace Corps, kandi ndi umunyeshuri kwiga kinyarwanda. Simfite abana, ndi ingaragu. Mfite imyacka makumyabiri n’itandatu.

Kinyrwanda is a beast of a language with 16 noun classes that I have just scraped the surface of. It’s been difficult for me because I LOVE words and I love to talk (as anyone who knows me can attest to) so as much kinya as I have learned, it feels like a drop in the bucket compared to everything I WANT to communicate to my host family and others I interact with on a regular basis.

I thought it would be good to take this moment to celebrate the little kinya I DO know. Actually I do know quite a bit of vocabulary, it’s just the grammar that I need to learn so I can start forming sentences aside from the ones I’ve memorized. I’m at my site visit, and thankfully my supervisor and his roommate, a nurse at the health center speak English well. Actually quite a few people here speak pretty good English. Between the kinya, French, and English we’re able to get the point across pretty well. I’ve taken to using mixing French prepositions with Kinya vocabulary. Everyone at the health center is impressed with the phrases I use to communicate, and the way I can understand simple phrases that are spoken very slowly. Still, all I can focus on is everything I DON’T understand. The eyes of people in the village and market yesterday would grow wide when I greeted them in Kinya yesterday. They kept giving me the price of items in French even though I asked in Kinya. My French numbers are rusty so I had to ask for the price in Kinya.

I finally got the lazy Saturday I’ve been longing for and find myself kind of bored. It seems like a shame to be sitting in my room on my lap top during my site visit but my ‘keeper’ is having his customary lazy morning. My supervisor has been in Kigali since the morning after I arrived and many of the people here are Seventh Day Adventists so the village is a pretty sleepy place on Saturdays.

I AM relishing this time by myself though because for most of the nights I’ve been here a couple of the nurses have stopped by and quizzed me in Kinya until dinner, which holds more Kinya quizzes. With so many new experiences it’s been very exhausting. In summary, I shouldn’t be complaining about the solitude, especially since I have my laptop, modem, ipod, and phone. However, my house doesn’t have electricity so once my laptop dies (and it will soon) I’m out of luck.

I suppose you want to know what I wrote in the first paragraph?

“Hello. How are you? My name is Maharo (my Rwandan name meaning peace, details forthcoming) Heidi. I am a Peace Corps Trainee and a student studying Kinyarwanda. I do not have any children, I am single. I am 26 years old.”

A pretty standard Rwandan greeting. If I just tell them that I’m a trainee and learning Kinya they always follow up with questions related to my marital status and age. Then often they want to know why I’m NOT married, maybe I’ll take a Rwandan husband, and yesterday an 18 year girl asked if she could be my daughter. The she asked for my bracelet. Oh life.


4 Responses to “Small Wins”

  1. Lily Warrior June 11, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Wow Heidi! This is all so wonderful and amazing. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Will your blog stop when your laptop dies or just become less frequent because you’ll be able to charge it occasionally? Best, Sloan

    • Heidi June 14, 2011 at 3:54 am #


      I’ll be able to charge my laptop at the health center once I move to my site so I’ll be blog as I can. There just wasn’t time to charge it Saturday.

  2. Kelly June 13, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    Amazing how much you have learned in a month already! (unless you totally cheated and typed that from a book!)

    • Heidi June 14, 2011 at 3:38 am #

      How dare you suggest I wrote that from a book! I know it from memory, actually there might even be some spelling errors.

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