Part Two

23 Jul

Once at Fort Peace Corps I paid a visit to the medical office so I could stock up on all the necessities before heading out to the wild, distant, West. After a wardrobe change a group of us headed back into town to procure necessities not available at site you know, like Nutella and chocolate.
Maybe twenty minutes after we arrived in town I get a call from my training manager saying we need to have a meeting to discuss my performance plan. Since I didn’t do as well as I needed to, but show promise I’m on a language probation of sorts. Mostly I just need to spend some more time practicing my Kinyarwanda conversational skills, procure a language tutor, and keep PC in the loop about the process. The frustrating thing was that I’d spent probably two-ish hours on the PC campus and of course I heard from them when I got to town. It was just after four and we agreed to meet back at the office at six pm. So myself and another person in a similar situation broke off from the rest of the group and went into power shopping mode. We hit up the Indian store Sharma and then went back to the Walmart of Rwanda and picked up a few last things. At 5:30 we left the supermarket and began the hike to the taxis to the part of Kigali Fort Peace Corps is in. My bag was heavy and the walk was far enough. Luckily, we had our adventure the night before so finding a taxi back was a piece of cake and amazingly enough we made it back to the office right on time.
After the meeting I tried unsuccessfully to snag some free wireless at a swanky coffee shop. I’d been trying since Monday to find free wifi so I could update my antivirus without eating up my modem credit. I got a phone call around seven that the rest of the gang was back from shopping adventures and formulating a plan for the evening so I paid for my iced Americano (aka heaven in a glass) and walked back.
Five of us decided to go to the Indian restaurant within walking distance and then try our hand at a Kigali night club. For some reason we didn’t end up leaving Fort Peace Corps to eat until nine pm. PS it still felt surreal to think that we were volunteers.
Kigali doesn’t have a lot of ‘main’ roads so most places you want to go you wind your way down a side road or some stairs to get to the place. In this case, we encountered a stubborn gate and some very interesting, poorly lit, non-uniform stairs. That’s the other thing about Rwanda, nothing is really uniform, not even stairs in the same staircase. Makes thinks entertainingly treacherous. It all paid off though because the food was good and I had my first gin and tonic sine staging in Philly. Cocktails are EXPENSIVE. One shot was 2,000 RWF. To put that in perspective, my daily allowance during training, to buy lunch and incidentals was 2,500 RWF. And it comes with just the liquor, you have to buy a mixer separately which is typically 300 RWF more, if not double the regular price for a bottled beverage. I decided to just go for it, and was even afforded the luxury of complimentary sliced limes and ice! The man asked me if I wanted a double, but I was not into ordering twice the amount of a gin I had no idea the quality. My bravery was rewarded though and it was refreshingly amazing, the perfect complement to the delicious food and our celebratory mood.
Once we noticed that we were the only people left made use of the restroom (the good ones are few and far between) and headed off to the club. It was fun, we ordered another round of drinks, did some people watching and some dancing. Some other abazungu wandered in later in the evening but we didn’t talk to them. The DJ played a little bit of everything including Ace of Base and Gangsters Paradise. He kept it current with some Usher and other songs I can’t remember at this moment. It was fun to see this side of the people I’d spent so much time with. And yes, if you’re wondering if I danced with a Rwandan man, I certainly did. And a Rwandan woman. Hahaha. There were a couple very flamboyant men there and I couldn’t decide if they were G or not. It is illegal to be gay in Rwanda so the scene is so much on the down low it almost doesn’t exist. However, in my experience these guys fit the bill for Gs that I’ve seen in clubs. And while men hold hands and are rather intimate in the space they share publicly here, one guy in particular seemed to be bending gender norms quite a bit even for Rwandan standards. Not that it’s so important to put people into one category or another, but I am still soaking up the Rwandan Culture.
Sometime around 1 am we decided to head out since we had an early morning and busy day ahead of us. The walk back was quite long, but entertaining. We got home around 2 am to be informed that a pipe had burst and the water was shut off and may not be turned back on in the morning. I was grimy from a day of rushing around Kigali and getting my dance on so when I found out that there was still water from a hose out back I decided to go for it. Amazing enough I managed not to be spotted by any of the guards but the verdict is still out on whether there are cameras in the compound or not.
About an hour after I went to bed I woke up with a nasty feeling in my tummy. I took some pepto chewables but wasn’t convinced that would solve my problem. Not wanting to wake the rest of my bunkmates up if I puked I grabbed my blanket and a pot and tried to go back to sleep. Maybe thirty minutes later the first group of people got up making sleep futile. I wasn’t too worried since I had a lengthy car ride ahead of me. I WAS worried about how I was going to sit in a car for hours when it felt like I would need to use the bathroom at any moment. I thought back to potential causes and it came down to two water related situations. The first was the ice cubes at the restaurant, I didn’t think twice when I put them in my drink, but in hindsight I had no way of know where the water came from. The second was from the water in the filters at Fort Peace Corps, there was a rumor that whoever refilled the filters forgot to put bleach in the water. No one else had similar symptoms and I never did figure out what it was. I took an Imodium and was good to go by the time we left.
Ok I already wrote about the trip here and our stay in the regional house. On to the time I’ve spent at site!
I did end up waiting for my roommate to return home before going to the market and we spent an hour and a half going to different shops procuring various necessities. It was seven when we got home and the roomie didn’t want to cook which was fine because I had all the supplies to make deconstructed nachos, which is just tortilla chips, slices of cheese and guacamole. You do what you can without an oven right? We had get to know you girl talk, mostly in Kinya which was awesome. Then round about 9 pm it was time to turn in which was all kinds of amazing since at my homestay dinner was as late as 10 pm sometimes.
Saturday I had a lazy morning as I explained to roomie that I wanted and had tea she made me around nine am out of my new thermos I might add. Then we started cooking lunch, well I helped by cutting some stuff up but she did most of the cooking. We ate and I puttered around and then did some laundry, showered and went back to the boutiques for a few more things. We came back and ate a cold dinner that she had already prepared, I introduced her to the concept of a food baby and we called it a night.
This morning I woke up bright and early since I was under the impression we would leave for church at eight am. I got ready, did the dishes, got dressed, ate, but roomie was nowhere to be found. Turns out she had gone to visit our neighbor and came back at 8:15. When it became evident that we would not be leaving anytime soon I poured myself a cup of tea and started a new book. We ended up leaving at nine. Oh Rwandan time.
This church was different from the other I went to, but I don’t want to go into too many details since I’ve got a separate post about church in the works. I got to stand up and introduce myself. There was a lot of singing and dancing and the even had a guitar, bass, and drum kit in addition to the ubiquitous keyboard.
After church we came home and I played a more active role in the preparation of our food. Then there was a debate about where I was supposed to go. Around 3:30 I went to visit the family of a girl who has been helping me to buy stuff. Her mom is a farmer but considers her real job praying. The first thing we did when we sat down was pray and she got on the floor on her knees with her hands in the air. It was kind of intense but I wasn’t freaked out because people praying for me makes me think of my grandma and if there’s anyone you want praying for you, it’s my grandma. If you’re wondering if she’s prayed for you, if you know me and have been through something challenging, I’ve asked her to pray for you.
After the prayer they brought out rice and beans and I groaned hardcore since I had eaten a food baby’s worth less than an hour ago. I was a good sport and took a sizeable portion, still small by Rwandan standards. I couldn’t stay long because I had to get back to watch the beans cook so my roomie could go to work this evening. The family I visited was worried about me being alone tonight since my roomie had to work and wanted to send someone to spend the night with me but I assured them I would be quite alright.
I read until the light got crummy, washed up and made some more deconstructed nachos and did the dishes all by eight pm which is absolutely lovely. My supervisor stopped by at dusk scaring me because he surprised me. Apparently this week is vaccination week so I’ll get to travel all over the health center’s catchment area with the vaccination team. I can’t think of a better first week. I’ll let you know how it goes! My computer is almost out of battery so I’ll have to leave my thoughts on my roommate for another time.
Something to be optimistic about, when I visited my neighbor’s yesterday they had electricity! They didn’t when I last visited so it is entirely possible that I will get electricity in a more timely manner than originally anticipated.

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