Sunday, October 17, 2010

Books for Africa, Projects Projects

Part of being a respectable Peace Corps volunteer, other than fulfilling your regular day to day job description, means working on projects that benefit the community. After a year long process of planning, interviewing, IDing issues and fundraising, the books and computers we ordered from Books for Africa finally came in!

Many thanks to PCV Jessica McGhie, who worked her ass off putting this together, dealing with all the paperwork, politics, banking issues and phone calls. Also thanks to the volunteers who helped organize all the books, which took a very long time to separate and label. I also personally want to thank all of my friends, family, and my mom's colleagues for contributing to this project-- your donations were vital to making this happen!

Rwanda has few libraries; therefore students don't have easy access to books, especially in rural communities. The school I used to teach at consisted of students copying down information in their notebooks from the blackboard. When I taught there, I spent hours making copies of books in their entirety so my students would have something long and interesting to read. I was lucky enough to be able to use the Peace Corps office to make these copies for free, which most teachers wouldn't have been able to do. Only one of the two ancient desktop computers that were there worked, which made teaching computer skills virtually impossible. These books and computers will create libraries and learning centers at each of our sites throughout Rwanda, and at various places such as schools, health centers, and community centers. This access to literature and technology will open up Rwandan's connection to the outside world, and change people's education and overall learning experience.

Like all projects of course, this one didn't come without some challenges-- the computers sent didn't come with Windows, so that has to be purchased. Also about half of the computers didn't come with power cords, so we're working on finding some in Kigali for a good price. B4A has been informed of this.

Another project I'm actively working on is Appropriate Projects water charity. Access to water is a huge problem in Rwanda, especially during the dry season. Many people in Rwanda, even in Kigali, do not have running water and fetch water daily in jerricans at the nearest water pump. I'm lucky enough not to do this anymore, but at my old site I remember how so much of my day revolved around getting water, finding someone to fetch it at the top of the hill where the stadium was, negotiating a price, waiting, doing my best to use the water as sparingly as possible, using the hierarchy of water usage: 1) boiling for drinking 2) Cooking 3) Washing myself 4) washing dishes 5) If any water is left over, cleaning the house. I used about a jerrican a day, and I only had to take care of myself and my own needs. Very few people in Rwanda live alone, and therefore need more than two jerricans of water per day for their family. For this project, I'm working with REFTTA (Rwandan Evil Fighters Through Talents), a very motivated and hardworking group of youths who used to be part of the Kagarama secondary school Never Again Club. After they graduated, they decided that they didn't want to stop the activities they had been working on, and formed REFTTA two years ago. They are very active and have been extremely successful here in Rwanda- it really is amazing what they've done at their age-- huge concert and film fundraisers, publications... They've gotten funding and visitors from all over the world, including diplomats from Canada.

I visited the site they had identified as needing a water project, which is in an area of Kimironko, in Eastern Kigali. Together with a group from REFFTA, which included the president, vice president, and members who have been trained in plumbing, we walked around the community, where I spoke with the people living there and took pictures. The problem that the community is facing is that during the dry season, sometimes water is unavailable from the pump for 3 days at a time, and residents are forced to go down to the swamp (which is more like a tiny stream at this point)for their water. This water is both limited and dirty.

The members of REFFTA, along with the inhabitants of the community, told me that they have 1 of 2 projects in mind-- creating a pipe that collects rainwater, and be in a location that is more central to the inhabitants. Another is to have a large water tank that collects rainwater during the dry season. The members of REFFTA will meet this weekend, come up with a budget, and e-mail me what they have decided (I want them to have as much say in this as possible).

The other project I'm trying to get started (I need to turn in the proposal)is to start an income-generating project with young single mothers who are part of NAR associations. It looks like they've decided on making and selling soap. I've seen soap making before, but it would be best if we hired someone to teach it. It's a project with potential because unlike basket weaving and bag-making, this is a product that people run out of constantly, and does not depend on tourists as clients. My time here has taught me that the most beneficial IGAs are ones that depend on the local market. This is a project I'm very passionate about, as it would benefit a population that's very marginalized. Unfortunately, there's still a strong stigma when it comes to young mothers who have babies outside of marriage.

That's all for now. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Parents' Visit (Part 2)

Being sick in Nairobi is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand I wasn't able to walk the streets and discover the city as much as I had planned, but on the other hand we were in a hotel with comfortable beds, nice temperature and staff that weren't shocked at the request for ice bags and tea (This could never happen in Rwanda, unless I was at a 5 star like Mille Collines). My parents were very comforting, although I feel a little like I held my mom back since she opted to stay with me in the hotel room while I rested up. My dad, always the musician, spent most of his time in Nairobi looking for local musical instruments. The best he could find was a kalimba (finger piano) which he bought two of.

After a few nights in Nairobi, we met with the team from Intrepid, the tour company we booked with. Along with 15 other tourists, we listened as our guide Leilei gave us a summary of our Serengeti trip that lay ahead of us. I knew immediately that my parents had picked the right company. Intrepid exists all over the world, and their philosophy emphasizes community and cultural understanding. He told us not to give money or candy to kids because they would get used to a culture of begging and fighting over who gets it (something I've had to repeat to people in Rwanda). Another thing that sets Intrepid apart from other tour companies is that everyone pitches in to clean the bus, wash dishes, and help with chairs and food set up. Other than the very first night, we slept in tents with another member of the tour. The friends and couples who came together shared tents of course, and I shared a tent with this really cool Australian girl named Karla. We spent the second day by Lake Victoria in Tanzania, and some of us rented bikes to discover the town. Along with a local guide, we got to meet students at a school and listen to a very talented church choire practice outside. Although I don't speak Swahili and Kinyarwanda is definitely not helpful in Tanzania, many people spoke English, so it communication wasn't too much of a challenge. Of course, I also took the time to visit the local markets! The markets there were definitely very different from the ones in Rwanda. There was more variety, more space. I showed off my negotiating skills to my parents as I bargained for two fabrics and some art they wanted. I'll say this- bargaining is way more of a challenge there than in Rwanda! Merchants lower their price to meet your asking price at a MUCH slower rate, which frustrated me but I guess that's just tradition there.

Next we camped out two nights in the Serengeti! During the day, our bus drove through the savannah on VERY bumpy roads, stopping when we saw wildebeest, lions, elephants, giraffe, hippo, hyenas, zebras, buffalos... we even got to see a leopard, but they are unfortunately very difficult to see since they spend most of their time in trees. It made me really wish I'd invested in binoculars. The savannah plains were beautiful, and the group dynamic was really positive. Even though we were all from different countries and came with different people, we all got along very well. I was initially (and secretly) worried that my parent's age might negatively affect their experience, but they didn't seem to mind the sometimes painful road and meshed well with the rest of the group. Spending time with my parents amongst people we didn't know but were traveling with was a very unique experience. It was interesting for me to see how they reacted to the unfamiliar, and their interactions with people. We all played games together and enjoyed funny moments, such as when one of the baboons prowling the camp stole Tania's towel and toilet paper!

Next we headed for the Olduvai Gorge. On the way there, we saw many Massai-- some more traditional (actually nomadic, wearing traditional clothing, living off of the land) others who seemed more commercially-minded (jeans and sneakers underneath cloth, aggressively peddling jewelry to tourists). I had never heard of the Olduvai Gorge, but was really impressed to find out that it is an archaeological site where Dr. Louis Leakey (who Diane Fossy worked for) discovered the oldest hominid (human ancestor) yet found, and objects that date from 2,100,000 year ago. It is thought that this is was the site of the earliest hominids. Next we set up camp high above the Ngorongoro Crater, were we froze but got to experience the fear and joy of animals stomping through the campgrounds, including elephants, hyenas, buffalo and a large gathering of zebras who'd come to munch on the grass between our tents. Hearing munching by your ear while drifting off to sleep in your tents is quite an experience! Driving around the Ngorongoro Crater was a nice change-- the landscape was marshy and full of fields, and we got to drive around in individual safari cars with open roofs instead of one large bus! We got to see cheetahs, but not while they were running. Our last night of the Intrepid trip was spent reflecting on our time together and what we'd learned. Our last night in Nai Robi, I begged my parents to go for seafood, where I ordered delicious crab and tried some of my dad's spiny lobster. I can still taste it...

The hardest part of course, was saying goodbye to my parents. This was facilitated by the fact that we had a rather large to-do list to complete on our 8 hour time back. We flew back to Kigali, went to Mille Collines (the "Hotel Rwanda" hotel), negotiated for crafts, and met some more of my neighbors. After we said our goodbyes, I stayed at the airport for as long as I could see my parents go through security. I'm really grateful that my parents got the opportunity to see Africa. My mom mentioned to me that she didn't think she ever would have come if I hadn't been here. It was a unique opportunity to show my parents how I'm living here, since before they could only put together images from phone conversations and e-mails. I feel like we both reached a mutual understanding of each other-- our philosophies, reactions to the unfamiliar, and our relationships with others. This was a very special two weeks in our lives that I know we'll often think about.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

My Parents' Visit! (Part 1)

My parents arrived late on the 3rd, and it was definitely an emotional experience seeing them for the first time in a year! I arrived extra early at the airport after negotiating with a taxi driver at Remera station for a pick up price (that's the best way to do it). I was incredibly anxious while waiting at the airport for them-- every second felt like a minute and every minute felt like a lifetime. I kept checking my phone for the time, bought overpriced (but delicious) ice cream, read crappy tourist pamphlets, played with kids-- anything to keep my hands busy! Then I joined the small but growing gathering of people waiting for the Brussels Airways passengers to get off.

I glimpsed my parents first by cranking my neck over an incredibly tall woman. My mom followed a few minutes later and paused to wave at me excitedly before walking back to the carousel to wait for her luggage. Then there was another grueling 25 minutes of waiting for them to get their luggage so I could finally hug them. I was rather entertained this time though-- by seeing crying babies and kids jumping up and down to greet family members. From the Kinyarwanda I know, I was able to pick up enough comments from my fellow waitees (that's probably not a word) to know that they were equally entertained by the nonstop flow of people. It's actually pretty interesting to observe how different people greet each other when they get off an airplane- sometimes you can guess how long it's been since they've seen each other, or if they're close.

When my parents finally got through, my mom hugged me tighter than ever and became so emotional that there were tears in her eyes. She wasn't completely silent either, which made us a bit of a spectacle--people started turning their heads towards us (Rwanda sometimes seems almost devoid of emotion-- so this kind of reaction stood out even at the airport).

Once we got to the hotel, I stayed in their room a while just to chat and catch up. The next day we went to Mugatare and Rugarama-- the villages on the outskirts of Kigali where I used to live and work. My parents descended the mountain rather easily, and it was really a pleasure for me to see them interact with the kids and go inside my old neighbor's houses. It was like the convergence of two separate worlds, with me as the only connection. I know that sounds cocky. My mom loved playing with the kids and meeting people I used to see every day. My dad was especially interested in seeing the school I used to teach at, but at as I predicted, it was closed due to the holiday. I took a few pictures but deliberately limited my camera usage because I didn't want the neighborhood to feel like I was using them as tourist material. We then took two buses back to where I live/work for our interviews with Zack Baddorf, an RPCV and freelance journalist who was doing a story on how technology has changed the Peace Corps experience. He interviewed my parents and then recorded part of a skype conversation with my friend Danny in the U.S. He was a nice guy and we talked a little about his travels and future plans. Although Zack was doing the interview for Voice of America, NPR also picked up the story. Here are the links to the interview:

Recording from NPR:

Recording of my parents and I (unedited):

The next day I brought my parents to the Peace Corps office where they got to meet the PC staff. It was really cool to have them meet each other, and once again it felt like a convergence of two worlds. I was actually surprised by how eager and enthusiastic the staff was to meet them—I was worried I’d be bothering them during busy work hours! We then headed out to Nyamata to see the church there--- my parents and I both agreed that this would be more personal than going to the museum in Gisozi. The ride there and back was on a small less comfortable bus, which my parents handled really well. My mom didn’t want to see any bodies, so she only went inside the church while my father and I also went out to the back. Unless you go underground, the church doesn’t have any bodies anymore—but it’s full of clothing and belongings. Looking at all of it, it’s hard to believe so many people could fit inside such a crammed space. The church itself was largely kept the way it was after the massacre there in 94, so you can see where grenades were thrown, machetes hacked, and blood dried, all along the walls, ceiling, and floors of the church. Going underground and to the back of the church wasn’t as difficult for me as going to Murambi. Here the skulls and bones are all separated and placed in orderly rows inside glass cases, which made it less visually harsh for me. The most emotional part for me at least, was knowing the horrors of what took place in the space we were standing in.

After returning to Kigali we had dinner with a friend of mine. The place we went to is one I go to often, so not just friends but even the owner of the restaurant came to our table and greeted my parents, which was awesome. The next day my parents met me where I live/work, so they got to meet some of my coworkers and the summer interns. While sitting at Simba waiting for the bus to Musanze (to see the gorillas) we ran into Janelle and Michelle, two PCVs who my parents both really liked. Janelle entertained them by being her usual self and Michelle showed us pictures of Mauritania.

Shortly after getting on the bus to Musanze, I suddenly realized I had forgotten our gorilla permits—which were cumulatively worth $1,250! I freaked out and started cursing (everything you’re not supposed to do) when it just so happened that the man sitting next to my mom introduced himself. He said he was a police chief inspector and he knew someone at Virunga (the bus company). He told me that if I had someone bring the permits to the Virunga station, they could be on the next bus to Musanze and we could pick them up there. I was so incredibly relieved and thankful. I was able to get a hold of one of the interns for NAR who also lived at the house, and he gladly delivered the permits to the Virunga station. 3 hours later I was holding them, and the next morning we were in the mountains on our way to see the Sabyinyo group. Seeing the gorillas was awesome. We got to see a 3 day old baby but spent most of our time watching two young brothers play. The only downside was when one of the gorillas attacked our guide, (started hitting him), to which our guide quickly instructed us to leave.

Afterwards we walked around Musanze a bit but I started feeling sick so I went back to the hotel early. I called the PCMO and he gladly offered to see me the next day. The good that came out of this is that my parents got to meet him, since he hadn’t been at the office the day they visited. It seemed like I had a virus so there wasn’t much to be done, and while my parents gently suggested maybe it wasn’t the best time to travel, I insisted that we go on with our plans of flying to Nairobi followed by a safari tour of Tanzania.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Patriotism, etc.

I was under the impression that no one read my blog other than my parents (especially since I never receive any comments!) so it was surprising to me when I got nagged on several ends to "update your blog already!". Ok, here I am. It's not that nothing's happened- A LOT has happened, but I guess I just wasn't sure how the events of the past two months could be taylored to fit my blog. So, a few highlights:

The theater performances are finished. We ended up having 10 instead of 15 for various reasons. I really love my theater group and am trying to find ways to still work with them, especially since many of them are unemployed and don't go to school, and really need opportunities to fill their time and use their talents.

I got interviewed by Philip Gourevitch! He came back to Rwanda and we had a general interview about my time here so far, my impressions of things, etc.

Emma is back in America, and is getting married soon (congratulations!). There are now 3 other people here at NAR, but they'll only be here for a month a piece.

In late June, there were a bunch of international theatre groups showing their work at Ishyo (an art and cultural center in Kigali). I thorougly enjoyed it and look forward to seeing the Canadian play that two members from One Family (the theater group I worked with for NAR) are involved in.

Celebrated both 4th of July and Bastille day in style. 4th of July was spent in Kibungo, where there was a huge get together of PCVs. We roasted a goat, and pretty much just spent the whole weekend cooking and eating till we filled ourselves silly. It was a lot of fun being with that big of a group of us, it was like one huge family reunion. of course, we had the traditional round of games like Mafia and pictionary, and sang along to Brandon's guitar-playing.

Bastille day was spent at the French Ambassador's house. I didn't talk to the ambassador directly. I did however, enjoy amazing food and free champagne. It was nice meeting new people, although this confirms my suspicions that there are very few French expats in Rwanda, especially those under the age of 35. I did see some familiar faces as well of course. The new PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) who's a French native (though he's lived in Africa for several years) was present, and we joked about how we're the only two people in Peace Corps Rwanda who hold a French passport.

After the theater festival performances, we were supposed to have trainings in secondary schools by the actors. The students were very excited about this and so was I, but unfortunately this will not happen. I'm not going into details...

It seems like my job for the next few months is to recruit new youth into Never Again Rwanda- both schooling and non-schooling youth. I think this will be fun and interesting. I like finding out about the IGAs (Income Generating Activities) and other projects the NAR youth have come up with, and getting ideas on what else can be done.

My parents are coming in 3 weeks, and that's 3 weeks too far away. I feel like these past few months have been inching by at a glacial pace. We are going to see the gorillas in the North, and then go to Nai Robi and do a tour of the Serengeti in Tanzania. God I can't wait.

I'm going to climb Kilimanjaro, the highest peak on the African continent! Anna (another PCV) and I just bought our tickets and will be heading out there in mid-September. Our goal is to reach the top, and I'm confident we can do it. Super excited- this is going to be epic!

Visited my old umudugudu this weekend. I hadn't been back there in a long time. Some kids recognized me immediately, yelling out "sonia, sonia" and coming to wave and hug me. Some had completely forgotten about me, which is understandable. I didn't get to see everyone- some people weren't there and my old neighbor's house was all boarded up. I asked about what happened to them but couldn't get a straight answer. It really is amazing though, how fast kids grow when you're far away. One of the pastor's sons not only shot up about a foot higher, but his voice, once that of a little kid, has completely changed into and an adult's. No squeekyness whatsoever! The babies I remember are now walking and talking, and toddlers have become little kids. The woman who works at College Misericorde (as the one who cleans the school and serves tea) found me and invited me into her house for milk and cake. I offered to pay her when I saw she ran a small business of selling these from her house, but she insisted that as her guest, I should just take it. Her and I had never talked much while I was teaching at that school, so I found this gesture very hospitable, though not unusual for Rwanda.

We had Peace Corps mid-service in early June. It was in Kigali this time at a nice hotel with hot water and a pool. While I did not have as much fun at MST as I did at IST in Kibuye, I learned a lot more. There were representatives from Peace Corps Washington present, and they informed us of funding opportunitites available solely to Peace Corps volunteers, and encouraged us to take advantage of them.

There's more but this entry seems long enough. I don't predict I'll write again until my parents are here. Missing all of you. Take care and until next time. ;-)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Theater Festival

Now that it's mid-May, NAR's 2010 Theater Festival is in full swing. We've had 5 performances so far, and I'm happy to say that they've all gone really well, with the occasional mishaps that are always expected.

The theater program at NAR is composed of several actors between the ages of 19 and 31 who call themselves "One Family". They're semi-professional-- some have had their acting filmed for the Rwandan Prosecuter's office! They're such dynamic, intelligent people and I'm really lucky to be working with them. I did dance and drama for the majority of my youth (elementary school, high school, and college) and it makes me realize how much I miss both those things. It really is such a huge relief to be able to express yourself in a creative way like that. I also realized how much I miss being around people who regard the arts as something important. Being in Peace Corps, living in Rwanda, forces me to get creative in other ways, but I feel like there are a lot of creative outlets I haven't explored in quite some time. I work, visit neighbors, hang out with friends, but I feel like I need to step up and add something more, or i'm going to make my life very dull and boring.

Enough of my rant. Of the many actors in One Family, 14 of them are involved in the 2010 Theater Festival, and 11 of them are acting in the play. The play is about a Rwandan girl who transfers to a boarding school where she experiences human rights violations by both the administration and her peers. The play was written by two members of One Family and one professional writer. The story isn't particularly complicated but it is well written, well performed and has been well recieved by the audiences. Overall, the troupe will perform at 15 secondary schools. After each performance, each actor holds a small group discussion with members of the audience about human rights, both in the play and in their actual lives. After the discussion the students fill out surveys, which include the questions,"What human rights were violated in this play, Inzitane mu Rugamba, and "Give one example of how you can promote or protect human rights". I'm really pleased to say that so far, the students really like the play and really seem to understand the message. Since this is a play by and for students, it's a release that the students don't normally get. It's a platform for them to express their views and experiences with their peers, who support them and can empathize.

So what's my role in all this? Mostly logistical- I went to the 15 schools, met with the headmasters, and checked out the performance space. I left them with a letter explaining what NAR's theatre program was all about. Some fo the schools already knew us well, since we have youth clubs there. I made the performance schedule, was present at the writing of the play and rehearsals, and gave feedback. I did some directing and stage managing. I go to each performance and make sure everything is running ok. I also collect the surveys and record the answers. I really like my job- I like being able to work partly in the office, partly out and about in the community. I love communicating with the actors and seeing different student's reaction to the play. I'm definitely happy about this.

Before ending this post I should mention that I was able to see my relative, Jean! After a huge headache and hassle with a hotel reservation which wasn't kept, I was able to book him and his collegues a nice room, and I hung out with them for a few hours (they were only in Kigali one night). Amahoro.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Genocide Memorial Week

This week marks the 16th anniversary of the beginning of the genocide that took place in Rwanda. While this was a huge tragedy that marked every person living here and elsewhere), it's unfortunately the primary thing Rwanda is known for.

On April 6th, Philip Gourevitch, the author of the book, "We Wish to Inform You", came to Never Again to conduct an interview with some of the staff. I was fortunate enough to get to meet him. I told him how much I loved his book, and how I felt few Westerners really understood Rwanda the way he did.

April 7th marks the beginning of the genocide, and it is a national day of mourning. I joined a handful of my fellow staff members as well as some of the members of Never Again youth clubs in participating in the "Walk to Remember", hosted by Aegis. The march started at the parliament and ended at Amahoro Stadium. I was surprised by the lack of speeches, which seem to always accompany public events here. When we arrived at the stadium, there were many people, mostly Rwandans but also a good percentage of ex-pats. I ran into a few people I recognized, including some of the Peace Corps staff.

Most of the event included musical performances, gospel singing in particular. The singers were extremely talented, and I recognized some of the songs. Some of the songs were general, others were about the genocide in particular and the reunification of Rwanda. I opted to stay sitting on track instead of in the stadium seats- it made me feel closer to the people there. I ended up sitting right in front of Paul Kagame, who was in the stadium seats. He did not stay very long, at least from where anyone could see him.

As night fell, the stadium lights were turned off and we passed around the flame between the individual candles that had been passed out to us. This was the first time in my life I'd ever participated in a vigil, and it really touched me. Two years ago, before I knew I'd be living in Rwanda, I never could have imagined participating in this event. I remember hearing about the Rwandan genocide many years ago, but I never thought that I would one day get to know so many Rwandans, and be able to listen to their stories and take part in their traditions. Reading about some far away place in a newspaper article is so drastically different from actually participating in an event that, up until recently, seemed like it had nothing to do with my life. I don't pretend to know or understand everything about Rwanda and it's people, but while I stood there among thousands in silence, with the wax drip burning my fingers, it suddenly hit me. I may not be Rwandan, but I feel deeply connected to this country, and its forevor burned into my life and memory.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Burundi, Betrayal, and the Kasubi Tombs

A few years ago, my father gave me some words of advice. He said that I had to be extra cautious about who I let into my life, because I wasn't good at reading people. There are many things my father has told me that I did not feel were accurate, but in this case he's 100% correct. I can't read people worth a damn. Due to an instance that recently happened, I realized I sincerely have no clue who's genuine and who's fake. There were two people in my life who I held rather close and thought respected me. I was completely wrong. I got double stabbed in the back, and it's definitely forced me to re-evaluate how I read people. It's unfortunately made me feel like I really can't trust anyone, and it sux.

We all lie from time to time for various reasons-we did something we weren't supposed to do and we don't want to suffer the consequences, we don't want to hurt someone's feelings, we're unsure but don't want to admit it, etc. However, I had no idea how much people lie, and I honestly believe I'm one of the more honest people in this world. I really don't like lies and deceit, and most of the times I have been dishonest, I later came clean cause I can't handle the guilt. Maybe that's due to my upbringing. From now on, I'm going to be extra catious about who comes close to me, because I don't want to get screwed over again and played for a fool. Moving on...

I went to Burundi! I had a three day weekend due to Good Friday, so of course I took advantage. I flew in (it only took about 25 minutes)and walked out of the airport to see the most perfect rainbow in my life! My roommate, Emma, took the bus and met up with me at the hotel. We had an awesome time, and I can say with much confidence that this was one of the best vacations I've ever had. I got to eat and drink things I haven't had in ages, and I barely spent a cent! Emma and I spent most of our time hanging with this one group of people, going to the beach (sand by lake Tanganyika), and just walking around the streets of Bujumbura. It did rain for part of the time, but when it did we'd just drink mojitos at Bora Bora, this cute little bar on the beach, and watch the storm.

Burundi's not drastically different from Rwanda, and it was nice to be able to use my Kinyarwanda. In Rwanda, us PCVs constantly experience the following situtation: We ask a stranger something in Kinyarwanda. They laugh for a bit and before answering the question, they always go "uzi Kinyarwanda?!" (You know Kinyarwanda?) In Burundi, it's the same scenario, except people kept saying "Uzi Kirundi?", which was a nice change of pace. (Other than a few minor differences, it's the same language). I got to jet ski for free, lay out on the beach, and swim in clear water with waves! I found Burundians (Burundese?) to be very friendly and outgoing. After visiting both Burundi and Uganda, I've realized how reserved and quiet most Rwandans are.

Emma and I danced the macarena with some teenagers, and they told us that we needed to spread the word that Burundi is a good country with good people. Therefore, that's what I'm doing through this blog. Without going into too much detail, let me just say that this vacation was much more luxurious than I ever could have anticipated.
In sadder news, the Kasubi Tombs burnt down. Emma and I were fortunate enough to see them about a month prior. From what I read, there were some casualties, during and after the fire. The Kasubi Tombs is considered a world heritage site and active religious place in the Buganda Kingdom. It is the burial ground for the previous four Kabakas, therefore, the Kasubi Tombs is a place where the Kabaka and others in Buganda’s cultural hierarchy frequently carry out important centuries-old Ganda rituals. The fire is truly a tragedy, and I'm deeply saddened to hear about it.