So it’s been a solid three months since I’ve written a blog – whooops. Things were pretty crazy at the start of the year and really didn’t wind down until about a week ago. After Camp GLOW, I fled Rwanda for the first time in over a year to go spend 3 weeks in South Africa. To say the least, it was AMAZING. We went on a safari in Kruger National Park and had lions walking right past the passenger door, elephants blocking the road for half an hour and walking almost up to the hood of the car, and a leopard running out of the marsh and under a bridge. We then went to Cape Town and travelled the coast to Durban before meeting up with G’s family in the Drakensberg the day after Christmas. We spent a few days there and then went to Jo’burg for New Years before coming back to Rwanda. Immediately upon landing we had about 6 hours to rest before jumping on a bus to our Mid-Service Conference in Musanze.
MSC was really nice because we got to catch up with all of the PCVs in our ED2 group, many of which I hadn’t seen since our AIDS conference in August. MSC allowed us to reflect on our first year and our plans for our final year. This lasted about 3 days and then we all went back to site the day before the first term started.
So, Term 1….it flew by. January started off a little slow, but once all of the students arrived at the start of February things really got going. This year I am only teaching 10 hours a week, but I also have a GLOW club and English club, I’m working on some administrative organization and planning at the school, plus I’m the Program Development Co-Chair for the Gender and Development committee of PC-Rwanda, teaching at the Supreme Court once a month, and organizing this year’s Camp GLOW. They say Peace Corps is the hardest job you’ll ever love and honestly, they are right. I feel like I am always working and when I am not working I still have to put on a front in the community and speak a foreign language and be friends with everyone. It’s only too nice when I can go home and curl up in bed and watch a movie.
This year I feel like I have struck a good balance though. Last year I was so stressed out with integrating and visiting people, while this year I feel like I’ve become close with all of the people I am going to be close with and I don’t feel the pressure to visit them all the time. If they call, I go over or I spend a few hours visiting them in their shops, but the community knows me now and they know why I’m here and that’s enough for me. Because you can’t be yourself in the village and share all your perspectives on things, it is sometimes easier just to go home or hang out with the one or two people you know you can be semi-normal with.
This year I also define my community slightly differently; last year I was trying to know everyone at school and in the village, which was too much, while this year my community is my school. I am here all the time and would rather have great relationships with the staff, teachers, and students, than know some random people in the village who I would have to go out of my way to know and make time to visit. I am really happy with the relationships I’ve made with the students this year, they come to ask for help or advice more frequently than last year and I honestly feel like they trust me more than some other teachers, which is nice. It’s good to feel needed :)
So first term has come and gone. The start of April marked the 18th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. We had a community meeting and people told their stories and reflected on how far Rwanda has come since 1994 and then listened to President Kagame’s speech on the radio. I can’t really comment on it here, but if you get the chance and are interested, look up his speech from April 7 to hear what he has to say about the West.
The day after the community meeting, I left for Uganda, where I spent two weeks playing tourist. I started by taking the GREs (I had been preparing since December) and after successfully completing that in a stuffy room full of baby ants, I met up with some PCV friends and we went white water rafting on the Nile and bungee jumping before spending a few days sitting on an island enjoying days of swimming and relaxing in hammocks.
I got back to Rwanda last Thursday, taught at the Supreme Court on Saturday and started up with Term 2 yesterday. So, here we go, Term 2. It ends July 14, just in time for our Close of Service Conference where we will begin to plan for post-Peace Corps life. Then it’s time for Camp GLOW and then my mom and sister come to visit. The next few months should fly by and soon enough I will be landing in Boston for my first winter in 2 years.
A few pictures for your viewing pleasure: