Monday, November 9, 2009

Zanzibar!

Hello all! I accidentally paid for an hour of internet rather than a half an hour, so i decided to do a quick post.

I am in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania. It is paradise here. Amazing. I have been snorkeling and swimming in the Indian ocean, drinking cocktails, eating delicious seafood (octopus, squid, barracuda, shrimp, etc) and generally having a great time. While snorkeling I saw dolphins, flying fish and all sorts of other beautiful fish and corals. The only negatives are the heat and the fact that I had to walk for about 45 minutes barefoot through a bed of sea urchins, sharp rocks and broken corals. Long story.

Stonetown, the largest city is beautiful. It is full of narrow winding alleys that i constantly get lost in. The architecture is pretty cool and there are towns of old forts, churches, mosques and museums to visit. Later this week I'm planning to take a "spice tour" to see and sample all sorts of fruits and spices.

When i'm done here, my friend and I are heading to the north of the island for more snorkeling, swimming and partying.

We're leaving Zanzibar on the 14th for Dar, then on the 15th taking the 30 hour bus ride back to Kigali. I can't bring myself to think about it, so i'll have to fill you in on those annoying details later.

Be jealous!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Saying Goodbye

I have finished with Worldteach and Rusumo High School. I am no longer a teacher. I am unemployed. I have pretty mixed feelings about that. It was very sad to say goodbye to a lot of people like my English Club, my students and some of the other teachers, but at the same time, I’m happy to get moving again. After 10 months I’m looking forward to getting home.

But first, Zanzibar! I am leaving tomorrow at 5:30 AM for a 30-hour bus ride to Dar es Salaam. From there I’ll take the ferry to Zanzibar, a tropical island complete with beaches, reefs, ancient Stonetown, snorkeling, seafood and all that. It should be pretty amazing and you should all be jealous!

After that I will take another 30-hour bus ride back to Kigali and after a couple days fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for about 3 days before flying back to DC then Toronto. That means I’ll be back in North America in 3 weeks. See you then!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

DRC and less than two weeks to go

So, first of all, I have less than 2 weeks left in Rwanda. Crazy! I’m going to travel around for about a month before I get back to North America, so it’s still a little while until you can all see me again, but still…AHHHH! I’m in the process of saying my goodbyes and figuring out what I’m bringing back and what I’m leaving here. I’ve finished grading the exams and I’m almost done with the report cards, and that’s all I have left.

When I first came here I made it my goal to visit each country that borders Rwanda. I went to Uganda in April and Burundi a couple of months after that. Two weekends ago I went to the Democratic Republic of Congo. (If you don’t know much about the country, you should look it up. It’s got an interesting story, though pretty depressing, and have been locked in a series of rebellions and civil wars pretty much since it was created. It currently resides as No 3 on the UN’s list of most failed states, behind Somalia and Afghanistan. I tell you that so I can brag that I visited a country with less of a government than Iraq and Sudan.) Anyway, we only spent one night there (in Goma) but spent a good deal of time walking around the town. Let me tell you, it’s not in good shape. In 2004 the town was destroyed by/covered with lava from the volcano just to the north and even now the streets and alleys are covered in piles of volcanic rock. There are UN troops and aid workers everywhere, severely driving up prices making it more expensive than Kigali (which is very expensive compared to other parts of East Africa). There was also a lot more obvious poverty than you generally see in Rwanda. It’s definitely a rough place to live.

We did try two new beers though, both darker than the Rwandese beers. Tempo is quite good, but Turbo King (yes, that is what it is actually called) is disgusting. It tasted like they tried to make an energy drink/beer combination.

The craziest part of the trip though, is that we stumbled upon some illegal gorilla smugglers (not that any gorilla smuggling is legal). The compound bordering our hotel had two baby gorillas in it (so incredibly cute btw!). We asked at the hotel and found out that it was “unauthorized”. The smugglers didn’t like the fact that we took pictures, but we had to get photo evidence, so we took quite a few and walked up a creepy little side street to get the address of the place, then got the heck out of the country. We’re also in the process of trying to report this so some sort of authority.

So, I’m only human, right? Is it so wrong of me to want to know what my students think of me? On their finals, many of them had to write essays or paragraphs about…me. The results were, well, interesting. Mostly a huge ego boost of course, but some strange answers too. Almost every student said that they loved me and that I was a good teacher/the best teacher they’ve ever had. Of course, I know that a lot of that might be fishing for points but I have to believe that some of it is the truth! As for the other things they said…

The extremely obvious:
I’m white.
I don’t like cheating. (I made this quite clear!)

The complimentary:
I have a pretty smile.
I am thought of as a parent of the school.
I am handsome.
I have strength in my arms.
I look like a boxer or someone who knows karate.

The contradictory:
I’m fairly fat.
I am very thin.
I am short.
I am taller than others.

The just plain wrong:
I studied in USA (Union of South America)
I went to Denver University.
I was a secretary for Barack Obama (or Black Obama as several kids think he is called).
I was a teacher of Barack Obama.
I’m going to teach in Tanzania next.
I like to pray to God (or play God – Ls and Rs are difficult) every day and night.
I’m married.
I have two brothers and two sisters.
I live in England.

And the strange/extremely screwed up English:
I have white hair and side beards.
I am brown.
I am yellow.
I have an 84% for weight.
I don’t wear a trouser to school (definitely not true, I just don’t know what he meant!)
I have a good tail.
I have a chocolate head. (WHAT?)

See y’all in a couple months!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Book Reviews

A few of the books I’ve read this year. I wrote this instead of grading papers. I actually have some great stories to tell about a trip I just took, but I’ll have to post that at a future time.

Anna Karenina – My first Tolstoy. Anna is one of the most annoying characters in all literature, IMO. (Spoiler!) She should have jumped under the bus much, much earlier.

War and Peace – My second Tolstoy. Much better than the first. The story is quite riveting and non of the characters made me want to gouge my eyes out. The only problem was Tolstoy’s 100-page rant in the conclusion about how stupid historians are.

Great Expectations – This was a lot easier read than I thought it would be. Dickens genius may not be his stories, but it is definitely in his characters. All of them are such interesting portrayals of different aspects of the human spirit. I did figure out who Pip’s benefactor was after about the 3rd chapter though…

Lord of the Flies – I have read this before, but it was in the pile of books Dad and Sara brought for my school’s library. Always a great book.

The Road – An interesting post-apocalyptic story about a man and his son traveling a road in search of food and safety. Love the idea, but it gets a little repetitive. And there was very little punctuation, which after a year of teaching English bothered me.

Digital Fortress – Dan Brown. One of the worst books I have ever read. It was written like a bad junior novelisation of a bad movie.

Free Willy 2 – A bad junior novelisation of a bad movie, but it was better than Digital Fortress.

The Super Adventures of Wishbone – Awesome. Just awesome.

Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass – Very strange. I enjoyed the two immensely, but Lewis Carroll was definitely on some interesting drugs. As for the Walrus and the Carpenter song, I don’t really see the religion analogy. It seems like it fits on a very basic level, but if you actually read the poem, there’s very little connection.

Audacity of Hope – Quite good. I read this around the time of his inauguration so I was doubly happy. Doesn’t quite deserve the Nobel Prize for literature though, sorry.

The Poisonwood Bible – A great novel about a family of missionaries in Congo/Zaire. It pretty much exactly spells out my feelings about missionaries (not positive!) as well as covering a lot of Congolese politics around the time of their independence. Spoiler – The US screwed that country over pretty effectively.

A State of Blood – Covers Idi Amin’s time in Uganda, written by an ex-comrade.

Hitching Rides with Buddha – A hilarious story by Canadian Will Ferguson who lived in Japan for several years. The book covers his journey hitchhiking from the North tip of Japan to the South tip. Interestingly, much of the cultural confusion he experiences there is directly relatable to things that have happened to me here in Rwanda.

Zanzibar Chest – A good, but a bit pompous story about a journalist in Africa. He covers all the major events in Africa through the 80 and 90s.

The Long Road Down – Ewen McGregor and some other guy ride motorcycles from the UK to South Africa. Meh. Too much pompous actor dialogue.

Krakatoa – An extensive discussion about the Indonesian volcano. A lot of great information, but a bit too extensive.

I read a lot of other books this year but either I can’t remember their names or they didn’t deserve a mention.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Winding down or winding up?

My time here is winding up (or down?)! I’m working on the exams that
I will give in less than two weeks and I’m starting review next week.
After that I’ve got to proctor (a word that always makes me giggle)
the exams and mark them, then I’m finished! In less than a month, I
will be finished at Rusumo High School. In less than two months I’ll
be back in North America! I don’t even know what to think!

I still have a fair amount of traveling to do before I leave. There
are still a couple places in Rwanda I haven’t visited, like Gisenyi
and Byumba that I hope to see soon, plus I’m going to be spending a
week in Zanzibar, a tropical paradise. You will be jealous.

Unfortunately, the final debate of the year was cancelled. It turns
out that the Tanzanian school actually had exams during the time we
were planning on going. This was a huge disappointment for the
students and for me. We lost the previous two debates, but I thought
we really had a chance to win this one, and I had been hoping to end
the year on a positive note. We have continued to meet, just to
debate for fun, and the club seems pretty enthusiastic about
continuing next year. We elected club officers and I’m compiling a
list of debate teacher’s phone numbers from around the province so
they can set up debates next year without a volunteer’s help. They
are great kids, and I’ll really miss them.

Things I didn’t want to find on my toilet seat: mating cockroaches, a
giant spider building a web across the hole. Fortunately, that is all
so far.

For some reason, I’ve noticed an increased number of Toronto Maple
Leafs jerseys around Kirehe district. It always makes me happy to see
them until I remember that there probably wouldn’t have been donated
to Africa if they actually won once in a while. Oh, and apparently
the new restaurant, Kirehe Modern Center, has satellite TV and I saw a
clip of a Bruins game on ESPN. The first hockey I’ve seen in over 8
months. It was strange.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Here we go again…

So it looks like the rainy season is starting again. I was hoping the
dry season would last another couple of weeks but oh well. Back to
the wet, cold and mud, not to mention canceling class because your
students can’t hear you/are getting rained on. Not ideal, but it’s
life!

No big news with the computer lab besides getting a projector set up.
Oh, and that with the wet season back, the solar panels produce a lot
less power and we are expecting even more cuts in the time students
can use the computers.

We had our first debate! It was a success, despite our loss to our
opponent. Both teams did very well, but the English is definitively
more advanced at the other school, and they’d debated four times
already this year. I am extremely proud of our students for how they
did. For most of them, it was their first debate and for the rest,
their second. We had two Francophones on the team, and it is a huge
accomplishment for them to give their arguments and ideas in English.
We also had three Senior 1s and two Senior 2s, so our team was a lot
younger. With some more practice they could be excellent.

The day after the debate, my friends and I went on an epic hike around
the falls. We climbed a mountain, then climbed all the way down to
the river, walked along the river, had a fisherman ferry us up river
in a little canoe when we hit an impassible cliff, then climbed most
of the way back up the original mountain. It took about 5 hours, and
when we finally reached the end, we were exhausted, sun burnt, filthy
and bleeding from several cuts and scratches caused by rocks and
thorns. In other words, it was a great hike! There are some pretty
good pictures and when I get good enough internet, I’ll post a few.

Finally, just a note to any perspective Worldteachers who have found
my blog, don’t join this organization. I know it’s not great form to
be bashing the organization that I belong to, but there is something
very wrong with WorldTeach. We had a few hints at the beginning by
the way they treated us and the lack of information we received during
orientation. We discovered a bit more throughout the year as we
consistently were left hanging when we needed support. (Field
Director leaving the country on vacation during our first two weeks of
teaching is just one example.) Now though, we are fully aware of the
problems that through this organization all the way to the home office
in Boston. Let me be clear: I love my placement, despite the problems
I face, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be here,
but I would not recommend WorldTeach to ANYONE. Find a different
organization. Please

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My life is computers, debates and moto rides with strangers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been online, too long. I haven’t
been to Kigali for several weeks now, and the Internet at the District
Office is consistently down whenever I’m around. I’ve felt pretty
disconnected. I’ve almost forgotten how to use the tubes!

I have had some successes with the computer lab! My first attempts
were frustrated by the fact that the wiring in the lab didn’t work and
by administration blowing it off by saying we didn’t have the money to
fix it. All it took though was one call from the District Education
Office telling us that if we weren’t going to use the computers,
they’d take them away, and miraculously we “found” the money to fix
it! (Turned out it wasn’t really broken, the wiring just didn’t
connect to anything). I immediately set up four of the new computers
and began testing all the old equipment to see what works. I’ve now
tested almost everything and we’ve got 9 working out of the 18 or so
that we had, and we’re a little short on mice. And power cords.
Everything here has a different set of plugs, so it’s hard to find
cords that fit in the right places. Anyway, students are now using
the computer lab in small groups, so I consider it a success! Sonya
(VSO) has also been a huge help and is making great visual aids on
rice sacks for the walls of the lab. My next big hurdle concerns
(surprise surprise) the administration again. I think they want to
only let students use the old computers, to which I asked “what about
the 18 brand new computers? What are we going to do with those?” The
reply was, of course, that the teachers can use them! I felt like
crying. What’s the point of having all those computers if they barely
get used? I’m going to have to put my foot down on this one.

I’ve also been busy with debate. We’ve got a lot of good students who
are interested in debate, and we set up two debates this term with
other schools. The first one is this Friday with Kayonza Modern,
another school in our program, and later in September we have a repeat
of our debate with our sister school in Tanzania. This time we are
going there, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go as well! The only
problem is the expensive visa, but since I’m going in November anyway,
I might as well buy it now! Or, if possible, just get in for free…

Here’s one for you: have you ever gotten on the back of someone’s
moto, thinking that you knew who there were, and talked to them for
the entire 10 minute ride, only to discover that you don’t actually
know who they are? That’s my life! (Note: he seemed to know who I was,
so it was probably my fault that I didn’t recognize him. Nice guy,
though!)

Happy Birthday Aunt Carol!

Oh, and I’ve got less than two months of teaching left, plus less than
a month of traveling until I come home!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2 terms down, 3rd term to go!

I’ve started my third and final term here in Rwanda. Hard to believe it. There’s still so much that I want to do and see. It’ll be hard to fit it into less than 4 months, but I’ll give it a shot!

The first week of the term is now over, although it was supposed to be the second. We had the usual confusion, with neither students nor teachers showing up on time, plus changing the timetable without telling anyone. About on par for most term beginnings I’d say. I’ve got big plans for this term. There are lots of things I want to cover in my classes, plus the Teachers’ English Club and the Debate Club. On top of that I think I’m about to take on another load of responsibility. Now that the library is up and running, and doing pretty well, if I do say so myself, I think I’m going to attempt to revive the computer lab. The solar panels are working again, so we have some power, and considering our students never get to touch a computer, I think I need to do something about that. Not sure how much I’ll get accomplished before I leave though. A lot of what needs to be done needs to be done by the administration, and all I can do is pester them until they do it. We’ll see though, it needs to be done.

I think I’m on my third generation of house lizards now. Possibly the fourth. I’ve just spotted a new tiny baby and will now have to try to protect him from the adults.

Oh, and I found a snake in my room the other day! Ok, after doing some research I figured out that it wasn’t technically a snake, but a different type of reptile called amphisbaenidae. Or something. It was about 4 inches long and it looked almost like a millipede except that it didn’t have any legs. They aren’t dangerous, and I doubt if this little guy could have bitten me if he tried! I did get a photo (not great) that I’ll attempt to post here at some point.

Random thought as I was listening to Tupac and reading War and Peace: I lead a very strange life.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The "snake" I found in my room...


See upcoming post for explaination...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The End is near (of the holidays)

The holidays are almost over, and we are all getting ready to head
back to school for the last term. Mixed feelings of course. The
holidays were great; with monkeys, dead car batteries, new friends, 2
kilos of pork, blisters, a king’s palace, numerous instances of being
ditched, walking until my feet bled, good food and surprisingly little
beer.

For the last couple of days of the break, I’m staying at a friend’s
house in Kigali. It’s kind of a strange situation; there are two
spare bedrooms but no spare beds. Plus the couple that lives there, 3
of us are crashing in the living room. There is a couch and a
loveseat, neither one is big enough to sleep on comfortably. I let
the girls sleep on them. The floor is concrete and horribly
uncomfortable, so I sleep on “chair-bed.” Chair-bed consists of 6
dinning room chairs pushed together, two by two. It is neither
comfortable nor stable, but it’s better than the floor. Oh, and last
night I couldn’t find two of the chairs, so it was just 4 chairs. I’m
quite sore today. The mosquitoes are pretty bad too. Oh, and they
haven’t had water since Sunday. Now, I don’t have running water so
some guy on a bike brings jerry cans full of it. They “have” running
water, so when it goes out, they have no idea where to find some. We
are in the middle of the dry season and water is getting scarce
everywhere in Rwanda except the Northwest, so lots of volunteers are
out of it. Thus we are all pretty grimy and smelly. I’ve showered
twice in the last week and a half.

Anyway, just a short post. I’ll maybe expand on some of the good
stories in later posts, and hopefully I’ll get back to my once a week
schedule once classes start up again. Murabeho!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Holidays

I’ve been enjoying a great holiday! We have a three week break between the first and second terms and I’m making the most of it.

The term ended well. The students did relatively well on their exams, and grading papers didn’t drive me completely insane. I finished up early and headed for Kigali for a couples days of relaxing before Dad and Sara came. Their plane arrived at 2:00 am, but I met them at the airport anyway (the coffee shop was still open!) and had a great week!

The gorillas were amazing! It was an hour hike up the mountain, which would have been fun in of itself, but to see those creatures, and to be in the middle of their family was fantastic. The guides told us we were close and I looked up and saw a small gorilla sitting in a tree watching us. We then entered a small clearing and found the second in command silverback. The guides spoke to it in grunts to let it know that we were not a threat and it allowed us to stay. You could see them staring at us and you could see their intelligence in their eyes. They evaluated our presence and decided we weren’t a threat. We had an hour with them and we got so close! There was a young one that was totally hamming it up for the cameras, climbing on the silverback’s back and running by us. We got some amazing photos, a few of which are up know, and hopefully more will follow. It was an experience that I’m so glad I was able to have. Unfortunately these majestic creatures might not be around much longer.

Later we went to Akagera National Park, which was also great, except for the tsetse flies. We got really close to some giraffes, monkeys and buffalo, and saw all sorts of other animals as well. Still didn’t see the elephant though.

Nyakarambi was next, where we went to the falls (my 5th time), toured my school, bought some cow dung art and chilled at home. Had some bad experiences with restaurants (like how the entire town of Rusumo was out of food on a Tuesday afternoon) but overall it was fun! Pretty sure Dad and Sara enjoyed it, but I was very glad to show off my town and school and give them a taste of my everyday life.

We returned to Kigali for the last couple of days, went to the memorial and the Natural History Museum (which was interesting as we had to interpret the exhibits which were in a mix of English, French, Kinyarwanda, Latin and German). It was sad to see them off at the airport, but I had a great week!

Now I’m truly on vacation. Shepherding a couple of tourists around is tiring (no offensive guys) so I’ve been taking it easy the last couple days. I went up to Musanze to visit a friend and went spelunking (which is almost as fun as saying the word spelunking) and narrowly avoided getting guanoed on. I had some delicious burritos to celebrate St Burrito Day, and have been spending a lot of time in coffee shops. Tomorrow I’m heading down south to do who knows what. Plans are for the weak…

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

pics...




Shaving incident. Apparently this is what I'll look like in 30 years.

Quick Check-In

Hello everyone! I’m still alive, despite the lack of posts here recently. I’ve been quite busy. I promise that I’ll write a full post soon, but for now just a quick check-in.

School’s out, with one week of my three-week vacation over. Dad and Sara came and went, and I’ll be traveling around the western part of the country for the next two weeks (with plenty of R&R time in Kigali).

The week with the fam was amazing. We visited the gorillas (saw a three-week old baby, plus hot gorilla sex!), we had a short safari, hung out in Nyakarambi and spent some time wandering around Kigali.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Buj and back

Wow, Bujumbura was an amazing idea, and an even better trip! Who says US State Department travel advisories should be trusted? Actually, Burundi can be a very dangerous country, but we were very careful and made sure not to put ourselves into any unnecessary risks. Well, for the most part…

There are many adjectives that one could use to describe the bus ride to Bujumbura, but I believe the best one is TERRIFYING. Take the usual Africa roads (filled with all sorts of vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, animals, potholes, etc) and worse than usual driving and add that to narrow, winding mountain roads and you’ll get some sort of idea. I spent much of the ride staring out the front window of the bus as we careened towards a cliff then swerved away from it, usually into the path of an oncoming truck which we’d then swerve away from back towards the cliff, and so on. Eventually, however, the mountains ended (rather abruptly, actually) and we came into Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Tanganyika. Really, the only real problem we had with the transit was the Burundian border guard who tried to force us to bribe him by almost denying us entry. Much arguing, some harsh words, the help of the other bus passengers and shear stubbornness got us through the border sans bribe. There was no way that we’d support corruption!

We found a pretty nice place to stay for only a little more than we had hoped and in the process met several extremely nice and helpful Burundians. I was a little nervous, due to our experience with a “nice and helpful” Ugandan, but fortunately, they were good people. One important thing in Bujumbura is to stay off the streets at night (take taxis if you do need to go out), so the first night was spend enjoying our hotel, street bread and Burundian Primus (tastes the same).

Interesting fact: automatic weapons and grenades are not allowed in Bujumbura. At least that’s what the sign said. One of the first things we saw upon entering the city was a giant banner in Kirundi (very similar to Kinyarwanda) with a No Grenades and No Automatic Weapons picture (silhouettes of both x’d out). Apparently this didn’t apply to army, police or security guards, because they were everywhere and were always touting weapons.

On the second day we took a trip south of town to the spot where Stanley uttered those famous words “Dr. Livingstone, I presume”. Actually, this was not the real spot. All evidence points to their meeting taking place in western Tanzania, but seeing as this is really all Burundi has in the way of touristy things, I’ll let it slide. The spot was marked by a large rock just off the highway, with names and dates carved into it. We took some pictures, talked to the soldier with the huge automatic weapon that appeared out of the bushes, then headed off to the beach, blowing past cops who tried to flag us down for more bribes.

Let me say, I always enjoy swimming, but there is something quite special about swimming in the Africa Great Lakes. Maybe it was the warm water, maybe it was the possible threat of schistosomiasis or biharzia, maybe it was the beer that I’d had, but jumping off the boat into the water felt amazing. If you are keeping track, that is the 3rd boat I’ve jumped off so far this year, the 2nd being into Lake Kivu and the 1st being onto the sandy beach of Lake Victoria. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be able to make it to Lakes Malawi, Turkana, Edward, Albert or any other African Great Lakes. Then again, I’ve never really been to Lake Superior either. Anyway, I’ll be swimming in the Indian Ocean at Zanzibar in November, so I shouldn’t complain.

The bus home combined the same terrible driving and windy roads with an intense smell of vomit. Strangely, the vomit smell permeated the bus before any of the passengers actually started vomiting, and it certainly didn’t get any better afterwards. With the help of some incredibly cheap oranges and strong will power, none of the four of us puked and we all made it safely back to Rwanda.

Like last time, I was glad to make it home. It could be said that Rwanda has less character than it’s neighbours, and there is some sort of forced orderliness and discipline here, which makes the country seem less “African”, but it really is much safer and cleaner, and despite all the complaining I’ve done in this blog, it’s a pretty darn good place to live!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To Buj!

I’m back in Kigali for the night. After an expensive weekend in the
city last week, of course I decided to spend more money and head off
to Bujumbura, the capital of neighbouring Burundi. It’s just a
weekend trip, but I’m going with a couple of other volunteers and it
should be fun! Plus, it’s another country to explore! If I spend a
year living in Rwanda without visiting each of the countries it
borders, I’ll feel like I wasted an opportunity. Let’s hope the next
post is filled with delightful stories of a wonderful trip, not woeful
ones of getting robbed again.

This last week I was invited to take part in a football match with the
other teachers. (Remember all you North Americans, football is what
the rest of the world calls soccer.) Since I understood it to be just
a friendly match between the teachers and the students, I of course
refused. I also refused the next day, and the next. However when the
day of the match arrived, somehow I had agreed to play and was frog
marched down to the pitch. The start of the game was delayed for some
time due to the fact that the other team had not arrived, which
confused me, until I realized that we not playing students, we were
playing staff from the local hospital. For those who may not be
aware, my athletic talents are marginal, and limited to badminton,
ping-pong, croquet and lying to strangers about being a hockey player.
I was due to play in the second half, and as I watched the start of
the game, I realized that when the teachers said they “weren’t any
good either”, they obviously meant that they would not have been able
to beat Manchester United. Liverpool maybe, but not Man U.
Fortunately, the players decided they didn’t really want to switch off
at halftime, so to the disappointment of the other substitutes and to
my relief, they continued to play, leading to a 2-0 win for Rusumo
High School over Partners in Health/Kirehe Hospital.

Just to underscore how different life is here from back home, remember
that my high school has no electricity, and now that the rainy season
is over, no water. This doesn’t mean that we have no running water
(ha, obviously) but that we actually have no water. The school was
built on top of a hill with no source of fresh water besides the rain.
For the first year of operation there was a large pump down in the
valley that sent water uphill to the school, but sometime in the
second year (2001) it broke. Since then, the school has used a large
tanker truck to cart water up from the valley a couple times a week,
but this year, like our generator, it too broke. The only remaining
vehicle at the school is a tiny pickup that has to make quite a few
trips a day into the valley in order to supply the school with enough
water for drinking, washing and cooking. On Tuesday, the pickup broke
down. I did not realize this until lunch was effectively cancelled
because there was no water with which to cook the rice and beans. The
students were finally able to eat around 5:00 (almost 12 hours after
they had breakfast) when another truck showed up with a couple tanks
of water. I am continually amazed how things like this are allowed to
happen, by school administration (who despite being deeply in debt and
stuck with broken equipment and a poorly supplied library and
laboratory are having hand-made wooden furniture crafted for the
headmaster’s office), by the District (who also recently sent us
hundreds of Senior 1 biology, chemistry and physics text books – in
French!) and by the Ministry of Education (I shouldn’t share my true
feelings about the Ministry online for fear of being deported, but it
has something to do with being able to find its own ass with both
hands). Anyway, the water situation has stabilized, at least until
the new truck breaks down.

Hmm, I wonder; this post just might be seditious enough for me to
actually be deported…

Saturday, June 13, 2009

It’s that wonderful time of year again…

The sun is shining, the dust is flying and the smell of the hand crank photocopier fills the staff room. That can only mean one things: exam time! Yay! Ok, it’s not quite exam week, but it’s coming up. I’ve got one more week of teaching, one week of review, then a week of exams and a week of marking. That’s all that left in Term 2! And I am ready for the vacation! It’s been a busy and productiveish term – the library is up and running (and we’re on our second librarian already), I’ve started a debate club with the first debate to be this Sunday, I’ve finally visited Rusumo Falls (three times, plus setting foot in Tanzania, geographically if not legally), I’ve visited all of our volunteers in Eastern Province and have generally been my usual rabble-rousing self (like teaching my students the concept of civil disobedience, hehe). This time around we get three weeks of va-cay, with the slight exception that I might have to be teaching some classes during the second week (not a problem, it’ll probably only be about 4 or 5 hours tops). For the first week, Dad and Sara are visiting, for which I’m EXTREMELY excited about! I can’t wait to show off my home and country to people from home. Oh, and I’m excited to see you two… For the rest of the break I’ll probably just travel around Rwanda, especially the West, which is hard for me to get to on weekends. There’s a pretty cool rainforest which chimps and monkeys, some tea plantations and some beach resort towns (on Lake Kivu). Two weeks should be enough time to not really see everything, but to pretend I did.

I only have to get through the next 4 weeks. I’ve already got 3 out of my 4 exams written, so I just have a bit more teaching and some review, then I have to mark 330 some exams. Thankfully I have my computer back so music can soul my tortured soul as I drive myself crazy with the grading.

Also, this next week marks the mid point of my time here (or it’s close at least). Hard to believe I’ve been here for 5 and a half weeks and that I’ve got about 5 and a half weeks left. I’m working on planning my final month of traveling after 3rd term and have to have the flight home booked in about 2 weeks, so soon I’ll know when I’ll be back in North America (coming soon to a couch near you?) If anyone knows of must see attractions in Zanzibar (besides the beaches), Dar es Salaam or Addis Ababa, let me know.

On a sad note, I’ve had my first major illness of the trip: a cold. It’s been about 5 days and I think I’m just starting to get over it! And now I’ve just jinxed myself. Worms, amoebas and other parasites here we come!

I’m currently in Kigali for another weekend of errands and partying. My hunt for a key shop was much more successful than my computer charger quest and I explored a new suburb of the city with some great clothing stores and a movie theatre! Everyday I’m here I find another new gem! Or dusty sh*thole, depending on the day.

Oh, and Alison, I'm definitely coming to the wedding! I'm glad to hear that it won't be until after I get back. I'm missing Mark and Leslie's wedding next week and I'm pretty sad about that. BTW, congrats again Mark and Leslie! I'm sorry I can't be there!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Finally!

So, great news! One of my dear fellow volunteers just returned from
North America and brought me a new charger for my computer! In case
you hadn’t heard, my last one was blown out in the Great Generator
Disaster of Nyakarambi, where the whole town was without electricity
for five days and when it came back on, half the light bulbs and one
computer charger had been destroyed. What followed was nearly a month
without access to my computer: no music, no movies, no writing blogs
from home. It sucked. I sort of feel like a whiner for complaining
so much, I mean, you can give me the whole “back in my day” speech and
it’s true, almost no one around here has a laptop, why should it be so
hard for me? Well, it was hard because I’m not from around here.
Everybody needs relaxation time, and for the first four months, mine
involved listening to my music. When that was taken away, all the
little things, the irritants, the annoyances, about living here began
to get to me and I could not just shrug them off like I used to. I
had no escape. Fortunately, it’s not a problem anymore! And just in
time too. With three more weeks until exams, I’ve got a lot of
grading and planning to do, and music makes it that much better.

I’d like to just comment on Rwandese radio for a moment. Not a big
fan. There’s BBC, which is great for world news, but not really for
music. Plus sometimes it’s in French, and it used to have a
Kinyarwanda hour as well (until it was ordered off the air by the
government for supposedly promoting genocide ideology (which in this
case meant a call in show where people questioned the cover up of
reprisal killings), Sketch!). There’s VOA, which can have really good
music, and pretty good world news, but again has other language hours,
plus can be a real tool of American propaganda. Plus, sometimes it’s
broadcast in ‘special English’
which------means------they-------talk----------really----------slowly---------.
I have found a few other good stations, but I can never count on one
actually playing music at any one time. There are a lot of call in
shows, a lot of talk shows, and most of it is in Kinyarwanda. When
they do play music, it tends to be the same 10 songs over and over, so
no matter how much you like them the first time, they cease to be
quite as enjoyable.

Lizard update 1: Sometimes lizards fight on my ceiling and them fall
to the floor, shake themselves off and run away.

Lizard update 2: Sometimes big lizards try to eat the tiny ones. The
sucker for the underdog that I am, I try to prevent this from
happening, usually just in the nick of time. Which means I have a
couple of tiny lizards running around minus their tails.

Lizard update 3: I saw an enormous lizard outside my house the other
day. It was about a foot long, plus the tail. So far I haven’t seen
it inside.

The rainy season has ended! Finally! I can dry clothes on the line
and walk to school without getting covered in mud. The dust is
starting to be a problem however…

So, I kind of blew up at a bus full of Rwandese a couple weeks ago
(notice I I said blew up AT a bus. Sort of a different meaning without
that preposition…) It had been a weekend full of being hassled for
being white, and I was having none of it. I got on a bus to head home
to the usual titters and “muzungu” comments and I started to simmer.
A woman sat down next to me and made even more comments. I laugh
right back in her face, but my tension was reaching it’s breaking
point (remember, no music=much more tense). I was sitting by the
window and had it partially open, with my arm hanging out since it was
a hot day and I decided to keep it open once we started driving. For
all you back home, you probably don’t realize that Rwandese generally
don’t like windows open on buses. So the man behind me tried to close
the window with my arm in it. He apologized but it was almost too
late. Seconds later the woman beside reached over to also try to shut
the window (not asking me to do it) and I lost it. I smacked her hand
away and started yelling in 3 different languages “My name is not
muzungu, that’s so rude, I hate it, I don’t go around calling you all
blacks!” The whole bus (probably even the driver) were staring at me
in disbelief. Finally, I ended my rant, yanked the window wide open
and sat there with my arms crossed, just daring someone to say
something. Nobody did. The next hour was actually quite
uncomfortable with the wind blowing right in my face but I didn’t
care. I felt so good!

Now, this probably wasn’t a good way to handle the situation, but with
the language barrier it was about all I could do, and I had to do
something. I have decided to take a stand against the term “muzungu”.
First of all, categorizing people based on race is not something
anybody should do. It’s not like they are calling us Europeans or
Americans, they are calling us whites (or whitey). Rwanda is
undergoing a massive drive for modernization and investment, and part
of this should be not using racial labels for guests, outsiders and
visitors! Second, Rwandese, of all people, should know better. This
is a country that witnessed the horrible consequences of racial
categorization and it’s forbidden to label people has Hutu or Tutsi.
Why is it ok to label people as whitey?

Of course, the term muzungu is used differently, and it doesn’t
always bother me. Very little kids use it only because they were
taught by their parents to say it when they see me, and they when they
say it you can tell they are just so excited! It can also be used as
a description, like “oh, he’s that muzungu over there.” This doesn’t
bother me. Rwandese will say similar things about other Rwandese,
like “oh, he’s the brown one” or “he’s the black one”, referring to
the different shades of skin colour that exist here. This is fine!
The problem comes when the term is tinged with something else, scorn
maybe, or sniggering. This is when the word becomes Whitey or Honky
instead of white person. I hear this constantly: “Hey Whitey! Where
are you going?”, “Whitey! Give me money!”, “Ha, look, there’s a
freakin’ Whitey on the bus! Isn’t that hilarious?” It becomes a
label, and not a friendly one and it creates division, not the unity
that is such as buzzword here. So, if any Rwandse are reading this
blog, please, don’t call us muzungus. You’re better than that.

Next week I promise I’ll stop talking about such heavy topics. I’ll
go back to silly anecdotes and lame jokes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sorry, it's been a while since I've last posted, but i wasn't able to
get online last weekend. Also, there have been some troubles...

It started last week when it rained on Tuesday (audible gasp). I got
back from school late and found that the power was off. No big deal,
sometimes the power goes off when it rains (although i don't
understand why since it comes from a generator about 50 yards away
from the house). However, it didn't come back on the next day, or the
next. Finally, after 5 days it was back. Considering that when I left
for Rwanda, i didn't think I’d have any electricity, it really
shouldn't have been a big deal, but I've come to rely on it, and 5
nights without it was tough. Also, i was going through about a candle
a night, which gets expensive.

Anyway, that's not the worst of it! When the power came back on, my
laptop wouldn't charge. A couple of the lights were also acting
strange, so i assumed the power just wasn't strong enough. Nope.
Apparently when the generator went it had surged, destroying a whole
bunch of the town's lightbulbs and my charger. Not happy! I have now
gone 2 weeks without being able to use my laptop and I’m on the verge
of insanity. I can't listen to my music (which was one of the only
things that kept me sane during the first couple months), watch
movies, do my budgeting (which i had in a word file) or write my blogs
before i get online. Hassle!

I spent all of yesterday wandering around Kigali, going in and out of
computer stores (and getting lost several times), and no one sells mac
stuff. No one. A lot of times when i asked people would just laugh
and tell me "good luck!" I do have a lead on a supplier now, and I’ve
sent a couple emails, so who knows. If all else fails, someone can
send one from home, but that'll mean about 2 months without using my
laptop and i'd rather not go through that.

In other news, two weekends ago i visited Akagera National Park with
some friends. I saw giraffes, zebras, antelopes, water buffalos,
hippos, warthogs, baboons and monkeys! We spent the whole day there
and despite getting covered in mud while trying to get the car unstuck
in close proximity to a herd of buffalo, it was great fun.

Last weekend Rusumo High School was visited by our sister school in
Tanzania, an all-girls school. The visit was an attempt to resurrect a
partnership between the two schools and was quite successful. Before
commencing the festivities, we all visited a model primary school and
the genocide memorial at Nyarabuye, a church in the district where
over 27,000 people were buried in mass graves. It holds rows and rows
of bones and some of the weapons that were used in the killings.

After lunch we competed in football and debate (although both were cut
short and volleyball was cancelled due to "lack of time". We had
plenty of time for numerous self-important speeches by pompous
officials of course.) The English department was in charge of
organizing the debate. This was a lot of fun! We worked with mainly
Senior 2s and 3s who had pretty good English and had expressed
interest in Debate. The motion, which we were supporting, was "mixed
sex schools are better than single sex schools." When it came down to
it, i would say that the Tanzanians' English was slightly better but
that our arguments were slightly better. Overall I’d give the win to
our school, but the judges gave it to our opponents. Our kids were
actually quite upset; there's definitely an attitude of "winning is
everything" encouraged here, and a couple of them are extremely
competitive, but they enjoyed themselves in the end. They say they
plan on starting a debate club and hopefully we'll be able to debate
other schools in the province before too long.

Depressing thought of the week: It's depressing how many of my
students spelled "English" wrong on their last tests. It makes me
wonder how good of a teacher i am.

Finally, a new installment of "What does the rainy season mean to you?"
- night after night with no power
- mud everywhere, EVERYWHERE (on my shoes, in my shoes, on my pants,
in my pants, in my nose (it only happened once...)
- cancelling class because it's raining in the classroom
- wet towels
- clothes taking the entire week to dry

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mélange

Let me start out by saying it’s astounding how many of my students still spell English “inglish”. It kind of makes me feel like I’m a terrible teacher.

In other news, I’ve been trying to prepare my students for an upcoming debate with a school from Tanzania. It’s an all girls’ school that is coming for a Saturday and we are going to have sports competitions and a debate over whether mixed sex schools are better than single sex ones. We only really have a week left to get them ready, but they seem to be enjoying it! Of course, these are Anglophone students, not the ones who are misspelling English. A couple of our other teachers taught them all about debate theory and how to actually hold a debate, and now we need to help polish their arguments and get them ready for rebuttals. Step one: never say that teen pregnancy is a good reason to have mixed schools.

Lizard update! It seems I have learned the lifecycle of my household lizards. If you remember, when I first arrived I just had one or two tiny ones. Throughout the last couple of months I watched them grow up (and produce larger and larger amounts of lizard crap) and just the other day I spotted a new baby! It is less than 2 inches long and ridiculously cute! I was even able to catch it a one point and let it run around on the back of my hand.

I bought some Akabanga the other day (brand name pili-pili (super hot spicy flavouring)). Best purchase ever! It really makes gives mashed bananas a bit more of a flavour.

Last weekend we had a Cinco de Mayo party, which was a huge success! Not only did we do a book/movie/TV show exchange, but we had quesadillas, guacamole, margaritas and limes and salt with our beers. We’ve decided that we need more themed parties on the weekends, as it gives you something to look forward to if you’re having a rough week.

Finally, let me finish with a haiku entitled Full Moon:

Moon, you have saved me
From countless holes and puddles
When coming home, drunk

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back to the Grind Or, Mum should be proud!

“C’mon Andy, it’s just a little dirt. It’ll be fine!” Things I
probably wouldn’t have said to myself before coming to Rwanda.

Well, classes are up and running again, and most of the students are
back (by the end of the second week of class). We’ve started up the
English Clubs again and most importantly, the Library is open! We
haven’t had any official opening yet, but the school hired a full-time
librarian and students are now coming in and reading! It’s so
exciting; I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something here! I’ve
noticed that the majority of students are pursuing the French language
math and science books, but there’s also been interest in the English
language math and science, the newspapers and the magazines. Again,
if anyone wants to put together a package for me, magazines are great,
both for me and for my students. I really want to take some pictures
of the students sitting in the reading room, paging through textbooks
and newspapers, but oh yea, no camera. Grr. The only problem so far
is that the librarian has virtually no English, so communicating to
her that she should put books back onto certain shelves, such as
putting the math books in the math section, is a challenge. But I’ve
been making labels for the bookshelves out of construction paper
(thanks Mum and Dad!) and I think that’s starting to help.

Oh and BTW, I’m totally sporting the pant legs rolled up halfway to my
knees for the rest of the rainy seasons. That or the pants tucked
into my socks look. It depends on my mood.

Mum should be proud of me. I recently fixed a pair of pants using
sewing skills that must have lain dormant for years! A hem started
falling apart right in the ass of one of my pairs of pants (the Tilley
pants, at that, which I believe are “insured for life”, and must last
me at least for the rest of the year) so I decided to fix them! I
found a needle and thread, and sewed them right up! The only way Mum
would be prouder is if I knitted myself a new pair of pants. (Is that
the correct past tense of knit? Or would it be “I knat myself a new
pair of pants”?) N.B. I actually wrote this piece before I fixed the
pants. I did actually sew it up though, and I think it will hold, but
I probably would have just found someone else to do it if I hadn’t
found the idea of having knat pants so freaking hilarious. Sigh, I’ve
become a slave to my art.

Have you ever been boiling water and have the kerosene stove run dry,
only to realize that you have neither kerosene or clean drinking water
and that it’s too late to go buy some? Yea, I didn’t think so.

Finally, Happy Graduation to Alisha and everyone else who is
graduating from SDSU! And I suppose to anyone else who’s
graduating from other institutions, I just don’t know who you are

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Post-Uganda happenings

I actually wrote this blog at the same time as the previous one, but I
didn’t want to bore you guys with such a long post, so I broke it up a
little.

After returning to Rwanda, I stayed in Kigali for a night then headed
up to Kibuye for our program’s Mid-Service. Kibuye is a town in the
West, on the shores of Lake Kivu. We stayed at a guest house called
Home St. Jean, which was built on a hilltop peninsula surrounded on
three sides by the lake. Beautiful, to say the least. Mid-service
itself was mediocre, though I got some great ideas from other
volunteers. The best part of the weekend was a boat trip to a place
called Bat Island (exactly what it sounds like). The island itself
was pretty cool; the guide took us on a little walk, then started
clapping. This caused hundreds of bats that had been nesting in the
trees to take flight and fly around us. It was pretty cool, but a
couple of us got guanoed (I won’t name names…) Better than the island
though, was that we stopped the boat halfway there and a bunch of us
jumped in for a swim. It felt so good! I hadn’t gone swimming in a
while, and the water felt amazing! We were far enough from shore that
we didn’t have to worry about bilharzias or other parasites and the
lake had been calling out to us since we’d arrived. The only problem
was getting back into the boat. None of us looked graceful doing
that, let me tell you!

I’m now back in Nyakarambi, trying to get back into a routine. School
has started up again, technically on Monday, but I taught my first
class on Thursday. So it goes.

Also, President Paul Kagame was in town today! (Today being the day
of writing – Friday the 24th. Who knows when I’ll post this!) The
VSOs and I went over to the District office where he was supposed to
speak. The place was packed! It looked like the whole province
showed up. We managed to finagle our way under one of the tents to
get out of the sun, and we waited for about 4 hours until he came. In
the meantime we were entertained by singers, dancers and drummers.
The drummers were amazing, the dancers, pretty good, and I could have
done without the “singing”. Eventually, his Excellency showed up, the
crowd went wild, and he gave a speech. Entirely in Kinyarwanda of
course, so I didn’t understand a thing. But now I can say I’ve seen
him!

Hmm, this post isn’t nearly as interesting as the last one…

Pictures




Leaping photo! Thanks Dallas!




Dan and I on a boat on the Ssese Islands, Uganda. Thanks
Tina for letting us use your camera!

More Pictures



welcome to my banda...



Puppy!



Dan, me and Kurt Vonnegut



On the Beach



flower pic Uganda!

Uganda: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted and a lot has happened.
went Uganda for a week and a half, I spent a weekend in Kibuye, school
has started up again and I saw Paul Kagame speak. Where to start…

As you may have heard, we didn’t have the best first day in Uganda.
We took a coach bus North from Nyagatare, crossed the border and
started off on the dirt road on the Ugandan side. It had been raining
all morning and the road had turned to mud. About 45 minutes over the
border the bus started fishtailing and we slid into the ditch. After
an hour of us standing around in the mud and the rain, they managed to
push the bus back onto the road. As we were filing back on, I made an
innocuous little joke about how long it would take us to go off the
road again. Turned out the answer was about 30 minutes.

Once again, we fishtailed and went into the ditch. This time,
however, the ditch was quite a bit deeper, and the bus tipped over,
the left side slamming into the embankment, leaving us slanted at
about a 45-degree angle. Oh, I forgot to mention that the woman next
to me had been vomiting into a plastic bag earlier, and now, as I
wedged myself against the seat in front of me, holding up both of the
women next to me, that bag of vomit was smacking my arm again and
again. Of course, the main door to the bus was stuck in the mud, so
we had to swing/crawl/climb our way up to the very front and out the
driver’s door, then leap into the mud/road below.

For some reason, until I exited the bus, I held onto some hope that we
could somehow right it and keep going, but I immediately saw that this
was not likely. That bus was not going anywhere. (I actually
wouldn’t be surprised if it is still stuck there.) This left us with
the wonderful option of finding our own way to Kampala, so myself and
a couple of others hopped back onto the bus to retrieve our bags. It
was at this point, when I was standing on the off kilter doorway that
I noticed the truck barreling down the road at us. As it tried to
swerve around the bus, it too lost control and from my vantage point I
couldn’t tell if it would hit the bus (i.e. right where I was
standing) or if it would hit the opposite side of the road (i.e. right
where about 30 people were standing). I fell backwards into the bus
with the door slamming shut on me, and the truck proceed to plow into
the opposite side of the road. Amazingly, no one was seriously hurt!
Everyone managed to leap back into the field behind them, and the 10
or so people that had been riding on top of the truck jumped off
before it head the ditch.

Anyway, with the news of the bus crash, the scene was soon mobbed by
alternate forms of transportation, and we were able to find a matatu
heading all the way to Kampala. It seemed like a good idea at the
time. It turned out to be 8 of the most miserable hours of my life,
as well as the worst bus ride I’ve ever taken, including the one that
had just ended by crashing into a ditch. The dirt parts of the road
were still a sea of mud, the paved sections could only loosely be
described as such, the driver was ridiculously erratic, and I was
sitting in a folding seat with no back support or legroom. There was
one rest stop (where I first tried a Mirinda Fruity (like a Fanta
Grape) which they don’t have here in Rwanda, much to my dismay) and we
finally pulled into the Kampala New Taxi Park after dark. We quickly
found a motel (the Taj Motel) that had been recommended by a VSO, got
a room and collapsed onto the bed. At least the excitement was over
for the night, right? Right? Wrong!

When our hunger finally got the better of our exhaustion (we hadn’t
eaten anything yet that day), we ventured downstairs to the motel
restaurant. Let me emphasize that – we went to the restaurant IN our
motel. We had a great meal of fried chicken and chips, and tried our
first Uganda beers (which are quite delicious, especially the Nile
Special) and decided we quite liked Kampala. Once our hunger and our
thirst were slated, we headed back up to the room, unlocked the door
(yes, the door was still locked!) and walked in. It took a second for
it to dawn on us that the room was not how we left it. The contents
of our bags were strewn all over the floor, obviously rifled through.
We had been robbed! All three of us had our cameras and iPods stolen,
and the other two lost a good chunk of money. My money, which I had
stupidly left on the bed, was untouched. I had thrown a brightly
coloured plaid shirt (my new fav!) over it, and in their haste, the
thieves hadn’t looked under it! I complained to the front desk, but
seeing as the door was locked when we returned, and the windows were
barred, it had to have been either the staff or that the staff had
been bribed for a key. Needless to say, they were a big help.
(Sarcasm! Yeah!) Being too late to find a new place to stay, we
barricaded the door and went to sleep, leaving early the next morning
for a backpackers’ hostel.

First impressions: Uganda = the suck! No camera, which sucked for the
rest of the trip not being able to document any of the cool things we
saw, plus I had some really good pictures on it already! Fortunately,
we ran into some VSOs who let us use theirs for a day, so there might
eventually be some photos of the trip popping up on here. The iPod
wasn’t as bad as a loss, but still not cool. It was extremely nice
for long bus rides and for working out, plus I really don’t look
forward to the 20 hour flight home without one! I had also been
planning on using it in class to play my students music and podcasts.
Alisha had just sent me some mini speakers to use with it and I was
going to start using it this term. So, small request…if any of you
have an iPod that you really don’t need anymore, consider sending it
my way! (Earbuds too?) But let me know first, incase someone beat
you too it. (Oh, and I’m getting a camera sent to me already, so
don’t worry about that!)

The rest of the trip went swimmingly, so I’ll skim through it. We cut
out a couple items due to cost, like white water rafting on the Nile,
and chimp tracking. We spent an amazing couple of days on the Ssese
Islands on Lake Victoria. Our camp (Hornbill) had monkeys, a pool
table, an amazing beach (that I didn’t swim in due to various
parasites that I can’t spell and don’t want) and plenty of beer. We
also checked out the Botanical Gardens in Entebbe, a holdover from the
colonial period. (It was actually very similar to the one I visited
in Ghana, both being created by the British to house plants from all
over the Empire.) It also had monkeys. In Jinja we saw the source of
the Nile and stuck our hands in it. By “source” I mean it is where
the Nile exits Lake Victoria and first takes on it’s name. I’ll say
this, I thought that since it is where the Nile starts, it wouldn’t be
all the big, but I was wrong. It’s freakin’ huge right from the
get-go! We ended the trip in Kabale, just North of the Rwandese
border, which is known (by the locals at least) as the Switzerland of
East Africa. Lots of mountains and lakes, quite pretty!

I’d have to say that one of the best parts of the trip was the food.
Uganda is a lot cheaper than Rwanda, and we ended up eating pretty
well. The fish (carnivorous Nile Perch, mostly) from Lake Victoria
and the Nile were amazing, and in Kampala and Jinja we gorged
ourselves on food we can’t get/can’t afford here in Rwanda: Chinese,
Indian, Thai, Mexican, American, Italian.

Overall, despite the bus crashes and the robbery, the trip was a lot
of fun, and was totally worth it. It did make me appreciate certain
things about Rwanda a lot more as well (not the food though). Kigali
is not a normal Africa city. It is safe, clean and not too crowded.
Kampala is exactly the opposite. It’s considered safe compared to
Nairobi, but it’s extremely dirty, and packed to the brim with people.
The roads are way worse than Rwanda and the motos (boda-bodas as they
are called there) are not regulated – no helmets and the drivers
usually try to cram two passengers on the back to make more money.
(This actually feels quite secure in practice, as you are wedged in
there so tight it’s much easier to keep your balance!).

To sum up: I recommend Uganda as a tourist destination. Just don’t
stay at the Taj Motel!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hello everyone! I just wanted to post a quick note. I'll be in
Uganda for the next 10 days or so, visiting Kampala, game parks, the
Nile, Lake Victoria and who knows what else. Afterwards I'll be in
Kigali and Kibuye (on lake Kivu) for the rest of the holiday, then
back to work for term two. I'm pretty sure I'll have tons of stories
and hopefully pictures when i return.

Oh, and it's hard to believe, but I just passed the 3 month mark! Eep!

Miss you all!