Many things have happened since my last blog post, so I’ll do my best to update it thoroughly. I’ve left the capital, and am now residing in a small village, which is called Rusumo by those in Kigali (referring to all the villages on the road from Kibungo to the Tanzanian border) and called Nyakarambi by its residents. We have a bus stop, a petrol station, a couple restaurants, a few stores and electricity from 6 pm to 10 pm. Every Wednesday, the population triples, as a market springs up right behind my house, bringing people and goods from all across the area. It’s a great time to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables for the week (like pineapples, bananas and passion fruit) or to buy clothes, school supplies, kitchen utensils, anything. The closest internet that I am aware of is in Kibungo, the largest town in the area, but it’s a bit of a bus ride from Nyakarambi. I’ll have to get into some sort of routine with this so I can keep up on my correspondence and my blogging.
My living arrangements consist the back half on a house. I have two bedrooms (so I welcome visitors! Please!) and a living room with some chairs, a table and a desk. (Due to their respective sizes, however, the desk functions as my dinner table and the table is an acting desk.) Unfortunately, there is no running water, so the toilet is an outhouse (not bad during the day, but it swarms with cockroaches at night) and the shower is a small room with a bucket. (I’m actually getting quite proficient at the bucket shower, if I do say so myself.)
I teach at a high school in the next town. It’s a bit of a hassle to get to every day, but so far I’ve been taking a moto (motorcycle taxi) each morning and walking a mile to the bus stop, then busing back after school. It’s been working so far, but once the rainy season hits it’ll get a bit messier. Also, we almost hit a cow a couple days ago. This week I’ve been teaching English to S2s and S5s (the equivalent of Grade 8 and Grade 11), and I might be picking up an S1 biology class and possibly a class entitled “Entrepreneurship”, which I believe to be basic economics. The kids are great, as are the other teachers, who do their best to speak in English when I’m around. I’ve discovered that, so far at least, I really enjoy teaching, but I despise lesson planning.
Everywhere I go, lately, I’m followed by cries of “Muzungu! Muzungu!” You see, the children around here don’t see whites very often, so it’s a bit of a novelty for them to see me walking back from school or around town. On my second day here, I went for a walk from one end of town to the other, just to check it out. I got out to Eastern end, and all of a sudden about 20 kids materialized, saying “Muzungu!” and “Bonjour! Comment ca va? Amakuru? Good morning, teacher!” (They all just seem to assume I’m a teacher.) Then whenever I tried to answer them, in any of those three languages, they would bust out in giggles. Another time, I was walking back from school, on the phone with one of the other volunteers, when I noticed I had a group of about 10 kids following me, with their heads craned at an awkward angle. It took me a while to realize they were trying to listen to what the person on the other end of the phone was saying.
Of course, it’s not just the little kids that laugh at me. I always try to great everyone I pass in Kinyarwanda, usually saying “Mwaramutse” or “Mwiriwe” (Good morning/good afternoon). I occasionally follow-up with an “Amakuru?” (How are you?). People seem to really like this, and they usually crack a smile and return the greeting. However, little old ladies seem to find me talking in Kinyarwanda to be one of the funniest things imaginable. They tend to burst out laughing, reply in great detail (which I don’t usually understand) then say things to their friends (of which I can usually only pick out the words Muzungu and Kinyarwanda). I imagine the novelty will wear off eventually, once they’ve seen me around enough, but for now I’ll just have to get used to people yelling “Hey Whitey!” at me.
In regards to the modified Palin quote in the title, I can’t actually see Tanzania from my house, just from my classroom window. Does this still qualify me for national office?
Speaking of which, Tuesday night was quite interesting. I had planned on listening to Obama’s Inauguration on the radio (probably Voice of America or BBC) but a local restaurant with a generator hooked up their TV, managed to find CNN and invited people to come watch it! It was quite an event. We crammed 30 people into a tiny room, the Mutzigs and Primuses (local beers) were flowing and those who knew English were translating for those who didn’t. The room erupted into cheers when we first saw Obama, then again when Biden took the oath, when Obama took the oath, and several more times during his speech. Whenever Bush appeared on the screen, the crowd broke out into chuckles and jokes. Even here in Africa – pretty much the only continent where he is viewed more positively than negatively – his incompetence and uselessness is clear. All in all, it was a great night and it’s wonderful to be able to say “President Obama!” (And no, Jenny, Diane Feinstein is not Obama’s wife.)
(And did anyone count the number of times I used parenthesis? Is 15 too many, Dallas?)
Oh, and btw, just to make all of you who are stuck in the frozen climes of North America jealous, I had corn on the cob yesterday. And it was gooooood.