Sunday, March 29, 2009


Science training: In Kigali at the start of the year, being trained to
teach biology and chemistry. It was quite useful! And yes, I know I have a flower in my hair. Isn’t it pretty?


Close up!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Exam week

Exam week is finally over. Who knew how exhausting it would be?
(Teachers, probably.) I supervised 8 different examination periods
and as of this writing, I’ve marked almost 200 exams. I’ve got about
another 130 to go. (When I said last week I had 140 exams to mark, I
was confused. That was just one class’ worth.) Whereas everything I
own is usually covered in chalk, now everything is getting ruined by
red ink. I’m also veering closer and closer to insanity. It probably
shouldn’t bother me so much that more than half of my students can’t
spell the words ‘holiday’ or ‘exam’ (or that I didn’t realize that
most of them didn’t know what ‘spell’ meant until the week before the
exams), but it does. There has also been some new information just
given to me by the head teacher about how I was supposed to structure the
exams and how many points I should have collected from the students
during the first term. Damn lot of good it does me when I find out on
the last day of exams. Oh well, I guess I know for next term.

On a brighter note, I got limes at the market! (Or Consol got them
for me.) I actually asked for two or three, but I ended up with about
10. Any ideas about what I can do with them? I’ve been squeezing
them into my water, but I still have more than I need.

Interesting fact for the week: When talking about music, some genres
are easy to explain. Others, such as Folk, Indie and Country and
Western, are a little harder.

One week until I go to Kampala! Getting very excited! The trip might
also interfere with blogging so don’t worry if I don’t post for the
next 2 or three weeks.


Oh, and Steve, I’m pointedly ignoring your inane comments.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why are there always bug stories?

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in Rwanda for almost three months. I
still have no idea what is going on (about school, and most things in
general) and I feel like an outsider. At the same time though, I’m
getting into a routine and things have been going pretty smoothly for
me lately. Classes have been good, the library is coming along quite
well, and I’ve been getting by pretty well in Nyakarambi. With exams
this coming week, and then a two-week holiday, that routine is going
to be pretty well messed up, but it’ll be a nice change as well,
especially if the Uganda trip happens.

I had a good St. Patrick’s Day, hanging out with the Irish VSO.
Funnily enough, when I talked to them, neither one remembered that it
even was St. Paddy’s Day. Of course, I had to “take the piss out of
them” to use the Irish slang. (It means I made fun of them.) We ended
up at the Ikarezi, a hotel/bar where we enjoyed some Primus/Mutzig
(neither were green, unfortunately) and a nice dinner of brochettes
and chips.

I’m back in Kigali for the second weekend in a row. I wouldn’t have
needed to, except when I went to the post office to pick up my
packages last Saturday (and apparently I have two waiting for me!), I
found out that it is only open during the week. I guess you can send
mail, but you can’t pick it up. Needless to say, I was extremely
disappointed, as the packages reportedly contain some books, DVDs
(including the first episode of this season of Lost!!!) and most
importantly: candy.

Another couple bug updates: My home has been invaded by June bug like
bugs the last couple of nights. Now, I don’t like June bugs back home
(as I’m quite certain one will fly into my ear eventually), but these
are quite a bit worse. They still aim for my head quite consistently,
but when they get into my house, they fly around the room flying into
everything. Being very loud, my evenings are often interrupted by a
and swat it out of the air with an English textbook.

The other bug incident was quite strange. Last Sunday, I woke up with
the crows as usual and I decided to stay in bed and read for a while.
So I untucked my mosquito netting, reached for my book and got a
handful of slug. Remember, this is Africa, so these aren’t your
everyday, garden-variety slugs; these things are several inches long.
The real question is how (and why) it got through my door, across the
room, up the table and onto the book. Also, it was gross.

Let’s hope I am able to post again, and that I haven’t been driven
insane by the 140-odd exams I have to grade next week…

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Post Haircut

I’d like to start off by saying Happy birthday Grandma! Hope you have
a great day, and that things are going well in St Thomas! Oh, and i
just saw two palm trees, so I suppose there are at least a couple here
in Rwanda.

Things are going well here in Nyakarambi. The first term is almost over;
in fact, I finished my classes this week. Next week is all review,
the week after is exams and the next one is for marking. After that,
I get two weeks holiday! I’m not sure what I’ll be doing for that,
but most likely traveling, possibly to Uganda.

During last couple days, we’ve been painting the library at my school.
I don’t mean just painting the walls white, or what have you, but
actually painting art/pictures onto the walls. It’s great! We got a
couple of VSO artists to come down, as well as a Rwandese artist from
Kigali. We also got the kids involved. We had about 10 students
working there yesterday, painting pictures of everything from cows and
pigs to microscopes and cells. It is going to look amazing when it’s
finished, and I’ll try to post some photos (if the internet lets me).

Last weekend I finally got to go see more of the countryside. We had
a muzungu party in Kibungo with Worldteachers, VSOs and a guy from
some health organization. After that I headed up to Nygatare to visit
some other people in my program. Nygatare is in the north-east part
of the country, pretty much my counterpart in the north: the
volunteers there can see Uganda from their house. It’s a nice town,
larger than here, and much flatter. It looks like it’s trying to be
what you would think of as stereotypical Africa savannah. Apparently
they also have monkeys. As you can imagine, I was quite disappointed
that I didn’t see any.

I guess that’s about it for this week. I’m heading into Kigali for
the weekend (in desperate need of hitting the bank and buying some
anti-malarials), so hopefully everything is open when I need it!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

So I got in a motorcycle accident…

The view from the library windows

Ok, so it’s not quite as bad as it sounds. My usual moto driver couldn’t make it to pick me up on Wednesday, so he sent another driver. Only problem was, I don’t think this guy had his license. As we rounded a bend in the road, he saw the police up ahead, stopping cars and checking licenses, so he pulled a u-turn, and we headed back to Nykarambi. At this point I was wondering if he was just going to hand me off to another driver, but instead he decided to take a different route that would allow us to bypass the cops. He pulls off the road onto a dirt path, and from here on out we are practically off-roading it. Eventually we are driving down a hill on what can only really be described as a goat path when the driver loses control and we go down. I mean that literally. He swerved a couple times then the motorcycle just fell over on top of us. Of course, I landed in the mud, so I was quite muddy for class. I also landed on my shoulder kind of hard. It’s a little sore, but it could have been worse! Anyway, it makes for a good story at least…
Other than that, things are going pretty well. Classes are doing fine, only one week left, plus a week of review, before exams. With a couple of my classes it seems like I really haven’t taught them enough to give them an exam, but I suppose I’ll come up with something. The library is also coming along. A whole bunch of books showed up this week (from where? I have no idea!) and it’s a bit crazy in there now. I’ve spent the last couple days moving cupboards around and trying to figure out where to put the books. We still have virtually no literature, but at least we now have some textbooks!
Lizard update: I had my first confirmed sighting of two little lizards on my ceiling at the same time. Now I have to come up with another name…
I had a request that I talk a little about the food I’ve been eating. I suppose it can be mostly summed up by saying: bananas. Also plantains. I am getting so sick of bananas and plantains. The food is great, don’t get me wrong, but when practically every meal includes either bananas or plantains, it gets a little tiresome.
Breakfast: usually bread with peanut butter. I finally bought some Tupperware in Kigali, so I’m no longer fighting with the ants over my bread. I also sometimes have a couple passion-fruit, or an omelet cooked onto a piece of very flat dough or a banana.
Lunch: the school provides lunch for the teachers. Until this week it was free, but the teachers were complaining about the quality/quantity of the food so now we are paying an extra 1500 RFW a month to improve it. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the food, until I realized that for many of the teachers, lunch is the only meal they eat. Usually lunch consists of rice, beans (sometimes with cabbage mixed in) and ugali (which I believe to be pounded cassava). Lately they’ve also begun serving – banana mash.
Supper: most of the time, Consol, my house-girl (the easiest way to describe her, but not really accurate) cooks supper. She is an amazing cook, and there can be quite a bit of variety. Often there is rice or chips (French fries for you North Americans), and some sort of ....casserole? stew? I’m not really sure what to call it. It’s often made of some combination of beans, cabbage, plantains, bananas, potatoes, peanuts, a spinach-like vegetable and tomatoes (usually just two or three of these per pot). A couple times a week we also have a sauce with a couple chunks of meat to get our protein. For dessert there is pineapple, passion-fruit or, you guessed it, bananas! (Also, some assorted candy that I got in a package from home.)
Going out to eat here in Nyakarambi doesn’t provide a lot of options. There are two places that have good food, and they really only have one thing on the menu: goat brochette (meat on a stick) with a plate of chips and sometimes a small salad (made of cabbage) with mayonnaise dressing. It’s pretty good, but last time I ordered it, they were out of chips, so they gave me…fried bananas.
In my free time I’ve been on a bit of a Canadian Indie music kick. I’ve been listening to old CBC Radio 3 podcasts (available on iTunes if you have Internet) as well as listening to all the Canadian music on my computer. The Arcade Fire, Immaculate Machine and Broken Social Scene help me get through the night.
Side note: while I was writing this blog, two swallows flew into my room and circled it, squawking, for about three minutes.