North America, Africa · 332 Days · 20 Moments · June 2017

Peace Corps Rwanda '17-'19

4 May 2018

On Friday I traveled to my friend Elsa's village in Muhanga district to conduct a malaria training with 25 mothers on their weekly vaccination day. We talked about the best ways to prevent malaria, played a short true/false game, and did net repair and washing demonstrations! Massive thank you goes to Elsa's counterpart Protais for helping to translate our message as our kinyarwanda skills are still prettyyyyy bad πŸ€·πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

27 April 2018

Last month my house had a bit of an ikibazo (ee-chee-bah-zoh; problem). Due to all of the rain we've been having, one of the walls of my house started to crumble. Within two weeks, however, my landlord arranged for 8 men to tear down the walls, construct a more solid foundation, rebuild the walls, paint and clean good as new. It took them almost 3 weeks to complete but I made some new friends along the way. I'm so grateful for the hard work these men put into the house and for making me feel comfortable throughout the process. Murakoze cyane!

1 April 2018

I was honored to spend Easter Sunday at my friend Jean-Paul and his new wife Jeanine's wedding in Nyanza. Traditional Rwandan weddings have three parts: the dowry ceremony where it is traditional for the groom's family to give the bride's family a cow (although this part is increasingly becoming symbolic as families opt to give money instead of an actual cow), the religious marriage ceremony, and finally the reception. Being that the wedding took place in Nyanza town, the site of the old Kingdom of Rwanda, we stopped for a photo shoot at the King's Palace in between the religious ceremony and the reception. We took hundreds of photos but unfortunately Journi only allows me to select 10. Although I was sick and didn't eat all day, it was one of the most culturally enriching experiences of my service so far. Thank you Jean-Paul and Jeanine!!

19 November 2017

What a busy week! I was lucky enough to spend my 25th birthday with a group of friends in Kigali en route to our In Service Training with Peace Corps in Lake Muhazi, Eastern Province Rwanda. The 10 day training featured lessons on grant writing, activity planning, and efficient high yield permagardening with our Rwandan counterparts. It was so great to see everyone, exchange stories, and most importantly share a Thanksgiving meal together. It was sad to be away from family for the holiday but we all agreed we've found a new family here in Rwanda and have so much to be thankful for :)

10 November 2017

Yesterday my village held a sector wide celebration for National Handwashing Day (which, incidentally was in October but it's unclear why we waited until November to celebrate). In any case, the celebration included a demonstration of building a handwashing station and game show style trivia questions about the importance of handwashing, when it is necessary to wash our hands, materials to use, etc. At the end of the game, the people who answered correctly were given prizes such as Jerrycans, soap, buckets and shoes. Multiple Nyanza district and Muyira sector administrators were in attendance so it was good opportunity to meet and greet with some of the local leaders in the area.

21 October 2017

A few of us met at one of our fellow PCV's village bar in Huye district this weekend. Most Rwandan bars are pretty similar: you've got Red Bars (sponsored by the beer brand Mutzig) or Blue Bars (sponsored by Primus). They are usually quite small and enclosed, with a few plastic tables and chairs scattered around. So I was shocked to find this beautiful and very large bar built into the rice fields of a remote village outside of Huye. The story goes that a few years ago a German architect visited the area, put a lot of money into building the bar, and then up and left. Needless to say if it had a Yelp page, I would give it 5 stars and an excellent review.

14 October 2017

Took a day trip to my regional banking town and noticed something familiar! Rheinland-Pfalz (the state we lived in in Germany from '95-'99) has a development partnership with Rwanda and appears to have been involved with the construction of this school. Nice to get a little slice of my old home all the way out here in Rwanda :)

23 September 2017

Last weekend I joined my coworker and friend Immacule and her husband Claude in celebrating their daughter Keila's 2nd birthday. Here's a quick glimpse into most Rwandan celebrations: - Squeeze as many chairs and people as possible into a room - Quietly mingle/stare at the strange muzungu - Laugh at the muzungu's failed attempts to engage - The host of the event introduces the guests at which point we all take turns saying "Halleluja!" - Pastor leads us in an animated prayer for 20+ minutes - EAT-- buffet, Rwandan style (carbs, carbs, and a side of carbs) - Another round of prayers from the pastor - Main event-- in this case Claude and Immacule brought a cake and we joined them in singing happy birthday to Keila (in English!) - 30 minutes of pictures
As I sat on my front stoop greeting the passersby and playing with the neighborhood kids like I do most afternoons these days, an idea occurred to me: "Children, we're going for a walk let's go." Despite the confusion (walks for the sake of walking isn't exactly a Rwandan pastime), my little human friends were excited to lead me up and over a mountain to the neighboring village called Nyaragunga. They insisted on stopping for photos along the way of course.

18 September 2017

My greatest source of anxiety: Monday evening market. My village has its large market day on Monday evenings where dozens of vendors from the surrounding area meet in the center of town to sell the vegetables they cultivated throughout the week. It's also a chance for everyone to catch a glimpse of the new and exceptionally large muzungu (foreigner) girl stumble over her kinyarwanda in an attempt to bargain with the merchants. Gone are the days of the relaxing and anonymous stroll around the grocery store, absent mindedly scanning the shelves for something fun to cook this week- or to pop in the microwave for 90 seconds πŸ’”. No, my market experience is categorized by incessant staring, snickering, a group of 6-10 children following me through the crowd, and exclamations of "Ah! Ego ko! Azi ikinyarwanda!" (Wow! She knows kinyarwanda!)

31 August 2017

I live in a duplex about a 10 minute walk from the Health Center. My neighbors include Gaby the HC cashier, his wife Fanny and their baby (also called Gaby), my landlord Steven and his 7 year old son Chanso. Here are a couple pictures of the view from my house (the door on the right of picture number 3). Also featured is a shot of the charcoal stove on which I cook all my meals and of course adorable baby Gaby and mom Fanny :)

20 August 2017

New home, new friends :)

16 August 2017

Officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer! It's been a stressful 9 weeks leading up to this point but I'm so proud of myself and the rest of my cohort for making it this far. The swearing in ceremony took place at the ambassador's residence in Kigali and after some speeches from my colleagues in English, French and Kinyarwanda, we performed the oath of service for government employees and the Peace Corps. In addition to some shots of my good looking cohort, this stream of photos also features my last taste of western delights before heading out to village: snickers gelato at a mall in Kigali 🀀 I'll be dreaming about this while I live on rice at site. Any suggestions for simple homemade meals with a few locally found ingredients are welcome and encouraged 😁

11 August 2017

Sad to say goodbye to the people who have taught me so much these last few months in Rwamagana, but I'm excited to officially swear in as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kigali on Wednesday! Next stop, Nyanza for 2 years :)

12 July 2017

Eek sorry for the hiatus. Anyway, I've been assigned to a small village called Musenyi in Nyanza District, Southern Province. Excited to see what the next two years working at Ikigo Nderabuzima Nyamure (Nyamure Health Center) has in store!

17 June 2017

Went for a walk around the outskirts of Rwamagana with some friends yesterday. We met Pastor Emmanuel, the pastor of the Pentecostal church in town who said he loves Americans! We're hoping to find his church today to attend his 1 pm English service and get to know him a little better. It's so easy to make friends in this country. Just a simple smile and mweriwe (good afternoon) and suddenly you're having a conversation whether you understand each other or not. Many times I find myself smiling, shrugging and saying "simbyumva!" (I don't understand), but I count it as a successful interaction either way πŸ‘ŒπŸ½

15 June 2017

The walk home from class this evening. What looks like fog is actually the smoke coming from families in the village using their charcoal stove to cook dinner.

10 June 2017

Today we moved out of the hotel in Kigali (turns out it's pronounced Chigali) and to our training site an hour east in a town called Rwamagana. Upon our arrival, we immediately filed into a room where 25 Rwandan moms and/or dads were eagerly waiting for their trainee assignment. After a few logistical reminders, the housing manager read out the assignments and naturally, being at the beginning of the alphabet my name was called first. The last few days had been building up to this moment and my nerves had been getting the better of me... what if my Kinyarwanda never improves and I can't communicate with my family? How do I navigate all these unseen cultural nuances? Will I offend them without the slightest clue I'm doing it? Needless to say my palms were quite sweaty. As my name was called my beaming host mom ran across the room and wrapped me in the tightest bear hug while repeating "welcome welcome welcome Morgan!" Updates to come as I get to know my new Rwandan family.

8 June 2017

7 June 2017

Greetings from Kigali! We finally landed around 9 pm after a quick pit stop in Entebbe, Uganda to drop off a few passengers. It was a long journey but we were all so happy to step off the plane and see a group of Peace Corps staff welcome us with open arms. We immediately hopped on a bus for the hotel in Kigali where they served us a delicious meal of fresh veggies (including the biggest and greenest avocados I've ever seen), pasta, chicken, rice, banana stew, and of course our very first malaria pill. Rumor has it this medication gives you trippy dreams so stay tuned. I'm in the hotel room now and after a nice, hot, and long overdue shower it feels great to sit back and relax after what has been a long 8 month journey. This feels right.

6 June 2017

This post goes out to those who thought I would never post pictures/updates (looking at you mom)... so without further ado: Wheels up! πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ-->πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺ-->πŸ‡·πŸ‡Ό