I moved to my training site today. I am in a city called Nyanza, which in ancient times was the capital of Rwanda, later was the city where the King resided and is now just a medium sized village in between Kigali and Butare. I can still see the King’s mansion from the dormitory where I will be spending the next 10 weeks.
I am sharing a room with four people in bunk beds, all of which are Mauritanian transfers. My initial concern with this arrangement is inability to connect with most of the kids who are coming from Mauritania. They are a well established, tightly knit group, and rightfully so based on the stories I’ve been hearing. I suppose this is a natural karmatic challenge to see how well I am able to integrate into a group that is not immediately interested in my company. The much larger step in the same vein will be making the same attachments in my site once training is over.
I feel that the Peace Corps is a much better oiled machine than it appeared at first, now that I am actually in country. Everything I’ve been through thus far seems to occur in steps in order to make adaptation as easy as humanly possible. So far it has been a very organic experience. This new compound has electricity, showers that may or may not work, and squat toilets that need to be flushed by filling up a bucket of water and forcing it down a hole. The toilet situation is the most severe change from the convent we stayed at in Kigali. I am hopeful that at my site I will have some form of electricity and perhaps a viable water source.
The most unusual thing about Rwanda is the feeling that I am in a zoo or “fish bowl syndrome” as some have been calling it. I am not entirely sure how to respond to all the staring. Normally all you have to do is wave and say “Muraho” and they will smile back and give you some sort of greeting, but you can’t stop and say hello to every person on the street, and literally every person on the street stares at you. When we are inside the courtyard of our compound children run up to the gate and watch us. Even if we’re not doing anything in particular they just stay there and watch us for as long as we’re out there. So far no one has been unkind, and in no way do I feel threatened, but it can be a little unnerving at times.
Right now people are outside learning some traditional Rwandan songs and dances, so I ought to stop writing and actually go experience some of this culture I am supposed to be trying to become a part of.