Saturday, December 5, 2009
It's Menshi Time!!
Hello all, just got back from a run where I was joined by several neighborhood children. Although Model school is over and we have been here a considerable amount of time, the Msungus are still a bit of a novelty, apparently. Anyway, I enjoyed the challenge that the kids presented; at one point I even raced them down the road. I bet I looked like I was about to collapse but I have to say that they were pretty impressive running alongside me, barefoot!
A couple of weeks ago I went to visit a current Peace Corps volunteer over in the western region of the country. It was amazingly beautiful and when we went on a hike I took a billion pictures. I just can’t seem to get enough of the landscape of this country!! En route, my friend, Chris and I witnessed the Wooden Bike Classic race--see pics above. Within our group there are about 20 former volunteers who served in Mauritania so it is completely different setting for them. How vast and diverse Africa can be!!! Personally, I find it a treat to have them on board with the rest of us, “newbies” since we can learn to appreciate all that Rwanda has to offer while also learning the ins and outs of Peace Corps policies and procedures from veteran volunteers.
Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving the traditional way, well, as traditional as possible using a hole dug in the ground and outdoor fire pits. In other words, there was turkey for those who eat meat, one of which the U.S ambassador brought as a gift. Aside from that there was macaroni and cheese, some kind of sacatash-like guacamole mixture, (so good! we barely ever eat corn here so that was a tremendous surprise to find corn among our
food choices!!) green bean casserole, stuffing, a quiche for the veggies, and tons of dessert options such as mango pie, pineapple pie, crepes with chocolate sauce, banana bread, and pumpkin pie which the ambassador also brought, and was absolutely heavenly. I helped make mashed potatoes and no-bake cookies which turned out really well. The potatoes could have used more salt but I’ve never had to cook for 40 people before so that was a learning experience.
A few days after Thanksgiving some of the other trainees celebrated a Muslim holiday which revolves around the slaughtering of a goat (or two in this case). Needless to say, I did not partake in the festivities. I was told that the significance behind the celebration evolved from a biblical story about God swooping down to save a son from being murdered by his father.
Excellent bit of news!! There is a cheese factory here and we have finally sniffed it out!! We tracked it down the other day and managed to bring together the ingredients necessary to make grilled cheese which is exactly what some of us did the other night and it was delicious. If it seems as if all I can write about is food it may be because that’s all I can think about! We tend to torture ourselves by discussing which culinary delights we miss the most from home. Taco bell is a prominent character, along with anything cheese-related. Me, I miss potato chips, ice cream, and for some reason, lately I’ve been craving some authentic Chinese take-out!!
I know that I wrote at length about the difficulties of learning Kinyarwanda in the last blog but after having finished Model school we have been tossed back into language class every day so naturally it’s on my mind. Never before have I so frequently been on the verge of tears, granted it’s usually combined with laughter but it’s a close call as to whether those are tears of joy of hysteria. However, whenever I visit my host family they praise my language skills so I must be doing something right. I guess we’ll see when the final exam rolls takes place next week!!
My host family is great, I really enjoy spending time with them. Now that the kids have been back awhile it is slightly easier to hold a conversation with them since they know near-to-perfect English. Last week I was able to spend some quality time with them while I got my hair done. Correction: while my head was pulled and tugged at from all possible angles, a small portion of the community came over to view the crazy Msungu getting menshi (braids) in her hair!! At one point, my host mom said something which made everybody giggle. It turns out there is a proverb in Kinyarwanda that says (loosely translated) “a girl will go a long way for what she wants.” Evidently the veins were popping in my head as the hairdresser yanked at my hair. But my host mom was right because after 8+ hours of sitting on the living room floor it definitely paid off and I love my menshi!! They are more like kinky twists than braids which makes them even greater in my book. I don’t know
how but they magically seem to stay twisted within my own hair!! The overall reception to them has been very pleasing too, from the women who work at the internet café to local shopkeepers and random strangers on the street as I pass by: “your hair are wonderful!” yay!!
Next week is the last week before we are officially sworn in to become Peace Corps volunteers. We still have not been told the location of our permanent sites but probably we will be informed of that vital information by Monday or Tuesday of next week.
Hope all is well back in the states!!
Every (oh whoops, guess I’m just used to seeing my name spelled like that now)
Oh, and I've included a pic of my house at the beginning of this blog--nothing like waiting until the 9th week I'm here to post a picture of my home!