Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Where there are bananas there are no secrets...

If anybody has an idea what this saying could possibly mean let me know. It was told to us at one of the sessions during training and upon arriving at my site, where there are over a million such trees, I've begun to wonder if this could have some profound implication...

Anyway, I've been at site three weeks now and it is great. So far I’ve explored a fair amount of the area and it is simply breathtaking. Sometimes I have to remind myself that this is still Africa because one moment the hills are shrouded in mist and it appears to be a tropical rainforest, and at other times I’ll be walking through a forest that feels surprisingly similar to one out in California! It is extremely beautiful. And very hilly—just the other day, after trekking through some bean fields and subsequently losing the trail, I ended up climbing up a 90 degree vertical staircase! Some boy who had decided to follow me, commented on how very tired the Msungu was. He was right, everywhere I go I end up breathing as if I was climbing Mt. Everest!! Taking my camera on these adventures is somewhat tricky though, since the neighborhood children all want to have their picture taken and they love to follow me around! Hopefully these pictures can illustrate my inadequate description.

Two weeks ago a group of Engineers without Borders (EWB) flew in from Wisconsin. Over the past few years they have been working on a couple of different projects, including a pipeline and helping the community cultivate plots of land in order to grow and sell certain crops. Last Sunday we were all introduced to the community at the local church. We attended the second mass which, because it was the first Sunday after the New Year, took 3 and half hours!! But most of the town found out who we are which is good.

It has not only been pleasant but extremely advantageous having EWB around. Due to their well-established presence in the community I have been able to meet new contacts and as a result become a bit more involved in some programs taking place. This past week I helped at a local English club that is an essential part to a larger goal in developing the capacity and knowledge of the people here. Hopefully I will be able to help out at a local school garden that has been recently created as part of a widespread initiative to address the needs of the community, one of which is malnutrition in children. That, or maybe I could start weeding the garden right outside my window at the convent.

Did I not mention the convent yet? I reside in one of the guestrooms that the sisters usually rent to guests. That is where the engineers were staying while they were here. Every day I usually take all my meals with the sisters who are very kind and caring-- it reminds me of living with a host family. At the moment everything is quite comfortable and quiet (well, except for the very irate cow that wakes me up every morning at 6 am!!) but I think the situation will change once the students and teachers arrive at the end of the month for the start of school.

I am beginning to see the impact that my role as an English teacher can and will have on the people in this area. Learning English will not only allow them to come together but also help them gain a better foothold among the rest of the East African Community. Development is happening everywhere around Rwanda. I mentioned in my last blog that the main road has construction going on 24/7 and sometime within the next year there will be electricity in the town!!

Yesterday I attended my first Rwandan wedding! Or should I say, the dowry ceremony. This is the initial scene where the two families of the bride and groom come together and officially meet. There were two rows set up facing each other, in which the elder members of the families sit and chat. There is a Master of Ceremonies figure who facilitates the conversation between the two parties negotiating the marriage.These are usually the grand males of the family. Although I barely understood any of what went on I did gather that there was much merriment and mirth among the crowd. Ripples of chuckles skirted the fringes of the gathering as the the two granddaddies "bargained" the price of the dowry. All the while there sat a rock in the center; this is apparently used to grind sorghum beans into beer!! A wooden statue of a man holding a pot of the traditional brew stands to the front of the stone, enjoying his beverage.


  1. Very interesting! Love to read the blog. Your pictures are a wonderful accompaniment.

  2. I absolutely LOVE reading your posts, Avery!!! I will just have to live vicariously through you :-) And the pictures are beautiful, but then again, it is pretty difficult to take a bad picture in Rwanda!