Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas grinch in Rwanda

So, it turns out most of the clichés about Peace Corps are true. Unfortunate but my reality nevertheless. When I first came to my site and to Rwanda, I kinda ignored a lot of them and just rolled with it because I was new and didn’t want to rock the boat. Actually, I think I was a little numb through it all, which is my typical response to new situations. But the other day, it hit me. It is really hard to work here and get things done. After months of trying to get students to regularly come to my English class and actually be on time, I have just given that up. When they ask me why I stopped teaching English, I just tell them that people never came and when they did come, they were half an hour late or more. Ironically, its usually the ones who never come to my English class who are the most interested in why I have stopped teaching and when will I pick it up.

On to the next topic. I can predict now when my supervisors and partners or political bigwigs in my town will miss meetings or appointments with me. Almost always. It takes weeks or months to get things finalized because people never have a definite schedule or they overbook themselves like American doctors. And one of them always has the nerve to ask me when I will get a certain project done or a certain paper written when it is a huge task that depends on others’ collaboration and it’s really none of his concern anyway.

Now, what tops that though is trying to do project planning and budgeting because we have to speak three freaking languages to get our point across to each other (not to mention that none of us are fluent in each others’ language). Give you a quick example. I’m trying to budget construction of a chicken house. We ask a guy’s help and he rattles off figures and prices in kinyarwanda. All very good but then one of the guys has to try to translate building materials and prices to me by hand gestures, pointing or a mix of French, English and Kinyarwanda. Then, we have to get on the same page about dimensions and we have a long argument about whether we should buy traditional chickens or the new exotic breeds (or modern breeds) that lay more eggs, etc. My argument is that we should use the traditional breeds since they are acclimated to the harsh living conditions and are less likely to die to diseases and no food. Then, the others whine about how it’s according to the national policy to raise the modern breeds. Their only argument. My thinking is that it kind of defeats the purpose of giving away chickens if they’re just going to die once we give them away. Seriously, the villagers just let the chickens roam completely free. They don’t feed them, protect them from predators or build them a little house to nest and roost.

It’s all so excruciatingly frustrating. I’m lucky I have a pretty calm temperament. I’ve been stood up, delayed and told false promises to so many times that it’s so tempting to not do anything. But if I do nothing, I just get bored and that’s even worse.

One last thing and I’m finished with my pity party. My computer, after six years of existence, is giving serious signs of old age. My cable started burning up a few weeks ago and when it finally started smoking, I decided it was time to replace it. This past weekend, I went into the capital and bought another cable for $50. My computer almost immediately started burning this new cable as well so that it melted into my computer. Seriously. I cannot pull it out. Surprisingly, it still works (most of the time) which is why I’m writing this blog to you right now. I hope it lasts till next May so I can buy a new computer when I visit home. I don’t think it will though.

Well, that’s all I have to say for now. Sorry to be such a bummer on my blog but I’m just in a bad mood. Been in one for a while, I think. I’ve been going through so much chocolate in my house that I think I am creating cavities. I’ve also found a new taste for icing. I buy confectioner’s sugar in the city and I make icing and just eat it straight up although sometimes I make a cake too. The day before, I had icing for dinner and then for breakfast the next morning. I do that sometimes and when I have a bad day, I eat one of those Mounds bars that Mom sent me. I guess I’m taking my emotions out on food because when I go to Kigali, I get a half kilo of ice cream and eat it all in one setting. I haven’t cooked a decent meal in about a week and a half. I’ve literally been living off of sweets and bread. The irony of it all is that I’m creating a community nutrition program right now, and I’ve been eating so awful. The other irony is that I hardly ever ate sweets in America. Cakes would grow stale and ice cream would get freezer burn. Now, I will eat one of my cakes in about one or two days.


  1. trish my name is andy and i am an rpcv lesotho 2002-2004.i totally feel for you, it is very frustrating. something i learned while i was there is africa was totally screwed up before i got there and it will still be totally screwed up when i leave you don't change africa africa changes you. it's all about control and the only thing you control is your actions and emotions. when you find yourself frustrated with a situation or person, try focusing on why your feeling that way and what that says about you. most often it will be an emotional attachment to an outcome and that my dear is the greatest self cruelty we inflict upon ourselves. look inside and enjoy the ride, it's over before you know it. nuttin but love darlin king kabelo ntate maholo

  2. Trish, sometimes life just sucks. No matter what country you find yourself in. The positive side of your little soapbox is that it shows us how much you care about what you're doing. Injustice and helplessness most hurt the ones that care about the situation. Hang in there. I love you!