Thursday, February 17, 2011

Catch-up of service

Wow, so I haven’t updated this blog in about eight months. I started several times only to erase and desist to post anything. It’s not that things haven’t happened. Oh, they have happened. I guess I’ve been busy. So, to any readers who are not my family (if there are any), let me catch you up on what’s happened since the summer of 2010. I will try not to be tedious but in the interest of completing my Peace Corps story, I feel a duty to fill in the gaps.
So, as you may remember, I started a nutrition project early in 2010 and it start going in earnest in the summer. Now, that I have about six weeks left of service, I’m trying desperately to finish the project and tie any loose ends. So, in what is typically a stress-free laid-back few last months has actually been pretty busy. I feel like I’m running a little NGO with three staff and almost no time. Still, albeit many challenges (one of them being African time), it’s been fun and I’ve learned many things about management, both staff and project-wise. Some lessons learnt are below:
-if there’s money to be spent, spend it.
-Don’t handle the money if you can although be cautious about handing the project money to others to manage. Be VERY careful.
-People work better when they’re paid. (During most of my service, I worked under the assumption that my local counterparts would work volunteer like I was. Now, that I’m near the end, I’m starting to pay them a little and it’s a wonderful contrast to see the quality and dedication of their work once they’re paid.
-Allow three-five months cushion in your project timetable, especially if you’re in Africa.
-Budget for miscellaneous.

Okay, sorry if I’m boring you to death with project stuff. Although, if I may say, this project has been the cornerstone of my Peace Corps service and it has been the job that has taught me more about life and work than anything before. It has also given me a future career direction.

So, from August to November, I worked steadily on project stuff. In December, I took a whole month to go home and visit family, and it was one of the best decisions I have made. Originally, I wasn’t planning on going home which was why I delayed so much in visiting my family. Not that I didn’t miss my family, I was just afraid I would rather stay home once I visited rather than coming back to Peace Corps for another year. Peace Corps Rwanda isn’t difficult physically. It’s just a little difficult psychologically, and I was beginning to feel the effects of not taking a vacation for two years. Anyway, I went home during Thanksgiving and Christmas season, and it was delightful. I’m proud to announce that I gained 8-10 pounds and that was from very good eating. I also spent a lot of money on clothes and other non-Peace Corps things, and I visited my friends and family. It was wonderful, and I came back refreshed and rejuvenated. Thanks to Dad and Mom for buying my ticket. Going to America also allowed me to compare the two countries more closely, and it was amazing how different America seemed to me. I realized I was not the same person I was two years ago. I’m not trying to sound cheesy. What I’m saying is that now, I can’t look at a restaurant menu in a Southern-style restaurant without flinching, and when I go into toy stores during Christmas, I’m disgusted to find that American children have more clothes for their dolls than African children have for themselves. Also, it was hard stomaching the 1000 calories per meal that seem typical in the U.S.

Anyway, moving quickly on. America was wonderful and I was happy to see my family again. Now, I’ve been back in Rwanda for about a month and a half and I’m near the end of my service. I have six weeks left till I leave.

It is weird.

It’s weird because I don’t know if I should be happy or sad. It’s weird because I’m more nervous about my future after Peace Corps than I was about starting Peace Corps in the first place. I’ve been waiting for this moment for two years now but instead of being extremely happy, I’m a little sad and already nostalgic. I’ve realized that I’ve gotten used to living here and it’s actually become sort of a home for me. I love the language. I still find Rwanda’s landscape breathtakingly beautiful. And I finally understand the people. I’ve even become Rwandan-like and assimilated the culture into my own. I’ve made extremely good friends, people I would trust with anything, and I’m sad to leave them. Also, I feel like I’m finally managing this project better and fine-tuning it so it’s more successful. Except, now I have to finish the project and leave.

I guess that’s how it’s like. If you stay at a place long enough, you become attached to everything about it and it becomes home. Unfortunately, my time here has a deadline and once March 29 rolls around, I will not be a Peace Corps volunteer and I will not live in my village house anymore and I will not go to the clinic or the villages every day to visit the ladies. None of that will ever happen again and I will go back to living in the U.S. I will have to integrate back into U.S. culture again because the U.S., believe it or not, is now strange to me.

Well, I do not wish to end this blog entry on a sad note. These last few months have been a lot of fun and I have a lot of touristy activities lined up. For example, next weekend, I will scale one of the Virunga volcanoes to observe a family of gorillas in their natural habitat. If you’ve ever heard of Diane Fossey, the primatologist, that’s where she conducted her research for many years. She’s actually buried there as well. Sooo, I will update you on that once it’s done. Also, I will try to secure some pictures even though my camera is broken.

So, until then, take care.


  1. Hi Trish, thanks for the updates on your time. This is Don, guy who almost went with you all. It's been interesting and often weird to read your and others PC blogs here and there, making me wonder what I missed/gained. I've spend the last two years mostly teaching English in Korea, with a few months stint in Haiti. Anyway, I'm glad things have worked out well for you, and good luck in the future.

    Don Eskridge

  2. Hey Don,
    The other day, most of our group got together again and we started reminiscing about D.C. and how we threw that crazy party in your room the last night. haha Anyway, I'm glad you're doing well. One of my cousins did a similar program to yours (except in Japan) and he really enjoyed it. Where are you living now?
    Well, it was really nice hearing from you. Take care of yourself, and good luck in your future as well.

  3. Hey glad you are doing well. Sorry we missed seeing you over the holidays. Please come see us when you get back in the States. It will be a big adjustment being home but being the person you are, you will do fine. Speaking from experience, you will never forget the people and attachments you have made and won't want to. One of the hardest obstacles for me still is not constantly comparing to the people and lifestyle there to here. As you know, we are a very spoiled country! Although it still gets to me when I have a patient whose pillow is not fluffy enough or their food isn't just how they want it. Some days are easier than others. In my situation, I always have the longing to be there helping and not here but in my heart and mind I know that I will be going back again. One of my children asked if I was out to save the world - LOL - I simply replied "no" just one person at a time. Your service there has been amazing and unfortunately in the years to come you will probably never know how much good you really did. But God knows and He will take the seeds you have planted and multiply them abundantly. Where ever life leads you from there, you have made a wonderful foundation to build on. You are an incredible young woman and it is such a blessing to know you. Keep in touch.

  4. Hi Debbie,

    Thank you so much for your encouragement! I know I will miss people here terribly and I will never forget my experiences in Peace Corps.

    I'm sorry I missed you during the holidays as well. I will be back in late April or May and look forward to catching up with you guys. Hope you're doing well! Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts.