Rugo Wangye (My Rwandan House)

My host family consists of a host dad, a host mom, an 8-month-old baby and the host dad’s 17-year-old sister who lives with the family while going to school nearby. There is also a house helper who does most of the labor around the house.

The street my host family lives on is a red dirt path with every available foot on either side filled up with either a house or fields for food cultivation. The houses are all small, either made out of stucco or mud/clay bricks. Most of them have some sort of fence/barrier around them. Most of the barriers are just rows of trees planted closely together in a ring all around the home.

My host family’s house is a stucco structure with a little front porch and tile floors, like a house you could see in the US. Inside the house there is a living room, a small anteroom where I sleep and 2-3 other bedrooms down a hallway on the other side of the living room. Outside, there is a dirt courtyard. My host families throw their trash and food scraps on the dirt there and the house helper (umukoze, in Kinyarwanda) sweeps it up with a bunch of twigs tied together each morning.

On one side of the courtyard is a water spigot. When water is available there, my family fills up jerry cans and buckets for use during the day. Otherwise, the umukoze walks to the public water source. On the other side of the courtyard is another stucco structure which serves as a storeroom for buckets of water, plaintains, sweet potatoes, rice, onions and other foods. In front of this storeroom is a big pile of wood, cut and stacked for cooking.
On the left of the courtyard is a separate structure, built out of clay, which is used for cooking. Inside there is a clay stove with a kind of surface that has two holes in it. Pots can sit in these holes and the umukoze puts wood and tinder underneath them to make the cooking fire.

Finally, behind the kitchen and storeroom there are three stalls, each with a wooden door that, for some reason, locks from the outside. These are two “duches”, showers, and one pit latrine. Each morning after everyone takes their showers the umukoze sweeps the water out of the concrete stalls and onto the dirt in the courtyard.
As much as possible, the house is kept clean and is nicely furnished with (heavily used) couches, armchairs and a coffee table. There is also a big dining table where the family eats.

My host father and mother both work at the local health center. They work long hours and both had to work both days this past weekend. My host father has had to work every day in September. They rise around 6, take their bucket baths and generally leave the house by around 8:00 to walk about 3 kilometers to work. The house helper spends the day washing clothes, cleaning the house and preparing lunch and dinner. She also takes care of the family’s 8-month-old baby, Gadi. On Saturdays, the family must work and on Sundays they attend church at a local Presbyterian church.

It’s a long day for the host family but longest for the umukoze who gets up early to heat my host mom’s bath water and wash clothes and goes to bed late after everyone else has gone to sleep.

Next time, I’ll try to post some pictures of my area – it’s beautiful! I’ll try to tell some more about Rwandan culture, too – as you can imagine there are some big differences!

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