Because of Peace Corps’ security precautions, I can’t publish online the exact location of my site. However, I can say that it’s in the Southeast of Rwanda.
My site is quite a small village organized around a big town square. In that square is a large, very beautiful Catholic church, a priest’s residence, a nun’s residence and my house as well as three schools, a teacher training college, a health center and a large plot of farm land. Unusually, for Rwanda, most of the buildings are built of red bricks, rather than adobe or white-washed cement. All this gives the town a look of permanence and distinction. There are also landscaped flowers and hedges growing around the Catholic buildings, another unusual touch for Rwanda.
I live in a building which belongs to the church; it’s kind of like a dorm. There is a long hallway with ten rooms coming off of it. I have two of those rooms, one to use as a bedroom and one as a living room/kitchen. Both have big windows which look out onto a small Mary shrine, a plot of cultivated land, the church and, in the evenings, the sunset. Because my home is located on the main town square, it doesn’t have much of a neighborhood feel to it. The nearest residential areas, so to speak, are about 1/4 – 1/2 mile away in a couple of different directions.
My village is about 25 miles from the big, regional town. It takes 40 minutes to travel there on a motorcycle and about 1 1/2 hours on a “squeeze bus.” There’s a weekly market in my town where I buy cabbage (15 cents/a head), tomatoes (60 cents for about 1/2 pound), onions (15 cents for a bunch of 4 or 5), pineapples (25 cents each), and avocados (15 cents for 4). The market is about a fifteen minute walk away and there’s heavy traffic on market days so I usually see someone I know there, or on the way there. It’s a good integration opportunity.
Finally, let me tell you about all the amenities of my home. First, and very importantly, I have electricity. It cuts out a couple of times a week for a couple of hours but ntakibazo (no problem). I also have a water spigot in my front yard. If that water runs out (as happens not infrequently) I can walk next door to the abbey and carry the water back. If I’m lucky, my priest friend will be there and he’ll refuse to let me carry water and instead will fill 2 20-liter jerry cans, stick green bananas into the top to plug the holes and call someone to carry them for me.
I have a sit-down toilet which doesn’t flush so I collect all waste water from brushing my teeth, washing my feet, doing the laundry and washing the dishes to pour down it to flush it manually.
I cook with a kerosene stove and imbabura. Neither is very convenient and both are slow but they get the job done. I can heat bath water, prepare food and even bake cakes and bread on the imbabura so they’re definitely more than adequate.
I love my site so far. I’m looking forward to actually beginning to teach (tomorrow!), meeting more people and getting a garden started. I feel very lucky to be here!