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Monday, February 28, 2011


Stll Here in Case You All Were Starting to Wonder

Hey All,

It's been a while, I realize that. One the other hand, it's absurd that it has only been about two months for me here at site, feels like ages ago that I rolled up here in the white PC vehicle and was dumped off...Weird how time works. And it has only been a shade over four months since I first arrived in Rwanda. Time's a strange lady, she is she is.

This past few weeks of teaching has been a rollercoaster, with every day and every minute affording me different emotions and a different outlook on whether things are going well, horribly, decent, or whether I'm too clouded to really know. I'm beginning to adjust to teaching, and believe I'm capable of doing it (whether I'm good at it is another issue), but I'm also realized it's not a passion of mine, not the act of teaching itself. There are joys in it, I've no doubt, but I guess what I'm saying is that I don't think I'm destined to be a lifelong educator, if that makes sense.

In other news, I'm settling into my new house, and adapting to living alone. It occurs to me that I've never exactly lived alone before, certainly not in this way and for such a long projected period of time. I enjoy my solitude as those of you who know me well are only too aware, but I'm also becoming increasingly cognizant of the fact that I have to work to keep myself from enjoying my solitude just a little toooo much...

The flip side is that I feel guilty for every moment I spend alone in my house. Like I'm being judged by all those in the community, considered weird for locking myself up inside. The reality is that one aspect of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is being a kind of ambassador in many ways, socializing and laughing and engaging people and everything else. While I had my moments back in college for brief stretches, I was never Mr. Socialize With Other People 24/7 on a regular basis, and I'd crave that time I could just unwind in solitude. That's not exactly an asset in my current situation, something I'm grappling with but so far managing to deal with pretty well. The random times when people will just visit you is a little alarming. Every time I'm about to go to eat breakfast or grade quizzes in my underwear in the living room area I check myself and at least throw on shorts lest somebody just pops up at my door for a visit...Which don't get my wrong is great most of the time because I need to integrate and interact with people and it suggests they are getting used to me, but at the same time it makes me rather anxious... Personal growth and challenges right, doesn't it go something like that?

My neighbors are great though and the little kids next door are really cute. We've played cards a couple of times and though I still don't exactly see the logic in the game they've taught me (that involves only like 36 cards out of a full deck the usual order of value from 10 Jack Queen King Ace is completely changed) but it's still fun. And their mother is a very kind and important woman in the community (and quite busy), which I'm coming to understand more and more as I speak to people in the area. I'd say with certainty that I was lucky that my housing did not get resolved and I ended up here.

The medical issue I was having is thankfully almost fully resolved, which will allow me to return to physical exercise after these weeks of very little exertion. Yesterday I walked up hill a long ways to go visit another teacher at my school and his wife and I was actually panting by the time I reached the top. Depressing? You bet ya...I might still have the heart to run a six court line drill or grind a 3 hour session in the Durham heat, but I don't think my body is primed for that right now, and I'm certain it'd give out on my pretty quickly.

Anyway, I finally got around to taking some photos of my new house and I'll try and upload them on here (if you don't see any it means uploading was a failure). It's a lot of space for one person but it's beginning to feel like home, day by day...

Well, I miss you all and hope everyone is doing well. I'll try and update this a little more regularly. Still no dice yet on electricity if/when it is ever possible, but I remain somewhat cautiously optimistic. In the meantime I'll do my best to stay in touch, I'm going to try my hand at navigating the market in just a bit. Monday is the "small market" day, but it still means about 10 times as many people as normal in my area, which means that I go from being the white guy people are starting to just just get used to/stare at a "little" less, to the circus show that I become on those days....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Well Hellllooo

Hey there! It’s been quite a while, I know. Things have been busy, electricity and charging have been scarce, and I’ve become so disconnected with the world in many ways that blogging was just far off my radar…Fortunately I did buy a radio so between BBC and Voice of America I’ve kept up to date with the bigger world news stories (BBC has spent about 90% of every broadcast talking about Egypt, so I’m up to speed, don’t worry). American Gossip and pop culture/media are probably the areas I’m most behind on.

It’s been over a month now, and I’ve been settling in at site, especially into my new home. A stone’s throw (literally, if you have a really good arm) from where I was living before, I’m now in a house all by myself, but right next to a woman and her children. The amount of space takes some getting used to, and I need to do a little more to make the place more “home-y”. So far I have taken to putting up some photos on the wall (oddly enough duct tape would not keep them stuck to the wall, so I had to nail in pieces of cardboard and then stick the photos onto that), and thanks to Ashley’s package, I now have a nice South Park calendar hanging in my room.

I’ve also been enjoying the virtues of cooking for myself, and all the food combination possibilities it affords. So far I’ve made anything from rice and potatoes to pancakes to oatmeal to pasta and tomato sauce to a salad with cabbage, carrots and tomatoes (the cabbage and tomatoes both soaked in bleach, and the carrots peeled) to eggs (of course) and even bought and cooked some meat on a market day (the market here is Monday and Friday, but Friday is the big market day and the day there is usually meat, always slaughtered that morning…It’s a little different then picking up a pound of sirloin or ground chuck at Stop and Shop or Kroger…). I was only using my kerosene stove for the first week or so but I finally got a charcoal stove and some charcoal so now I’m starting to use both (charcoal takes much longer but is much cheaper).

I’ve also begun teaching as Senior 1 students finally began their year on Feb 7th. The first week wasn’t easy, but I managed without any major setbacks, and I think the students more or less have understood what I’ve been teaching so far (let’s hope?). It’s a struggle since they’ve had very little English in primary school, but I’m optimistic that through time they will pick it up more and more. And if the plan put forth by my Headmaster is the one we stick to, I’ll have these same students in Senior 2 next year, so I’ll really be able to see their progress.

I’m also heading up English Club on Monday and Friday, which is gradually starting to take form as initial fascination with me as the new foreign muzungu teacher begins to fade, and only students who really are really interested continue attending. It’s also my only opportunity to teach S2 or S3 students, so it’s nice to get a glimpse of their ability levels.

I’m constantly bombarded with requests to teach everybody and their mother English, so it may be the case that I begin some sort of community English classes in the near future? Not quite sure, still working on navigating that whole thing.

As I sit here in Kigali, I take it as a good sign that I’m settling in and adjusting, because I’m actually thinking about my return to site as my return “home” in a way. Still, the early phase of settling in has not finished, especially because my house is still pretty furniture deficient (2 wooden chairs and a wooden table, along with a bedframe and mattress), and I’m still meeting people and asking their names again and again (or asking other people to tell me their names). Then again, nobody can pronounce my name no matter how hard they try (Rs and Ls are a real struggle here to begin with), and so I’ve started giving people a Kinyarwanda name, “Shema”, which is also easy for me to pronounce. While I still prefer when people try and use my real name, I’m much happier to hear Shema then I am to hear muzungu….

Anyway, I’ll try and put up another post sometime in the near future. Also, and most importantly maybe, I have a PO Box for people to……send me mail! No need to be shy or bashful….

The address is

Dylan Arnould

BP 144

Gitarama, Rwanda

East Africa

Just give me a heads up if you have sent something so I know when to start checking for it! My wish list is still pretty valid if you’re really looking for ideas….

Much love to everybody and I’m sorry to all of you I’ve been out of touch with, hopefully we’ll get a chance to talk more soon. But yes, I'm still alive and chugging along here, no worries to all.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Quick update, still working off the same laptop charge from before I arrived here, so this will be quite brief so I can try and squeeze one more post out of this battery...After that I'll try and figure something out.

I’m at my site, it’s Day 10 (I think), and I’m starting to adjust to life here, even though I haven’t started actually teaching yet, or have my housing situation resolved.
I will begin teaching in a few weeks time, until then I’ve been hanging out in the teacher’s room at school, observing a few lessons by other teachers, and talking with some students. You can imagine they are amazingly fascinated by my presence.

Housing still in flux, and the original plan of me moving into the room on the school compound is being scrapped, for various reasons, particularly the latrine issue. Bottom line is that Peace Corps will not approve that living situation because there are various things which make it different from the original “plan” for the needed renovations.

The new plan is finding a suitable house in the local area, which I’ll be attempting to do over the next few days, but so far I’ve had very little luck with. So yes, I’m still in a glorious state of limbo that is a source of never ending frustration. However, the Peace Corps’ insistence that I must find a house, and not the room in the school compound I was going to have does seem quite positive, since hopefully, at some time I’ll have a house with neighbors and not isolated in a room by the school. I remain very cautiously optimistic…

Anyway, it’s been raining a lot here, which I don’t mind, but rain in my village shuts down transport in and out of the area because it’s all dirt roads and the road just turns to mud which cannot be driven through.

It looks like Kigali will be my best bet for a PO Box, hopefully I’ll accomplish that in the next few weeks. As you might imagine, I’m rather hesitant to leave my site at all until I resolve a permanent housing situation, but I’ll give an update once I do get a PO Box…I mean, of course I want people to be able to send me stuff! I’ve burned through a crazy amount of the candy that arrived when I was in Kigali for swearing in…But I have been running in the morning usually and brushing my teeth frequently...

Funny side note about running, everyone refers to it as “isporo”, which makes me laugh because in my head I’m thinking “Yes, I’m going sporting”…

Anyway, I’ll try a

Sunday, January 9, 2011


It’s been a little while, mainly due to a lack of connectivity and electricity. As it stands I still haven’t worked out if/how I’ll be charging my laptop, and thus this post will be quite brief and I’m not sure how many will be following it in the near future, but hopefully I’ll work that part out.
I’m at my site and I start teaching tomorrow. It’s been an interesting week, though not incredibly eventful on a grand scale. A lot of meeting people, trying to remember names, being followed by children, being called muzungu (of course), being laughed at, being asked to teach everyone and their mother’s mother’s mother English, being told I speak really good Kinyarwanda, or on the flip side that I don’t understand anything (which is often true), being asked why I’m here, where I live, how “I find the climate”, how I find the people, and being forced to consume more sodas than I can ever recall in recent times. I even opted for tonic water the other day just because I knew I wouldn’t drink it as fast. But you know the only thing worse than a bottle of tonic water? Two bottles of tonic water. And what’s worse than two bottles of tonic water? Two bottles of tonic water followed by a grape Fanta. I say this all in jest though, I’m more than happy to hang out and socialize, get to know people and whatnot, even if it rots my teeth a bit.
The main event has been my housing situation which is still unresolved, and I’m currently staying with my headmaster until the latrine/fence situation is addressed. I’m hopeful that within a week or so that aspect of things will get sorted out, as I’m quite eager to get space for myself and actually be able to unpack my things (especially since I have a lot of crap!).
I’m starting to get to know some people though, and I’ve been running almost every day in the morning, which has greatly helped me map out the surrounding area. It’s really quite beautiful and I enjoy the calmness which surrounds me here. It’s interesting because while it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere, there is always a bunch of houses right nearby, whereas in the States you wouldn’t expect to find any people at all in such an area.
It has poured rain like no other today, almost a frightening amount. Rain here also means no commuting in our out, because it’s all dirt roads and then get very muddy to the point where you can’t drive on them (unless you a F-350 or something). I enjoy the sound of the rain though, the loud thundering crashes on the tin roofs here. I’m going to miss it during the dry season which is fast approaching.
Anyway, I’d write more but like I said, I’m trying to make this charge of battery last as long as possible. In the meantime I hope everyone is well and hopefully I’ll be able to write more sometime soon.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011? Well Just How the Hell Was That Allowed to Happen So Fast?

Rwanda, 2011. Which is more bizarre, that I’m in Rwanda, or that now I’ll spend 2 months crossing out 2010 after I screw up writing the date wrong?

I won’t dwell on the fact that it’s New Years Day, that it was nice yet bittersweet to talk with Ashley and my family as they celebrated New Years Eve in good ol’ NoHo Massachusetts. If I was there, I’d be mocking the whole thing; New Years in Northampton, how crazzzzyyy…But instead I find myself somewhat envious, wishing I could video tape and laugh at the “interesting”people who live in Northampton, and watch the “incredible” ball drop.

Anyway, as I said, I won’t dwell too much on such things, just a few thoughts…

Things are winding down, everyone is scrambling to buy things before moving in, and the whole thing has become somewhat surreal (as if it wasn’t in the first place). And the good news is that all 67 of us left here made the cut to be allowed to swear on Monday in Kigali, a really good statistic considering the number we started with.

But life is soon to change drastically, in ways I can’t even begin to fathom at this point. Yesterday I went to Butare with a bunch of other volunteers to go buy things we’ll need when we move in. All throughout the process I’ve found myself wondering “hm, will I need ____”. And then thinking, “do you really need to buy all this crap?”. Didn’t I come here to live like people do here? At the same time, we’re given a very generous moving in allowance, and this together with our monthly per diem has left me with more money then I think I feel comfortable having.

In other news, I’m trying to soak up the comforts here in Nyanza before heading to site on Tuesday (did I mention I’m being dropped off on Tuesday?). But before that, there’s a nice bus trip to Kigali tomorrow and then swearing in on Monday. And then guess what? Back here on Monday afternoon/evening, and then I’m off to my site first thing Tuesday morning. Gosh it’s nice to have such a nice buffer for my turn around time…

Continuing on, today was one of those days that made realize why I wanted to join the Peace Corps in the first place. It wasn’t necessarily all great, and in fact some parts were the total opposite, but it just involved so many unexpected and ridiculous events. First, I bought a mattress which was rolled up for me so I could carry it on my head back to the training center, and then the amazingness that was our big resource family get together at the other Far Side house. It went quite well, with the very notable exception of having to shoo away hungry neighborhood kids who had climbed the wall (it’s too low to really be called climbing but we’ll leave that aside) in order to get some food from other neighborhood kids we had invited (mainly ones that live next door to the girls house). Chasing out kids just because they’re hungry and want some food really sucks, but as was pointed out to me, with only food enough to feed a few of them and not all, allowing a bunch of them to come in could potentially start the same kind of rioting/fighting over food which occurs during big food aid disbursements in hunger relief efforts. This may have been the low point of the day if not for the difficult conversation I had earlier with our housekeeper Jack about some past events which I won’t delve into.

Anyway, the events with our resource families were overall quite hilarious and enjoyable. A massive amount of photos were taken, and there were many gifts exchanged (some just too amazing to even try and describe), and the food was excellent – props to Caitlyn for spearheading the whole thing and the girls overall for doing most of the work including of course hosting the whole thing.

I’d add more, but tomorrow is an early day off to Kigali. My next post will likely be as a volunteer and no longer a trainee (I’m hoping ha). Happy 2011 to all! (Can’t you feel my excitement and optimism oozing through the computer screen?)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yep, Still Here. I Think?

What have I to report? If you ask me, nothing really. Life continues, just as it did back at Duke for those four years, when Duke Tennis and classes were the norm instead of Kinyarwanda/Tech/X-Culture and Med sessions. Everyone tells you four years passes by quickly, and even though you know it’s true, and it’s true the entire time you are going through it, it still doesn’t feel like it, no matter how much you realize it. It seems like no matter what, you’re left thinking that you should have made some moments last longer, stretched them out a little bit more. Those hours, weeks, and months which I tried to hurry along as fast as possible, tried to fold over into one another to make them pass quicker, it seems like such a ridiculous way of looking at things, doesn’t it?

I guess I’m one of those people always look forward, towards the other side of things. I haven’t even begun my real service, but I find myself thinking all about afterwards, once I return back to the States. Is that weird? It isn’t because I want to fast forward my time here, or anything of that nature, let me not be misunderstood, I’m very excited about what lays ahead here for me. Rather, I think it just reflects some pattern whereby I’m always trying to get somewhere, some specific place, but I’ve absolutely no clue where that place is (probably because it doesn’t exist). When I get annoyed with people – especially those close to me, my sincere apologies, please interpret such behavior as a reflection of my affection, because only with such people do I usually get annoyed – it’s usually because I somehow have managed to imagine they are delaying my arrival to this non-existent place I’m trying to get to.

Okay, I’ll spare any further narration of this internal monologue which fails to make much sense in the first place. How about some concrete updates bullet point style...

  • I will be moving in to my new home on January 4th, less than a week. Where the hell did PST go? And ya, apparently preparations are still needed before I can move into the place I’m actually supposed to be living/staying, hopefully it’ll be ready when I get there?
  • Language proficiency interview is tomorrow…Maybe I should be, but I’m not particularly concerned….
  • The physical degeneration I’ve witnessed in the mirror since I’ve arrived is a little depressing…No, I haven’t lost 40 pounds, but I’ve probably shed a little and my body composition has definitely changed (and not for the better). I guess spending my entire life as a jock has permanently made me acutely sensitive to such things. A serious workout regime is in the works after I’m settled at site…If for no other reason than to avoid remarks like this when I get back “Damn man, a couple years in Rwanda (most people would probably just say “Africa” I’m sure, but I’m pretending that at least they would say the name of the country I spent 2 years in) really did a number on you”…
  • Not pumped for the onset of the dry season soon…
  • The new academic year here starts January 10th…Damn that’s fast approaching.
  • A few people from MinEduc (short for the Rwandan Ministry of Education) came by Nyanza yesterday and held a welcome session/info/Q&A about education in Rwanda. Interesting.
  • I find the idea of eating raw red cabbage really enticing right now. With some balsamic vinegar and olive oil and salt/pepper. Is that odd? Nobody judge me.
  • I witnessed a bird drop the innards of some poor dead animal straight out of the sky this morning. Not particularly special to being in Rwanda, just found it funny/weird.
  • I have a medical session/quiz in about….NOW….That’ll have to be it for this entry…