I’m finally up for another blog post—thanks for your patience! It’s been an interesting few weeks, with lots of ups and downs. I finish up my volunteer position with Kasha this Friday and have started to shift my expectations for job prospects and what the next few months/years hold. I had a great experience working with the Kasha staff, learned a lot about Rwandan work culture and working for start-up companies, and made some good connections for my network. But we’ve discovered, after so many job applications, that the job market is more difficult than we ever expected, especially for non-Kinyarwanda speakers, and the visa process is even harder. Poor Colin’s work visa has been rejected twice now—solely based on the fact that his degree is in psychology and it doesn’t match his current position as technology consultant. Unfortunately, the visa process isn’t written down anywhere and there are loads of intricate details so Colin has spent many hours on the phone and in the Immigration Office attempting to sort it out.
I’ve started shifting towards finding primarily volunteer work and expanding what I’m looking for. I’m seriously considering applying for grad school for next fall and have started exploring the GRE and Masters of Public Health programs. (If folks have suggestions for MPH programs—both online and on campus—I’d love to hear them!)
I already have a few other volunteer positions lined up for the next few months, which I’m excited about. One is with Mindleaps (https://mindleaps.org/our-programs/rwanda/), an organization that uses a dance curriculum to empower children to continue their education. I’d be providing ESL tutoring, documenting success stories for donors, and getting free attendance to their dance classes! Another is called Rural Development Initiative (RDI– http://ruraldevelopmentinitiative.org/), which I learned about at a Job Fair I attended as a Kasha consultant. I’ve met with their very enthusiastic director who is interested in having me write proposals for potential donors and then after securing funding, they would take me on as Program Director. Their org offers employment and entrepreneurial opportunities to Rwandan youth in rural areas and strives to prevent rural flight and promote youth empowerment. The other opportunity I’m trying to pursue in Kigali is with HDI (Health Development Initiative, http://hdirwanda.org/). They provide sexual and reproductive health (SRH) workshops and information in schools and offer SRH services at health centers. We’ll see if that one pans out.
We decided to take a break from job applying for a bit, though, and are going to “bouge it up” at Akagera Game Park, Rwanda’s only safari park, with some friends of ours this weekend. Then we are spending a week in Uganda to see friends I met during my study abroad program four years ago—so exciting. I also have a job lead in a small town in Uganda with a group called the Ugandan Development and Health Associates (http://udha-uganda.org/). They’re interested in having me coordinate their SRH program in schools so we’re going to check it out while we’re in the area.
Our big news (as those with Facebook might already know) is that we’ve gotten a kitten! We call him “Shu Shu” which in Kinyarwanda means “dear” or “cherie” (in French), and he puts smiles on our faces even after a rough day. He keeps us busy, always wanting to play, and gets into trouble by trying to swim in our bucket showers and climb the mosquito net at night. We got him from a guy on Facebook who owns the mama cat, and Colin has already found a great babysitter in his coworker who adores cats. It honestly feels a lot like we had a child—discussing discipline, finding babysitters so we can travel, trying to figure out why he’s crying, trading off who feeds him, not being able to watch Netflix because we have to play with him…. I suppose it’s one way to satiate the Rwandans who insistently ask why we don’t have kids yet?
We’ve also started language lessons to fill our down time. After a long battle with a company doing group classes (not a good fit), we decided on private lessons, which are pretty affordable. I take French once a week at our apartment—and my teacher has been kicking my ass with endless lists of conjugations I’m supposed to memorize. Colin and I both started Kinyarwanda lessons several times a week with a teacher named Sabine who’s the greatest. He’s quite a rambler and has half-moon spectacles that sit crookedly on the end of his nose while he lectures us on complicated Kinyarwanda grammar. Even with my four months of lessons that I took four years ago, we both struggle to make our mouths work in the correct way to pronounce the words. It’s fun though and keeps us busy.
Job hunting is definitely not fun and moving to a new place where we have yet to establish a friend group can be tough—but the people here keep reminding me that it’s worth it. Yesterday I sat next to two elderly women at the bus stop and greeted them in Kinyarwanda. Their eyes got huge and they animatedly started chattering away in Kinyarwanda, so excited to be sharing their stories with a “muzungu”. I used my limited Kinyarwanda and then luckily had another friendly gentleman at the bus stop translate for me. They asked if I was married and about my children and proudly stated that because they’re Christians, they’re married to Jesus. They told me a bunch about their church and we had a lovely time chatting until their bus arrived. I’m always surprised by how far simple things like using Kinyarwanda greetings and even riding the bus can create connections with people.
We’re building rapport in our neighborhood as well. We greet the construction workers daily, who are building a house next door to our apartment, and they think our Kinyarwanda skillz are a hoot. We buy our eggs from a storekeeper on our street, who doesn’t know the word “twelve” in English and we don’t know the word “twelve” in Kinyarwanda so for now we order ten eggs a week from her. Our gate boy Freddie still continues to give us long lectures in English about very important things that we don’t really understand. So far, the results of these conversations have included getting a wooden pallet put under our fridge, a water bill, an unannounced appointment to replace the caulking on our sink, and news about a potential apartment meeting—the details are hazy and the reasons unknown. Also, we buy the majority of our groceries at our local supermarket, where the bag boys have become our friends and help us carry our grocery cart around as we shop for an insane amount of yogurt and strangely don’t buy the fufu flour.
We’ll keep you posted as things change and will write a post after our adventuring this coming week!