Lots of big news this week! First of all, I’m happy to announce that I’ve been offered two job contracts! It feels good to finally say that! Both are part time so I’ll be accepting both positions. The first is Operations Manager for a jewelry making collective called the Abari Collective where I’ll be helping the organization register as a business in Rwanda, hire staff, and create the structures for a sustainable business. While not in my field, I’m excited to try my hand at management, figure out finances & budgeting, and start an organization not quite from scratch but pretty close. I’ve also met the core group of women who’ll actually be making the jewelry and they’re great—all in their early twenties and living in a suburb outside of Kigali called Nyamata, they are so driven and ready to put their creative energy into making bracelets to earn income and support themselves.
The second position is Technical Advisor at a sexual and reproductive health NGO here in Kigali called Health Development Initiative (HDI). I’d be helping with their social media (which is a little funny, since I’m hardly on social media. But the director looked at my resume and decided that social media was my forte somehow and here we are) and advising for their SHARE program. SHARE is a peer-education model for teaching sexual and reproductive health (SRH) in schools. I’ve already started editing their curriculum and hope there will be more chances to create a sustainable model for implementing the curriculum at schools. I also recently attended a conference organized by HDI for African leaders working in Comprehensive Sexuality Education and got to listen to directors from SRH orgs across Africa talk about the importance and challenges of teaching comprehensive sexuality education in an African context. (!!!!! I was nerdy freaking out about this the whole time I was there—very exciting stuff.) I’m still volunteering with Mindleaps, the org that works with street kids, for a few hours a week so it’s shaping up to be a busy year.
Our other big news (I think Colin shared?) is that we’ve been approved for yearlong visas! It’s a huge relief and we’re so happy to not have to worry about that, at least for another year.
Our household news is that Shu Shu recently had his big boy operation, which felt very traumatizing for all involved. I had to transport the poor kitty in a heavily-taped up cardboard box on the back of a moto, with Shu Shu crying and yowling the whole time. The moto drivers (there and back) were so fascinated that I was carrying this cat around in a box and kept trying to talk to him, crooning “ipusi ipusi” at the box and laughing when he yowled back (“cat” in Kinyarwanda, very much like “pussycat”). Other big household news is that we hired a young woman named Delise to help with cleaning and we’re so relieved to have a clean, dust-free house (the dust collects again after 10 minutes of being wiped down). She’s so sweet and has a young sister named Leslie! (I’m surprised since most people here try to say my name like “Rezrie”.)
We also hosted our first dinner party this weekend, which felt great and very much like “us”. Colin cooked up a great stir fry and we invited a frisbee friend from Belgium and he invited a friend from Indonesia, who turned out to also be our vet! Kigali, while the same size as Indianapolis, feels SO much smaller. The expat community is especially small so we’ve gotten to know a bunch of people, and we run into them all the time. But we’re also getting to know local folks as well—the workers at our local supermarket, the security guards at our Kinyarwanda class, the moto drivers…. It feels like a small world and it’s great to feel like we know people now. The dinner party was great, lots of hanging and eating and chatting. I’m so happy to be in a place where I regularly get to hang out with people from all over the world—there’s so much wisdom and cultural differences to share and learn about that we’re never bored!
On Saturday, we went to the Muslim quarter called Nyamirambo (where I used to live with my host family) and celebrated a friend’s birthday by doing “the big fish”. It was a group of us that met randomly, through various connections, and hardly know each other but went out together to celebrate anyways. I feel like this happens often; with expats coming from all over to a new place, pretty much everyone is desperate for friends, meaning that folks are generally pretty interested in having random hang outs like “the big fish birthday event”. We arrived at the restaurant and the English speakers in the group tried to figure out how to order the fish. This went something like this:
“We want big fish. Can we buy big fish here?”
“No fish here. Sorry.”
“Ok well do you have food we can buy?”
“No food. Buy food at this house. The fish is there.” (Goes over to the restaurant balcony and points to a nearby house.)
“What? So you have no food? We want to buy three big fish, we were told we could buy them here?”
“Three fish or two fish?”
“Three fish. Is it ok?”
“No fish here.”
Eventually the Kinyarwanda-speaking boyfriend of a friend helped out and it turned out that you could buy fish there; there was just another restaurant down the street that also served fish. The three big fish eventually came, with potatoes and French fries and goat brochettes (kabobs essentially), and you eat the deliciously-spiced grilled fish with just your fingers. It was quite excellent.
It certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas here—80 degrees and sunny—but we’ve tried to get in the Christmas spirit by painting a Christmas tree to hang on our wall and getting katenge cloth stockings made. We hope the holidays are treating you all well and those of you in cold places are staying warm!