Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Hooooooooh baby. Please just let me apologize profusely for waiting so long to post, and then let me explain why. I realize that it's been almost a week since I last blogged, and - even worse - it's been more than a week that I just haven't told you about. The last post, I described two Fridays ago. You must be feeling so deprived. 

I'm not sure why I've been slacking so much on my blogging lately. I seriously have blogged with the regularity of Tate. WAAAHT. It's been a very low priority for me. It used to be crucial, as though everyone at home couldn't survive without knowing what mishaps Tate and I had gotten ourselves into. Well, the mishaps haven't stopped - we're always making fools of ourselves - but they seem more average now. Plus, in all honesty, I think that Tate and I hang out more now. We've become better friends over the course of these past weeks - it's been almost two months of nonstop Tate and Caroline. And I actually don't hate her. Which is kind of huge for me. And, even better, I'm pretty sure she doesn't hate me either. I don't think I'll ever get over how lucky that makes us. We've essentially lived like a married couple, only neither of us had any say in who we had to marry. 
It's like an arranged marriage.
Except neither of our families got any cows! 
(That I know of.... You never can tell with Wisconsinites and Minnesotans.)

I left off, promising to write about last Saturday and Sunday, and now I have a full week to cover between now and then. Let me do my best to recount the highlights.

Saturday and Sunday were spent doing "tourist" things. Even though we're so clearly not from Rwanda, Tate and I haven't actually done many touristey things since we've been here. I suppose that we went to the National Museum and the Genocide Memorial, but that's as close as we've gotten to tourism. That past weekend was our time to shine. Whip out your khakis and weird hats, kids, because we went on a safari!

On Saturday, Tate, Mrs. RM, Nepo, Archimede, and I all left Gisenyi to go check out some volcanoes and some parks. Have I remarked on how classic it is that I saw my first volcanoes in Rwanda of all places? Of COURSE I saw a volcano in Africa, and not one that's in the United States. I've been to China and Rwanda, but never Hawaii. Cool. Good vacation planning.
Anyway, we headed northeast from Gisenyi, 'til we were about in the middle of the north of Rwanda. We actually went to see the border with Uganda. (Count 'em, that's three countries I saw in one day. And then on Sunday, I saw Tanzania. BOOYAH!)

So, we went to the border with Uganda, saw some Ugandan mountains and some Ugandan people, and then promptly turned around and headed towards the Volcanoes National Park. 

We saw some cultural stuff (medicine man, sorghum beer, Batwa dancing) and then headed home to Kigali. On the way, we had a really in-depth and really interesting conversation about politics. Although I'm not typically one to go in for things like that, preferring to stay away from arguments which typically have no possible resolution, this was different. This was more of a history lesson, and an insider's perspective about the government. I actually can't share any of the conversation on here, because that's how it works in Rwanda. 
Let me just say, as I've said many times before, Rwanda is just SO NOT the United States.

When we got back to Kigali, we stopped off at Pudentienne's house to say hello, then spent the night at Ernestine's because we had to get up early in order to get to Akagera Park by 7am, so that we could see a lion or two! The predators, we were told, only were active before and just after the sun rose. 
We went to bed at approximately 1am, thinking, hey, maybe we just won't sleep - we have to get up at 4 in the morning anyway! 
Turns out, that was a bad plan, since I was subsequently dead tired.
Luckily, the adrenaline kicked in shortly after reaching the park, where I saw my first wild baboon. Then I saw my first hippo, followed by some gazelle. We were ambling around the ridiculously bumpy dirt road, when all of a sudden the jeep jerked to a stop because, YES, THAT'S A GIANT ELEPHANT STANDING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH. We had to be quiet, because elephants have been known to charge, pushing cars into lakes and generally trampling things when they get agitated. The car had to turn around and drive off slowly, waiting for the elephant to clear. (Un?)fortunately, I was sitting in the back of the truck with Steve. We had front row seats to the giant mammal, but we also would be the first ones crunched if she had decided to charge. No big deal or something.

Well, as you can guess, we survived. 

The rest of the safari, I hung out the window, photographing zebras, giraffes, impala, hippos, birds... you name it.
But don't name a lion, because there aren't any at the park.
Although we were told that by waking up obscenely early, we may catch a glimpse of these predators, our guide told us that the park actually didn't have any.
Good thing I woke up at an ungodly hour for this!

I'm just complaining needlessly, though. The whole experience was amazing. 

I got to walk up and stare a giraffe in the face.

Man, those things are BIG.


On Monday, Tate's mom was scheduled to leave. In the morning, she got a few presents to take home to her family, and explained how much she loved the YWCA and was overjoyed with how well they've been treating Tate and I. Yeah, we're really spoiled here. Everyone is much too nice to us. Her goodbyes made Tate and I think of the inevitable day that we would have to leave... bringing on even MORE tears. Perfect.
That afternoon, we took her to the airport, and said some more sad goodbyes. Tate was sad to see her mommy leave, and I was sad that I didn't have my mommy there to say goodbye to. It was really nice having her, though. I think I wrote about that in my last post.

On Tuesday, our lives were back to normal. Or, as "normal" as things get around here. It had been a while since Tate and I had made the mile-and-a-half trek to work, just us.
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday passed in a bit of a blur. Our office buddies, Jean Berchmans and Christine, were gone at meetings in Burundi and another district in Rwanda, respectively. So, Tate and I blasted music and danced ourselves silly every day, enjoying our freedom.
Just kidding.
But only about the dancing part. We did blast music while they weren't here.

The best news, though, is that I started the YWCA Rwanda website! Yes, there's finally a landing pad for all of the information about programs and stuff.
Check it out -- ! Hopefully it will give you a bit more of an idea about some of the programs I'm working on. 
AND, please let me know if you have any corrections. 

Tate and I just hung out together on Friday night. It was a welcome change to have our own time, not having to deal with anyone. Alex and Ryan Brick (Alex from Notre Dame, who had been doing research, and Brick from UW-Madison, who was doing a program through ROTC) were leaving the following afternoon, and I wanted to say goodbye to them, since I hadn't seen Alex in a while, and I hadn't seen Brick at all while he was in Rwanda.

Unfortunately, my laziness overcame my desire to get to Kigali to see them, so instead of getting up early and taking the bus, Tate and I slept in, made toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and read while sitting on our roof in the sun.
And want to know the best part?
That's the first sunburn I've had in probably a year. The sun really improved my attitude. I was sorely missing those rays, man. 
I finished two books in those few hours in the morning and early afternoon, and started to feel like my old American self. That's something that's very crucial to me - Caroline time. Without being able to spend an unreal number of hours just sitting and reading, preferably in the sun, something was off-kilter. I didn't realize it until I got my fill of sunshine and literature at long last. It really felt good, though. Makes me happy just thinking about it.

For the rest of Saturday, Tate and I made our way to Kigali, where we were picked up from the bus station by Blaize and a driver. For the remainder of the night, Tate and I hung out with Steve and Blaize (brothers) and Davy (a cousin), as well as their friends. People our age, and people who go to school in America.
(Classic. Going to Rwanda to hang out with people who go to college in the United States.)
It was really perfect, though. I know I'm not being particularly descriptive, but it just felt like home. And I think that both Tate and I needed that. I've said before how being in Rwanda, no matter what, can make you feel exhausted just by virtue of you being a bit out of your comfort zone. Well, for a few precious hours on Saturday, we were back in our comfort zones. We were able to just be Americans without ridicule, we were able to talk without focusing too hard on our accents or on others'. We got to joke about American things and - best of all - talk to people that weren't us. That sounds a bit Dissociative-Identity-Disorder, but what I mean is, I got to talk to someone that wasn't Tate. And she got a break from all-Caroline, all-the-time. Which, I can imagine, was pleasant for her.

On Sunday morning, Tate and I awoke in a bed in Assumpta's house to a text that read, "We are leaving but there is anything you need in the house and Ernestine is coming by later." Well, alrighty then, Steve. So Tate and I ate breakfast and waited for Ernestine. 
She showed up an hour or so later, and took us to meet Pudentienne. We spent the afternoon at Pudentienne's house, before going back to Muhanga that night.
I feel so bad about it, though; every time we go to Pudentienne's house, Tate and I end up sleeping for over half the time we're there. Granted, Tate was sick one time, and we only stayed for a bit another time, but still. I am either asleep or reading or eating while we're there. It's amazingly restful, though. The house is very quiet, the garden is beautiful, and it's really just peaceful. But I feel like I should be having a conversation or something. Ahhh, well.
In any case, we left for home after dinner, and upon reaching our abode in Gitarama, we promptly fell asleep. No food, no shower... I just hit my pillow and passed out for 12 hours. (Tate and I hadn't gotten much sleep the night before.)

On Monday, we awoke refreshed and ready to work. Hahahahahh, that's a joke, I'm never "refreshed and ready to work" when it's 7am. 
But, we made our way to work despite this fact, and I got to work on the website again when I got to work! That's the greatest thing ever, for me. It's a tangible impact, and a sorely needed one. I feel so much more content knowing that Tate and I have made that difference, at the very least. And for a pretty minimal monetary impact. Apparently they had paid a man to help them with the website over a thousand dollars in years past. I got the site up and running for $200, and that included buying the domain name. I'm so glad I could help.

The important part of Monday was - oh, I forgot to mention this, but Christi from Azizi Life (one of our fellow white Muhangans) had stopped by our house on Saturday to say hi, and had invited us to talk about selling handicrafts, since that's what she does - meeting with the people from Azizi Life. We went over to their building (which is conveniently located only a 5 minute walk from our house) for lunch, and talked about topics ranging from handicrafts to managing people to transferring money to pricing. We were there for a few hours, and, in all honesty, although the information we gained was really interesting and helpful, it was a bit disheartening. There are a lot of barriers to selling handicrafts in international markets, and there are even some giant hurdles to accepting individual donations from the international community. That means that, because of bank transfers, it's almost impossible for one person to donate enough money to YWCA Rwanda online for it to make a difference. Plus, PayPal allows Rwandan accounts to send money, but not to receive it. SO THAT SUCKS.
But, really, it was fun talking to them. They were very knowledgeable about the culture and the operations of their business - which, I guess makes sense, since they'd been working in Gitarama for about 5 years, I think.

Christi also mentioned to us that it's very odd in Rwandan culture to eat things "on the go." Tate and I have been known to take our breakfast of bread and jam or peanut butter with us on the way to work, and Tate's even carried coffee with her once or twice while we were heading to work. And now we know why that garnered way more stares than usual....
We asked Pudentienne about the custom when we returned to the office, and I cannot even express how much she laughed upon hearing that we eat food while we walk. She told us that people would think we were either absolutely crazy, or very impolite. She also added that we'd never get boyfriends if we continued that tradition here. 

On the way home from work, we stopped at one of YWCA Rwanda's shops and I bought some souvenirs. I seriously cannot stop buying earrings here. And I never wear dangley earrings - I seriously have been wearing studs for the past 4 years. But I have about 4 pairs now. Which I will most likely end up giving away. But they are very dear to my heart now. Maybe I'll be that weird girl on ND campus that wears giant African earrings. YOLO.
I also bought some other things, but they're going to be a surprise because they're presents. Or maybe I'll just keep them for my dorm room. You never know.

On Tuesday, we had a typical work day. The same as always, seriously. 
We did, however, go to the market with Monique after work. We were searching desperately for cute outfits to wear on Tate's birthday (Saturday)!
...But let me clarify something quickly; by "cute outfits," I mean "something other than jeans and the one tank top that I wear twice a week." And in Tate's case, a cute outfit might be described as "something other than her mother's tank top." The cutest outfits we own, I am not kidding you, are almost exactly the same. Pink tank tops and jeans and Toms. Embarrassing or what? SUP, FELLAZ?!?! GET AT ME!!!
On the plus side, we had the TASTIEST DINNER - toast with avocado, tomato, and onions. Since I can't cook (baking is my thing), Tate manages that, while I slice and dice whatever fruit or vegetable she tosses my way. Our system works pretty well, I think.

And now it's Wednesday. I think this makes a week since I last blogged??? Whoops.

Anyway, stay tuned for some safari pictures that I'm trying to upload right now to the blog. They're already on Facebook, since that's waaay easier to facilitate than putting them on here.
BUT for people like Grandma Gertie who don't have a Facebook, I must persevere. 

I must say, the photos are pretty cool, though. I only put a few up. Check out the side bar!

Please don't hate me that I haven't posted in a while.

I'm still alive, Mom and Dad!

And I'll be home sooner than you think. We leave in a week and a half.
Oh god, that sounds like no time at all. That IS no time at all. I will be leaving for home in 10 days.

Love you all to bits,

1 comment:

  1. Caroline - I'm a good friend of Mrs. RM and have been reading your blog in addition to Tates. You seem to write more often and I was hungry for more news. Congrats on the website - I just checked it out.I'm so impressed with you two girls! Hope to meet you sometime. Elisabeth Luke