I am proud to announce that I have officially been a volunteer for exactly a week now. The end of Pre Service Training ended just as quickly as it started and just a few days later, we were sent to our respective villages. Swearing in went according to plan. If you would like copies of the written speeches feel free to reach out via the form on this site. Here is a link to the speeches: https://youtu.be/27SlZbet1Ul
The couple days after swearing in and before site installation were spent gathering the essential items not available in village i.e a gas stove, stovetop coffee maker, among other things. I even had time to go to the Kigali expo which is essentially a large country fair—it even had rides and grilled corn.
The morning of site installation, we all said our teary goodbyes, as the first three months are solely spent at site and regional towns. I am located in the north, in the Rulindo district. On my 45 min moto to site from the main road, there are tea fields, steppe farmed mountains, and not a car in sight.
The first day was relatively tough. After being dropped off, I immediately started to busy myself, by setting up my gas stove and buying food so that I wouldn’t need to resort to my few precious American reserves e.g peanut butter and ramen (not together of course). At that point, I had a mattress, two small stools and a stove and so the first night was spent thinking a lot about how it is I got there. On Saturday, I was able to pick up my furniture and started putting things where they belong.
Cooking has been quite the adventure. For whatever reason I assumed that my stove was not self lighting, and then a week later, the stove magically turned on without the use of matches. Each day, my village has a small market where I am able to buy veggies and some fruits daily. I imagine when rainy season starts, there will be more variety and food available but for now, beans, avocados and rice will suffice. Cooking also takes ten times longer, as cooking includes prepping, the actual cooking, and hand washing all the dishes. Since there is no food storage other than room temperature, making larger quantities isn’t an option.
This morning, I went for my first run. I found a 4 mile loop that winds behind a mountain and back around to my village. It’s nice to get going first thing in the morning, say hello to the neighbors both near and far, and head to the health center for my 7AM start.
Part of being a first volunteer at a site is that no one really knows what you’re doing there, and your job, while it may be clear on paper, is certainly not clear in real life (to some degree). When I arrived to my first day of work on Monday, we had an all staff meeting which included introductions and formal words regarding who I was and why I would be living in a small village for two years. There’s a fine line between clinical work and the work of a volunteer. My job here is to assist the village in achieving their goals in health. So when the nurses start to see patients in the infirmary, I have been shadowing as I am not a HCP. But, I was given scrubs to wear so maybe that also confused my neighbors/villagers. I had to use “sindi umuganga” several times (I am not a doctor).
Life moves much more slowly here, the majority of my time has been spent trying to keep up with my own needs, food, rest, and exercise. But I also have been fortunate in taking time to go on walks, to meet my neighbors and truly to understand the ins and outs of village life. On a side note, I am also fortunate enough to have a water tap in my compound and limited electricity. So for that I am also grateful.
For more photos from swearing in, please visit the photos section.
I also officially have a post box now, if you’re interested in writing or sending packages, feel free to drop a line in the form on this site. I am big into letter writing, feel free to send addresses as well!