Friday, June 13, 2008

Heading Back Out!

I'm going back to Rwanda in the next couple of days, this time for a couple-month stint. This experience should be pretty different from my time with the UN, since I'll actually be paid and will be living in the capital. I haven't really ever experienced the life of an expatriate (and confess a certain disdain for those who have only ever experienced that, and haven't lived in the field), so I imagine it should be pretty eye-opening.

At the moment, I'm packing out my apartment while simultaneously packing my bag for Rwanda. I'm not really sure how to dress...I got away with Gap clothes and Doc Martens when I was living in Gisenyi, but now I'm going to have to dress "respectably." When I think of the word "respectably," I think "uncomfortably." But we'll see what I can rummage up from my messy closet.

Otherwise, I'm bringing my bug spray. And maybe some cereal. It's wicked expensive out there! One expatriate had about 200 boxes of SmartStart cereal shipped into Rwanda with his household effects because it was so overpriced. (Apparently, it is very tasty.) When he left, he sold off the rest of the boxes to the other expatriates. Pretty ingenious, but I think the Rwandan government caught on to this (as they always do).

My three goals this round: To take real Kinyarwanda lessons (since they are available in Kigali), to join the Kigali Hash House Harriers (the one aspect of expatriate life that I confess is pretty cool), and to exercise so that I don't go back to being a brochette-and-potato blimp.I'll keep you posted!

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Morgan, I'm one of your silent reader ever since searching for kinyarwanda-english online as I just arrived in Kigali at that time (Jan, 08). Being a fan ever since. Your blog help me in some ways to experience good life here apart of problems at work. Of course ur excellent way of writing with a catchy title really grab my attention and makes me hunger for an update.

Now since u r coming/going back I really need to drop u a line (actually more than a line).

Since I'm still here for another month.. really hope that I can catch you. By the way, I'm not a crazy fan that will stalk you while you are here in Kigali. Hik hik... and b4 I forget, thanx for sharing ur experiences..

anyway I'll continue drop u a message in ur blog.

-harry-

6/14/2008 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Morgan,
Kigali is hot right now, so take all your summer clothes.That is a fantastic idea to take your own cereal boxes. I was going to cry when I went to the fancy market in UTC( Union Trade Center) building to buy cereal, ketchup, hotdog and mustard. It was so expensive, I almost fainted!
I wish I took my own wine too!!!
Have a great time.
Urugendo rwiza( safe trip).

Jane

6/16/2008 3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Morgan,

My family and I (hubby and 2 small ones) will be moving to Rwanda for work. This will be my first time as an expat (RPCV-3 years then solo around Africa and Brazil...not the chic life), so wondering your thoughts about finding a good 'middle ground' community. Also, what is the scene for families? Any ideas about schools? What about the number of org in Rwanda doing work? I am so excited I could pop...the country seems beautiful and from the few Rwandans I have met the people are great!

6/17/2008 4:37 PM  
Blogger Morgan C. said...

Thanks to Harry and Jane for the comments. It is hot right now...but at least it's not humid! I love this place.

For the RPCV--when you say "community," I'm not sure if you mean an actual area of Kigali, or simply a community of people. I'm getting to know the different communities pretty well now, and I'd say that you're likely to find a "middle-ground" community in Kiyovu. It's somewhat contrary to what you might expect in that it is closest to "downtown"--but it's where all the prewar houses are located. They're still beautiful, with great gardens, but they're more down-to-earth than the McMansions that are cropping up all over Nyarutarama and Kagugu. (Those have 5+ bedrooms, numerous sitting rooms, etc. and I have no idea how you can fill that space unless you have loads of kids.)

In terms of "people" community, I'd say your first go-to would be the RPCV community, which is pretty significant. They are everywhere, and I'm sure they'd be happy to show you around and get you acquainted with the area. Otherwise, I think you really just have to get to know people before you can figure out if they're the kind who embrace the culture and language, and actively befriend Rwandese, or if they are the kind of people who prefer to uniquely spend time with other expatriates in the upscale venues. Both exist.

In terms of schools, there's a new one (I'm going to check it out and will post here when I do)where the President's children go to school. That means it must be very good. Otherwise, a lot of American expats send their kids either to the Kigali International School (which apparently has compulsory Bible study?) or the Belgian School (which teaches in French, according to the Belgian curriculum). The Belgian School has mostly been at capacity since the French school was closed.

There is a family scene here. In Kigali, the Embassy hosts family-oriented events, and you can also travel out to Akagera in the East, Gisenyi in the north, or Kibuye in the West for family trips. (I think you have to be of a certain age to see the gorillas, so I may not recommend Ruhengeri.)

In terms of NGOs in Rwanda, you can't take two steps before tripping over one. Everyone is here, and there are plenty of opportunities, whether in health, education, religion, reconciliation, wildlife conservation, orphans and vulnerable children, business development, microfinance, and the like.

You are right. The country is magnificent! I was just commenting to a friend that I really feel like I am addicted to Rwanda. The people are wonderful, the landscape is gorgeous, the culture is fascinating, and the climate can't be beat. Murakaza neza! You'll love it here.

6/21/2008 10:14 AM  
Blogger cheryl98027 said...

I just got back from Rwanda on June 5, and I can recommend the group I traveled with--Rwanda Partners (rwandapartners.org). They are based in Bellevue, Wa, and have a small staff in Kigali. They also work with a group called www.mbwirandumva.org ("Speak, I'm Listening"), which provides training for people in sewing, baking, and handicrafts.

Cheryl

P.S. Morgan, your blog is great and the dictionary was so-o-o helpful.

6/21/2008 2:31 PM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Thanks Morgan,

I am anonymous (with hubby and 2 small ones relocating for work)...my name is Stephanie. Thanks a million...really appreciate your thoughtful response and help.

If you get a chance, do let me know about the new school...sounds pricey though...

Gosh, I will check out the International School...with a little doubt, but will nonetheless.

Well, again thanks. You are a gem!

Plan to leave in September or so...let me know if you want any goodies from the US...

Gratefully,
Stephanie

6/30/2008 10:48 AM  
Blogger Morgan C. said...

Stephanie,

I did a little more research on the schools...

The Wellspring Academy is brand-new, has some international students (though no Americans that I'm aware of), and was built chiefly by the Canadians. It has a bit of a Christian theme to it, but most schools here do. It is K-4, but they're adding 5 and 6 next year and the year after. This is located in Nyarutarama.

There's also the Green Hills Academy. Rwandans tell me it's the premier private school here, because the President sends his kids here. My guess is that it must be good if he elects to do that. This is located in Nyarutarama.

The Belgian School is K-12, and follows a Belgian curriculum. Classes are taught in French. It's known to be very good if you want your children to be bilingual. Since the French School closed, it's been near capacity, but it's worth checking to see if there's a space.

Otherwise, most US expats I know send their kids to the Kigali International Community School (called the KICS--pronounced "Kix"). It used to be the Kigali International Christian School, but they changed the name because they thought they might get funding from the State Dept to be an American school. There is still a heavy Christian component here, however, which is one of the reasons why the State Department opted not to fund it.

Secular education is quite hard to find here.

As for preschools, there are some--two I can think of off the top of my head are Little Bears and Les Lionceaux. There are several more, though.

Hope that helps!

7/03/2008 5:36 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Hi Again Morgan,

Thank you so very much. We really appreciate your help.

Hope to meet you once we get there.

Right now, we are fine tuning our departure.

By the way, could we really find modest, safe, nice housing for 1200monthly? So far, housing seems to be a lot more.

Kindly,
Stephanie

7/03/2008 1:07 PM  
Blogger Morgan C. said...

Stephanie,

For 1200, I would recommend looking at Kiyovu for modest places. Otherwise, most of the places I've seen (I've been doing real estate searches for my organization here for the past month) are between 1500 and 2000. If a landlord says 1500, you can probably negotiate down to 1300 or 1200. Rent is definitely negotiable here.

Good luck!!

8/04/2008 6:30 AM  

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