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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Getting Down to the Wire

I will be leaving Seattle in exactly two weeks.  There's not much left to do but pack, which has been an interesting process thus far.  I feel a little bit like a small child venturing into the woods with a Nerf gun and a flashlight - that is, I keep packing things that will make me "feel prepared" since I have no idea what will actually prepare me.

Well, not NO idea. The Peace Corps does provide prospective volunteers with country-specific packing lists. They also provide links to relevant travel websites and books that might have suggestions.  (I recommend So You Want to Join the Peace Corps: What to Know Before You Go by Dillion Banerjee, although it was published in 1994 and consequently has nothing useful to say about internet or telecommunications.)  I'm glad to have these resources - otherwise I probably would have packed for a camping trip and neglected such items as formal clothes, pictures of family and postage stamps - but I still feel more or less in the dark.

It's interesting how little available information there is about contemporary Rwanda.  I've found out that Rwanda's climate is only somewhat warmer than Seattle's, that Rwanda is one of the few places in the world where mountain gorillas can still be seen in their natural habitat, and that tourists should probably steer clear of the Rwanda-DRC border. That's about it.  Even pictures are difficult to find - at one point I ran a search and came up with pictures of Uganda and Benin.  It's difficult to find books on Rwanda's most ubiquitous language, Kinyarwanda.  In fact, most books about Rwanda focus on the 1994 genocide.  When I tell people I'm going to Rwanda I can tell that their first thoughts are of the genocide.  This is both depressing and exciting. I wish I knew more about the country that is soon to be home, but I'm also looking forward to facilitating what seems to be a sorely-needed exchange of information.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

32 Days and Counting...

Muraho, blogosphere! I've never blogged before, so bear with me. These first couple of posts are going to be a little awkward.

Well, alright. As of September 10th, I am a Peace Corps Invitee and a prospective Peace Corps Volunteer, scheduled to depart for my orientation on October 19th. I'm excited and a little freaked out. In theory I've been mentally preparing myself for Peace Corps service since this time last year when I first filled out my application. I interviewed with Melissa Lawent (RPCV Romania) in October, spent a few months accruing additional hours of volunteer experience, became a nominee sometime in March (I think) and spent most of the late spring and early summer filling out medical forms. I considered the Peace Corps a serious - but eventual - goal. And then suddenly I had an invitation. It felt a little bit like being thrown in head-first, not least because I was given only five weeks' notice of my departure date, which I understand is a rushed timeline. I thought, what should I do now that this serious-but-eventual goal is an immediate reality?

Start a blog, I guess.

I'm not sure exactly what to do with this blog. A more authentic do-gooder would probably use it to educate others about the Peace Corps, ask for donations for side projects, things like that. It might become exactly that eventually, but right now it feels like a more legitimate version of LiveJournal, i.e. a way to share my thoughts and feelings about Peace Corps service with lots of people at once. Like I said, I've never blogged before, so bear with me.

PS. According to someone else's blog I read, "Mwaramutse" and "Muraho" are greetings in Kinyarwanda, the maternal language of Rwanda.