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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I'm sad I can't be with y'all for the most indulgent of American holidays.

I and the other trainees are doing our best to bring Thanksgiving to Rwanda. The embassy gave us some turkeys and we're currently cooking them over hot coals in a giant pit we dug yesterday. I guess it's supposed to work like a really big dutch oven - we'll see how successful it is. We're also making apple crisp, mashed potatoes, African sweet potatoes and mango-pineapple upside-down cake. We have only local ingredients and charcoal stoves, so improvisation has been key. We wanted to make pumpkin pie but we could only find one pumpkin in all of Nyanza and it was green. But, hakuna matata. It's going to be an awesome Thanksgiving, with or without pumpkin pie.

I have photos to upload, mostly of Nyanza and the training site, but my computer has been acting up. Every time I try to do something that requires hard disk space I have to wait thirty seconds to several minutes, even though I have plenty of hard disk space and my hard drive is defragged (de-frag-ed?). If anyone has any suggestions as to what I can do, please email me at I really don't want to have to send my computer back to the States to get it fixed.

That's all for now. Love and peace!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Un Paysage Jolie

Hi everyone! I'm back from my site visit in Kamonyi District - the name of my sector is Gihara, for those of you who want to look me up on Google Maps (if Google Maps covers Gihara - I honestly have no idea). I had an incredible week.

If you all could see my site, you would be jealous. I have a tiny two-room house all to myself in the garden behind a Catholic convent. I will be teaching at a day school, GS St. Dominique, that's a five-minute walk from my house. The school has 2000+ students, grades 1-9. I will be teaching either 8th or 9th grade English - I don't know which yet. Apparently my schedule will be determined at the beginning of the next trimester. The school is tiny but gorgeous - the classrooms are little brick buildings and the entire campus sits at the edge of a cliff that overlooks a coffee grove, rolling hills and in the not-so-distant distance, the capital city, Kigali.

My house wasn't ready for me to stay in this week, so I stayed in a room in the convent and ate all of my meals with the nuns. I count them all as friends now and I think they feel the same way about me. In the very least they find me entertaining. On my second day at the convent I managed to lock myself in the latrine and had to call for help. They had a good laugh at my expense over that. It took three of them and a spoon to get the door open.

I tried to meet other people in my community, with limited success. I was introduced to the headmaster and director of studies at St. Dominique and I was able to parce things out with them in French. I attempted to talk to my other neighbors in Kinyarwanda but conversation was difficult due to my limited vocabulary; right now I know how to say, "Hello, my name is Gelsey, I will be teaching English at St. Dominique, I am a Peace Corps volunteer," and that's about all. That and "please pass the salt."

I'm almost out of time, but thanks all for reading, and please email me if you have any further questions.

Friday, November 12, 2010


This will be a brief and unrevised post. I've finally gotten to the internet after another week of floundering. It's been a great week, though. We took a field trip into Butare to go to the bank and found one of Rwanda's very few ice cream shops. I think there are only two in the whole country, one of which just happens to be in Butare. Ice cream has never tasted so good. I got a huge bowl of it with chunks of fresh papaya and banana. I will be dreaming about that ice cream for weeks, but man, it was worth it.

We will be going on individual site visits next week. Apparently we are being accompanied part of the way, staying for a week at site, then returning on our own. I'm very excited to do something independently - I love my fellow trainees, but going everywhere with 67 other people gets to be a little much after awhile. I think most of us feel the same way.

My site is the northeastern corner of the southern province. The district is called Kamonyi. I know nothing about it other than the location and that there is apparently a primary school nearby, so there will be children everywhere. I'm excited to learn more and post about it here! For now, that's all. If you have any questions, feel free to post them or email me. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Murabeho, everyone! I'm sorry it's taken me so long to finally write a new post - internet here is slow and they charge by the minute. Last time I tried to blog I spent twenty minutes waiting for the page to load before I gave up. But today, success!

Rwanda is beautiful. It's all rolling green hills, and the weather is like Hawaii - warm and wet. When it rains it pours, but only for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. The air always smells pleasantly of burning charcoal and there are goats and chickens everywhere.

It's hard to describe everything that's happened, there's so much that's different. Right now we are at a training site in Nyanza, a few hours outside of Kigali. Instead of living with host families, we live in houses of between two and ten volunteers with one to four LCFs (language and cultural facilitators). The LCFs are sort of like our Rwandan R.A.'s. They are Peace Corps employees recruited in Rwanda to teach us Kinyarwanda, live with us, and basically show us the ins and outs of everyday life here. We have been taught how to wash our clothes by hand and how to cook with charcoal stoves, although we're learning with varying degrees of success. The houses have some amenties, but it varies from house to house. My house has electricity most of the time and running water out back, but not in the bathroom. We take "bucket baths," which basically entails hauling a bucket of cold water into the house, soaping up, pouring the water over yourself, and mopping the water out the door. It's not as bad as it sounds. I miss orange juice more than I miss hot showers.

The city of Nyanza is, for lack of a better phrase, pretty nice. Everything is impressively clean, especially considering there is no state-organized trash pick up. Apparently plastic shopping bags are illegal - it's part of a government effort to reduce litter. I think that's the most interesting piece of trivia I've learned so far.

Although we don't have host families, we have "resource families" that live in the area. We are required to visit them twice a week for meals and to practice Kinyarwanda. Some families speak some English, some don't. My resource mama speaks a little French, but as I've discovered, it's incredibly difficult to parce things out in bad French. Fortunately I also have a sixteen-year-old resource sister who speaks incredible English. She's basically my only means of communication with the rest of the family until I learn more Kinyarwanda. I know "good morning," "how are you," and "I don't understand," but that's the extent of my vocabulary right now.

Again, there's so much to say I'm not sure what to say - if you have any questions, please post them here, or email me ( and I'll respond the next time I get around to checking my email. Eventually I'll get a modem (when I can afford to) but for now the only way to consistently contact me is by phone, which I'm sure is prohibitively expensive. I also have a mailing address:

Gelsey Hughes
BP 5657
Kigali Rwanda

It takes three weeks to a month to receive anything, but I will be very appreciative of letters! I also plan on sending letters as soon as I can afford postage.