From Trainee to Volunteer 2: Site announcement, first visit, and first week
Posted On 26/08/2018
I touched on the fact that I wasn’t altogether happy with my site back when we had the announcement. I didn’t pitch a fit, cry, or really display any type of emotion, but the fact was nearly everything I had said in the interview concerning site placement, I ended up with the opposite.
I wanted to be a ‘first generation’ volunteer; instead I’m the third at this site, the last having been a Peace Corps’ poster child. [The only poster I’m ever going to end up on is a ‘Wanted’ poster].
I wanted to be rural. While I do live in a rural village per se, I can, and in fact do, walk to Rwanda’s second largest city. There’s pizza and ice cream and Chinese food. There’s a university and an arboretum. Connectivity leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s a small inconvenience.
I wanted to be in the mountains, near one of the national parks. I’m near exactly zero mountains and the closest park in over three hours away. I have a lot of hills, some very large hills to be exact, but it’s not like being in the mountains. It’s like being in the Midwest; you’re not exactly at sea level, but not really in the mountain and both the mountains and sea are quite a long way away.
Site visit was rough. There was a food issue [there wasn’t any], a bathroom issue [missing keys meant I was to share with everyone else], a work issue [what the hell am I supposed to be doing], a counterpart issue [he took me to bars after I said I don’t drink and left me to find my way home in the rapidly approaching darkness], and a supervisor issue [when I called PC about the lack of food, he became offended and probably embarrassed—I haven’t seen him since]. Getting home was no picnic as I’d agreed to meet some others and while I was at the bus station by 8am, no one else was. One person of the four showed and we were on our way at 10:30, a full two hours behind schedule.
The day went from bad to worse and at 10p when I crawled into my bed back in Rwamagana, I wanted nothing to do with anyone.
Sometimes I am amazed at my own stubbornness and why I didn’t decide to GTFO after that week from hell, I’ll never know, but here I am, a full month later, still in the Peace Corps, still at my site, still trying to figure out what to do.
My first week at site was challenging, and to be fair, I’d guess most people’s week was challenging as well. However, in addition to starting a new job and meeting new people, and figuring out what it is exactly that I am supposed to be doing, I had the challenges of having both an absent boss and counterpart. Throw in that I still struggle a lot with Kinyarwanda, it made for a very long week [even though I only ‘worked’ four days].