Archive for January, 2011

In addition to sleeping late (until 9 am), one of my Sunday rituals is going shopping at the Nyamirambo market up the street from my house. Kigali has about four or five markets, which offer mainly the same things at mainly the same prices (although the prices universally inflate about 20-30% for white skin).

At the Nyamirambo market, there are about 50-100 vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meat, flour, eggs, home goods, cooking materials, clothing, shoes, sunglasses, fabric, charcoal, and more. Visiting the market is always a stimulating experience and it’s great to start off the week fully stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables.

The market is organized in a sort of concentric squares structure, with vendors selling home goods, shoes, sunglasses, etc. lining the outer square.

Technicolor home goods

Passing into the wooden structure in the front of the market, you meet an elaborate series of vendors selling essentially the same vegetables. Sometimes I wonder why merchants don’t specialize and break up into unique clusters or cooperatives of potatoes, tomatoes, onions, etc. Following the laws of supply and competition, the prices are fairly uniform across all of the aisles. I suppose in the end it would be difficult to orchestrate and maintain a division of vegetable offerings.

Stands at the entrance to the vegetable labyrinth

Going to the market as a mzungu has not been as overwhelming as I was expecting. People occasionally call out and hawk at me but are generally calm and let me browse through the aisles at my own pace.

A merchant who sold me some garlic

There are in fact a few merchants who stick to one or two vegetables and sell in bulk, like the onions below.

Onions galore

Outside of the wooden structure there are stalls to buy raw meat like goat, beef, and chicken. This next picture may not be suitable for vegetarians…

Yes those are goat heads

Crossing into another wooden structure brings you to the fruit stands. Here is a kind woman who sells me my mango and passion fruit. The reddish-yellow oval fruit on the left is some sort of tree plum which is quite bitter on its own but delicious in juice form.

I just couldn’t not take a picture of this scene:

Walrus baby amidst plantain bushels

Heading toward the exit, you pass by several stands of used vintage shoes. These most likely come from foreign donations that end up sold to merchants or given as surpluses. Although it makes westerners feel good, sending old clothing and shoes to Africa is actually one of the worst things we can do for local economies.

Recognize any old shoes?

Sunday’s trip was quite fruitful and I left with a cornucopia of eggplants, onions, carrots, mangos, passion fruit, curry powder, and goat heads. I kid, no goat heads. (Haha, two puns in one paragraph.)

It’s unique to have such an array of fresh and succulent produce at my fingertips in addition to fully stocked grocery stores where I can buy western comfort food like cream cheese and Rice Krispies (albeit at a premium). On that note, the bagels from Friday’s culinary adventure were a great success! I ended up eating all three of my bagels within 15 hours (two for dinner and one for breakfast…don’t judge.) As I was heading to a meeting in a new part of town yesterday I passed by a megastore with a banner that read “MADE IN ITALY: IMPORTED CHEESE, WINE, MEATS, OIL, SAUCES, ICE CREAM, AND MORE.” I have a feeling that will be my next grocery adventure!

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I just peeked back at one of the first posts I wrote after arriving in Kigali in late August. In it, I listed the following non-work-related goals that I had set for this year: “become proficient in Kinyarwanda, make friends with local Rwandans, visit a few of the Great Lakes and nearby African countries (hopefully to see Meg in Uganda and Rachel in Kenya!), never feel too cut off from my friends and family back in the States and around the world, and if possible find or create some kind of community here.”

With the exception of visiting Rachel in Kenya (which I’m planning to do in early March!!), I can proudly say I’ve accomplished all those goals so far. I’ve even managed to find/create several different communities here.

Here are some of my personal goals for 2011:

– Do something new every day. New adventures can be as small as walking a different way to work or trying to bake cookies on my stove and as big as traveling to a new country or climbing a volcano (it’s possible in western Rwanda!).

– Get back into my healthy groove: go running more regularly, eat less salt (or just balance it out with more potassium), and take vitamins regularly.

– Take more photographs and, internet permitting, post more of them here.

As for my work at Generation Rwanda, I’m really excited about 2011. Since two new English language assistants are joining Generation Rwanda, I will no longer be in charge of teaching English – a welcome change, given that I have really enjoyed devoting my energy to other programmatic planning and coordinating. I just finished writing my workplan through June and there will be a number of interesting projects and initiatives under my supervision – some of which I was assigned and others that I proposed myself. Here are some of the 2011 highlights that I’m looking forward to working on:

– Coordinate and implement another iteration of the entrepreneurship training in May.

– Create, develop, and implement a social entrepreneurship training workshop for students who have completed entrepreneurship training. I’ve been gathering materials from Ashoka, Schwab Foundation, and Change.org. For any social entrepreneurs reading, please feel free to share any other resources that would be helpful.

– Work with Junior Chamber International – Rwanda Chapter (the organization whose members volunteered to run the November entrepreneurship training) to incorporate a JCI Rwanda sub-chapter made up of Generation Rwanda students.

– Conduct research at our 10 partner universities to assess the programming and opportunities offered. Analyze how Generation Rwanda’s programming may be filling in gaps, duplicating, or offering superior programming that institutions can learn from (in areas like career development, counseling, critical thinking, clubs, debate, English, leadership, library, and research).

– Plan and implement Life after Generation Rwanda workshop for our graduating students.

– Plan and implement a series of workshops on leadership.

– Spearhead a Generation Rwanda Debate Club and become the club’s adviser.

– Assist the Country Director and Program Director in selecting our next batch of scholarship students. For any Rwandan students interested in applying for our university scholarship program, feel free to e-mail me at helaina@generationrwanda.org. The application process begins in April.

– Continue to be the in-house photographer for all Generation Rwanda events, workshops, and student profiles.

2011 promises to be quite a busy and fulfilling year. It’s off to a tasty start – I’ve been experimenting with new restaurants and home-made recipes/concoctions. One of my proudest moments has been successfully frying and flipping a Rolex (a scrumptious chapati cooked into an omelette with sauteed onions and cabbage, invented at Makerere University in Uganda).

Another omen that this year will be stimulating and fulfilling is that earlier this week, I attended an incredible reception and photo exhibit put on by Through the Eyes of Children: The Rwanda Project. 19 students at the Imbabazi Orphanage in western Rwanda were given the chance to study photography for 10 years. The stunning exhibit is the culmination of their talented work. The award-wining photo on the website’s home page was taken with a disposable camera by Jacqueline, a student who was 8 at the time.

One more link to check out: The New York Times compiled 2010: The Year in Pictures, a breathtaking and informative photo essay of the major events and disasters of 2010.

Today’s new adventure: I’m heading out to pick up my first order of bagels from a Rwandan woman who makes the only bagels available in Kigali (and probably all of Rwanda). I almost ordered some Everything bagels until I learned that they actually include every possible ingredient: onion, garlic, salt, cinnamon, raisins, and seasoning. I might have to give in to my curiosity and taste one some day this year…

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Translation: Happy new year! May it be filled with milk and honey!

I hope everyone reading had a lovely holiday season, wherever in the world you were. I’m back in warm and sunny Kigali and finally recovered enough from my jet lag to write a coherent blog post. Reflecting on 2010, it was quite an eventful year for me. Here are some of the highlights:

– Graduating from Tufts in May (with highest honors!)

– Training for and running in the Boston Marathon. As many of you know, I didn’t make it past Mile 9 because a foot injury that I thought had healed reared its ugly head with a vengeance. Regardless, the experience of training as part of the Tufts President’s Marathon Challenge Team and pushing my own physical and mental limits was truly awesome. (And unique – I don’t think I’ll attempt another marathon.)

– Working on the Haiti earthquake relief effort at Tufts. A large part of my senior year was devoted to being a crisis mapper and evaluator for Ushahidi Haiti, the co-chair of Tufts Haiti Relief Coalition, and a recipient and implementer of RESPE: Haiti‘s 100 Projects for Peace initiative in northern Haiti. As a longtime actor and advocate for Haiti’s development, I did my best to put my Haiti expertise to use and contribute to recovery projects. Sadly the earthquake wasn’t the only devastating setback the country faced in 2010. Let’s hope that 2011 will be a year of real recovery and milk and honey for Haiti.

– Moving to Kigali to start working with Generation Rwanda. The last four months of 2010 were unbelievably challenging, invigorating, and enjoyable.¬† I’ve actually maintained my Tufts-era levels of intellectual stimulation, curiosity, and fulfillment – a feat that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to manage after graduating. Establishing a life in Kigali, Rwanda is not something I could have predicted a few years ago and I’m thrilled to have a good chunk of 2011 left to continue my adventure.

– Meeting new friends here in Rwanda. Colleagues, neighbors, passersby, and random contacts have become some of my closest friends here who have helped me feel welcome and comfortable in my home away from home.

Looking ahead: what will be my milk and honey this year?

First, on a morbid note, I hope the world doesn’t come to an end this year. I know the Mayans predicted 2012 but with all these birds falling from the sky and fish spontaneously dying – now in Sweden, Italy, Maryland, Brazil, New Zealand, and Arkansas – I’m a bit fearful. Hopefully experts can get to the bottom of this and make it into a conclusive and powerful environmental wake-up call.

As for my milk and honey for 2011, I have a few resolutions and goals but I’m still reflecting and refining them…tune in next time!

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