Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sweet Home Nyamagabe

AEE…Nyamagabe town…Microfinance…Nyungwe Forest… These ideas were passing through my mind on the bus ride from Kigali to my (future) home in Nyamagabe Town. The abstract ideas that I have read on paper about the work I’ll be doing, the town I’ll be living in, or the life I’ll have for the next two years is starting to be replaced by a more concrete understanding of what my Peace Corps experience will be.

To start, while in Kigali for the Health and Community Development Fair, I met Flavien from African Evangelical Enterprise who will be my counterpart for the next two years. He works with Internal Saving and Leading Groups (ISLGs) in the Nyamagabe District, facilitating training, helping start up groups, maintaining current ones, and everything that falls in between. As he is my counterpart, I will be doing a lot of these things alongside him. With 9 cooperatives and 16 ISLGs, I will be exposed to many of the challenges and successes of microfinance in Rwanda. Although I’m anxious to know what the exact projects I’ll be doing, but I’ll have to wait until May until those questions are answered.

On my town tour this morning, I stopped off at the AEE office with Flavien before touring the house I will be living in. Located near the World Vision compound, a two minute walk from the AEE office, I’ll have a nice little two bedroom house, with a living room (with electricity), bathroom (with toilet and hot water), a small yard, and a small rooftop deck. Not a bad humble abode for the next two years. I wasn’t expecting BOTH electricity and water, but I guess I’ll take it. The extra room will be a guest room/kitchen for any of you who want to visit by the way.

After my house visit, we walked through the market (market day is Wednesday) to see where I will buy food, clothes, etc. The prices were low when Flavien asked, we’ll see how much they are when the muzungu goes it alone. From there we passed through town to the health center (which I plan on visiting again for the detailed tour), and then the secondary school where Flavien taught French for a few years. The reception from everyone I met was warm and welcoming. I think everyone was excited I knew some Kinyarwandan and then even more happy to hear I’d be here for two years.

A few random thoughts and facts
1. I found the local resto/bar that plays soccer games. Phew… (sigh of relief)
2. Nyamagabe is 28 km from the Nyungwe Forest…When I get my PC issued bike I may have to make some trips. Want to send my road bike Mom?
3. Nyamagabe sits atop one of the high “mountains” in the area, thus the view in almost all directions is beautiful green rolling hills. Maybe I can find a spot to take a 360 degree picture.
4. Before 1994 Nyamagabe was not well liked by the government because of the high Tutsi population. They considered it “Congo” area and thus did not invest in development. Since then however the government is trying to develop all districts, and Nyamagabe is seeing more infrastructure and investment.