A Young Man From Florida Moves To A Village In The Middle Of Africa

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Photo: Courtesy of Ian Ross

More than 15,000 Americans apply every year for an unpaid program that will send them for 27 months to a hard life in a distant land.What’s it like to be a Peace Corps Volunteer?

We asked Ian Ross, a 2010 graduate of Wake Forest University, to send some pictures of his daily life in Rwanda.

Says Ross: “Probably the best thing about being a Peace Corps volunteer is that you have a lot of time for self-directed activities. I teach for 15 hours a week, and the rest is up to me. As secondary projects, I am holding computer lessons for teachers, teaching courtroom staff English once a month in the capital, and helping to create a secondary school curriculum for all volunteers to use. I’m also looking into the possibilities of introducing a cheap cooking fuel alternative to charcoal.”

For breakfast, I either eat dinner leftovers from the night before or something light like this soft cheese and peanuts and a cup of water.

This is my room. A little cluttered because I've always lived that way. I have cement floors and a wooden ceiling. The yellow thing around my bed is a mosquito net. I've tried to decorate the whitewashed walls a bit with family photos, which are above my desk.

This is my school. Students are milling around outside because it's break time. Others are in the canteen.

Classes begin at 7:00. The first hour always involves some warm-up activity or game, so that nobody falls behind. Or rather, so that everyone falls behind evenly.

My classes each have about 60 students. They are about middle-school age, though age varies a lot by grade.

Our school canteen. Our students have a short mid-day break to buy snacks, sweets, and porridge here.

Here are some of the foods offered at the canteen. Indazi (the fried bread mentioned in my blog), peanuts, and ikivuguto (fermented milk). There are also candies, cookies, and very sweet porridge.

The village centre.

This is the small market that is held at my town every day. Taking the photo was a huge event.

Akabenzi is a fried pork dish, so called because the snout of a pig resembles the Mercedes Benz logo. Aka is a diminutive prefix, so all together akabenzi means little Benz.

One of my favourite Rwandan foods, agatogo—a hearty stew that is salty, tomato-y and, because we're in Mibirizi, fishy. (In Nyanza, where I trained, this was always made with cow stomach instead of dried fish).

When the sun goes down, I light a kerosene lantern and read or plan tomorrow's lesson. I eat, listen to the Voice Of America radio station or, if my computer is charged, goof off for a bit. There's not much to do after the lights go out, so I'm usually in bed before 9.

A little embarrassing to admit, but like many volunteers these days, I have gadgets. I spend a lot of my free time reading and listening to podcasts. In addition to the iPod and Nook pictured here, I have my laptop, a modem, and an external hard drive.

Weddings are big social events in Rwanda and because my coworkers are all pretty young, I've been to a lot. This was taken at the wedding of Musafir, a teacher at the village's technical school. He hails from an island on Lake Kivu, so we took boats out to that island for the ceremony. I am standing with the best men, Emmanuel (left) and Phillipe (right).

During the school break, I went to visit some teachers who live in a village near the Congolese border. My friend Martin showed me around and we took pictures like this. Digital cameras are few in Rwanda, especially out in the sticks, so Martin was really happy to get some pictures of himself in his home town.

Here's a closeup of Mibirizi places with locations noted by Ian

Mibirizi is located in the southeastern corner of Rwanda, right in the middle of Africa

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