As you probably know, earlier this summer I accepted an invitation to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English in Rwanda. As far back as high school, I remember contemplating volunteering with Peace Corps, and now, almost four years later, that dream is coming true!
Since accepting my invitation, this summer has felt like the longest one on record. I feel like the past few months have been quite the roller coaster ride of emotions. Most of the time, I’m incredibly excited to serve and can’t wait to start this adventure. I’m anxious to meet the students I will be teaching and am looking forward to living in such a beautiful country. I am confident I will meet wonderful people and come back with countless stories.
Other times, questions and concerns fly through my head a million miles an hour: Where will I be living? How often will I have access to electricity? How quickly will I learn to speak Kinyarwanda? And packing- don’t get me started on that topic!
The clock is really ticking now, only one week to go! I think I finally have packing under control, and all the puzzle pieces are slowly falling into place. I’m ready to meet my fellow trainees, get on that plane, and start this journey! For the next week, I’ll be enjoying as much air conditioning, good food, and time with friends and family as I can!
For now, here are some general facts about Rwanda:
The Republic of Rwanda covers about 10,169 square miles and is roughly the size of Maryland. The population is estimated to be 10.7 million people, making it the most densely populated country in sub-Saharan Africa. The capital is Kigali, a city of approximately 1 million people. Ninety-six percent of the population is Christian with a small Muslim minority, and the majority of the population works in agriculture.
The countryside is very hilly, giving the country its nickname “Land of a Thousand Hills.” Eastern Rwanda boasts grasslands and savannahs, while Western Rwanda is known for its rugged mountains and volcanoes. Because Rwanda is located near the equator, the temperature does not vary greatly throughout the year with highs generally staying in the upper 70s to low 80s. There are two rainy seasons each year, lasting first from February to May and then September to December.
The Rwandan Constitution was adopted in 2003, and the government is composed of an executive branch with a president and prime minister, a legislative branch with two houses, and a judicial branch. There are ten registered political parties, and there is universal suffrage for every citizen over 18 years old. The economy has been growing steadily over the past decade. As of 2011, the GDP is $6.1billion, and the real GDP growth rate is 8.2% http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2861.htm
Peace Corps has a long-standing mission in Rwanda. Between 1975 and 1993, 114 Volunteers worked in the country, but the Peace Corps Mission was forced to close and Volunteers were evacuated during the civil war. Peace Corps re-opened its Mission in 2008, and there are currently 161 Volunteers working as educators or health care workers.