I have been installed*

Today I woke up under a cloud of sea green mosquito netting and the sounds of Africa.   A national holiday was declared last night by the federal government, with less than 24 hours short notice.   Today, President Kagame, who lives in the heart of the people of Rwanda, as well as in the eyes of the rest of the world, as the person most responsible for bringing peace to the land and helping to improve the lives of its people using honest and well-organized development strategies, both by working within the country to unit the people of Rwanda, and in the careful selection of international collaborative development projects with various outside aid organizations, is being sworn in for another term of seven years. Everyone is thrilled that he decided to run for a third term and, although I have not yet ventured out today from my new little “nest”, I am sure that the music and voices on loud speakers that I can hear outside my window, must have something to do with the local community’s celebration of this auspicious occasion. When I stand out on my porch and listen, I am able to discern the name “Kagame” midst the otherwise unintelligible flood of Kinyarwanda (pronounced Ichinyargwanda).

On a more mundane level, I have been “installed”.   in the U.S., one usually “moves” into a new house. In Peace Corps, we are “installed” in a new home. I have the image of being installing like a new appliance whenever I hear the expression. And, I guess, in a way, this is true: We are being installed in a location for a short-term assignment in order to provide a particular service.  It seemed poetic to me, however, that, on the very day that I was being installed into my new home in Ruhango, Rwanda, the new owners of my home in Putney VT were “installing” themselves into that wonderful space. I still wonder how the buyer managed to pick the same day; both were planned weeks in advance, by two completely different parties, located halfway around the world from one another.

With regards to my “installation”, things worked out at the very last minute. Homeless when I last posted, a temporary home turned up for me not far from the College where I will be teaching for the year, all because a teacher at another school had to go home ahead of schedule. That school graciously agreed to rent their now vacant house to my college until December, at which point the latter will need to come up with another home for me.   From what I can tell from what I see around me, that may not be as simple as it sounds. Anyway, at around noon yesterday, 6 a.m. EST, I entered my new home. At some point, once I figure out how to post pictures on Word Press, I will.

The remarkable thing about my new home is that, apart from having furniture at all, which was unexpected, the furniture is all hand-crafted wood.   Clearly a local artisan made it all and, given my preference for all things wood, it felt welcoming to be met by a Rwandan version of what I had left behind. Even the ceiling is reminiscent of the Vermont house, assuming you have as much imagination as I do: thin sheets of luan, criss-crossed with strips of wood that have been stained a deep mahogany brown. Structurally, is it probably no sturdier than a match box, if one were to compare it to the post-and-beam house that I had left behind, but it is wood all the same, and it is a ceiling. Many houses have no ceilings. Looking up, I smiled when I realized that I still had “posts and beams” above me.

The walls of the house are hand-made brick on the outside, very well done and sealed with thick layers of mortar. Stucco on the inside, with a slab cement floor, easy to sweep and the tin roof kept me dry today when, after many dry days, the rain came to settle the dust and revive the drying vegetation. Rainy season is on its way.

So, what’s with the sea green mosquito net, you might ask. Well, this was my adventure for arrival day.   For those of you who are unfamiliar with mosquito nets, there are several choices, most of which hang from the ceiling. One has a central hanger and then spreads out in all direction like a circus tent, with a central peak and sloping sides. Some versions have a wooden frame at the top, over which the net falls, so the sides don’t slop as closely to the corners of the bed as with a single origin. Others have multiple places to attach to the ceiling to form a rectangle or square. Both of these involve crawling under the bottom edge to get into your bed and all cover the bed but may or may not reach the floor.   Well, I decided to treat myself to an upscale style from China that I found in Kigali, that was a huge self-standing square of metal poles, over which a square tent was suspended.   It looked great in the store although I didn’t much like the pink or yellow colors. But when I went back to decide if I wanted to spend the extra money on it, I was captured by one in light pastel green.   Putting it together was an experience: The only directions were in Chinese and the 12 poles (four for the square on top, four for the bottom, and four for the corner poles, were each comprised of 3-4 smaller segments that then had to be put together.

I had to use my powers of deduction to construct it: Some poles were ever so slightly thinner than the rest, and by referring to the one picture provided along side the Chinese ideographs which I assume were the directions for assembly, and a great deal of trial and error, I assembled it. Halfway through I realized the bed frame that was in the room was too big, so I turned it on its side and built my mosquito enclosure next to it, instead of over it. More than six feet tall, and the same in width and depth, it forms a room within a room. It has zippered sides to enter and leave, no more crawling under the edge of the netting for me!! The only drawback is that the only way I can get to the bathroom now is by entering through one zipper and exiting through another, and then there is always the fear that it won’t fit into my next home.

Soft green netting above and on all four sides, it reminds me of a very sophisticated version of the indoor tent that children sometimes make, buy putting a large sheet over a table, for example. There is enough room for my fan, my single mattress, and a little blanket upon which I can do yoga next to the mattress.   I’m sure everyone will consider me crazy for having it, but it is my personal sanctuary into which I enter in the evening. From within, the world looks safe, soft, fuzzy, and … sea green.  It makes me smile, it is ever-so-silly of me to have bought it but I love it.

*The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Rwandan government.