Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rwanda Update #1


So what am I doing here anyway?

I got a new job with Duke in a department that is working on an assessment of a training program for biomedical engineering technicians. The training program, done by an associated NGO, aims to create curriculum and degree programs at many different levels to teach techs how to maintain and fix medical equipment, most of which is donated. More working medical equipment=good. Better aid efficiency =excellent. I am working on the program assessment and program planning for this project. It is a very new job but very exciting none the less (i.e. last minute trip to Rwanda). While in Rwanda we are collecting data for two different projects, both of which mean that I am traveling to 16 hospitals in 14 days all around the country. I am here with my colleague who has been here for three weeks before me. It is really great to have someone to be with and by the way things went at the first four hospitals, having two people is really helpful in completing the work.

It is a very beautiful country. I am learning a lot about Rwanda and what makes it different from the other East African countries I have visited. We haven't had much down time, but I take every chance I get to talk to the local people I encounter to get their story and point-of-view. From what I can tell, the Rwandan method of development is very different from Kenya and Tanzania, although some of the struggles are the same. From what I can gather, the development is both recent and happening quickly.
Rwanda Flag flies outside a health center

For example, one of the first things I noticed was that there weren't people on the side of the roads in Kigali selling things. I learned that there is an effort to restrict an informal economy. This was the most noticeable in the fact that the sidewalks were actually being used as intended, a new concept to me in this area of the world. There are constructed buildings used as formal marketplaces, and I am also told that there is government created housing for those who are either living informally or living in an area that the government would like to develop. (Still mulling over that one).

Also? It took me a full 24 hours to get called mzungu. And I have yet to only be harassed by kids less than 7.

Rwanda has only one native language and I have been attempting to learn a few words. The locals sometimes also speak French and Swahili, both languages I speak just enough to understand that I don't really understand.

The next week will be very hectic with lots of driving and early mornings, but it will also be a chance to see some of the rural areas which is a unique experience. So far, so good!

Happy Sunday!

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