Thursday, May 29, 2014

Rwanda week 1

Muraho! I have been in Rwanda for 4 days now and what an incredible experience it has been thus far. My schedule this first month consists of waking up at 5:45 am to run. Breakfast is made for us in the morning and it consists of eggs, pineapple, bread and bananas every time. Next we study Kinyarwanda from 8am to 12pm the first four days, after that we will be studying French. These two languages are vital for me for when I will be working in the hospital next month sense the staff speak little English. From 12pm to 1pm I eat lunch at a restaurant. Most expensive meal so far has been  $4 dollars for a buffet and drink. From 1pm to 5pm we are working on our engineering labs that prepare us for situations we will see in the hospitals. From 5pm to 8pm we have free time. So far we have been to the market or hung out around the campus. At 8pm we have dinner. Our family has a house maid that cooks for us and our hosts typically let us eat till we are full until they begin to eat a lot. At 9pm we can either get ready for bed or go out to a bar restaurant to hang out. Latest I have stayed out is 10pm however because I am typically very tired and want a good start in the morning.
The food here consists of mostly carbs with very few meat. At lunch today I was told to only take 1 piece of meat. But everything is fresh witch makes a huge difference and the food tastes amazing. The environment is beautiful. It’s a city built into a jungle so there is jungle life everywhere. It is also very hilly. Put the two together and you make an incredible beautiful environment that pictures probably wont do justice. We live in a gated community that encloses the campus. The campus provides housing to a few of the professors. There are armed guards at the gate to the campus. In fact, there are armed guards all throughout the city of Kigali. In the market areas they are probably stationed every 100 yards or so, in the less dense areas they are probably every quarter mile. They say because of the armed guards that there is very low crime in the city. The students and professors on campus are very nice to us. They are all technical studies students and a good number of them are engineers. 
Our homestay is very nice. Thomas and Vienne are the parents and they have 2 kids who are studying abroad at the moment in Australia so the house is very quiet throughout the day. We have spurts of running water and a functional toilet. There is always food to eat for us. The internet service is pretty bad but I try to check everything at least once every other day. We have very slow upload and download speeds so I am not sure how the picture uploading will go but we shall see!
Sunday I was given a tour of the city and saw the hotel where Hotel Rwanda was filmed. Monday we ventured out into the city. We took a bus that only cost 25 cents USD and had fun traveling around a part of the town called UTC. Tuesday our lab lasted a long time so we stayed on the campus grounds and hung out at the restaurant on campus. We played cards and billiards with the students who go to the campus and had amazing conversations. (The college we attend teaches English so the majority of people on site speak English). Wednesday I finally got my luggage from the airport and I was able to hang out with the on site coordinator in town for around 2 hours and learned a lot about Engineering World Health. We also worked with the onsite biomedical engineering students in our lab. It was a pretty incredible and humbling experience. In 3 hours, my partner from Germany, a Rwandan student and myself constructed a device that will simulate an ECG signal that we will use in the hospitals next month. Thursday we headed to the local market to practice our Kinyarwandan. It was quite an adventure and was quite fun being able to haggle in their native tongue. I got the entire experience on my go pro and will upload it as soon as I get back to the states. We ended  lab early so a bunch of us went to play basketball. It is fun hanging out on campus with the students here. Sometimes it can be difficult to communicate but they love to play sports with us.

The trip already has put a giant perspective of how fortunate I am to be where I am today. The locals love talking about America and how great and fortunate we are to be there. They want to know everything about it from the food, cars, cities, jobs, beer and girls. They love talking to us because they want to match our accents in order to speak English well (from what I herd). I have also been very humbled by the students here, they seem shocked to hear Americans are studying at their university. One student in particular rocked me a little bit. He said if he had the money to fly to America, he would tomorrow. I asked him what he would do with an American Civil Engineering degree. He responded that he would come back to Rwanda to help build the “New Rwanda” that he and his colleagues are dreaming to build. They want to put away the shame the older generation brought the country with the genocide, and show that Rwanda is a grand country to be in.

All I can say for now is that I am so blessed to be able to help inspire and work with these students in achieving that dream.

Also, for anyone wondering what the stress level is to take on a trip such as this. I have had several emotional breakdowns in both America and here. This trip has already brought me to tears. I have broken objects out of frustration and can easily say it beats anything I have experienced up to this point (including biomedical engineering finals).  Prayers are always appreciated and let me know if you have any questions!

Here are some pics from Doha, Qatar...

This is a picture of artwork inside our hotel.

The next picture is of the museum of Islamic art

I dont know what this is but it looked cool.

A picture of downtown Doha

And now Rwanda!

Here is our campus

Pics of the city/countriside

The famous Hotel Rwanda

The local coffee shop

Our engineering kit

We started off practicing soldering and made an extension cord.

Our campus again

An engineering lab classroom

Me, Andres and Jacob making the simulated ECG signal

Our Kinyarwandan teacher, Francis

The ECG device plugged into a machine

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