Behind the glamour and nice architecture of my new school, the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management, I am discovering my new site is quite rural and impoverished, more so than my previous site.
The villagers of Kitabi are very unaccustomed to seeing an American, especially a young girl. I have a feeling the name-calling will continue for a while, especially since I caught children telling others that I’m going to eat them. I noticed that these children seem more poor and unwashed than other areas I have seen. Their clothes are tattered and dirty. The market in town was so small and shabby that they didn’t know to give me the “Muzungu price”, which I would have gladly given. The market contained little more than onions, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, potatoes, mangos and bananas. Another thing I’ve interpreted as a sign of poverty is that the town is often out of phone credit.
This afternoon, herds of children were running around my house so I suspiciously asked my domestic worker what they were up to. It turns out they were collecting the swarms of large, green grasshoppers that are all over the place. My domestic, who showed me how to dismember one, insists that they are delicious when fried in oil and salt. Instances like this led me to ask a new colleague of mine why this region is so poor.
It turns out that this district, which is called Nyamagabe, is notoriously poor and undereducated. This has several causes. First of all, the soil is poor and the climate is cold. In addition to these conditions, the hills are very steep and the valleys very narrow. This makes subsistence agriculture very challenging. Because of the many steep hills, it is hard to both build schools and obtain good attendance. A final cause, my colleague whispered, was that this region is made up largely of the ethnicity that was ostracized by the previous administration. Now that the genocide and ethnic tensions are largely in the past, large amounts of funding have been poured into the district’s health care and education system so it is now performing better.
I’ll be starting my English teaching this January so I will be sure to share some stories then. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of my neighbors: