Umusiki w’imbwa.

This post is about the 6th month of our service in Rwanda. See the previous post here:


Peace Corps service is full of the unexpected. I suddenly found myself teaching music to classrooms of 60+ students with no instruments of any kind. I stumbled across a guitar that had been left by a former PCV. So, I decided to use it for teaching. The only problem is that I didn’t know how to play the guitar. What better time to learn than now? I spent the month learning the guitar so that I could use it to teach music.

Umusiki w'imbwa(Dog music).
Umusiki w’imbwa(Dog music).

Another unexpected turn of events for this month was an abundance of dogs. The dog in the painting is named Ka’cyenda(Kah-Chenda) which is Kinyarwanda for K9. Since our first day at site she decided that she wanted to be our dog. She refused to leave our backyard and she began to follow us everywhere we went. We tried to resist owning her(since pet dogs aren’t common in Rwandan culture), but it only created more problems when she followed us to the bar, or to the market, and even followed me into my classroom on my first day of class. We had to start tying her up in the backyard any time we went out so that we could integrate into our community without a dog following us around.

Then she went into heat. We got to learn first-hand what the life of a wild dog is like. Every night for almost 2 weeks we had a pack of about 10-15 wild, aggressive, male dogs. They would come and fight each other in hopes to mate with Ka’cyenda. They tore each other apart. Some days we couldn’t leave our home because there would be an injured and angry dog sitting in front of our house. Long story short, we are now animal rights activists and big supporters of spaying and neutering.

Unfortunately it was AFTER the dog fighting fiasco that we gave in and let Ka’cyenda into our home. One day when Kirsten was home without me and it was raining outside, she came just inside the door and curled up.

Ka'cyenda in the youse for the first time.
Ka’cyenda in the house for the first time.

Kirsten didn’t have the heart to send her out into the rain again. I came home and Kirsten said, “Oops! I did something bad…” and she pointed to the dog in the corner. She was officially our dog from then on.

Honestly, I can’t imagine how we would have made it through our service without her. She’s my best friend(with the exception of my wife, of course). We walk together through town, we go on runs together, and she even comes to school with me sometimes. She has actually been good for our integration. We’re called the dog people in town, but it’s better than only being the “rich” white people. Mostly, the people in our village think it is funny that we walk around with a dog and they call her the “white peoples’ goat.”

We plan on taking Ka’cyenda home with us when we return to America. She is part of our forever family.

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