Apologies for the late update, and apologies in advance for the late updates in the future. Life in training is very, very busy (cyane cyane), and I often don’t have the time or the energy to update what’s happening in my new life in Rwanda.
Here’s a quick summary of my travels, my first experiences of settling in, and a book I’m writing.
The flight from Philly to Amsterdam to Rwanda was enjoyable, besides the fact that I was having severe stomach pains. I had to laugh. People lectured me on the change of diet and how I would have all these nights of stomach pain and vomiting from the transition. And there I was on the plane, already feeling sick. Thankfully, I’ve only felt better and better every day, and I hope it stays that way! As far as settling in, the new food is literally settling in well.
I also am surrounded by a great group of Peace Corps volunteers. These Peace Corps trainees are for lack of a better word, chill. There’s a level of focus, and there’s also a level of laid-back, good-naturedness that has made this journey feel unified so far. It also feels like we have been together for months even though we have been in country for about 10 days.
During my flight out from Amsterdam, I began to embrace the chapter ahead of me. I was bummed to leave the community I had built in D.C., but so excited to see what was in store for this new chapter. #bummedbutexcited
We arrived in Kigali in the evening, and we were greeted by a group of current PCV’s who were very welcoming. Walking to a small bus from the airpot, everything seemed so new, but it all seemed the same as well. Confusing statement.
Let me try to explain: I don’t know if many experience this when traveling, but I realized that every place I go is less and less different or contrasted from where I have lived, which is a beautiful thing. Yes, the scenery and weather may be different, but every place I go is someone else’s home. Rwanda is now mine, and it feels right. I have always found more similarities than differences between cultures and families when traveling, but I will get into that later.
Our orientation in Kigali went smoothly, including some medical interviews, shots and preliminary language training. After much preparation and repacking, we set out for our training site, where we would meet our host families and begin our new journey as Peace Corps trainees.
We had a ceremony where Rwandan host families each welcomed a volunteer into their home. The ceremony was very emotional, and names were dramatically announced as each of us were introduced. Our name would be called followed by shouts of excitement and approval from the various families. I’ve honestly never experienced something quite like it. I was paired with an amazing family who greeted me with open arms. Suddenly, this journey became very real.
We began language, cultural, safety and teacher training with intense but productive sessions every day. It’s a lot of studying and talking and interaction, but I found some early meditation, devotions and fitness in the mornings were my saving grace.
A group of us began running/doing yoga/core every morning, and I am so grateful for it.
With so much “new” it’s exciting to have control over one and a half hours of my day where I know I’m being productive and positively releasing some of the crazy stress that can come with such training and intense transitions.
Where I am Now
I’m sitting on my bed listening to the rain pelt down upon the roof of my family’s home. The thunder is hard to ignore, but I can’t help but feel happy. It’s hard not to be happy when you have spent the day learning a new language, playing soccer, hand-washing clothes, and learning how to cook potatoes over a small coal stove.
I just can’t get over the fact that I am living with this Rwandan family as one of their own. They have allowed me to step into the shoes of one of their sons, and I have never been so overtaken by new perspectives and new understanding of a different culture. The funny thing is, the most significant thing I have learned so far is that we aren’t that different.
My brother Pachele is brilliant. He is studying for his national exam, and he loves Iron Man. His English is also almost better than mine. I also walked home to find him drawing a beautifully accurate map of the world.
I told him that he could be an illustrator, and he laughed and seemed pretty excited.
The family has been so welcoming, and my host dad called me “wise” on the second day, which I took as a high compliment! I mean who doesn’t want to be continuously called wise?
I have adapted pretty quickly to the cold water bucket baths, and the hole in the floor latrine. I know I am only a week in, but things are already starting to feel routine. I am definitely more aware of the importance and value of water, hence my joy at listening to the rain pour down as I type these words. Rain means full jerry cans. Full jerry cans mean drinking water, tea, baths, boiled water for cooking etc. You get the point. It’s important. And it makes rainy days far more beautiful.
But back to my brother Pachele: we are working on a book together called “A Marvelous Journey” which is a very short book talking about how people around the world aren’t that different. At the end of the day we are all either fathers, mothers, sons or daughters. Our opinions and cultural practices are different, but as human beings, we are fascinatingly similar regardless of the context. I am also teaching him guitar every day. He is improving faster than anyone I have ever seen, which is exciting for both of us! Being part of this family is a dream come true for me. We have time to get to know each other and connect on so many levels.
HONY does it best, but I hope some day I can express the same level of human connection in my writing. I hope someday people will see that culture is just a context, not a boundary pushing certain groups of people away from each other. It does not suggest that a certain group of people are drastically different than another group. In fact, people from different cultures could score the same results on a Myers Briggs test.
How fascinating would it be if we had various groups from different cultures take Myers Briggs/a personality test, and match them with others from drastically different cultures?
I know I would look at someone from another culture much differently if they introduced themselves by saying they were an “INFJ” or “ENFP.” I don’t love the Myers Briggs test, but I love that those kinds of exercises pull us away from stereotypes into our personal and intimate similarities as humans.
One quick story before I sign off: A few days ago, a group of us went for a run per usual and were jogging down the road when we began to pass quite a few kids heading to school. Slowly, I began to realize that when we passed, the children’s faces began to light up, and they followed closely behind us.
At one point I turned around, and at least 10 children had joined our run. It was absolutely adorable, and also one of those dream moments where you look at yourself, and think “How the heck did I get here? This is amazing. But how did this even happen?”
I face that question a lot these days.
Bizarre Setback of the Week: I also had a pen explode in my pocket right before I was supposed to meet with the village chief so that I could be registered in the regional town. Thankfully he was not available that day, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the fact that the one thing I was worried about and that was going wrong was a pen exploding. Bibaho. It happens!