Changes, I’ve Never Been Good With Change

26 Nov

Hate it when it all stays the same, caught between the gold and the grain. – Stars

I have two anniversaries that I observe in my time here. The first is the fifth of each month, this marks my arrival in Rwanda. I can still remember the evening clearly. The humidity and wet tarmac from a recent rain, the smell of burning garbage, the way the electricity in the airport flickered for a second as I stepped into the building, a foreshadowing of the chaos that is characteristic of life in Rwanda. How after 18 ish hours on a plane, and even longer without brushing my teeth we were welcomed by the Ambassor to Rwanda and then spent two hours filing paperwork for our bags that were left behind in Brussels.

The 13th of each month is the anniversary of my arrival at site. Looking back I find it reminiscent of move-in day my freshmen year of college. I rolled up with my Peace Corps escorts, tracked down the keys to my house/room, pretended to know a woman I had never met before who was apparently my roommate (she still lives with me) then unloaded my things from the car. All the while staving off the realization that it was truly happening, that I was being removed from the safety net of daily contact with fellow trainees, a host sister who speaks excellent English, and a host family who had taken such good care of me.

After six months away from the only country I’ve ever called home I thought it’d be fun to make lists of the changes and experiences I’ve had so far.

Ways That I’ve Changed

I would actually say that I like peas and cabbage now. It’s probably something unhealthy in the way they cook peas here that makes them so delicious and cabbage is just so ubiquitous here. Whereas back home it was one of those vegetables I could never prepare in a way that was appealing to my taste buds.

I take cold showers, willingly. My host family had hot water for me to bucket bathe with every morning I lived there. I said I would cry if I had to take cold showers at site. Turns out, cold water coming out of a tap beats warm water out of a bucket. There’s just something about feeling water run over you and like all the soap has been rinsed off.

I had a housekeeper. And I’ve become dependent on her. I’ve always disliked cleaning the toilet and living here I really don’t like to mop the floor so I’m happy to have someone else do it. Though it was tough in the beginning to relinquish control and accept the possibility that things might not get done exactly the way I’d like.

Rwandans have a way of speaking with their eyes and I’ve adopted it.  Kind of like a head nod or pointing only you motion with your eyes and occasionally there’s some eyebrow action. If you know me this probably isn’t surprising to you.

I go to church just about every week I’m at site. It’s a good way to be seen by a large segment of the community not to mention the first couple times you go they make you stand up in front of everyone and introduce yourself. I was even practicing with the young folks choir for awhile. Now I just teach the young kids church songs in English and get to hold a microphone when we sing them for the congregation.

I watch a lot of tv in my down time. Hoping to get Season 8 of weeds, the new Dexter and Modern Family episodes if anyone has the. For most of my college years and since I haven’t had cable tv so this is a pretty big change.  I look at it as getting caught up with pop culture, only to still be behind when I finish my service.

It’s taking some getting used to but I am SO glad that I brought a Kindle. So many books in suck a small space! And the capacity to swap books with volunteers. My goal was to read the classics but my friend loaded so.much.good.stuff on my kindle that I’ve been otherwise distracted.

I have a garden, A LOT of carrots, some peas, corn, beans and onions. I also planted spinach, chard, zucchini, basil, cilantro, and parsley. The herbs are off to a slow start and the rest of the veggies didn’t sprout. I consider this my practice run for the seeds I received from my mom and coworkers. I’ve already started thinking about where I’ll plant things, including decorative lavender and lots of other good stuff.

My musical tastes are slowly expanding, thanks in part to the mixes from my friends and the volunteers here. Moving from the indie/alternative rock into more hip hop and mainstream. Whereas I used to listen to mostly listen to albums in their entirety, seldom skipping a song, all I really want these days in a good mix. I’ve even put together mixes of my own. Before I would start to make a mix but never finish it.

In America I had a great distaste for bars of soap. You could actually call it a fear. Here, that’s pretty much all there is and I don’t really think about whether or not it’s hygienic to use the same bar of soap for laundry, dishes, handwashing, and shoe cleaning I just do.

I’ve become an adrenaline junkie. First it was the sweet moves I learned in our self-defense session. Don’t worry family and friends, it was simply two volunteers sharing their knowledge, Rwanda is quite safe. Though the wrist release has come in handy with creepers when we’re out dancing. Then it was the downhill-ish mountain biking that was my ride home from large group days during pre service training (PST). Not to mention that I want a motorcycle when I get home because I’m always wanting the motari (moto driver) to go faster faster when I don’t have a big bag strapped to my back.

I eat food cold that I never would’ve in the US like french fries and scrambled eggs because sometime it’s served that way and sometimes things just comes up that prevent me from eating right away.

One thing that hasn’t changed….. I still loathe chickens, remember this post. Rwanda has a law that forbids taking animals on public transportation, good news in the fact that I won’t be sharing a seat with a chicken anytime soon. Bad news for volunteers who need to take their pets into Kigali to be vaccinated or fixed. Days after I had the realization that I wouldn’t ever find myself on a bus sitting next to a chicken (at least in Rwanda) I was sitting in a twegerane taxi waiting for it to fill when we backed into a corner and loaded some chickens into the back. I kid you not. Luckily I was riding shotgun and there were several rows of seats between the offending creatures and myself.


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