I have been here at site for a couple weeks now. I got my stitches pulled out and it’s healing fine. The first week was challenging. Mainly because I didn’t feel like I was making any progress or integrating in the community. My job description was vague and I began to miss everyone back home a lot. It is also difficult being an umuzungu (white person). People don’t discriminate but we attract a lot of attention. I began to avoid eye contact with people because I didn’t want to see them staring even though I knew they were anyway. I went to a soccer game in town, which was amazing to watch. Unfortunately it ended in a brawl between some of the players so I left. It was a great cultural experience. I met some people and felt accomplished. I began to utilize the attention that I was attracting to begin to introduce myself and meet people. I feel much better now.
After work one day I decided to go see my local resource family (I haven’t seen them since site visit in March). They gave me the warmest welcome I could possibly imagine. Afterwards, I ran into another PC volunteer who was on her way to a genocide memorial event nearby.
After dinner I attended the event. We were the only white people there. People gave their testimonies of what happened to them and their families. I understood bits and pieces, which went something like …entered house… brother… ran… killed mother…. A friend translated some of it later… horrific stuff. Around midnight I walked my colleague home but I returned to the event. Everyone was standing around a bon fire singing. It was a song about remembering their lost loved ones. It would be sung once and then someone would list the members of their family that were killed. (Cultural note: it is strongly stigmatized for people to cry, even women. A tough expectation from this country in particular.) They would say I would like to remember… The lists were very long sometimes. For some people the only thing that stopped the list was that it became unbearable. A few people had total breakdowns and left. I felt so weak being there. I am far removed from the entire experience and yet I could hardly hold myself together.
The next day I heard there was a soccer game at the cinema so I went. There wasn’t a single female there. It was packed with people (no fire standards here). One side of the room was for one team (Barcelona) and the other side for the other team (Chelsea). There were lots of good spirited yelling and teasing.
Lastly, I attended a meeting at the local health center with a bunch of community health workers. I had them very impressed with my kinyarwanda for a while but I knew it couldn’t last. They asked me to give a speech about family planning in kinyarwanda. I delayed as long as I could but it was inevitable. I stood up and bombed it. Oh well. Afterwards I had a meeting with PC and my organization staff. It went very well.
Until next time…