January was marked by “difficulty”. I noticed that my problems lessened in some ways but grew in others since staging. It was nice to have some space again; to have a place I could retreat to when I wanted to be alone and think. However, at staging I had the luxury of living without expectations. This is not just to say that I had any to begin with, but also that no one had any of me. A major obstacle this January has been reconciling my abilities with the expectations my village has of me. I’m not so concerned about teaching. I am more concerned with the cultural expectations, the need to speak Urchiga, sensitivity to habitual norms, knowing what is polite and impolite by Rwandan standards, and homesickness.
I had a particularly difficult day when I accepted the offer of my counterpart to visit her church. She is a Pentecost and I had heard from my friends that their services were modeled after some of the more standard southern gospel parishes. “Yes,” I thought. “What a fun and unique experience”. However, unique would be a more accurate description than fun. After the 6 hour mass and rather peculiar private prayer session that followed, it occurred to me that some denominations of Christianity are just too different for me to identify with. I spent half my bus ride home staring at two numbers on my cell phone. One read “Figgy” and the other read “PC Medical Duty”. One could have me home in a day and every struggle I have had here would be behind me, and one would tell me that my struggles are the most intrinsic part of me, and that I have to embrace them thoroughly. I called Bob. I asked him to remind me why I shouldn’t ET and he responded with such casual confidence, “You’re not going to ET, Jenn”, that I believed him almost immediately. I woke him up. It must have been near midnight in Mongolia, but he took the call anyway, talked me out of my head, reminded me that I was here for all the right reasons, and pointed out how funny my story was going to seem in a few days time. “Rwanda can’t send you home, Jenn”. He didn’t mean that they were trying to, but rather, that my country, and all of its challenges weren’t so massive that I couldn’t take it. So I got my strength back, and I’ve been all right for the past few days.
My homesickness comes and goes. My memories of the United States are much more vivid then I remember them being in France. For the first time, when I think about home I get slight pangs in my chest. Just thinking about sleeping in my own bed, and seeing my old friends, and being able to go out to a bar and have a cosmo makes me a little nostalgic for my old life. There’s a lot to appreciate when it comes to an American lifestyle and it’s not just how convenient everything is. Hopefully I will be able to share some of that with my village and make some sort of incremental impact.
In other news, the comic drive has really taken off. My partner here has sort of fallen off the face of Rwanda so I’m assuming the project as my own. I probably shouldn’t say “my own”, because my spectacular wifey, Julia, has compiled a team of people who intend to help made this project happen. We now have a website! Can you believe it? My secondary project has a website! If you want to check it out it’s www.heroeswithoutborders.org. I am so grateful for all the support this drive has received and I know it never would have happened without Julia and all of her hard work. Love, you are amazing.