Wednesday morning I woke up to a knock on the hotel room door. Charissa answered it, which was good because I had no intention of moving in any event. “Yeah, she’s fine I think,” I heard her say. “She’s still sleeping. I’m just going to let her sleep until lunch. She’s gotta eat something eventually.”
I went back to sleep only to be roused what seemed to be minutes later by a much louder knock. “B-F-F”. “B-F-F, AR’HE YOU SLEEPEEN?”
“Not anymore… Good Morning.”
“It is Noon.”
“B-F-F, I think you are sick.” He said.
“No, I’m not sick. I’m just very tired.”
He lumbered over and laid horizontally across the foot of my bed.
I was still half asleep and it took a moment to register whether or not I was actually conscious. Am I dreaming, or is there really a large black man laying on my bed? No, no. I’m awake. Felicien is trying to talk to me.
“B-F-F, I think you are very sad”.
“Yes, I am very sad.” I replied.
“I think someone at home has told you a bad story.”
“Well… It wasn’t great.”
“Yes, someone at home told me something sad.”
He picked up my hand and squeezed it. “Komera”.
Be strong. I always feel bad when Rwandans tell me to be strong. Yeah, like I need to be strong. You survived a holocaust and go through each day like nothing was ever wrong, and here I am acting like the world is ending because of a relationship.
Charissa walked in shortly afterwards and shoo’ed him out of the room. Saved by the Peace Corps Mom. I went back to sleep until dinner.
IST passed pretty uneventfully. I had some emotional ups and downs but I went to the rest of the sessions and tried to be as attentive as possible. We passed through Kigali for a day to recollect before going back to site. I thought it was going to be a deal breaker. How am I going to commute back to the Dark Ages while I’m dealing with all of this? The answer? It’s not what I thought it would be. I asked my doctor for some anti-anxiety medication to help me through the week, but it turned out that the best Xanax was just being back at my site. Coming home was more cathartic than I could have imagined. Everyone was asking about me and wondering when the next classes at the factory would begin, and my kids… Wow. I never thought it would be such an ordeal to come back to the school.
I walked into my Senior 2 class to have a 5 minute standing ovation complete with cheers.
“I told you I would be back today. Why are you all so surprised?”
“We are just very happy to see you, teacher.”
+10 life points right there.
In my Senior 1 class one of my favorite students actually began to cry when I walked in and demanded where I had been.
“I told you. I had a conference I had to attend in Gisenyi and I was going to be back today, so here I am. Honey, why are you so upset?”
“Someone told her a bad story.” An older student explained.
Ouch. The memory of my conversation with Felicien was triggered for a minute but I shook it off.
“What kind of bad story?” I hugged the girl and tried to console her a bit.
“Well, a student in upper levels said that when Muzungus say they go on vacation it means they are not come back.”
Double Ouch. Is this about the genocide? Is this because all of the white people left before? Is that what they really expect me to do?
“Well, I am not a Muzungu. I am Umuyarwandan and I will not ever go on ‘vacation’ and never come back. When I leave, I will tell you and you will always have a way to contact me if you need me. Rahira.”
[Insert victory music here] Umutoni, Jennifer has leveled up.
The immediate rush of determination that completely flooded my soul was more than enough to force all doubts from my mind. I’m not leaving you. I’m never going to abandon you. I’ll always be here for you whenever you need me.
Take THAT crappy month of May.