There’s a lot to tell, but I feel like I’ve got nothing I want to say. Much has happened since the start of the school year, and here we are almost at the end of term 1 and I’m finding it hard to know where to start. Our school has grown and is becoming more successful everyday. I would like to think the same about my personal growth but I’m not always as convinced as my rhetoric would suggest. I guess let’s start with the school. Because I absolutely and utterly adore my school.
We opened last month and began classes with about 60 students in the first week. Two weeks later we had capped our enrollment with 90. Part of the push came from the dedication ceremony featuring many prominent individuals including the First Lady of Rwanda, Mrs. Kagame. The girls are nothing short of incredible. Every one of them is an individual seeking to blaze their own trail in the world. It is simply inspiring to work here, especially after the emotional trouncing my school laid on me last year.
I’m not going to say I didn’t see the reserved and relatively empty faces of my old students in some of my new ones who were coming from similar austere village circumstances, but the beauty of the Gashora Girls Academy is its clash of socieites. Emancipating and empowering women in third world countries is a fight--A long and difficult fight that does not always turn out to be very rewarding. GGA brought that fight where it needed to be, at the village level, with many different types of people participating and learning together. The affluent girls from Kigali learn the realities of their country and can collaborate with the girls from the village on ideas for change. In exchange, girls from the village can watch the girls from the cities learn how to be independent.
I get excited just seeing the flourishing personalities, the way the girls confidently to speak up about ideas or concerns, and can freely express their feelings about almost anything. I see progress every day and it does wonders for my soul. I can perceive my impact and it puts sutures on my still torn up heart. I can’t ever make up for my devastating failures last year, but I’m not going to let the past stop me from succeeding in the future. I wasn’t able to perform at the level I wanted in Mulindi, but I can here. The change was worth it.
Although this is the happiest I have ever been while in Africa, I have never been so completely lost in my entire life. For the first time ever I don’t have a plan. Not really. My life plan now extends only about two years into the future at best, and the details aren’t properly etched out. I’ve got a bunch of variables in front of me that seem to belong to different equations. I don’t know how to put things back together again. Which, I suppose, is my real struggle. After having everything unravel on me last year, I don’t know how to put myself back together again. There is a Buddhist principle that says people are unhappy because they are overly concerned with what was and what will be instead of just accepting every day as it comes. So, I’m testing my weaknesses. I’m not good at being aimless, but I’m trying it. If I just move forward a little at a time without thinking too hard about anything, maybe the answers will come to me in time.
I am considering this assignment more of an independent learning experience. My school director is rapidly becoming quite the mentor. He has sort of mastered the art of waiting and listening, and I’m trying to learn as much as possible from that demeanor as well as just his personal moral philosophies. He is certainly the glue that holds the pieces of this school together. If I can learn to be more like that sooner, I imagine I’ll be able to make more positive influences on my world for a longer period of time.
That said, I still work for the Peace Corps. I haven’t cut myself off from them completely but I am trying to limit my interactions. After MSC I think I have a clearer view of who this new Administration really is. No, they won’t let you starve at your site like the last one, but they don’t rate volunteer happiness as a priority. In fact, I would go as far as to say some them genuinely think these years need to include not only removing yourself from the place you know and people you love, but also closing yourself off to all the things that used to make you happy. But being in despair and being desperate isn’t an effective use of my time. I already lived that life for 365 painful days, and while it showed me more of who I really was, it didn’t help me fulfill any of my “Peace Corps Objectives”.
After the next few months, I’ll be home and maybe in graduate school. I received my first rejection letter today from Tufts. It didn’t really bother me that much because I never really intended on going there. It was my litmus test. If I was accepted there I would have been accepted to the others by virtue of Tufts having the most competitive program for my degree. Ultimately, I need a few years back in California. I need to refamiliarize myself with home and try to center a bit more. After that, maybe I’ll have a better idea of what my goals are, and how I’m going to get there again. Ideally, I’ll be able to come back to Rwanda and continue to work at the Academy during school breaks. I’m still working out the details of that with my school director though.