Trying to evaluate whether or not we will stay in Rwanda has made me look at some things through a bit of a different lens. I can see some of the ways in which I have adapted to the culture (I’m a lot less punctual, for example). I also continue to wrestle with trying to relate our experiences here to people in Canada, and vice versa.
Something happened the other day which makes me laugh every time I think about it. I was meeting Amiss, and another friend was next to him as I walked up. The other friend (a middle-aged man) looked at me appreciatively and said, “You look good.” Now, I know enough to know he meant, “You look fat.” Then, as we left, Amiss said, ” I told him not to say that to you.” So obviously, he commented on it even before I walked up.
First, I can be honest with myself that several months of comfort eating in a land of readily available unhealthy food certainly shows. But I am laughing, because even though this would be totally inappropriate and offensive where I come from, here, gaining weight means you have enough to eat, and so being large is a sign of wealth and health. And I am laughing because my friend knows enough about our culture to try to protect me. And I am laughing at the difficulty of trying to explain this to people in Canada.
Something we are talking about is the accumulation of small difficulties. Most of them are really not a big deal in themselves, but as you add them up, life becomes quite the struggle. To an observer (many times, me), it appears that the simple solution to many of the problems is to generally try to be a bit more organized. But so many things fight against that.
To illustrate, I wanted to tell you a story one of my friends told me, about when she accompanied another friend to the hospital to give birth. But I got bored writing it, and so decided surely you would be bored reading it.
Not because its a boring story – its not, it is full of suspense, humour, and insight into how things can be here. But I have to do so much explanation in order to try to relate it to someone who hasn’t been here, that the story gets lost.
And this is my struggle: in so many ways, it is impossible to relate our experiences from one culture to another.
It makes it difficult to process; to seek insight and advice from others. But we are working on it – trying our best to find ways to relate and to evaluate our options that make sense. And we are looking at what we have learned and experienced through a lens of gratefulness.