As we approach the end of our time in this wonderful country, we can’t help but reflect on what has transpired and where it will ultimately leave us. A heavier, more serious reflection will come in a few weeks as we really process what this year has meant for each of us and how God has helped us to grow in different areas. For today, though, we thought it would be fun to share some of the things we have learned that we never thought would become part of our lives. Some of these things are admittedly normal in most parts of the world, but they were new for us… hope you enjoy learning with us:)…
I had no idea that pineapples grew out of the ground! We went on a camping trip last weekend and as we were walking, we saw a field of pineapples growing. It was so amazing!
Much to my chagrin, I also learned that roosters first crow around 3 a.m. I have been told that that is how Rwandans used to tell time. They would wake at the first rooster crow and meet at the second or third one. I have also learned about adhan, the Muslim daily calls to prayer. The first call, Fajr, starts off the day with the remembrance of God and is performed before sunrise. Though we only have one clock in the house, with the rooster crows, Fajr, the concert of birds that come with dawn, and the sunrise at 6 every morning, I have learned to wake up early with my fellow Rwandans.
I’ve learned how to go hungry for long periods of time and then eat huge amounts of food. When we first arrived, we were all shocked at how these thin, small Rwandans would heap their plates up and eat it all in one sitting. Even the children were capable of such feats. After spending 10 months here, I am proud to say, that I too now possess that same talent! This is one of the lessons I hope to unlearn as quickly as possible!
I was impressed to see how clean the Rwandan women’s feet are. Somehow, despite the long distance they walk, through dusty or muddy roads, in sandals, their feet still look clean. Not only that but their heels and feet are soft as if they didn’t wear sandals and work hard outside all day. I was quickly educated on this art when I showed Mama Hirwa the horrible state of my heels after one week here and asked her how she does it. I now try to scrub my feet with a scrub brush, then rub them down with a pumice stone and moisturize, twice daily… Though my feet do not look as nice as my counterparts, I am very happy to have learned this lesson.
I was really surprised to see that people will just come up and touch your hair or ask to take a picture with you, just because you are white. I was also surprised that we live in a normal house and there are paved roads. I thought that, coming here, there would be lions and elephants roaming in tall grass and that we would be sleeping in tents. Also, the food is so fresh and it’s hard to believe how good everything tastes. I especially like sambusa, which is ground meat fried inside a pouch of dough. I was scared to come here, because I didn’t think I would make any friends. But it turns out that everyone’s really nice and I’ve made lots of friends. I thought it would be super hot here, but the weather is really perfect. We didn’t bring too many toys, so we learned to make our own fun. We have made our own paint, kites, music instruments and made costumes out of cardboard. We even made our own “shops”, like my Bead Shop and Asher’s Science shop. Of course our products are free. Asher even made his own obstacle course. We also made our own fire pit and cooked breakfast for Mommy and Daddy on a fire in the yard. I never knew that I would be an expert chicken keeper or have second thoughts about eating them. I don’t really notice it much, but my parents say that when we get home everything will seem so expensive. I’ve also learned to hold my pee for hours and hours and how to not get bored at really long church services. I also can’t believe that I actually got baptized here. But even though there are all these surprising things, Rwanda is my home now, and I am sad to leave it.
I learned how to get something at a store when the storekeeper doesn’t know that much English and I don’t know much of their language. I also learned how to wash with cold water and in a basin. I really like bucket baths. Also, the market we use most of the time doesn’t have a roof. I was surprised to taste new fruit like guavas, passion fruit, jack fruit, soursop and tree tomato. I don’t like that last one. I never thought I would learn Taekwondo or knew that I would get a yellow and white belt. I didn’t know we would ride motos. I never pictured me zooming down the lane on the back of a motorcycle with Daddy. I’ve also learned how to play with kids even if we don’t speak the same language.
I have learned to preach without a manuscript. I’m sure Pastor Belita will be proud! It could be that they have me do it so often, or the fact that witty wordplay just gets lost in translation anyway, but I have been able to trust myself to say the right thing even without having the words right in front of me. I’ve also learned firsthand what it is to have “a sermon in your hip pocket,” as Pastor Belita often says, just in case I am called upon (I often am).
I’ve also learned that NOT having my own car and allowing others to drive is WAY less stressful. Riding motorcycles with professional drivers, jamming into a small bus, or taking the bigger express buses is actually cheaper and your MORE guaranteed to get where you are headed than if you drive yourself or ride in someone’s private vehicle. Fun fact: In Kinyarwanda, the small bus taxi is called a “twegerane,” which literally means, “We are all squished together”. It’s called that for a good reason…
I’ve learned that meat isn’t a necessity, but rather a nice treat. And fresh food is super delicious. I’ve also learned how to go to order at a restaurant 90 minutes before I want the food to be ready.
I’ve learned that western eyes are weaker because we are inundated with so much flashy bright light. Light bulbs here are dimmer, electronic screens are lesser and flashy advertising is all but non-existent. When we walk through the village after dark, the locals can point out rocks and puddles we can’t see. It’s crazy.
I’ve learned that turning on a light switch, going onto the internet and turning on a faucet are all acts of faith, as there’s about a 25% chance they won’t work.
I’ve learned that you can have an awesome time praising God even if you don’t exactly understand what anyone is saying. Praise is a universal language! A similar lesson has been that being physically with someone is more important than anything that is said during that time. I can’t tell you how many times I was with people where little was said (due to language) and everyone left closer than when we came together to begin with. At home there’s this need to relate or to understand, but here, it’s not about you, what you’ve experienced or what you know. It’s just about being together.
We’ve learned so much this year, and are truly grateful for all of the experiences. Hopefully some of these more lighthearted learnings brought a smile to your face or made you say, “Huh. That’s interesting.” If a deeper more in depth reflection is what you’re looking for, check out our next entry which should come in the next few weeks. If you are a Church of the Brethren person in the US, check us out at the BWM breakfast on Annual Conference Saturday or our Insight Session which is also on Saturday of AC. If you’re local to the Harrisburg area, we’ll be seeing you shortly.