Sunday, February 21, 2010
Have you ever been in a class and feel as though you are not absorbing anything around you, that your presence is a mere formality? Maybe a party where everyone else knows each other and they all have inside jokes from their childhood? Often I feel like I live in isolated oblivion here. My knowledge is limited to what I can absorb through body language, context clues, and sometimes it is dumb lucky that makes me privy to the world around me.
There are many incidents that happen in the village that I'm completely unaware of. Living in a close nit society you'd think to catch wind of simple daily transpirings, but often communication is just neglected. For example, many of the children were going to the gate to buy snacks such as candies and biscuits from roaming vendors. Because other kids here don't have any money, this is problem. We have a canteen on campus that is now open and each child gets an allowance which reconciles the issue. However, to have had no idea it was going on is daunting and unsettling. As an English speaker it is absolutely necessary to actively seek information. These incidents give way to the glaring question, if everyday happenings in my community are lost upon me, what information am I oblivious to as a foreigner in the country?
Saturday morning I was in the Kimironko (district in Kigali) market with my 2 friends. We had beautiful dresses made and were paying the seamstress when I saw a man in the not to far distance sprinting towards me. I moved out of his path as he whizzed by. Trailing him were two police officers with rifles. I assumed he was a shoplifter, but when consulting our seamstress, she negated the hypothesis calmly, "He had a grenade." We were confused and attributed it to a mis-translation. But when we received emails from the U.S. Embassy reporting 3 other grenades that were detonated Friday night, the cold reality set in.
It is very difficult to be a foreigner where you live. You are overcome by helpless ignorance when access to daily news is thwarted by language barriers and shoddy internet access. You isolate yourself in caution. I never felt this way in Israel, maybe because the cultural exchange was not as vastly different, maybe because I blended in. Even though Rwanda and her people have welcomed me, I still feel, after 3 months, like a guest on a Visa. I hope this too shall pass.