A lot has happened during the initial stages of “getting used to myself,” a phrase said often to me, with a literal translation that doesn’t make as much sense. I truly appreciate the emails, messages, and words of support I have received throughout, they have carried me through the power outages, thunderstorms and broken doors…
A couple days ago, I was in the process of changing my door locks when the wind suddenly took the door, leaving me stuck inside with no door handles and a broken lock. All of my windows have bars on them, there was a tremendous downpour, and the electricity had conveniently gone out, as it does during rain storms. I sat in the dark shouting for my neighbors. I didn’t have to wait long, they called a mechanic who helped break the door in. What I learned from this experience: no one is ever too far away, and they most certainly are always willing to help.
Today, I co facilitated my first health talk to a neighboring village. In this talk, myself and my counterpart discussed the importance of hand washing. This talk included a demonstration in which villagers helped show proper technique. Some key points we covered: hand washing with clean water is essential, children should also wash their hands regularly, and friends can teach friends how to wash their hands.
In addition to giving my first official health talk, I had three hours of Kinyarwanda tutoring. My tutor is a local secondary school teacher who teaches English and Kinyarwanda to the students.
Language learning and acquisition is so important in order to succeed in integrating well and being resilient in an otherwise very foreign environment. Language learning, in my experience, has to be a conscious effort. It’s easy to get by with the words you know, the words that help you describe basic human needs. But my job isn’t just simply to exist in this place. My job is to get to know people, to teach and use the tools as my disposal to do so, and to facilitate cultural exchange. Hence, language is important.