Each day I am reminded of the fact that I am living in an alternate reality—my friends and family living lives quite dissimilar to my own. But I am also reminded of how happy the people around me are, on a daily basis. It is not because of what they have, but it has a lot to do with their raison d’etre and how that has evolved around family, around work, and shared empathy.
I noticed this quite early on. Because of my many interactions with children on a daily basis, I am beginning to understand the idea of being content with just human connection from a very young age, without the use of electronics/technology or an excessive amount of “stuff” to interfere. On a regular basis, while weighing babies and educating on the importance of a balanced diet, it is hard not to notice the inherent lessons on social interaction that children learn from a very young age.
Each day, I learn at the rate of a small child. Learning about social norms, about how to find what I need, about how to survive in a small village in Rwanda. There of course are good days, and some bad days.
Today was a good one. I started a community garden at the health center today, planting onions and “dodo” (amaranth). The goal is that this garden will provide vegetables for cooking demonstrations—mainly for mothers with malnourished children.
I also have managed to learn how to bake outside on a charcoal stove. A few days ago I made banana ground nut bread and surprisingly it came out just fine. To bake, you have to create a dutch oven. The process is as follows:
- Let the coals heat for 30 minutes (similar to preheating an oven).
- Inside a large pot, put 10-15 smaller stones on the bottom, creating a layer of about 1 inch from the bottom of the pan.
- Put a smaller pot inside the larger pot, with the bread contents inside.
- Cover the smaller pot with a lid.
- Cover both pots with a larger lid.
- Let it bake for 1 hr - 1.5 hr without checking it, as heat escapes quickly.
I was able to share my banana bread with my friends. Yesterday, five of my fellow volunteers came to my site for lunch and we recreated burrito bowls—fresh guacamole, rice, beans and fried eggs on top! It was really nice to see familiar faces, to introduce them to my health center staff, and to share stories of triumph and struggle.
The moral of the story? One step at a time. 27 months is often times a difficult thing to fathom, but thinking about it one week at a time, can make all the difference.