Church on a Bus
Living in a country that is predominantly Christian and highly religious, means that any experience can be a religious one. A couple weeks ago, I was on a bus. In front of the bus, in the middle of the road, two people had collided and fallen off their motos and were at risk of being run over. Our bus swerved, narrowly avoiding the two people. What ensued was a feeling that rippled through the bus goers, shouts of praise for the bus driver, praise of God, cries of excitement, and people rushing to the windows to see what had just happened. It was the type of genuine feeling of gratitude and happiness that I have never felt and seen before. But I was shocked. Just as quickly as it had happened, people returned to their seats and continued with their daily lives. I liken this experience to Church. Except this was church on a bus.
Integration in a new culture happens at different times and to varying degrees. On this week’s episode of Kerong does integration, I got slapped by my counterpart, Jeanne, with whom I work with on a daily basis, on growth monitoring and on maternal and child health. But let me explain the full situation before you jump to any conclusions. I had gone to another town to purchase a flip chart (poster size paper) for teaching lessons on nutrition. My counterpart asked how much I had paid, to which I responded 5,000 RWF (approx. $5.60). She then slapped me on the back and said “ndagukubita” which roughly translates to “I will beat you.” Keep in mind a couple of things, this is the way she shows she cares, because she later told me that a. She had flip charts in the health center’s supply closet b. This was one of the first times I felt like I was treated like a Rwandan. The integration points were real. She felt comfortable enough to treat me as an equal, as a colleague, rather than the outsider. I am appreciative of this experience as strange as it was. Jeanne and I both laugh about it now.
The rainy season is upon us. For the month of April and into early May, Rwanda experiences a rainy season, that floods dirt roads, that saturates the fields until they cannot take in any more water. But people keep telling me that Rwandans have an innate sense of when it will rain. It can be sunny one minute, the next minute, the skies filled with black clouds. So I asked my neighbor who told me that only the first born can tell when it will rain. I have started to ask different people if and when it will rain, and usually, they are pretty accurate. Rainy season will be tough, as the roads become unusable and going for runs is pretty much not an option, but we will see. Stay tuned!
With the impending rainy season, I have talked to some of the local female students, who have expressed great interest in having a run club. As someone who went to an all girls school during high school, I value the importance of having clubs and outlets specifically geared towards women. There isn’t a lack of a run club at the school because of a lack of interest—it’s more due to the fact that running is still stigmatized in Rwandan society (especially in the village) and girls running even more so. On Thursday of last week, we had our first run club. The students were so excited to get out and have time specifically dedicated to them. Next week, at 5pm everyday, we are meeting to have practice, but also to learn about ways to stay healthy. I am excited that the students have an interest and that starting to run at such a young age can instill life long routine exercise.