As the days we’ve spent in Gashora lengthen to a week, I feel increasingly accepted by the community and more rejected by Africa. Every day, I make a new friend in town, learn a game from a child, add another Kinyarwanda word to my growing mental index…and every night, as I prepare for bed, I notice another blister, bruise, sunburn or bug bite adorning my raw and tender skin. I am at war, mind and body pitted against one another.
I’m a detail-oriented person. It’s easy for me to become so engrossed in the intricacies of life that I forget to live – especially here, where each new day begets an onslaught of the fresh, new, and unfamiliar. This sensory assault (oh-so-appropriate as we study evocative imagery in our English class), combined with my aches and pains, is enough to make anyone miss the forest for the trees.
So I’ve been practicing pulling back as often as I can, zooming out in my mind until I float above myself, a tiny dot freckling the face of Gashora sector. From here I see that the only physical demands placed on my body are a bit of walking and some basic gardening outdoors. I see the work my Rwandan friends do each day – Jean Pierre, hauling people uphill on the back of his bike taxi; Dancille, fingers raw from hours of basket weaving; Christophe, who coordinates nutrition services for the entire district and still finds the time and strength to haul earthen bricks for our kitchen gardens; and I reevaluate. I realize my body isn’t falling apart – it’s in flux, expanding and changing as I fill with experiences. Africa isn’t rejecting me at all; I’m simply being tailored to fit.