There are many things in this world I do not understand. These things include,
· People who drive 10 miles per hour under the speed limit
· How rappers talk so fast
· Why anybody would not want to see Star Wars
· Kinyarwanda (or any other language that is not English)
· However, being here on this service-learning trip to Rwanda, I have realized I do not need to understand any of those things. As long as I am able to grasp what is happening, I am fine.
All of us here on this trip know and understand about 10-20 words each. Which is basically nothing. I can say hello, how are you, goodbye, chicken, coffee and water. I can promise none of these words get me far in a conversation with someone who does not know any English.
After reading an excerpt from David Sedaris’s, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” it became more clear that in order to understand, he did not need to know everything. He is back at school at the age of 41 in order to learn French, in France. At one point in the story, he is afraid to leave his apartment in fear of being ridiculed for his intermediate level French. At the end of the essay, after much mockery from his “saucebox” of a French professor, it strikes him that although he cannot fully understand the language; he is able to understand what she is saying. Suddenly, “His World opened up.”
For our group here in Rwanda, it is often difficult to know what is going on. We are extremely busy and it is often complicated for us to even understand our schedule let alone what is going on when we are on site for our service projects. We wake up at around 6:00 a.m. and leave for town 8:00. We build kitchen gardens and teach English to numerous community members before having dinner at 6:30 p.m. and going to bed by 8:30. Not only is it difficult to understand our schedule, but also it is difficult to know what the people are asking. Very few people here in Gashora speak English and as I mentioned earlier, I could maybe say good morning to the chicken.
I have begun to realize, however, that if you stay patient and listen, you do not need to understand the language in order to understand how someone is feeling, or what somebody wants. And this is a lesson I can take with me everywhere I go.