“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed.” These are the opening lines to Pico Iyer’s Why we travel. Iyer is able to articulate why I want to travel, why I wanted to come to Rwanda. Nearly four weeks in to my time in this country, I realized that I do not want to experience everything I’m exposed to here.
At the end of the day, I stare at the unfamiliar tan colored toes that are reserved solely for the warm days of summer. I’m indecisive on whether or not to venture out of my room and sit on the mosquito filled sink and meticulously rub off the dirt from my toes that will reveal more of my actual skin tone or just simply crawl into bed. I usually choose the latter because the former is a daily occurrence that will only be faced here and not at the dreary, pale causing place that will be by home for a period of a few years. After all, it is just my toes.
I didn’t come to Rwanda to stay clean. Cleanliness is not a necessity, but what the privilege deem an unquestionable human right. I’m sure that the people of Gashora would take a meal over a shower any day. Food is nourishing, soap is not.
Once we leave Rwanda, our Facebook’s will be filled with pictures and our journals will have no blank pages. We will have what we want ourselves and others to know about the past six weeks. However, we won’t be taking back everything we were exposed to here. We won’t be taking back Malaria because we remind each other to take our daily pill before turning off the lights, we don’t dare drink the water or put our feet in the lake because of fear of contracting Bilharzia, most of us wont lose weight because of the amount of carbs at each meal, and some wait to take showers if the water is not hot enough.
I’m not saying that our group is high maintenance for wanting to take care of our bodies. It is just that we will never fully experience the life of someone here, not even for a day. We didn’t come here to get sick. As any other muzungu, we want a glimpse, an understanding of a life we will not lead. I suppose that means I want to stay clean.