“The worst thing that can happen to a person in Rwanda is to be left alone.” – Derick Burleson “Leaving Rwanda”
As an introvert I enjoy, dare I even say need, my alone time. However being an introvert in Rwanda has proven to be difficult.
Adjusting to a new culture and social norms is always challenging but Rwanda has left me feeling exhausted.
Right from the get go, I have had to accept the fact that there is no anonymity here. The community always knows what the group is doing and where we are at all times. Children show up and wait for us to walk into town, friends show up to kitchen garden building sites, and sometimes they show up wherever we are even if we aren’t following our schedule.
At some kitchen gardens, the sites are so far away that we have to take a minibus to get there. Every time this has happened, a flock of children run behind the bus to and from the work site, almost like they are chasing after us like rockstars, but we aren’t.
Being surrounded by the community can be overwhelming as an introvert, but there is added stress when the word “love” is thrown into the mix. Here people will blurt out “I love you” at the drop of a hat. To clarify, I don’t think they mean it in the romantic sense that we do in America, instead I think they mean it in a friendly sense. Regardless, whenever this happens it leaves me feeling even more uncomfortable and desiring my alone time.
Even when at our hotel, we are never truly alone. We all share rooms so close together. You can hear the people next to you through the walls, you can hear people pacing up and down the hallway, and you can even hear when people go to the bathroom.
While all of this offends my introvert sensibilities, I have learned to accept the fact that this is how it works here. Ultimately this experience has made me appreciate the differences in culture and that sometimes you just have to accept what is. As Gwen has said before during this trip, “My motto for Africa is just accept it.”