In Bruce Chatwin’s Anatomy of Restlessness, he wrote about the findings of encephalograph readings of American travelers, “they found that changes of scenery and awareness of the passage of seasons through the year stimulated the rhythms of the brain, contributing to a sense of well being and an active purpose in life.”
I know that in my last blog post, I wrote about how we will never fully experience the life of someone in Gashora. I still believe that to be true. However, the realization does not discourage my desire for traveling that involves immersion into a society.
I met this woman named Marie Jean on our first full day in Gashora. The first kitchen garden we built was for her family. Her husband is in the military so she is the primary parent to her four children. Despite being the only caretaker to her children, she showed up to every kitchen garden project and worked for hours. We developed this bond through gestures, as neither of us knew each other’s native language. When it came time to interview someone, I knew it was her that I wanted to know more about. While sitting in a room that only had three small wooden couches and a tiny coffee table in Marie Jean’s house, I learned about her life as a single mom with the help of a translator. What struck me were the similarities between the life of a single mom in Gashora and the life of my single mom back home. The selfless nature of centering your life around the needs, wants and desires of your children. Marie Jean makes sure there is food for her children, my mom makes sure that my brother and I can attend college. They give what they can.
While you can’t fully know what it is like to live in Gashora, Rwanda, you can witness similarities and truths that do not just pertain to where you are from. The plight of the single mother is not unique to a village, city or country.
This experience has enforced my desire to do social justice work. Maybe one day to work with low-income single mothers. As Chatwin found, traveling helps for an active purpose in life. Without a doubt, I found that to be true.