Let me tell you: coming back to Rwanda was not as easy as I thought it would be. I figured since I’d been here already the culture shock would be less and the jet-lag would be minimal. I bet some of my well-traveled friends are sitting here shaking their heads because DUH ERICA, traveling across time-zones is always challenging no matter how many times you do it! And they were right. But I managed to outlast the jet-lag with some well-timed caffeine and lots of encouragement, and now I can actually spend the entire day awake. Success!
Once I’d recovered from jet-lag I figured everything would be easy. But again, DUH ERICA, it wasn’t. Going from American culture to African culture is hard. I think it will always be hard. I was in Rwanda for 3 months, then the US for a 3.5, and now I’ll be in Rwanda for 8 months. That’s a lot of change! Learning how to navigate those differences is challenging, but ultimately I think I will be better for it. Even now I find myself constantly being reminded to slow down, take a breath, and unclench my muscles. I never fully realized how stress is such a big part of American life–it’s assumed. It’s almost like there’s this idea that if you’re not stressed, as an adult, as a college student, even as a high schooler, you’re doing something wrong. How do you unlearn something so ingrained in your culture? I’m excited to see how this question unfolds as I settle in here. And I am, slowly, settling in.
I’ve been in Rwanda for 10 days now and I like to remind myself of this so I can cut myself some slack. I don’t have to do everything in the first 2 weeks I’m here. I don’t have to know how to do everything. I don’t have to have it all together. I don’t have to have all the answers. All I have to do is take a deep breath, and remember to let it out.