Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Camilla’s eight signs of reverse culture shock

So now I’m back in the UK for a visit (I am going back to Rwanda, I haven’t finished yet!) I thought I’d write about all the things that have struck me since my return.

1) Its bloody freezing
I know that this was to be expected but I honestly thought I was going to be frozen to the spot when I changed planes in Brussels. The cold air in my ears was distressing too, its like the cold air was going straight through my head and causing my brain to freeze.  I need to buy some of those fluffy ear muff things even if they do look daft.

2) There are so many things to buy
I probably shouldn’t have tried to enter a supermarket my first day back. All the things on the shelves sent me into a kind of stupor. I couldn’t choose anything because there was too much choice. All I could do was stare and back away. Why do we need 6 different kinds of baguettes? A whole entire section of different kinds of baked beans? Argh!!!!!

3) Its so colourful
The autumn leaves are so lovely. I didn’t even realise I’d missed them until I saw them carpeting the side of the road. Reds and browns and oranges and yellows, beautiful. In general I miss the changing of the seasons in Rwanda. It gets dark at almost exactly the same time each day year round and while there is seasonal variation in rainfall, the temperature stays largely the same.

4) Its so empty
I can’t get over the lack of people in the British countryside. In Rwanda there are people absolutely everywhere you look. You are never alone at any time of day. The dirt tracks are constantly full of people going about their business, whereas in my parent’s village there is no one. I can drive the whole length of it without seeing a single soul walking by the side of the road.

5) Its so downbeat
The UK is in the middle of an economic crisis and that sucks. I fully support the strikes and people trying to change things. However there is a definite climate of misery here...I’m finding it hard to reconcile. Of course there are some deeply unhappy individuals in Rwanda, but on the whole society appears happier, although there is an air of fragility to it. I guess happiness is a complex thing.  

6) There is so much media presence
Its something I both love and hate in this country. I love all the news, the magazines, the newspapers, the entertainment of the written word and reading lively opinions and debates. I love all of the TV shows. I love the freedom of speech. However it does also feel like a constant noise. Sometimes the media here is a bit much, it goes too far and invades our lives too much.

7) Its so white
After experiencing a whole year of being an ethnic minority it is strange to go back to being part of the masses. Even in Kigali, the capital city, people were always watching me. They looked at what I was doing, where I was going etc etc. But here, its back to being invisible. The anonymity is quite liberating in some ways as I feel free to do exactly what I want and don’t suffer the anxiety of whether I need to greet that person along the dirt track or not, but in some ways do I actually miss my celebrity status?! Muzungu, muzungu!

8) Water
Its so easy. You switch on a tap and water comes out of it. You switch on a hot tap and hot water comes out of it. There are no jerry cans. When you flush the toilet you know it will work. Showers, baths, its all so amazing. I’ll never take it for granted again, I swear.

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