Tuesday, 28 February 2012


It’s been a while since I wrote my blog. It’s not that nothing has been happening...well sometimes it feels that way and then when I haven’t written on my blog for ages a huge stream of things comes to mind.  I’ve just pulled back up from a period of feeling quite down and I think it stopped me from writing. It’s hard to write when you are down in that place. I don’t know why I’ve had a down period at the beginning of this year, I really wasn’t expecting it. Perhaps it is because I expected everything to magically be easier because I’ve been here some time already, but I still have days when I feel like a fish out of water, a totally displaced person in a community where I don’t belong or understand anything that is going on. I find myself feeling vulnerable and alone. I feel irritable, fractious and bad-tempered and I am not so patient, flexible or adaptable, all the things vso expect me to be...

But then I’ll have a moment where I wouldn’t be anywhere else. Some kid will hug me shouting my name, the students will almost make me cry with their lovely singing, I’ll see a student actually use a teaching aid in their lesson or a nice person will sit next to me on the bus and talk to me without any agenda. I thought the rollercoaster ride of doing vso would even out in the second year, but it hasn’t. It is an experience of extreme highs and lows, frustrations and joys, and hardest of all to experience – the flat part of the rollercoaster where nothing seems to happen at all, despite my best efforts.  As I have passed 13 months in Rwanda and I speed towards month 14, I am eternally grateful for all the life lessons I’ve learned, many the hard way, but all of which have made me a different person to the one who left the UK in January 2011.

So here are some of my life lessons from Rwanda:

1) I can survive with chocolate fudge cake, French stick or brie. Ok so I didn’t say it was easy, but I am still here and I have yet to eat anything that remotely passes as a decent chocolate fudge cake in Rwanda.

2) I can spend a lot of time by myself in the evenings and only descend into mild madness. I have not yet got to the stage of Tom Cruise in the film ‘Castaway’, but there is still time...

3) I actually have a culture. I know this sounds strange, but it is only by moving to a completely different culture that I have become aware of my own cultural background and influences. It is only when you experience living life where people behave in different ways to where you are from that you realise what your own cultural norms actually are. No matter how long I live here I will always behave in a European way to an extent. I will always walk too fast, get impatient from time to time and hate tea with too much sugar in it.

4) I can speak some words of a language that is not English. Ok so I don’t do it well, but as someone who always shied away from saying anything other than please or thank you in another language it has been quite a big barrier to overcome.

5) I can survive power cuts and water shortages and life goes on. You just wait or find another way to get what you need.

6) I have loved this experience, but life in a small village is not for me. I prefer the bustle of a town and living somewhere where just leaving my house in the morning doesn’t attract a crowd.

7) My love of chips is not limitless. Yep can’t believe I’m saying this but I have gotten fed up of them.

8) Relationships are everything. Friends and family, both new and old, in Rwanda or in England are what sees you through. I kind of knew this before, but I didn’t fully appreciate it.

9) My career does not define me or anyone else for that matter. There is more to people than the job they have or the salary they earn. When you take that away and you are forced to look at all the other aspects of yourself and your life you find out who you really are. In fact, here people are not even interested in what you do which is so refreshing. Instead they are more interested in whether you are having a good time in their country or the eternal question of whether you have a boyfriend...  

10) The future is important but the here and now is even more important. I used to spend so long thinking and worrying about what was coming next that I never appreciated the small things that happened to me every day. And here, because the future is so less certain, people live much more in the moment and enjoy today rather than always thinking about the next thing.

So there we have it. Some lessons have been learned, other lessons are out there waiting to be learned, day by day.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting reflections!! especially the one about career being non-definitive & living more in the present ... i think your subconcious disgrees with you about being able to survive without choc fudge cake - you missed the 'out' off 'with' to make 'without' ... so it reads 'i can survive with choc fuge cake, french stick and Brie' lol!! Have wrote you an email, love you lots xxxxx