Sunday, 6 May 2012

Everyday life in Rwanda

As I find myself beginning to prepare to leave Rwanda in mid-June, I have found myself starting to think ‘This is the last time I will...’ and it’s making me keen to capture these things that make up my everyday life in the village. Because I have been here so long I take a lot of things for granted now. For example, hoping onto the back of an unknown person’s dodgy looking motorbike and zooming off down a steep and narrow dirt track seems like second nature. As does eating a carbohydrate mountain in a restaurant run by Rwandan nuns. Singing Frère Jacques in a strange African language and running around class like an idiot with a 60 teens and young (well mostly young!) adults also seems normal. I no longer wish for a sink as it doesn’t seem necessary for living anymore, and I feel a ridiculous irrational attachment to my jerry can as I have filled it up with water nearly every day. 

Having another volunteer here has been great as he has been able to capture all of those little everyday things that are actually not everyday at all back in Europe. It’s amazing how as human beings we can adapt and learn to live again in totally new surroundings. Your life becomes a different kind of normal. You develop your own daily rituals, such as the bucket shower routine: fill kettle, boil kettle, repeat if necessary, mix with cold water, move anything you don’t want to get soaked, get cup and pour, mop floor afterwards. Then there’s the drinking water routine: go out to water tap with bucket/jerry can, fill with water, pour into water filter, wait until water is filtered, boil water in kettle and wait for water to cool down again.

Yes it is true that everyday life takes much longer here. It can take 15 minutes to prepare your water to have a shower and it can take at least half an hour for the drinking water routine to be completed. But this is to be expected. The pace of life here is slower, people just take their time and don’t stress about it. Ok so you can’t have anything ‘right now’ but what you want will come in good time. It makes me wonder how I’m going to fit back into the fast paced, stress filled environment from which I came. A big part of me wants to stay here with my jerry cans, taking my time and watching the world go by.

But while vso is a wonderful experience, it is also not sustainable to live like this forever. At the end of the day, I am still half the world away from my family and UK friends. You learn to carry on with your life, but deep in your heart you still miss them. It’s exciting and interesting living in a new culture, but I also miss the comfort and convenience of my culture (yet when I am there, I miss the excitement of being somewhere new!) The longer you stay, the harder it can be to get back into having a job back home, getting somewhere to live etc and all those responsible things I’ve avoided. And the vso allowance does sustain you for life in the village, but if you want to travel to Uganda, Zanzibar and Bujumbura in your holidays, and see mountain gorillas and climb volcanoes on your weekends you have to have some extra savings to pay for it. And eventually the funds run dry L

But I’m sure I’ll be back in the future. I don’t doubt that at all.......

Chalk drawings around the TTC

The restaurant of the sisters, Nzige

My favourite sister!

Getting a moto to Rwamagana

The tree lined avenue on the moto ride back from Rwamagana

Rice fields on the moto ride back from Rwamagana

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