Written on 15 December 2011
I have exciting news for all of you interested in the wondrous space-time continuum…I have discovered the time machine! Don’t believe me? Ok, well, go travel from a third world country to the developed world…and back again…within 4 weeks. Now tell me your answer. It’s weird how much you forget about one world when you are living in another. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what it is you forgot. For example, developed world: carpet=good, 35˚F=bad. Third world: fresh fruits and veggies=good, people thinking you died because you were gone for a month=bad. Okay, so that last one was mostly my fault. I left so abruptly, with barely enough time to pack my bags, that I didn’t explain to anyone where I was going. I also had no idea how long I would be gone.
I didn’t know what to expect from my village upon my return, but I had prepared a response to the inevitable question, “Wagiye he?” or “Where did you go?”. Many people assumed I went to America and would not return, but didn’t know why. Some thought I was in the hospital. A few literally thought I had died…apparently the only reason why I my phone wasn’t working. One person asked if I had met a husband and ran away with him. Ha!
Beyond their initial inquiries, many people seemed happy that I was back. Bear in mind the culture, and happiness is represented with a brief smile accompanied by a few chuckles of laughter. Then it’s back to whatever they were doing before I came to greet them, and maybe a couple village news updates….like how the shopkeeper now has two wives. Scandalous! A few people were actually angry or extremely upset with me for leaving without an explanation. I felt awful and explained the best I could. Knowing Rwandan culture, I had the Mecca of all excuses: a new baby in the family! This is a celebration everyone here can relate to and understand. I only wish it was true that I was home for the birth of my beautiful niece, and not just landing in Kigali. Regardless, I am an aunt! Congrats to my brother and sister-in-law on their beautiful, health baby girl, Evelyn Leigh! I couldn’t help be mad that I didn’t wait a couple more days before returning. Of course, thanks to wonderful technology, we were able to Skype only hours after she was born. And shortly after that, I found myself at a local co-op, purchasing what I imagine will be a steady supply of African gifts. No, I don’t think of it as spoiling her. I call it cultural education. It’s just a coincidence that they decorated the nursery jungle themed and I happen to have access to quality, original jungle themed crafts and art…and clothes…and toys…and…
So beyond the questions and reactions of others, I still have me, myself, and I to deal with during this transition. Several reasons led me to return here to Rwanda, some may be better than others. I truly wanted to give PC another shot after gaining a new perspective and learning a few coping skills. Giving up is not easy for me. I have to know that I tried everything I could to make things work (aka I make life much more complicated than it needs to be). It also got to the point in D.C. that I felt like I was spinning my wheels. Being frustrated with the (lack of) treatment I was receiving, I decided to just take control of the situation. Finally, knowing how I left so abruptly, I owed my friends and neighbors an explanation after they have done so much for me already. And selfishly, I’m the kind of person that needs closure…
Returning was my goal all along but I’m not going to lie, I was very hesitant. I still am. Walking right back into the place where I hit rock bottom scared the hell out of me. It took me several days in Kigali to get enough courage to buy a bus ticket to my village. Part of me knew I was just psyching myself out. The other part of me believed I had good reason to be freaking out. Back to being alone and disconnected? Back to being stared at and asked for money? Back to not understanding 75% of conversations surrounding me (or even those I’m engaged in)? Back to bucket baths?! Yep, Liz, you’re nuts.
And yet, here I am. I would love to say things are amazing and I am thrilled to be back, but we all know things are never that easy, despite what all those Disney movies taught us. I guess they decided not to show us Simba’s mental breakdown after losing his father or Ariel’s decline into depression due to her burning desire but inability to walk on land. Yeah, I would love to see the uncut versions of those childhood favorites making headlines. Beauty and the Beast and her schizophrenia! Sleepy Beauty’s secret addiction to Lunesta! Cinderella’s therapy tapes reveal the truth behind her abusive childhood!
If my life were a movie right now, it would be the awesome montage part. There would be clips of me laughing with kids, cooking over a charcoal fire, speaking Kinyarwanda, digging a well, climbing a mountain. All of this would of course be set to an uplifting, energetic song…I’m thinking Eye of the Tiger. Then it’s one minute and thirty seconds later and I’m halfway done with my PC service. All that hard work in 15 second bytes paid off and miraculously I come out on the other end stronger, happier, kinder, and with better hair.
And I digress…
The truth is, it is hard being back for a multitude of reasons. My mind is still slowly processing all that has happened in the last couple of months. I am taking it day by day, even hour by hour, trying to be patient with myself as I figure things out. Some of you may not understand why I’m putting myself through all of this. Many times I ask myself the same thing. All I know is that life is about choices. There is no sense in questioning your decision once it has been made, so why not see where it takes you?