I’ve only been here for five days, and I’m sure my perspective on the country will change and expand with time, but right now I want to tell you what I like about Rwanda.
I like that life here is, largely, for my host family at least, reduced to the essentials. Although they are not among the poorest of Rwandans, they live a lifestyle which would attract national media attention in the United States. They would be interviewed sympathetically by Diane Sawyer and she would ask them about their ordeal of having no plumbing, no lights, no running water, and eating the same 4 foods in different combinations for every single meal. (Rice, beans, potatoes, and cabbage – if you’re wondering.) While living with them I am, of course, also living this lifestyle.
So here’s what I like about it: in the US our lives are so damned comfortable that we can only spend our time seeking incremental increases in comfort, at best. I will spend $40 dollars more for a pair of hiking boots that offer supposedly superior soles and laces, I will spend $20 to get a manicure at a salon which is slightly better and more luxurious than what I could do at home. (I’m as guilty of this behavior as anybody.) These incremental increases in comfort take up our time, our thoughts and they frustrate us if we are not able to obtain them.
Meanwhile, here in the Family Gasore, not much is comfortable. Somehow, even their cushioned armchairs, are uncomfortable. But, happily, I’ve found that it’s freeing to not worry about being comfortable. So far, while in Rwanda, I’m never really comfortable unless I’m in bed sleeping. So, I’ve almost stopped trying to be comfortable. It’s great! I just do what I can and then forget about it.
For example, tonight I needed to sew some buttons onto something. The only light we have is a kerosene lamp. The light is poor and everyone else needs to see by it too so I just set it on the table in the living room and leaned in to the light. I couldn’t really see what I was doing and, because I was using my Swiss army knife as scissors the ends were ragged and not as neat as they should have been. In the US I would have complained about the set-up, bought another lamp or perhaps have simply abandoned the project. Here, it just wasn’t an issue. I love that my brain isn’t taken up with improving my own comfort.
This may be a Pollyanna-ish coping mechanism but, I’ve got to say, for the moment I love living life Rwanda-style.