Monthly Archives: March 2012

peace on the front porch

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Ever since I was a young girl I’ve been inexplicably happy when I’ve been out on the front porch. Sometimes I would find myself on crickety old rocking chairs, or frequently, when we lived on Rifle Street (in a neighborhood called ‘The Farm’) and had a hanging floral bench, I would sit outside with a book and lounge away during summer vacations. I noticed this habit more so during my days exploring the American South. Everyone, it seemed, had something out on the front porch as to facilitate time spent there. Once, in Alabama, I saw a porch swing that has been carved to read ‘Alabama’. One of the many reasons I love the South–they sure are proud of their roots. And, admittably, the assortment of rocking chairs at Cracker Barrel made that restaurant even more of a pull to visit, in addition to the unbeatable cheesy potatoes they offer (okay. my mouth is literally watering).

Old fashioned (and even as old woman like) as it may sound, there really is something special about being at home but simultaneously being outside, absorbing the day, and even people watching as the neighborhood passes by.

So, it really should be no surprise that the evening I just spent out on my porch relieved my stresses of the week and helped me feel relaxed, at home, and comfortable. After my run with ‘Team Komera’ as I’ve named the couple little guys that I run with almost on the daily (they often run with much more gusto than myself and usually without any shoes), I invited them to come over for some “juice” (really, propel mix in water) along with a couple of other kids who were on the road. Setting boundaries has been really difficult here; one of my greatest challenges, actually, and I felt it was a good time for the kids to visit. I’ve limited the time kids spend at my house because if you let a few in, well, hundreds more expect visitation rights too. Plus, I already have visitors on a daily basis and believe it or not, I really do need my alone time sometimes. Anyway, I digress, I was in the mood for some of the youngins’ to come over and so they did. We sat together watching people through my grass fence, along with my roommate, Louise, and her sister visiting from Kigali. I taught (or attempted, rather) them how to snap their fingers and make funny faces. You know, sometimes the whole language barrier thing can be limiting in my interactions with people, but with kids you can just do stupid stuff and you are all set.

My good friend—an old 80 year old something woman—came by and I passed along some medicine to her. She’s old, frail, and in a lot of pain and so I think it’s entirely appropriate. She’s also very poor, and so without the ability to farm, she really can’t get to our health center in our village and get some medicine for whatever she is suffering from. She’s a tiny lady who crouches just a bit, and often wears a black and green floral fabric over her small body paired with yellow flats from the market. She walks slow, even for a Rwandan, and I once watched as Alphonsine (they lady who helps me do work around my house) rubbed some greenish-herbal-village concoction on her aching ribs. Like I said, if I can help her feel a little less pain with a little Tylenol, then I’m going to do it.

After her visit, my friend Claude came to teach me French. Usually for our one-two times per week lesson we go inside my house, but today I insisted on remaining outside. It was a beautiful evening, after all. Soon, my friend Fidele and ‘Pastor P’ (the pastor who lives across the street from me) joined as well, and we sipped coffee as the blue-orange sky became black, illuminated by my sturdy metal kerosene lamp. We soon were talking frankly about the difficulties faced by our students, why they are performing so low on exams, and focusing on what we can differently. To be sitting around, talking, relaxing, without any shoes on, amd just enjoying the moment—well, it felt natural. And, as I gazed off at the stars (which you can see perfectly out here), lost in my own thoughts, I remembered why being out on the porch is really just so great: time doesn’t really matter and when you slow things down a bit, you actually feel a lot more alive. When I embrace that attitude (especially while living in Africa), I don’t get so stressed about being busy or dealing with the immersion difficulties that I face on the daily. I think I’ll be out on my porch much more often.

I definitely didn’t so enough of that this week. I confess: I reverted to my not-so-great-tendencies this week.

And it makes sense why—

I had the incredible opportunity to interview the best Rwandan students last week in their hopes of earning a Presidential Scholarship to study in America for four years at university (one of those being Hendrix College).

Cool, right?

And it was.

On top of an amazing opportunity to take part in a partnership between MINEDUC (the Ministry of Education) and Hendrix (check out more information here: http://www.hendrix.edu/rwanda), I got sweet digs to stay for the days I was in Kigali for (I think I took like 7 hot baths), delicious, phenomenal (and free!) food, and of course free wi-fi which I completely OD’d on. I met incredible mover and shakers in Rwanda (including people from the US Consulate, the ministry of education, missionaries, and current student Hendrix interns) and spoke my rapid, sometimes incomprehensible English all week.

So, when I found myself back home without power and squatting over a hole to go to the bathroom, I couldn’t believe I could get culture sho k from just a few days. Kigali Koma (as I call it) steeped a little deeper too, I think. I was less patient with my teachers at school and upon becoming tremendously frusturated with the lack of organization and explanation among staff at my school, I actually left school in tears multiple times this week. I felt my easy-go-with-the-flow-peace corps persona crumbling. It’s exam week at school and everything makes working without a lot of resources came to light. The procedures, the paperwork, and everything in between. For example, someone forgot to make a photocopy of one of my upper level exams (they have to go in town—40 minutes away—to access the copy machine) and so I was unable to give one of my classes the final term exam. It’s a situation I find really hard to describe because on paper it doesn’t sound too messy. But, trust me, it is. I could feel my frustration building throughout the first few days of exams (a marker that guarantees I will cry) and so I spent a good portion of the week huffing and puffing, keeping busy, trying to quell my stress in whatever way I knew how. It was different though, because it wasn’t the normal stresses of cultural immersion; this stress was an exasperation with a system, with non-existent resources, and the realization that I can do very little to help this part of things. I should have just gone outside like tonight…and just relaxed. Because now, faced with over 350 exams to grade (wish I was kidding), I feel totally capable in dealing with this situation.

I don’t think a night on a porch can solve everything. I’m not that naive. But, I also realize that sometimes you don’t have to overreact to the difficulties around you; sometimes you just have to cope. That’s really what being a Peace Corps Volunteer is all about. Well, that, and also making the best of the cards you are dealt with. A night of ditching your own schedule and just hanging out, especially as the day turns into night gives you a lot of perspective; there is a lot of chaos, stress, and bad things in the world. So, why stress about the things you really can’t change? It’s an old life adage, but one that keeps coming back to me as I spend more and more time here.

I’m going back to Kigali this weekend, though this time will be much different from my high life with Hendrix. I have a meeting with my program manager, a meeting about a girls camp I am helping to lead this summer, and I’ll put in two full days of work at a Kigali hospital with Operation Smile with some other Peace Corps Volunteers. We will be working 8-8 days, comforting and helping children that will be getting surgery to fix deformities they have faced. I’m excited, but also aware this could be emotionally challenging and so in that way too, I’m bracing myself.

I am eagerly anticipating the opportunity however, as I’ll get to be with children in a different context and work alongside my PCV friends. Additionally, Meredith (a good friend of mine) and I plan to go on morning runs in shorts and with our IPODS—both of which we don’t do back home in the village for conservative-culture reasons. Not to mention, I’ll be getting my favorite white chocolate mocha (once or three times) from Bourbon Coffee (best coffee shop ever) so there’s a lot to look forward to.

The key to all of this though, is knowing that there is solace for me, not just in Kigali. It can be right here at home, even on my porch. Pull out a chair or two, drink some coffee, and just chat. It’s essential to know (and live) this because I don’t live in Kigali—that is not my reality and I can’t depend on it (but I sure can love it, and I do).

The best part is that as I pack my bags, fitting in as much things that I can charge as possible (this is my life), lingering around my rooms, I am looking forward to coming back home again and being here. For the circumstances of living out in the village, I ‘d say that’s pretty good.

That indeed, is progress.

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a spoonful of sugar: culture in a cup

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I remember quite clearly my days of chai frustration.

After finding my way out of my mosquito net in the early mornings when the sun has just started to peak between the clouds, stumbling through the leftovers of sleep to the latrine, and then throwing on an outfit bound to encounter dirt within the first 5 minutes of putting it on, I would enter the living room area and sit down with my Bible ready to begin the day. It was time, however, to also wait for the chai tea. Two steaming cups made over a wood fire by the worker of my host family would come to me each and every morning, but would also often make me late for our Peace Corps training sessions.  Because of my American-must-be-on-time disposition I developed a grudge with Rwanda’s version of a cup of joe. I would arrive to our training hub site, yes, usually late, and would get smiles from all my friends. They knew. I was late because of the ichai (a clarification: ‘ichai’ refers to the tea-milk drink that exists everywhere in Rwanda), and it became the running joke among trainees in regards to my host family. I was lucky, I had relatively limited problems with my family. Quite the contrary, my family was incredible, welcoming in every possible way, and an absolute perfect fit for me. But, undoubtedly, I would be annoyed frequently from being late after the expectation that I wait patiently for the ichai, finish two entire cups (with mounds of sugar in each–at the time, dished out by my host father-yes, in those moments I felt like I had no control of my life), and then could proceed to go to school.

Yep. That most certainly is in the past.

I’ve totally embraced ichai culture—I’m even making it for myself on my charcoal stove. I imagine it would be perfected (like the way Mama Baraka makes it—more on that later) with real milk and a hint of ginger. However, I use my NIDO condensed milk since I don’t happen to own a cow, and still it tastes pretty damn good (especially when I add two tablespoons of sugar to each cup—man, I really am becoming Rwandan!).

  1. I heat water from a yellow jerry can which takes about 16ish minutes if the charcoals are pleasantly burning, add the NIDO and the tea, and wait. I stir occasionally, usually find other mindless things to do around the house while I wait for the tea to come to a seemingly appropriate temperature.
  2. Then, I strain the tea (often in the dark, mind you) and put it in my red-flowery thermos so it stays warm overnight. Yum! This sounds easier than it actually is. Usually in the straining process, I get little tea grains all over my thermos, hands, face…you name it. I also frequently spill on myself as I am pouring the tea out of my silver pot, using leaves from the trees as pot holders. If you try for the mental image, you probably will find yourself laughing–you could just imagine.
  3. I take a cup before bed.
  4. And in the morning (in addition to a cup of coffee).
  5. And in the afternoon.
You might say I’m addicted. I’ve recently started keeping an exercise and food journal and I looked back and noticed my ichai intake. Maybe slightly out of control? But, to be fair to you know, cultural immersion, the cup of ichai is really an important element when considering the tis that bind in Rwanda.

Ah, yes, I don’t drink beer. I don’t drink fanta. But ichai?Ah, ichai. With ichai, there is no problem. To drink ichai is to be Rwandan. And you should know, for me, I like it hot. Very hot.

-my headmaster, Elias, over the dinner last week

If you step into the home of a Rwandan, I would wager good money (well the sum that PC gives me, anyway) that they have a thermos on hand, ready to serve company that may come. It’s true; maybe some Rwandans, especially out in the rural village where I live, don’t have a lot inside their homes, but chances are, they have tea (and along with that, bananas too. But that’s another story altogether).

I’ve taken cue to this. Lately, I’ve had lots of visitors, have had to play host, and tea helps immensely. I love playing host (maybe not to the degree of Monica on Friends—I just watched that one episode where she tries to win everybody back over to her and Rachel’s apartment so she can continue to be the one that is always the host) and it’s especially rewarding given my situation. When I have guests, I can serve ichai (proving that I’m a capable woman living in Rwanda) but also can have a conversation, show pictures of my loved ones, and explain what brought me to Rwanda and what I am hoping to learn from this experience. On a cultural level, I can demonstrate that I understand how valued it is within the culture to have visitors and to also honor and love these visitors, because the act of visiting represents an old Rwandan pastime: talking and getting to know people in your community.

Often, I can even share a bit of America by serving hot chocolate (which my fellow teachers and visitors have endearingly called ‘sweet tea’, which makes me smile). Last night, I even cooked macaroni and cheese, rice from the States, and instant potatoes for my headmaster (along with the hot chocolate) and he told me it was so good that if he ate like that every day he would be fat. I was just like, sir, you have no idea. Today, two of my favorite girl students came over and again it was all about the tea. We sipped and played cards and somehow there was something very homey about all of that.

Last weekend, knowing somehow I would have a good deal of visitors, I cooked food for about 15 people and ichai right along with it. I also knew I would be spending a good amount of time in Kigali the coming week for an obligation with Hendrix, and so I wanted to use up my plantain stash as much as possible. I found myself wondering why I felt compelled to make so much food (plantains and potatoes) and I realized that God certainly does work in all things: from my old woman friend to neighborhood children I gave out plates and plates of food. But more importantly, two women came knocking at my gate with the straps of their big bags held up on their heads. They were coming from the refugee camp in Northern Rwanda, maybe a couple hours away, looking for food and any goods they could bring back for their families. They were Congolese refugees, and I would later discover that they have been living within the confines of this camp for 6 years. I quickly invited them inside; grateful that I had something prepared and could offer them without any trouble. They sat on my floor mat, covered with mismatched African fabric with worn t-shirts from America and though one woman could not eat the food I offered, they graciously took the tea. This is why Rwandans do what they do; to share and to give to others. I’ll probably never see those women again, but for me, I’ll always remember the look in their eyes. Wandering, lost, and tired. A warm cup of tea with sugar was the very least I could do.

My cup of tea is far from perfect. Mama Baraka (who opened up shop in her home about a month ago) makes the best tea, hands down. It’s laced with ginger, perfectly sweet, and always leaves you wanting more but also whole-heartedly satisfied. She now brings her gigantic pink thermos to our school and sells cups of ichai during our two 10-minute breaks during the school day. I visit her little shop, set inside her home that she shares with her husband, ‘Pastor P’, and their four children. Her shop has two rickety benches, completely with a table that has only 3 legs that are the same length, with the floor behind the counter often totally filled from her harvest of potatoes and tomatoes. When I close my eyes, I could be anywhere in America, Starbucks even, only better. The cost, for one (a cup costs me about 25 cents) and despite the absence of the ambience Starby’s works so hard to create, it’s soothing in its very own right. I have a place to go to—a coffee shop of sorts—and for me, this is a huge win in terms of feeling at home and in my element even in the village.

Like I said, maybe my tea isn’t perfect yet.

But, I’m learning. I’m working through with trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and adjusting accordingly. On some kind of larger level, that’s what I’m doing with everything here: with my tea, yes, but also teaching, living, communicating, fitting in, and serving the community in which I will spend two years. I have great days, bad days, okay days, get-me-out-of-here days, and days where I couldn’t see myself anywhere else at this stage of my life. Luckily, on the tougher of days, I have a good cup of warm, sweet, and calming ichai to make things a little better.

girl power.

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Election Day.

I’ve been through countless school elections—whether it was student council in elementary school, leadership in high school, or the endless amounts of committees at Hendrix. I’ve seen campaigns hard at work (especially back in high school when I volunteered for a candidate with the Republican Party—yeah, it’s been that long) and I’ve witnessed speech after speech. Today, however, was an altogether different experience.

For starters, nobody told me it was the big day where the student body would select a student representative to be the “dean”. What this entails, well, I’m still not entirely sure, but it has something to do with being the middle man between the students, teachers, and administration. So, as I finished teaching one of my lower level classes about colors, we herded down to the school soccer field to start the assembly. “Herded” is actually quite the appropriate word as I watched our administration carry thin wooden sticks around swatting students on the butt if they didn’t move in an approving manner. I still can’t help but flinch when I hear or see that, and I’ve voiced my disapproval. I don’t think it will ever be okay with me—no, I know it absolutely will never be okay with me—but right now, I realize it is a situation I have zero control over, and so I can only take a stand and set my own example by choosing to discipline my students in a different manner.

We arrived at the field—maybe a handful of teachers but nearly all 300 something students—and our dean of studies proclaimed the meeting would be in English as to accommodate my sub par Kinyarwanda skills. Of course, 5 minutes in, it was heavy on the Kinyarwanda, but like I said, I’ve seen school plenty of school elections, and so I could get the general gist of what was happening. I watched as some students stood amidst the crowd and in a matter of minutes self-nominated themselves, campaigned, and argued why they would do the best job. This went on for maybe 10 minutes or so when it occurred to me that no girl student was being persuaded by her classmates to stand or even taking the initiative themselves. I gulped down a bit of nervous energy and approached Fidele, our dean of studies, and now a friend of mine, and suggested that a female become the dean. He chuckled—the same chuckle I heard when I suggested we have a female dean of discipline (I must come off as a raging feminist here at school)—but he did it was possible. Other teachers repeatedly told me to encourage the girls, to instill some confidence in them. And so, I kind of just ran with it and unexpectedly encountered a lot of passionate emotion from inside myself—I didn’t realize I cared about the underlying issue so much, but the thing is, I do. Girls are often afraid to speak up here, even in a country that has an even gender split in Parliament, and I found myself telling the girls that they could do it!

Finally, one of my favorite students (I never realized how hard it would be to not have favorites inside the classroom), Maisara, bit the bullet and became a candidate. So, imagine 300ish people in the middle of a soccer field trying to have some semblance of an election. We did this “Rwanda style” (so I’m told) where the three candidates walked to their own areas of the field. Then, students were to follow the person they wanted to win and form a line behind them. It was intriguing, that’s for sure.

My job became to do a head count for Maisara’s voters. I’m sure this stepped way beyond the line (but at this point, all caution was thrown into the wind) and I started yelling for girls and students to join our line. The boys were all headed in the opposite direction before I could work any persuasive devices on why women are equally strong leaders (big surprise). I knew pretty quickly Maisara was not going to win. In fact, as opposed to numbers in the 100s that the other two male students had, well, Maisara had 33. Not to be deterred, I told the girls that we would win the next time and that it is good for boys to see girls in charge.
Oh.
And I sort of drew the words ‘girl power’ on my hand?
And had Maisara’s voters chanting this?
Yeah. Pretty sure that wasn’t very kosher, but I could also see that some girls really wanted to see a girl in a leadership role, which made me more impassioned—who knew?

To be perfectly honest, it really opened the door for me wanting to have a conversation and dialogue about gender roles, because when it was decided that Maisara would be the vice dean, many students (many of these male) did not cheer for her. As it was my job to give the students the results, I went into a lecture about how we need good representation to make our school better and that to do so, we had to work together. Upon realizing some students were refusing to cheer, I went into a cry about how the Parliament in Kigali is 50% female and that the same would be true here. When I play back that moment in my head…wow. Just. Wow. My voice was hoarse, I was dramatically moving my hands, and there, standing in front of hundreds of people, I was calling attention to something that really moved something inside of me.

Turns out, the lack of cheering (which I have taught them to do in lieu of your typical clap) could very much be due to the face that the election might have been fixed?

I think one candidate actually had more students behind him but the administration changed the numbers? Great example, guys. Sometimes, Africa really is Africa. Of course, much of the blame is hinged upon me since I delivered the results and spear headed the women contingency that pulled away precious votes from other groups (like I’m a Ralph Nader or something). After the chaos that was election day, I was walking home when one of my students, Valens, who often goes by ‘Danger’ looked at me disappointingly and said, “you lied, teacher.” Talk about a knife in the heart; it wasn’t me, I swear!

Anyway, whatever happened out there, well, it was a bit different from your run of the mill cast your ballot type things. But, sometimes different is good. Which is really what I’m trying to teach my students in the first place.

Girl power—maybe a little over the top, but hey, if it starts the conversation about women in leadership, then I have no regrets.

Then again, maybe I have been reading a little too much Oprah after all.

and so, i run.

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I always thought people like Kelly Rappe were somewhat, I don’t know, crazy?

You know, those people who can run 5,6,10, 15 miles…and enjoy it.

Too many times to count—both in high school and college—upon arriving at the field lined by the black cushion stuff known to runners and field hockey players alike as the track, I would scoff and chuckle as track or cross country athletes prepped for their workouts.

Who would actually want to do that?

That looks miserable.

Really, running? That’s the sport you CHOOSE to do?

My teammates and I would continue to suit up in shinguards and socks, grateful that our sport had a purpose (secretly, I admired their dedication and particular skill, but for the life of me could not understand the appeal—once, in high school, I had to run the longest lap of my life as punishment from my coach for saying ‘hi’ to a boy in the middle of a drill. Never again would I break her rules. I would avoid running that dreaded lap around the track at all costs.)

After countless years of soccer, softball, volleyball, basketball, and of course, field hockey, I’ve found myself at the ripe age of 23, perfect for trying something new. Of course, I also find myself in rural Rwanda, with limited resources to work with.

Back home, I have friends that are engaged, married, and pregnant. Some friends are dabbling in the job market, fighting ‘the man’ that is the American economy, and some are off fighting another beast entirely: graduate school. Some are finishing undergrad, figuring out where to go next, and now I even have friends here with me in Rwanda, doing the same thing as me—following some sort of ideal and dream to contribute to the greater good of the world and giving Peace Corps a whirl. Together, we’re figuring out how to teach English and help our communities in a sustainable and realistic manner. Along the way, we’re also working with a little trial and error, trying to find ways to not just survive our assigned African villages, but to thrive in them too. I have friends learning to paint murals, creating things with bamboo, and some that are perfecting the art of baking without an oven! Peace Corps is pretty notorious for turning out volunteers with new hobbies and interests: even with all the integration, teaching, and overall adjustment to living out in the bush, there is still quite a bit of down time. One Rwandan PCV (Peace Corps Volunteer), a year into his service, had read over 250 books. That’s like, nearly a book a day. Last weekend, at a regional meeting, as my friends told me of their developing interests, I laughed to myself and proceeded to tell them that as they created all this cool hipster artsy fartsy stuff, I was in fact learning how to run. Which, by the way, includes developing my own ‘Zumba’ moves for my personal strength sessions I do a few times a week after hitting the trails.

Yes, me.

The girl who loathed running for years and would have rather lifted weights twice a day, everyday, than run a mile. I’m not just running I tell them. I’m loving running.

Today, I just woke up and knew. It was going to be a good run. My body felt good—probably from the loaded veggie stew I concocted last night for dinner. I felt energized. And after a few good pages of reading from Runner’s World (courtesy of Maggie DesPain—thanks girl!) I was certainly motivated. Let’s rock it!

And that, I did.

I did the longest run to date in Rwanda. I ran to the primary school in the sector next to mine and then back. For a visual picture, I ran the main road that leads to the even bigger main road—the one with asphalt and leads on to Kigali. To reach this road from my house is approximately 5K. Granted, the primary school pops up before the main road, but it’s still pretty close. If my estimations are correct, I would say that one way, I ran about 3 miles. Which brings today’s totals to 6 miles. For experienced, regular runners even, that’s a pretty normal run. No big deal. But for me, it was another stepping block in achieving my initial running goal: to be able to run to the black asphalt road and back (10K total). Plus, I did this run today in the rain, with screaming children often by my side on a Rwandan dirt road full of hills and holes and gravel, on a stomach full of chocolate chip pancakes and two cups of caramel via coffee, and on top of it all, I slept only a few hours last night. No, for once it wasn’t the mice. I had leisurely picked up The Hunger Games to read just one more chapter after chatting with my mom when, whoops? I finished the book after four hours of straight reading late into the night (if you haven’t read this book—READ IT NOW! It’s awesome.)

I arrived back home just before the storm got really bad and I was elated. I did it!

You see, I’m a competitive person, but without the innate need to be the best. Instead, what’s really important, is to be the best I can be. Honestly, I felt like a slacker when reading Runner’s World. Here are women and men, sometimes double my age, qualifying for Olympic trials at these running events around the country and world? But, out on the trail I remember that consistently comparing yourself to others isn’t the recipe for success: to be better, you must focus on your own limits and work to stretch them, defy them, and beat them. This works every time. Even when I was a little girl and my dad was coaching me how to play soccer (he took to calling me ‘the bulldog’ which I still get from him every now and then), I knew I wasn’t the fastest, strongest, or most talented player. First of all, I was freakishly tiny (sometimes half the size of my teammates and opponents) and the other girls could take the ball, have a certain finesse, score, and somehow make it look beautiful. That wasn’t really for me. I was a more scrappy breed, falling on the ground more times than I was actually standing, and pushing my way with all the strength I could muster. Maybe I wasn’t the best, but you could bet that if the ball was in my vicinity (and okay, even across the field, as youth soccer often resembles one moving group of kids as if the ball was a magnet) I was going to do everything I could to get it. That’s just how I played the game.

Maybe running isn’t that different. I don’t think I’ll be cruising through marathons any time soon, but hey, the fact that I love being out there (especially in an entirely different country and culture) is something. I can feel myself pushing hard up the hills, like I said, doing the best I can.

What I love about running is this: you’re alone, but you’re not. You can think, but you don’t have to. You move away, but you always come back. It’s escapism—I’ll admit that. But sometimes, my heart, mind, and soul need a break from Peace Corps. I love my job, but I see, witness, hear, and observe a lot of difficult things, namely poverty. It’s hard to describe really, but I’m living in a world where people pay the equivalent of like 10 cents to get water, and for some, it’s a stretch financially. You can pay the total of 30 USD for a student to go to school the entire year, and for families in my community, this is a heavy investment. Sometimes, it’s beyond overwhelming. A couple of weeks ago, I was walking around greeting people after going to buy some eggs from a family of a student I have, when I greeted an old women with heavy burdens—I could see it all just in her eyes. She started talking slowly but also hastily, and lifted her shirt to show me numerous tumors along her stomach. I only understood that she wanted to go to the hospital but I couldn’t really make out much more of what she was saying. I told her I would pray for her. And I have. I don’t know what is happening to her. But that’s just what life here is like sometimes.

And so, I run (and do dance moves alone in my home, often in the dark). And somehow, I guess I found the secret those track runners had in the first place. They’d probably laugh and scoff at ME now.

HA! We don’t look so silly, do we?

My first test, you could say, will be in May in Kigali at the Peace Marathon.

I was going to do the half marathon, but always one for team efforts, I am instead doing the team relay in which among 4 of us (myself and three of my PCV friends) we split the 26.2 mile marathon. I’ve always done better on teams anyway.

I often wonder where running will take me. No, not metaphorically, but quite literally. Will this new love continue back in the states when Peace Corps is all said and done? I hope so.

Soon, I’ll be starting to help coach my school sports’ teams (or so I am told…I am crossing my fingers). I’ll have a whole new opportunity to explore something new and exciting.  I’ve dabbled in coaching before, but the more I think about it, the more right it feels to have that position and be able to work with my students from a different perspective, a perspective, where I think I’ll feel even more comfortable.

And so, I’ll dabble in coaching, I’ll dabble in running, unsure of where it will all take me, but of course doing the best I can, day in, and day out as a volunteer and community member in this little African village. Like I said, it’s a philosophy that’s been harped a million times before, but, it’s foolproof—works every time.

(Sidenote: Oh, and Kelly Rappe, a good friend of mine, is indeed crazy, but I think that’s another story entirely.)