For probably the third or fourth time in the first 2 hours of Mom and Randy’s visit I was explaining how wonderful their experience in Rwanda would be BECAUSE of the “off the road” approach we were attempting (visiting and sleeping in my village for 3 days, using public transport, and embracing volcano-like mountains of Rwandan food to be offered – along with Fanta, obviously). They weren’t sticking to only the “touristy” attractions – we were doing Rwanda with a lot of Heather swagger. I was anxious, giddy, nervous and happy it would be like this. Ater all, to see the Rwanda I love (and let’s be real, sometimes the Rwanda I loathe), you have to give the village and lie here a real chance to show itself. I knew things would be just fine, however, because Randy looked up for a momemt while packing his small green REI backpack and summed up the nature of his and mom’s can-do-Rwanda attitude in three words,
“We dig culture.”
And did they ever.
We saw Mama and Papa’s new home being built, shared handfuls of real Rwandan meals, tasted banana juice at Divine’s, went on long village walks which had to feel a lot like being the Royal Family with all the hootin’ and hollerin’, crossed overland from the edges of Tanzania to the 4th largest African lake bordering the Congo, and I, to no one’s surprise, cooked macaroni and cheese.
Their two weeks came and went quickly.
No words or photos can describe what it was like to have my mama here. After I creepily banged on the window glass to get their attention in baggage claim at the Kigali airport (yes, this drew countless numbers of stares and aghast looks of what a freak) I absorbed all that I could of her presence. I remembered and relished the way she always calls me “honey”, her enthusiastic, ready for anything smile, and her desire to continually want to make things comfortable for me (this included drawing a bath for me one evening – could life get any better?) And what was even better than just having mom here was having Randy here too. Three was not a crowd and I was immensely impressed with both Mom and Randy’s kindness, openness, and flexibility to greet and love on my community members. They hugged SO many people. I LOVED THEIR CAPACITY TO LOVE.
Should I have been surprised? No.
If you wonder how I can be crazy enough to WANT to live in a rural Rwandan village for 2 years it is because I was raised by love-centered people. Mom, Dad – everybody – demonstrated through everything (because no, my life has not been perfect) we all have an ability and an obligation to love in the best way we know how.
My favorite moment of our trip was exploring the banana fields that belong to Divine’s mother. They go on for what feels like forever. You walk on a thin dirt path to maneuver your way through the land. Behind me, I watched mom and Divine holding hands. By my side was Suzi. In front, further along in the road, was Randy. He was taking photos with some youth, also emphasizing the importance of staying in school. I was in my favorite place in Rwanda with some of the most important people in my life. Not just mom and Randy, but Suzi and Divine too. For a rare moment, pieces of my life were interlaced and together. For a fleeting time, I didn’t have to describe two different worlds, I could just be. That’s the very best a family visit can bring you. That, and delicious meals with hot bathes. Just kidding.
And so those weeks were intensely whirldwind – especially before and after their travels to visit me. Before, I had finished HOURS and HOURS of marking to prepare for the end of term II. After, I exerted every ounce of energy I had at our region’s week-long 2013 GLOW (girls leading our world) camp.
Needless to say, my life has been crazy.
Somehow, it’s become mid-August and I am most certainly at a crossroad with a large fork in the road.
There are two options, you see.
One is to continue as I had planned all along: return back to beautiful America (Lord, I sure do miss home) having had finished 2 years of good work in Peace Corps Rwanda. I have some wonderful experience to carry with me, stories to share, and family and friends to be with. I can come home, figure out the next direction of my life, and soak all that is of my home, America.
The other option is a lot like Peyton Manning reading a different defense post-huddle and calling an audible based on what he sees: stay in Rwanda another year – “extend” as they call it in Peace Corps world – with a different job and living situation. All of the opportunities to continue in Peace Corps (and there are probably around 10 of them within Rwanda) as a Third Year Volunteer often involve working closely with other NGOs while still making a Peace Corps level salary (about 200 USD per month) and keeping Peace Corps status (able to defer loans, qualify for medical care, abiding by the many rules, and so on).
The details are set to be hankered and hammered out THIS week at what is called our Close of Service (COS) Conference. I’ll be coming back to America later this winter no matter what path I choose to take and so really it’s a question of what the right thing to do is as I consider the next year, 5 years, and 10 years of my life. What exactly do I vision for myself? What do I imagine my life could look like?
Discernment can sometimes feel 100% easy or a lot more murky.
This one, it’s been all over the place.
I am trusting that God will help me choose the next phase of my life that provides safety, purpose, passion, and open doors.
My soul has felt scattered and all over the place and so I’ve put together a pro-con list, raised my hands, and I am submitting my fears, doubts, anxiety, and worries to God. Prayers appreciated.
IF I EXTEND A 3RD YEAR IN RWANDA
-I really enjoy living and working in this country despite the challenges
-maintain Rwandan relationships very easily
-opens a lot of development opportunities down the road
-builds on my first 2 years in Peace Corps while also creating a new and challenging job
-more people could have the opportunity to come and visit Rwanda!
-already aware and immersed in the language and culture
-more possibilities of sports development experience
-living in a beautiful country
-maintain Peace Corps contacts and connections
-experience with grant-writing
-can easily visit my old village and community
-a paid (via Peace Corps) holiday home in the winter
-have the suppot of my family
-I can always leave if I decide it’s not the right fit for me
-can continue to defer loans
-more time away from home
-missing out on family and friend life events
-isolation from American culture in general
-avoiding an inevitable goodbye to this country
-still living on a Peace Corps salary
-continuing to regularly deal with Rwandan frusturations (water issues, electricity issues, lack of internet, being DIFFERENT than everyone else, always having to explain who I am…)
-all of my friends from my group (called ED – 3 – the third education group in Rwanda) will be finished with their jobs in Rwanda
-putting off time I could be using to get a master’s degree
-dealing with skeevy Rwandan men