By Jake Slaughter
I’ve been in Rwanda for five days now.
I find it hard to believe even as I type it out. It certainly hasn’t felt like five days. Since the moment we landed I’ve been trying to keep up with the whirlwind of information being thrown at me. I desperately don’t want to miss any detail.
Culture shock is an extraordinaryily powerful thing, I’m starting to realize. I’ve done a fair bit of traveling. I even lived abroad for some time in college. But despite hearing about the country from people who have visited or from my friends who live in Rwanda I wasn’t prepared for the actual experience of being here. No matter how much you know, there are things you need to experience to fully understand. (For example, as I was typing that sentence the power went out where we are staying in Musanze and a large group of people outside cheered before they resumed the drumming music they had been playing for the last couple of hours. That is an easy story to tell you about, but that moment of absolute darkness and silence is something that you need to experience to understand.) Of course, when you enter into a different country and culture there are the obvious differences, but those can become familiar quickly. The subtle things are what take time to process and understand.
We arrived in Kigali late earlier this week and I didn’t go to sleep until after midnight. That next day was spent touring and meeting people connected to the Anglican Church. By midafternoon it was hot out and I was tired. Lying down, shielded by my bed’s mosquito net, I recognized that I was feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Closing my eyes I thought, “Is this what this whole trip is going to be like?”
Forty minutes later I woke up to the sound of wind and rain. It is a rainy season here and when it rains it rains. I went out to the Hanlon’s covered porch, which has a great view of Kigali, and watched the rain come down over the city. The temperature had dropped and I was completely comfortable. For more than an hour I was able to simply sit down and quietly appreciate that although I was in a different place, there are still moments that remind me of home.
I know that much of my experiences during this trip are going to take time to process and understand. And you know, I’m okay with that now. Because while I’m here I’m learning how to appreciate those spaces in a day where you are able to step aside from the busyness and enjoy being present in a particular place at a specific time. I don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but I’m not going to allow that to stress me out. I don’t need to worry about catching every detail. I just need to step back, maybe take a sip of some good coffee, and acknowledge the particulars of the moment I’m in.
I’ve been in Rwanda for five days now. And although I find it hard to believe even as I type it out again, I’m so glad that it is true.