We all know too well how easy it is to create a picture perfect image of your life on social media. The beautiful places I visit and the amazing people I meet are indeed making this trip a once in a lifetime experience. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have my share of chin quivering moments!
I have always had the comfort (and privilege) to not be the odd one out… to remain anonymous in a sea of people… That is impossible here!
Rwandans love a good stare – I’ve had children freeze on the street, their eyes fixated on me; I’ve had women pause their conversation to measure me up; and on a daily basis I have a good fifty builders walking to their construction site whispering ‘mazungu mazungu’.
Of course, this can get old very quickly – so what do I do?
With children I tend to ask their name – this gets a few excited giggles, a high pitched ‘GOOD MORNING’ and after that they run away. With women I tend to smile and greet, which always breaks the tension. And with the builders… I just stare back until they turn away.
Taking my malaria pill is part of my morning routine – this is followed by fun side effects, such as burning in my throat, feeling nauseous and tired and at times throwing up. The malaria pills also make me much more prone to sunburn, so I lather myself up with SPF50 and gather all the dust of Kigali on my skin!
In the evenings, I choke on the stink of DEET to keep the mosquitos off me and still get bit; so my bed time routine involves a lot of anti-itch cream and aloe vera for the sunburn.
It would be so much easier (and more attractive!) to not be a sweaty puffy itchy mess most days; but I needed a bit of a kick after five and a half years in the safety and comfort of the Canary Wharf playpen.
And if that means I have to suffer a bit of physical discomfort, I’ll take that any day… Plus, you should see my tan right now!
Being in the present
Something I didn’t expect to struggle with was balancing being in the present and wishing time would go by faster so I can reconnect with my loved ones.
I am already more than five weeks into my fellowship and on a daily basis I have to remind myself to enjoy the now. As time is flying by, I can see this brilliant experience being over in a heart beat and I will be kicking myself later on, if I spent most of it counting down days until it was over!
So I say yes to every new experience that comes my way; I am more relaxed about my personal time; and I welcome new people into my life with open arms.
And when my chin does start to quiver, I dig into my emergency stash of Rafaello, send a few ‘Help!’ text messages and take a deep breath, as the texts I get back read ‘You are awesome, stop it!’
And if that doesn’t help, I just order more wine…