Champions of the chupa-chupa
If you think about it, every single action you know how to do, you used to have no idea how to do it. Getting gas in your car, registering for classes, writing an essay, all these things used to make you squirm with discomfort. But sometimes you just need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Here, as an American student in Rwanda, I have been uncomfortable more times than I can count. But, I am thankful for almost each and every one of those times because it has taught me a lot about life, who I am as a person, or just a useful new skill. A few quick examples:
Yesterday, my host brother and his friend were sent outside to cut grass. I tagged along and, much to their amusement, I attempted to cut grass using the long, knife-like tool they use here. It felt awkward and I cut about one blade of grass for every 100 that my brother cut, but I tried.
The perfect icebreaker is a conversation
Sometimes (many times), I get lost. My friend and I tried to climb Mt. Kigali and I think we took about 5 wrong turns before just telling ourselves that going up was probably the right way. We stumbled upon some gorgeous views and it was a good time. While in Uganda, a group of students and I went to a mosque even though only one of us was half-Muslim. I didn’t know anything about how to behave in a mosque, but that’s why I was there; to learn. When my friend from Rwanda asked if I’d like to go to a worship group with him, I said yes even though my youth group at home wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I went, loved it, and can’t wait to go back. If I had said, “no”, every time I felt uncomfortable, none of these experience would have happened.
Around the house:
I learned how to do simple cooking when I was around 12 and to do laundry when I was probably 14. While in Rwanda, I learned an entirely different way to do these things. I learned how to shred cabbage with a knife and boil water over coals. For laundry, I learned how to use soap, water, and sunshine to clean a shirt. At the beginning, I felt a lot like I was my 12-year-old self again but, with time and practice, I’ve been improving.
Biraryoshe! (it's delicious!)
Simply Saying ‘Hello’:
When I’m walking and a group of school children poke each other and the brave ones say, “hello, how are you?” and I answer with, “nimeza, amakuru nawe? (good, how are you?)” their smiles just make my day. Whether I’m sitting by someone on a bus, walking near them on a sidewalk, or crowded next to them on a bus, a simple ‘hello’ can go a long way, even if talking to strangers is a tad nerve wracking. That’s how I met my closest friend here. On a bus, just by saying ‘hello’.
All in all, no one likes feeling uncomfortable. If we did, it wouldn’t be called uncomfortable, would it? Sometimes, the most exciting, rewarding, or interesting experiences come out of doing something that we really just do not want to do. Being in Rwanda has pushed my comfort zone many times, but I am so thankful that it has. I have grown as a person, met some wonderful people, and I can’t wait to see what new things are left to discover just by stepping outside my comfort zone.
*Danielle Marvin is a sophomore at the University of Iowa studying psychology and social work. Originally from Dewitt, IA, she will be spending her semester in Rwanda on the SIT Post-Genocide Restoration and Peacebuilding program.
Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.