There are some days when I feel like all I do on a daily basis is a “job.” Granted, I was chosen to serve in a specific position when I signed on as a year-long volunteer at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, however since arriving here 6 months ago, I have come to realize that life here is about so much more than just a job. Due to an influx of visiting groups and day visitors during the second term, I have only had 1 day off since May 14th. During busy days like those over the past few weeks, I still find myself being caught off-guard by how much pleasure I reap by spending time with the Village youth. They bring such delight into my life and bring rays of sunshine to even the darkest of days. Their naiveté and curiosity fill me with joy, and their questions and comments make me laugh with bliss. Here are some highlights from the past few weeks – questions/comments/conversations that have brought smiles to my face:
o M: What do you call a head with no hair?
o Me: (smiling) Bald
o M: BALD?!
o Me: (laughing) Yes, bald
o M: You must spell it for me.
o Me: B-A-L-D
o M: So I can tell that man that he is bald?
o Me: (laughing) No, I wouldn’t suggest going up to anyone and commenting on them being bald
o H: You know the Prince of England’s son who just got married?
o Me: Prince Charles’ son William? Yes, he married Kate
o H: Yes, him. You are as beautiful as Kate
o Me: (Laughing in amusement) Wow, thank you very much. You are also very beautiful
o H: Yes, I know I am beautiful. But you do look like that girl Kate. You just need to shower and put on a smart dress. Then you need to do your hair, not like it is now, but do it nicely and put on some makeup and jewelry. You will look just like her. But you have a bigger belly than she does
o Me: (heartily laughing) Yes, she is very thin
o H: Yes I think if you do that (shower, do my hair and put on a smart dress), you will find a man who is as handsome as you are beautiful. I cannot wait for you to meet him and introduce him to me!
o Me: Neither can I!
o Me: I would love to hear about your trip!
o I: The beggars on the street
o Me: What about them surprised you?
o I: I thought everyone in America had money, food, clothes, a home, and a family
o Me: America is not all that different from Rwanda in that there are many classes of people – very rich with a lot of money, a middle class, and then poor people, some of whom do not have houses or clothes or food to eat
o I: Yes I see. America is not all that different. I am glad I got to visit America, but I was very happy to come back to Rwanda
o Me: This is your home, so that is understandable
o I: Yes, Rwanda is my home and although I liked America, it is not Rwanda
o C: What are you doing now?
o Me: I am going home to go to bed.
o C: Bed? It is only 10:30pm. This is the time babies go to bed. First you eat like a baby (b/c I apparently don’t eat enough at each meal) and should use a spoon to eat because that is what babies use. Now you are going to bed like a baby. What are you, a baby?
o Me: (laughing) No, I’m old and tired.
When I meet with visitors to the Village, I often mention how magical this place is and how each and every person here is truly exceptional in so many ways. In the middle of a developing country, filled with so much darkness from its past, Agahozo is filled with so much joy, positivity, thankfulness, and hope. I came here to do a “job” and to take a year for myself. What I have found is that my job extends far beyond what my position description reads – it extends into the student body, staff and faculty realm – I am a part of the Agahozo community and family. I am one of the pieces of the puzzle here, and although I can see how my presence is having a positive affect on the students here, I have also come to realize and accept that their presence in my life is having an immensely significant and encouraging influence over me.
Other Enjoyable Bits:
Most enjoyable event of the week: Sitting in the stands, cheering on the boy’s basketball team as they took on the #1 Club Team in Rwanda and played men who were 3x their size and twice as old! The ASYV boys were fantastic! I never had so much fun at a sporting event!
Proud moment of the week: Sitting and watching my household of girls debate whether a single-sex or mixed-sex school was more conducive to learning. They were incredible analytical and critical thinkers! Master debaters :)
Beautiful moment of the week: Standing outside one of the volunteer houses, looking up into the sky as the sun was setting, and seeing a rainbow develop…it was magnificent!
Favorite meal of the week: a peanut butter & jelly sandwich…something about it calms me and comforts me in a way I can't quite explain. I think it takes me back to a state of childhood happiness.