Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's different here.

What's it like here in Rwanda? It's different than America. There are big differences - differences that I can't even explain in this format. But, mostly, there are a million small differences.
It's helpful for me to think through and reflect on that stuff at times, but it's also dangerous. Comparing can lead to perspective, but comparing can also lead to dissatisfaction or arrogance. Despite what my snarky, sarcastic (negative) tone might imply, I am much more prone to self-satisfaction than to dissatisfaction.  I love it here. The weather. The beauty. The school. The friends. The newness.
Let's discuss some of the differences.

We have help.
We have two workers - Eddie who is our night guard and also performs various outdoor duties. Eddie might be one of my top 25 people in the world (I think that number safely leaves room for family at the top). So far, he has hauled one guy off to jail who was trying to climb our wall during the night, he has made countless runs for Vitalo (my beverage of choice), he's killed a chameleon/iguana/lizard thing, he opens our gate when visitors stop by, and he's currently replacing all of the screens on our home windows so the mosquitos can't get it in. He smiles when I try out the two phrases I know in Kinyarwanda. He's fixed the netting around the trampoline so the kids won't get hurt. I don't know when he sleeps.

Imaculee helps me inside the house. She cleans. Everything. Daily. I mean, really. It's not even necessary to have a bathroom cleaned every day. Or your bed made. Or your exercise clothes ironed. But she does it. She also cooks for us a couple of times a week.

Having help is a wonderful thing, and I have to admit, I am ashamed at how necessary it feels to have someone clean up after us. But, I'm not comfortable with it. Nor do I really wish to be, I think. I CAN do these jobs, and in my home culture, it would fall on me and Ben to do them. Yes, we are providing jobs for people who need them, but that isn't satisfying to the deepest part of my heart that cringes at the idea that someone else is cleaning my toilet. Yes, we are kind and fair with our workers (more so than other potential employers MIGHT be), but still. It is not right. It is not wrong. It is also not comfortable. And, no thank you, I don't want advice on how to be comfortable or uncomfortable with it. It is the nature of our new life. And I am thankful for these people who are always around and who help us learn.

We also have a babysitter, Grace. Grace is a 19-year-old American third-cultue kid who comes on the three mornings a week I teach at KICS to watch Annie. She also babysits once a week for date nights.  Grace is an answer to prayer. She lives near to us and I can count on her to be on time when I need to get to school. Being a grown TCK, I love having her as an influence on my budding TCKs.

The Food.
One of things people wonder about living in a new country is the food. I've found that people associate foreign with weird and spicy and Africa with rice and beans. As a mom to four American children, I've had to develop new routines for planning, procuring, and preparing food. It's that tricky balance of leading them to embrace things that are different, while still realizing that they are kid and need to eat something.

So, there's lots of fruit. We are in a tropical location, so it's easy to get pineapple, mango, and tiny sweet bananas. Our two Rwandan favorites are tree tomatoes (Japanese plum) and passion fruit. The things we miss are strawberries, blueberries, and grapes. Imaculee usually buys our fruits and veggies at the market. These things seem a lot cheaper to me than they were in the States, obviously, because they are grown here.

Grocery shopping. Imaculee does our market shopping, but I shop for meats and dairy products at one of several grocery stores. It's not kroger. It feels about the size of a Trader Joe's. And the selection is similar too in scope, but obviously the specifics defer. I can get fresh meat (but not so fresh that I can hear moo-ing in the background), sometimes fresh milk, yogurt, and gouda cheese.

So, the challenge is finding a rhythm to shopping. The grocery stores are rather spread out and tend to carry the same things. So, either all the stores have fresh milk or none of them do. (By fresh, I mean the kind that has an expiration date). All the stores have vanilla yogurt or none of them do. Today, strawberry yogurt was what was available, so that's what I bought. Yes, I could make my own yogurt. Maybe I will, thanks.

Our staples have had to change. We can get cereal, but the familiar kinds are pricey, so we usually eat yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast. We can get peanut butter easily, and deli ham, so sandwiches are what the kids get for lunch.

Remember back when everyone's blog was full of pictures of what they bought at the grocery store and boasting about the deals? Well, here's my version of that. This is what I bought at the German Butchery today. (If you assume that the German Butchery is a butcher shop operated by Germans, you would be in good company (with me) but incorrect. It's kind of a chain here.)
Clockwise, starting with the brown bag on the left:
2 kilos of chicken legs: about $12
1/2 kilo beef fillet: about $5
strawberry yogurt: $1.16
Temmy's Sweet Flakes: $3.63
Honey: $6.53
Rwandan Peanut Butter: $3.19
1 bag of sugar: $2.03
a tin of popcorn kernels: $2.18
Nutella: $6.53

I passed on the cheddar and feta cheese because I thought it was too pricey for something relatively unnecessary. 
So, for a little over $40, I bought meat to get us through the next couple of dinners, some goodies for breakfast and lunches and snacks. And I'm sure I'll be back at the store tomorrow. Because we don't have wide aisles, huge carts, and a minivan with automatic doors, it is difficult to do a week's worth of shopping at one time. Yes, some people do. They're much better adjusted than I. But, I'm happy and at peace with my temporary system.

Ex-pats handle it all differently. Some shop around for the best prices at the different stores. I tend to buy what I need wherever I'm at. Just like I didn't coupon in the States, I'm not spending time on the price comparisons here. We also try to look out for each other. Today a friend found (shredded!!!) mozzarella cheese and pepperonis at a store I rarely go to, and she picked me up some. Therefore, pizza will be in our future.

Rwandan food is not spicy. We brought in our luggage a wide array of hot sauce, sririacha sauce, tabasco, buffalo wing sauce, etc. Ben is hanging in there, much as I did when we lived in India.

A lot of people have asked about Charlie. He is in pre-K, which isn't offered at KICS, so he just started at a school called First Impressions. He swears he hates it, but he seems happy. One thing I love about it is that it seems to be the most "Rwandan" setting our family has been in. I haven't seen a white kid at the school. At KICS and at church and around town, we are certainly in the minority (from a complexion standpoint), but there are foreigners like us everywhere. 

Charlie's first day of school.

School is about the same here. The kids are happy.  A few (blessed!) differences for us: no uniforms. less homework. two recesses!

Well, it's not deep, but I find these types of details interesting and it's fun to introduce you a bit more specifically to our Rwandaful life. 

Oh, I did decide to teach 6th grade Bible at KICS, at least for a couple of months until their teacher returns from maternity leave. I'm enjoying the students and imparting my excitement (if not my knowledge) about the Bible. Please pray for them to grow closer to Jesus and for Mrs. Hanlon and her baby in the States.

And, you guys, thanks for your support. Ben is shining in his new job, and I love having a front row seat. Not many people (I know of one other) can love hundreds of kids so well, but still have room in his heart for four favorites.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post! I love that you are doing such a great job at being yourself and being where you are (both geographically and metaphorically). You know your gifts and strengths, and you know your limits. These are things I fight to practice even here in the States. Much love to all of you!