All in Peace Corps Rwanda
My mouth dropped as I scanned the first chapter of our new language books. Kinyarwanda, which is spoken by all 12 million of Rwanda’s inhabitants, is a beautiful and multifaceted language. The jaw-dropping moment occurred because of a connection I realized between the nature of the language and the nature of Rwandans themselves.
I come from a country that has a hard time facing its past. Put another way, I come from a place that has a hard time facing up to the brokenness that is found at the heart of a country called united.
Somewhere in the midst of the beans and spinach, my teeth met something unrelenting and removing the obstacle I discovered, with some consternation, that I had almost swallowed a tiny rock. The rock-eating incident was evidently an omen of things to come because the road got tougher from there.
To wash or not to wash; that is not the question. It is Saturday morning which means that once again the time has arrived to engage in the *weekly ritual of washing my hair. I attempt to negotiate my way out of the somewhat arduous task. Perhaps I could postpone a few days and just spray my hair with a little water, a little leave-in conditioner? I could always just rinse and then do a full wash another time? But these gravity-defying, moisture-resisting mass of coils and curls atop my head don't negotiate; they dictate. And I, humble servant that I am, obey.
“Who has the best site?” Our training director posed the question to our somewhat scattered group of trainees after we had each received our site placement.
“I have the best site!”, we chorused, repeating back the sentiment we had been encouraged with prior to site announcements.
“Is ‘teapotting’ something you do outside?” I look up from my journal to determine the source of the curious question I had just overheard from one of my fellow trainees.
This is my moment, I think to myself. You’re going to use Kinyarwanda and describe to mama (host mom) what you observed. Right. But I only know about ten phrases in Kinyarwanda and most of them have to do with introducing myself and telling people where I’m from (as if the accent and general aura of being perpetually lost doesn’t fulfill the latter obligation).
“Ingabire?” Toni proffered. Noella mulled it over as I glanced between the two of them unsure of the meaning of the name though instantly taken with the rhythm of the word. “Ingabire”, Noella agreed. And just like that, I had a new name.