copy n’ paste

March 1, 2011

We had to write a journal for our academic director so this blog entry is a straight-up copy and paste, so it’s going to be kind of stuffy:

Today was Umuganda, which is the monthly community service day to which a member of each family has to go but a lot of people skip or just pay money. I envisioned it as a busy couple of hours where everyone was working on a specific project, in keeping with the observed Rwandan work ethic. Really it was just a Saturday morning social hour, with a handful of men digging out some weeds in the gutter or cutting the grass; the other 20-30 people mostly wandered slowly behind, threw away a few handfuls of grass (which is what I did), and talked a lot with one another. Some people really came to put in an appearance, like the woman in the nice dress and sparkly sandals who was carrying a shovel but had no intention of actually using it. The group of people progressed up the road, randomly doing some work and it ended with a community meeting. I mostly walked and talked with my brother Steven and two friends of his friends who joined up with us, a boy and a girl. The girl, who was my age, spoke a little bit of English and during the meeting when we were all standing together, put her arm around me. It was nice that a girl my own age was finally not scared or quiet or reserved around me.

This week my mom has had two outbreaks of shouting/chanting at the grand hour of 1:30 in the morning. The day after the second time, my dad told me she was praying and said he hoped that I wasn’t scared. In retrospect knowing it was praying and not sleep-talking or anything made it not scary (but still loud at 1:30 am). My mom was in the room while he was telling me what it was, and she was smiling a little sheepishly. I wonder what makes her wake up at that time and need so badly to pray so vocally. Maybe it’s what makes my host brother go to church at midnight and pray until 6:00 am, which he apparently did last night. He says he prays for God to give him a change to find a job, which he wants so as not to be so dependent on asking his parents for spending money for transportation, clothing, etc. Even though it is acceptable for him to live at home at age 23, he said his parents would still like him to have a job to help pay for school and other expenditures. Their faith in God may just come from their view that being able to control everything is either too much work or impossible (which it generally is). Asking for things to work out and then finding faith that everything will be okay even if it doesn’t work out how they had asked is a flexible worldview in its own way. Even though non-religious people may think that giving up control to a higher power is limiting oneself, religious people may view those people as needlessly upset when things don’t go the way as planned.

My brother also expressed the wish to marry a white girl, because he said black girls are materialistic. I immediately tried to counter this view, as I know many materialistic white girls indeed. He expects his life to go a certain way: graduate school, find a job, and get married. It seems like there is a formula for a life and he simply needs to find characters to fill that formula, which is far different from my view of life being richer when surprising things happen. Maybe the “formula” for a life is comforting since it is a cycle in itself, and the fulfilling of that formula guarantees that a history will be left behind with children and grandchildren to carry on a legacy. In a society such as Rwanda that had its recent history so mangled and destroyed, I can see from where the source for routines and fulfilled cycles comes.



One Response to “copy n’ paste”

  1. mamaaaaaaaaaaa said

    LOVED this writing! I like the introspect of realizing just how little control we do have and that there is indeed something much bigger than we are. I confess I laughed out loud at work when visualizing the “praying” at 1:30 am…believe me, ALL parents have done exactly that, perhaps just not as vocally! Love to you!

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