I'm often surprised by my boundaries and what I find unacceptable for my life. I've always thought of myself as the person who is totally able and willing to "rough it" - to live the life of abject poverty happily, as long as I have myself. I always thought I'd be able to brush off the cultural and economic difference coming to Africa, and that I'd be able to easily assimilate into the areas I travel. I thought I would be able to fall in love with every place, and all of this massive continent.
But I have found out that I was wrong, to date.
I don't know how to assimilate very well here, and I don't accept easily all of the differences there are to manage. I don't like having to rearrange my life and deal with missing items to which I have grown accustomed. I don't like having to shrug and say, "Oh well, that's just not how you do it here." And I don't blend in here, so "fitting in" isn't really even an option. I'm always going to be the bizarre foreigner coming in with buckets of cash to spread across the land. Gosh, but I miss insanely Udi's tasty Gluten Free Bread (and a bunch of other gluten-free treats) and feeling like the food I eat agree with my stomach. I can only eat rice so much, you know. And I miss being able to eat most any kind of food I want without having to do a deep search and find, with disappointment, that the food doesn't taste that good.
Surprisingly, something that has particularly hit me as one thing I don't think I can tolerate that well in my life is living in a place without a certain level of medical care. The fact that there are only 3 ambulances (and only 2 legitimate ones) in the entirety of Kigali, let alone Rwanda (is that accurate?) petrifies me. What happens if something happens and I need immediate medical attention? Another student of mine is in the hospital because she has a bad bout of malaria. What would happen to me?! If I end up sick and unable to communicate? Would I just have to suffer and pray to be better later on? I've heard tales here of people in car accidents and just being tossed into the back of trucks, like a rag doll. And the thought that if my thyroid started to slow down (it might be actually - my hair has been falling out a lot more than usual, lately) makes me turn a sweat. Who even knows what a thyroid is in this country? Would they know how to remedy anything like that, and accurately? I don't need anymore malpractice from doctors, thank you - I've already had that plenty.
And I want to be near my family. If some medical emergency ever happened to anyone in my family, what can I do?! It takes 3 days to get home, about. Rwanda's certainly not a hub. I could miss something important, and feel it for a long time after.
I also am thinking I might have found some other aspects about myself, and my personal mission. And mission statement. I don't think I'm cut out to teach people without a certain level of competence. Here, I always thought I would be the one going off to far off lands and teaching essential education to people. Teaching addition. Teaching literacy. The bare minimum. I considered romantically the idea that I could single-handedly lift the entire world population to an even-level playing field, and that I would be the champion bringing all women the ability to do simple, essential math and reading comprehension.
But I'm not.
And working with my students, though oftentimes awarding, has been jarring for my ability to teach. It just tires me and frustrates me to no end to explain simple, simple concepts (at least to me) seven dozen times to my students, and still have them look at me with blank stares. Rounding shouldn't take 3 weeks to explore for adults. And as much as I have exercised my patience, and compassion, I find my morale and spirit sagging because I feel like I'm not getting through, and that my teaching is completely futile. I'm afraid I'm just not patient enough to teach big groups of students with a lot of needs.
But you know what? That's okay. I'm not the only person in the world with the do-gooder mentality. And so many more people are much more patient than me, and are able to complete the job probably better than me. I can still help, but in a different way. Either with more short-term trainings, or higher-level education. I could teach college, I think. Well, I mean, I can't because I am not a Ph.D, but I mean, that level. That level is the kind of mentality I'm talking about. People who are driven, focused, and able to get a lot of stuff done. That don't need hand holding. I'm not a hand holder.
This learning process has been so difficult. I have felt kind of like my understanding of myself, and my life, has been set on a bunch of laurels. And now, in the throes of my experience in Africa, I've had the realization that everything I thought was not as it seemed. My assumptions were based on quite little. But how could I have known? I have to give myself a break, and congratulate myself for actually trying. For being bold and willing to risk everything to see if I was right. And I wasn't. So, now I know.
So much to learn!