Friday, April 11, 2014

Rwanda: Journey Abroad - Guest Post by Maurisabel Quevedo

Recently, I was asked by a friend, “What was the craziest thing you saw in Rwanda?” I couldn’t think of anything crazy, because in their culture, it was normal. And for seven months, I spoke their language, ate their foods, I went to their church, I was part of their culture. 

It was normal to see cows, goats, and chickens roaming around in the middle of the red dirt-filled, carless road, it was normal to see hills upon hills of green lush with minimal construction on them. In addition to different sights, I acclimated to the every day life: it was a custom to walk to work every morning and wave good morning to every single person; taking bucket baths, using a latrine (aka hole on the ground, as a toilet), hand washing clothes, fetching water, traveling in motorcycle taxis, grocery shopping for daily hand picked veggies, and not being out at night unless you were in a big city. I lived in a rural village that had little electricity; I remember walking to a coworkers house one of the very first nights there and couldn’t see anything but stars and a far away light from a local canteen. I had to laugh at the fact that it was something I hadn’t realized I had to get used to. 

I quickly learned to live without most “essential” amenities. However, some things were a lot harder to get used to. I worked at a health center, so would hear about Rwandans dying as often as new babies were born; daily. Reasons for their deaths were, at times, things that could have been prevented with adequate yet missing resources.  For example, diarrhea is the number one killer of children under 5; due to not having access to clean water, food, and medicine. This fact, more than ever before, made me realize we are not promised another day. I wanted to be closer to the people I love, that was my true happiness, I learned that and so much from Rwandans. 

I met some of the most genuine, selfless, attentive, and hard working people I have met in my life. One of my coworkers fed me every night for an entire month until I got my stove to finally work. And she had me over with no hesitation; time spent with her and her house maid/mate, were some of the most rewarding of my time in Rwanda. Whenever I needed directions or help with anything, people would stop what they were doing and assist me immediately. I cannot imagine many busy people in Los Angeles giving foreigners (or even natives) a second look let alone offering their time to help. I learned how to give.

As humans, we tend not to realize how good we have it, until we experience less. Our generation is losing emotional and physical connection due to technology. Naturally, we always want more, but in the pursuit of our individual success, we should take some time for others as well.  It’s extremely hard to sum up the highlights of this life-changing experience in this piece of writing. But I hope by you reading this that at least one of four things will happen: you count your blessings, go out and do something out of your comfort zone, do something for someone who cannot repay you, and/or tell the people you love and appreciate how you feel about them (in person).

 Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me about anything.
Former Peace Corps Volunteer/Hermana at UCSB, Maurisabel Quevedo. 

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