It’s hard to believe I’ve already been here almost two months. Actually it’s not hard to believe at all. It feels normal to be here, and that’s what’s so crazy.
I was asked recently if I’ve experienced culture shock since I’ve been here, and in all honesty, I can’t say that I have. When you expect a difference in culture and lifestyle, there is little shock left to be had. There are things about the culture here that are different from others I’ve experienced…but that’s to be expected. The most challenging cultural difference for me so far is an obvious one. The language. I know learning languages is not easy…but I’m having a harder time picking up the language than I had expected. Even though I have been outside of the States multiple times, I have never been in a place where I did not know at least a little bit of the local language. I don’t know the language here. Not enough to communicate a complete thought anyways. I can’t understand people and they can’t understand me. I can’t get my point across. I don’t like it. Sometimes all I can do is laugh about it, other times its frustrating, and sometimes just plain annoying.
I went to buy something from the little duka (kiosk type thing) by my house the other day. As I waited for the lady to text and wait to receive enough airtime on her phone for me to buy airtime for my phone (real life struggle here), she tried to make conversation with me. It was going really well until we greeted each other and asked each other’s names…then we ran out of words that I could say or understand in Kinyarwanda. Having exhausted my word bank quicker than the lady expected, she smile awkwardly, then struggled to form some simple phrases in French in hopes of continuing our deep conversation. When I smiled and shrugged my shoulders, the nice lady laughed in astonishment, and we continued to wait in silence.
There are several people here do speak English however, like the sweet little kids I passed on my way to dinner the other night. As I walked by a yard with a few kids playing outside, the youngest one yelled, “Seestas! Seestas (sisters)! Hello seestas! How are you, seestas?” …Did I mention I was walking by myself? Yep, just me.