It's a conversation that has happened multiple times in the short time I've lived in Rwanda. Always going a little something like this...
Random Human: "Are you married?"
Random Human: "Oh, I'm sorry."
Me: "I'm not sorry."
Random Human: "You have someone to take care of you?"
Me: "I live with my cat." *pulls out phone to show pictures of cat*
Random Human: "You are......alone?!?!?!" *cue shock*
The truth is, I don't really think of myself as alone. Sure, I get lonely. That's different. Everyone gets lonely, whether you live in a random town in Rwanda or a huge city in America. It's life. Sometimes we are lonely and sometimes we are not. I don't need anyone to "take care of me." I am perfectly functional on my own.
But being alone. That is something I keep contemplating thanks to the daily reminders from Rwandans that I am in fact...a single woman living in a house alone with her cat in the heart of Africa.
Truth is, I've lived "alone" for 8 years. But it hasn't felt like it. In China I was either in a dorm or in a relationship or had such a tight knit community that I never felt "alone." I had my space, but I was not an island trying to make my way through life.
Here in Rwanda, I did not come alone either. There are 3 fellows in Rwanda, the most of any African country who hosts fellows. The other two are 2.5 hours away in the capitol, and I am here in the boonies. They are never more than a whats app message away and I see them all the time. I talk to my family every day and keep up with friends in China via We Chat. I really don't feel alone at all. I woke up this morning lonely as hell, but then some kids came to my window and hollered at Mushu and it made me laugh and I was reminded I am part of a community. However challenging that community is. I get to be the white lady with a white cat who is entertaining to children. That's cool.
The not being married bit is a little harder to swallow and incredibly irritating. Unlike many single women my age who make the life choices I have to live abroad and become invested in foreign communities for various reasons - I have dreams of a family. Before leaving China, I was in a relationship that was quickly heading towards marriage. He is an incredible man who loved me dearly and I wish the best for him. But, I left him for many reasons, one of which was to come to Rwanda. I want to tell these Rwandans who inquire about my marital status, "I could be married if I wanted to be, but I chose to come here to you instead, so be kind and stop judging." The truth is, I want the best for myself (and all the women in my life). And right now the best for myself is living in Rwanda, overcoming new challenges, observing a new continent/country/culture/way of life, being the best teacher I can be, and...living alone while doing it. I can do this alone. Because I'm really not alone at all.
The idea of "being alone" is something I have been contemplating. It's fascinating to have a whole culture describe me as something I don't describe myself as.
In the same vein, here are some photos of my newly improved house. I feel much better, though not great, about the situation. It is hard not to compare to fellows who have much nicer accommodation than I do. I'd do almost anything for a hot water heater, some cabinets, no rats, clean walls and some privacy. But - I've gotta let some things go about what I think I deserve and be thankful for my cute (and free) house.
|new fence to keep all the friends back a few feet|
|Bao Bei likes his home|
|Front room, table for cooking/laundry/everything|
|art bought at Inema Studio in Kigali, done by street children|
|guest bedroom with a giant Florida on the wall|
|my bedroom (cat included)|
|my favorite part of the house - my "vanity" area with woven basket and necklaces from Rwanda|
|other side of my bedroom - laundry hamper and books on the floor, red pattern on the wall from China|
|my bathroom - buckets of water and a bucket for my showers (I boil water and pour into the bucket then pour on my head)|
|new Africa panel|
|more street kid art|
|lots of friends visiting Mushu|
|gas stove, spices from america on the window ledge|
|"kitchen" area, more water buckets on the ground for washing dishes (no sink)|
And that, my friends, is how the lucky single ladies (ok, just me) live in Eastern Province, Rwanda.
walk slow. xoxo.