There is so much a blog can never tell you. Even if I were to sit with you in Panera Bread and tell you the entire thing, taking four hours and losing my voice and being kicked out by the staff at 9pm for closing (as one of my friends made me do), I could never fully make you understand. Maybe this is true for any experience. This is something one has to understand, and especially after an abroad experience. Especially after an abroad experience in Rwanda.
I wish you could have felt both the fear and exhilaration of taking a moto, racing past the stars and hills in Kigali. I wish I could I introduce you to the friends I made, to my host family, to Miguel and Ganza, who would hide behind their mother’s legs due to shyness. I wish it were mandatory for all people to go to the genocide memorials and not just see the past, but feel it, feel it in their gut and let it break them. I wish I could say things like, “ntakibazo” and “amatunda” without people asking me to explain, (ntakibazo is ‘no problem’ and amatunda is ‘passion fruit’ in Kinyarwanda). I wish people wouldn’t look at me with so much sympathy when I tell them our house rarely had running water or that I lived on a dirt road.
Being home is hard. It’s hard because some people want (like my friend in Panera) to know every single detail, and other people just want me to get on with my life. One of the hardest questions is, “How was Africa?!?” Well-meaning, but overwhelming and infuriating all at once. I can’t speak for a continent, nor can I speak for an entire country. I can only tell you about my personal experience in Rwanda. It began with living with my host family and going to school and ended with interning at an NGO and living in a house with eight of my classmates. It was a semester of standing out as “muzungu” everywhere I went, a semester of taking two small van-buses home from school, making a ten-minute drive a two-hour commute. It was a semester of living in a society built upon a tragic and horrific past and watching that society reconcile itself. It was a semester of learning something so much more than me or anything I could ever imagine.
Now that it’s over, I don’t know how to maintain the changes in me without being angry with American society, which isn’t fair to anyone. I can’t be angry with people for not sharing my experience and for not understanding it and in some cases, not wanting to. Upon my return, I’ve had to learn that this experience can live within me, and I can be changed, but I can still be the person I was before. What I want for the future has never been clearer, and there is not a doubt in my mind I will return to Kigali. That’s the thing about study abroad; yes you learn more than you could ever fathom, but you also build another life, another home elsewhere. That home can exist within you forever and can always be revisited.