The Rain is a Blessing.
During a vacation in Jamaica a couple years ago, it started to rain at the resort I was staying in. I complained about the weather (as we Americans love to do) to the Jamaican waitress. She gave me a puzzled look and said “the rain is a blessing.”
As I sit here now, comforted by the thunderstorm taking place outside, I understand what she meant. Because now the rain tank will be full and I can stop rationing the water I have saved in my jerry cans. Now, I can wash the dirty dishes piled high in my “dishwashing bucket” and wash the dusty clothes tucked away in my basin. I can mop my floors. I can filter drinking water. I understand now that the rain. Is a blessing.
To Study (Kusoma).
I learned that Ugandans don’t date. Instead, they “study” each other. Studying, in this sense, means spending time observing whether the person they are interested in is someone they would want to marry. The simple practicality of this method does not escape me but for someone who loves fiercely, who loves recklessly, it is practically impossible. (Also in Uganda, there is an unspoken rule between males and females that “no means maybe.” Apparently a girl rarely says yes to a guy’s first proposition, no matter how much she likes him…so maybe their dating method isn’t foolproof anyway. Although really, any dating method is better than the one I have now: fall head over heels over a guy, ignore all the red flags while basking in a naive state of infatuation, eventually come to my senses and spend the next embarrassing amount of months obsessing over every detail of the failed “relationship”)
Concentrate your love in places where it will be appreciated; in places where it can grow.
I told my supervisor today that I was missing home. She told me that she will pray that I get over my sickness.
My school is part of a program called the School-Family Initiative. Basically, each teacher is assigned a group of kids that will be their “family” for the term. The family sits together once a week to discuss topics related to health and awareness. I was called away so I could not be present for the beginning of the meeting. My supervisor, who is also the head teacher of the school, took over my family and I walked in on her telling the kids that you can get gonorrhea by peeing in the pit latrines. I knew I shouldn’t have but I did anyway, I argued with her in front of the kids. I told her that wasn’t true. She was adamant. “Really, it is different in Uganda!” She gave me her reasons and I thought back to every sex ed class I’ve ever had to sit through. A feel of unjustified superiority overtook me. I told her we could talk later, when we didn’t have an audience of 25 school children. With a whole week of stress built up inside me, most of it a result of not being understood, I was angry. At first I was angry with my head teacher. Then I was angry at myself for being angry with her (because she doesn’t know any better). Then I was angry at myself for being angry at myself. This is generally how my thought-feelings process works nowadays. I am beginning to realize exactly how tough this job is. Peace Corps wasn’t lying.
Isn’t it strange how we mourn things that never existed? How we miss relationships that never were, people that we never really had? I am trying to drown out the voices in my head, whispering ideas of what could have been, distorting what actually was.
Being told you look smart, as I mentioned before, is the best compliment you can receive by a Ugandan. It means you look clean, respectable and good. My coworkers saw me in yoga pants for the first time today, as I was heading to town. They said, “Ah, Tahrima you look so smart!” And then a pause. (During which I was trying to figure out what was so “smart” about my outfit of skin tight pants and an oversized shirt). “And you are fat!” Fat is also a compliment in Uganda. It means you have hips, you have a butt. It is also a very nice change from being told you need to eat more because you are too thin.
During training, we talked a lot about the fears we had joining the Peace Corps. Many volunteers mentioned that one of their fears was missing out on milestones back home and being forgotten by their friends. I can’t say that this was a top concern for me at that time but I did feel that being in a completely new country, I craved communication from my friends in America. I found that words of encouragement help me when I’m having a rough day, there’s a feeling of normalcy, which I lack 100% in my new life, that comes with staying updated on the lives of the people I care about and a surprise email or message from someone I haven’t heard from in a while brightens up my day immeasurably. Likewise, receiving a piece of mail is like Christmas.
This need for communication was infinitely magnified around my birthday, when I was missing home the most. Each birthday message I received gave me a feeling of happiness that I didn’t know I could receive from a Facebook wall post. It felt good to know that people cared and that people remembered (even if they were prodded by a Facebook notification). Suffice to say, while I appreciate those who did take the time to reach out to me (and those who sent me long, lovely messages), I’ve also subconsciously started noting those who did not. I realized that I have started to judge my relationships with people by the amount of effort they put into keeping in touch with me. It makes me wonder if the sting I felt, as petty as it is, is because I truly believe that people don’t care or if I am afraid of being forgotten after all.