I had heard about how life in Peace Corps can sometimes make you feel like you’re living in a fish bowl, but for some reason I didn’t think about how obvious it would be in Rwanda. After a couple of days in Kigali for orientation and enough shots to make a pin cushion blush, we moved on to Nyanza where we will be training for the next ten weeks. Immediately upon being dropped off at my training house, about a half dozen five year olds came running down the street yelling “Muzungu! Muzungu! How are you, muzungu!” over and over again. And then again. And again. And again. “Muzungu” is the Kinyarwandan word for “white person,” and coincidentally it is also the first word I learned in my new language.
I get stared at pretty much constantly when I’m in public, which is sometimes funny and sometimes frustrating depending on how I’m feeling at any given moment. It does give me a good excuse to practice my greetings, because really, what better way is there to make an awkward situation feel more comfortable than to take control of it? Sometimes people will call out to me in English first, and occasionally they will say “good morning” to me in the evening or “good afternoon” to me in the morning, which I really appreciate. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder that language doesn’t have to be perfect to get the point across. And, when the language I’m working with is Kinyarwanda and its sixteen noun classes, I’ll take whatever I can get.