Peace Corps service in Rwanda is grating. It is an ironic description. Cheese is one of the items I miss most from home. Here, I am the cheese in my current life, metaphorically of course, slowly being grated away, sliver by sliver. Let me explain
Life in Rwanda is draining. Everything is harder and work. You want a simple sandwich, the image of easiness in America, and you have to build a Peace Corps oven, make the dough, and bake your own bread. Doing laundry requires hours of scouring by hand. You have to get down on your hands and knees to scrub the floor with a rag to make it clean. You have to heat water liter by liter to take a bucket bath. Even going to the bathroom requires walking across the yard to the latrine. Nothing is simple, easy. Overtime, you start to crave the simple and easy. The fun of being a Peace Corps Volunteer struggling through daily life fades. You wonder when it is going to end and start counting down until that time. You can’t wait and start daydreaming about the “good life.” The hard work of daily life starts to consume you, grate you, as you force yourself to go through with it.
Everyone in your life in Rwanda wants something. People constantly ask for things. You can not give them and you refuse them. But, this interaction takes a toll on you. First, you feel bad about yourself and guilty that you can not help. Second, you become tired of the same exchange, day after day. It frustrates you, and each time, it takes away a little part of you. It is disappointing to know that any person you meet will eventually ask for something.
Its hard to keep your moral up throughout your Peace Corps service. You’ve got to keep reminding yourself of the little good things about life here and what the big picture of your service it. But sometimes that is hard because daily life and frequent interactions overshadow the rest. But, it is by struggling that we learn the most about ourselves and have the greatest sense of accomplishment. I just hope that I am able to grow back the sections that have been grated away by my service so I don’t end up like Swiss cheese, holy and missing parts, for the rest of my life.