The Three Month Mark

December 6, 2012

Traveling has its costs. Being away from friends and family, missing important events, and remembering the very different life I led only a few months ago can sometimes make me homesick. So why travel? Why go to the places that American media only writes gruesome stories about? Why go to a place where comforts that make life a little more convenient are not always easily found? Why put myself under the extra stress and fatigue?

I travel because of the three month mark. Without fail, the first three months are socially isolating, emotionally tiring and physically uncomfortable. But with the passing of my three month anniversary and a third of my program here, I can say I feel like myself again. I have found some community in Kibungo, my body is growing used to the new diet and physical demands and even just creating my own routine has brought back some happy equilibrium back to my life.  At work, Olivia and I are also starting several projects including an English Club, and a Language Center that are showing promise. Olivia has been working with numerous mental health and clinical psychology groups. I am even attempting my own side project. Though it is still in the very earliest stages, I hope to help produce a literary journal written in both Kinyarwanda and English. We will be busy, but I am hopeful.

This same phenomenon occurred during my stays in Cameroon and Suriname. The three month mark is when that nagging “What am I doing here?” question fades a little and a small, fluid sense of belonging slowly replaces that doubt. And in another culture with its own rules of social and professional interaction, the emotional and physical change is thrilling. But unfortunately for my beloved friends and family at home, I also find the transformative three month mark hopelessly addictive.  The change is, by no means, a sign that I really “know” Rwandan culture, that would take much more time than I have here, but I am learning. Nine months is the longest that I have ever spent in another culture and I’m curious what the next six months hold (or at least the next month, I will be spending Christmas on the beach in Zanzibar, Tanzania!).

The coming months will not always be easy, but at least now I do not doubt that I am growing, somehow, some way.


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