September 30, 2012
My commute has changed so much within one year. A year ago, it went something like this. Before leaving the house, make sure my iPod is fully charged as, God forbid I don’t have music to listen to on my way to work. I walk to the Metro while making as little eye contact as is physically possible. Before getting on the train, I pick up a newspaper to read so I can be as up to date as possible on current events. I can probably count on teo hands the times I spoke to strangers the entire year. In DC, the commute is just a way to get from Point A to Point B. It is something to be endured, not enjoyed.
Oh how different my commute is here in Rwanda. Forget the iPod; I am pretty sure I left it on the airplane, not that I would even need it for my commute here. I make sure I say goodbye to my Mama before leaving the house, ensuring that my knees and shoulders are covered for the 45 minute walk up a mountain. The moment I walk out the gate I begin greeting anyone and everyone: school children, Mamas, people on their way to work. You see, Rwanda is a VERY community centered country and not greeting can be seen as a rude gesture.
I am the first leg of the carpool (as we so named our walking group) as I am the farthest out trainee in my area. I meet up with the Smiths, an awesome young, married couple who have become great friends, at the well where our respective roads fork. As we walk up the main road through the village center we pick up Mike, Eliza and Julia in that order, greeting as we go while dodging bikes, motos and buses.
Once we turn off the main road we are constantly reminded of our location. The red, dirt footpaths and numerous green banana trees are juxtaposed against the stunning backdrop of rolling mountains. Every once in a while a goat or chicken will run across our path, just in case we forgot we were in central Africa for a second. We pass the always populated water pump, where children balance jerry cans of approximately their weight on their heads, something that astounds me every time I see it. We eventually make it to our training center, sweating out all of our preciously bleached and filtered water. Every time. Without fail.
The way back home is always better as we make our way down the mountain. We stop for our daily cup of ichai (tea with milk and sugar) at our favorite place, sometimes springing for the more expensive cold coke (or warm, depending if the electricity is out). After this we drop off the carpool one by one until it is only me for the last ten minutes or so. As I turn off onto my road my normal greeting crew runs toward me, led by the outstretched arms of my 7-year-old host sister, Glasse. As I swing her into a hug, I realize how very fortunate I am to be having this unique commuting experience.