Integration

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If you’re an avid reader of Peace Corps blogs, then you’ve probably deduced that we all go through major ups and downs. We all have breakdowns (moments where we contemplate eating cat food or zap ourselves with our electric fly swatters), and we all have ‘PC moments’ (where we decide what we want to do with the rest of our lives or where we successfully teach the Macarena to our students). Since I came back from my America trip, I’ve thankfully been on a major upswing, made all the more apparent to me because before I left, I had been on a major ‘my-life-is-awful-because-I-have-no-Cheetos’ kick.

My good mood has lasted nearly a month (I’m really hoping not to jinx it with this entry), and with that in mind I decided that it was probably time to go back to work on that funny little word ‘integration’ and try to get to know my community a little bit more than I already do.

Last year, I went through some integration lulls where I sat around ‘doing nothing’. My version of ‘doing nothing’ involved watching piles of T.V. shows and movies, accidentally killing cats, and cooking obnoxious concoctions out of whatever ingredients happened to by lying around my house at the time. This year, I hope to change ‘doing nothing’ into things that actually involve being with other people, like hanging around unnecessarily at school or visiting my Rwandan little sisters, Divine and Eunice. So, while chanting ‘integration’ over and over again in my head, I set out to join a local choir, fully intending to make a fool of myself more than a few times over.

The choir meets every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 4:00,and it’s made up of both students and teachers who study and work at the university. Thanks to me, it’s now made up of foreigners, too.

All the songs that they (we) sing are in Kinyarwanda, and all of them are about God—my favorite subject lately, especially since just last week I admitted to being an on-again, off-again atheist to my students. The director is a friend of mine from last year, but everyone else involved is a stranger. So the first time I showed up they stared.

And stared.

And…stared some more.

I have to write all the lyrics down in a frumpy leftover notebook I have from last year, and each time I sing along I have to squint to read my own scrunched-up handwriting, stumbling unceremoniously over the unfamiliar words. I have no idea what the lyrics mean and I miss about half of them because my brain is divided between learning the melodies and singing the word for God instead of the word for sheep (imana vs. intama).

We’re supposed to have performances at church, but seeing as how I refuse to go to a seven hour service, I’ve released myself from that particular obligation. I am, however, banking on being a part of the music video shoot they have planned for later this year.

Thus far choir has been interesting, which is a word that can be used to describe pretty much all of my extra-curricular endeavors. It’s frustrating and wonderful and exhausting and exhilarating. I have to force myself to go every day but after I’m there I never regret it. Half the time I show up and we don’t have practice, and half the time they changed the time or room and forgot to tell me.

But the students and teachers are all so welcoming and willing to help out, and it’s kind of nice to have come across another little niche that I can occupy here in Gitwe. I have school, I have my old compound, I have my new compound, I have the bus guys and the shopkeepers, and, now, a choir.

That funny little word ‘integration’? Piece of cake.

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2 responses »

    • Ella,

      You’ll be glad you did the integration thing years from now. You may never have an opportunity like this again so suck the most from every moment. Stay well and avoid street signs.

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