Culture shock hit me as I was blessed to have the opportunity to visit the capital city of Kigali last week to help choose Rwandan students to be a part of the Presidential Scholars program. This is a program started by a consortium of universities that work with the Rwandan government to both contribute the money to give Rwandan students a free education in the US at universities like my alma mater, Hendrix.
We took the 150 students who scored best on the national exam (given at the end of high school) and gave them an English test. We then picked the best 50 to interview. Finally, we chose 17 deserving, wonderful, and now very happy students.
I learned a lot from this experience, but was also surprised at how much spending a week in the capital with 9 other Americans eating at nice restaurants and speaking English felt like…well, being in America. Like a Little America, and it gave me a bit of culture shock. I had my first hot shower in over 6 months. Others toured around the city, but I was content to spend free time enjoying a bed larger than my room here in the village, a shower and bathtub, a hotel pool (though unheated of course), a hotel gym, and the tv and refrigerator in my room (neither of which I used because I didn’t need them, but it was nice knowing they were there….). All these “usual” parts of a hotel really just kinda blew my mind. So did eating hamburger and fries, tacos, etc. There are places in the capital to get such Americanized food, but to get to the capital is quite a trek, not to mention it all costs a lot of money. So I was so blessed to have this opportunity paid for.
There are all kind of missionaries in all different places. I am by far not the poorest, and not in even the poorest environment. But my village is substantially different than a growing developing city like Kigali (where there is also nothing wrong with being a missionary). So while there, I got to realize how much I have identified in a way with my village. All of a sudden the people around me weren’t speaking my new language or wearing the types of clothes we wear or eating the type of food we eat. And it felt a little odd to be a part of. So even though now back home in the village I don’t have my hot showers any more, it’s still good to be back.