Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Wellspring Foundation-Grocery Store-Wrong Turn

Vulnerable

It was an innocent mistake, one left turn instead of a right. But, perhaps for the first time on this round the world trip I experienced a distinct sense of vulnerability.Our host in Rwanda is Wellspring Foundation, an organization started by two fellow Trinity Western University alumni approximately 9 years ago. Wellspring has done a phenomenal job of modeling the best of educational practices in this land where teaching has not always been as respected a profession as it is in other countries. On returning from Butare, and thanks to our host, we settled into the guest apartment located on the Wellspring school campus in Kigali. I decided to take a short walk to buy some groceries to tide us over the next few days. Despite being in an unfamiliar town I felt confident in making the 1 km walk by myself. As soon as I was out of the gate I found myself the only white person in the steady stream of darker skin pedestrian traffic walking here and there. Problem was that I began to realize I didn't know where "here and there" was exactly.Coming to a T-intersection I turned right. I was hesitant to ask directions, perhaps fearful of looking foolish, or just fearful. After walking over two kilometers I had to admit that I had made a wrong turn. I did so by asking the first white people I met; a young man and woman who had also just arrived in town for the Peace Marathon taking place on Sunday. Curiously, they were also looking for a grocery store but were not sure exactly where one was. We retraced the steps I had just taken, assuming that the correct direction was to have turned left at the T-intersection. Two kilometers back and then a further two kilometers later we found a grocery store (although it was not the one I remember passing on the way to the Wellspring campus).Trolling repeatedly up and down the narrow aisles and trying to discern what purchases to make, I kept passing the same shoppers who must've wondered why I was having such difficulty choosing a few groceries. However, after an intimidating thirty minutes in the small store, I managed to check out and pay. The total bill was 18,900 Francs! Our host had exchanged some of my American funds for Rwandan Francs (exchange rate of some Fr.600 to one dollar), as we were unable to find any ATM that would accept either my debit card or credit card. Visa, not Mastercard seems to have dominated the African market.  Oh well, Carson's Visa will be working overtime.Sweat-drenched, I arrived back at our temporary home almost 2 hours after I had left (having worried our hosts somewhat). No sooner had I begun explaining the course I had taken to find the grocery store than smiles appeared on the faces of our hosts. I had turned left out-of the front gate instead of right. At least I had a good workout.After a shower (strongly suggested by my roommate, Carson), I joined Carson and our hosts for pizza, while everyone had a good laugh at my expense. Then the lights went. While power outages are common where we live, this was a sudden confrontation with an unknown darkness. It was not fear, but a sense of vulnerability that I felt. It was like being lost in a city I did not know. The feeling was both familiar and new to me at the same time.Being lost in a strange city, experiencing a power outage or just traveling in new territory can be isolating events. In a sense, despite what may be the number of people around you, you are alone and prone to become uncertain. In fact, you sense that confidence may be your enemy, causing you to blunder ahead when caution should prevail. People with Parkinson's know what this feels like. When my tremors worsen, especially when due to increases in my adrenaline, it is as if I am the only white face in a crowd of black faces, or alone in the dark wondering what to do next.It is at times like these that realize I must step back from the feelings and relabel the circumstances. Being in a strange country with different cultural norms, services, foods and la read more..

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