Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Cheese Part 2
Today marks 7 weeks since we arrived in this beautiful country. Beautiful despite the fact that I’m currently spending three hours and counting stuck in the dining hall listening to a never-ending rainstorm. At least it gives me quality time to work, read, write and maybe think for a change of pace.
If you remember back to a bit over a year ago (and this would really only be you, Mumsie), I wrote a blog post in Germany about cheese. Its presence at every meal, its fattiness, its deliciousness. Well I’ve been thinking again about cheese lately, and not just because of the cute goats that scamper by daily or the cows grazing or the lack of cheese in my diet now. Or even because of Padre’s daily cheese sandwiches that even his ex from 35 years ago remembers him for. I’ve been thinking about cheese because of a book I’m reading by Philip Gourevitch called We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families. He writes on pages 170-1 of an encounter with an American in a Kigali bar:
“I hear you’re interested in genocide,” the American said. “Do you know what genocide is?”
I asked him to tell me.
“A cheese sandwich,” he said. “Write it down. Genocide is a cheese sandwich.”
I asked him how he figured that.
“What does anyone care about a cheese sandwich?” he said. “Genocide, genocide, genocide. Cheese sandwich, cheese sandwich, cheese sandwich. Who gives a shit? Crimes against humanity? Where’s humanity? Who’s humanity? You? Me? Did you see a crime committed against you? Hey, just a million Rwandans. Did you ever hear about the Genocide Convention?”
I said I had.
“That convention,” the American at the bar said, “makes a nice wrapping for a cheese sandwich.”
This metaphor really struck me. I’m not going to detail my thoughts on it but it was something I felt I wanted to share. At the very least, it reminds me that whatever I am doing with my life needs to taste more like a Publix Sub than a plain old cheese sandwich.
And now to continue on with more of my random thoughts…
Sometimes I wonder if I moved to Rwanda just to become more American. As a former Resident Assistant and Au Pair I’m used to living where I work. Living in Germany taught me the value of a healthy work-life balance. After experiencing how wonderful it felt, I swore to myself I would always try and keep that in my life. Here in the Village it’s a bit trickier. Due to the time difference, I often get my most important emails in the evening. I have to keep myself from reading and responding to them as I go to sleep at night or when I first wake up in the morning. So far I think the balance is going pretty well. Wi-Fi going in and out can be a blessing in disguise as it sometimes forces you to take a break. Weekends, whether in the village or away, always provide a respite and some much needed time for conversation with the friends and family back home who keep me sane.
This sort of leads into my next thought. I’ve realized when trying to figure out my place in a new setting, I revert to what I know. We often make meals and hang out in the boy cousins’ house. Whenever I am there I find myself in the kitchen to clean and tidy up. How could I not? My mother taught me the peace of mind a clean kitchen can give you and I spent a year living with three young children. So I happily tidy up our little kitchen.
Speaking of little, living here often reminds me of how small I am. I am one person here for one year. I’m not even going to think about the supposed “impact” we always like to think we have. I’m just going to try and be a good cousin. Luckily, when I’m thinking about things late at night sometimes a mosquito stuck under my net can actually lend some perspective. I remember something we always used to talk about in CISV: Mosquito Tactics. If you ever thought you were too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito under your net. I will hopefully do an activity about this with my family sometime soon so they realize how much they are valued and how much they can accomplish.
As I finish up my lunch of rice and beans I think back to a beautiful summer in Brasil. They have a similar dish to the one I just ate - called feijoada. The most important part of the feijoada isn’t the hearty rice and beans, but rather the small orange slices that come at the end to help with digestion. Those orange slices will come in handy this year as I try to digest more than just plain old cheese sandwiches.