Friday, April 2, 2010

The American Emerges

Have you heard of Africa time? It’s this concept of time that really has no meaning. We had our house painted: 4 days meant 6. Waiting at a restaurant: 20 minutes means an hour. And so on and so on. I should slow down, stop and enjoy the pace before heading back to the 8am means 7:45am world. And so far, I really have. I’ve been oh so patient. More patient than any of you know. Meals take forever, lines don’t really mean anything because people cut and other people don’t yell and scream. I’ve been really good. Until yesterday…

I had to go to the Brussels Airlines office to confirm my flight – since they messed it up and whatever. Anyway. I get really nervous and stressed when it come to this stuff, which did not bode well for anyone. It was also my last full day of work (other than next Thursday – the day I leave), so I had much to do. Then I realized, Friday (today) is Good Friday (right?) and next week is the Memorial Week, so what if everything is closed?! So I raced home, grabbed my passport and went to the Brussels Airlines office. I walked in, sweating profusely, hoping that this would be a short visit. There was what seemed to be a line, which was Rwandans sitting on the couch talking to each other, and the three BA reps all were talking to people. Upon closer observation, the BA reps were pretty much talking to each other, and it was a group of friends hanging out on the couches. Annoying. So what did I do?

I went America ALL OVER THAT ROOM.

It started with a simple sigh. But that escalated. I put my hands on my hips, started tapping my foot, and paced in and out of the room. And even that escalated. I started walking over to the computers to do what? I don’t know it’s in Kinyarwanda, but I was making a point, huffing the entire time. I was the complete obnoxious American that we all can be. Completely acceptable – if not expected - back in the states, but sort of rude here. Finally, someone motioned for me to sit down, even brushing off the seat before I sat down, no doubt saying “Wow, let the princess sit down” in Kinyarwanda.

But you know what America, YOU MADE ME THIS WAY. You did this. I don’t want to be this way, but I can’t help it. You make me walk through the rain, while Rwandans wait for it to stop inside. You make me sprint through the streets, getting even more sweaty and gross, instead of walking at a leisurely pace. You make me ignore friendly Rwandans that say hi to me on the street, thinking it’s weird to say hi to people. I might be generalizing here: I’m that city, fast-paced, liberal (oh Nora you like Obama? Shocking, I know) American. While I want to help people, I have that little voice saying make it to the top in the back of my head. You’re all thinking it, my fellow Americans. It’s just when I think of people that actually live that way I shudder and remember do what you enjoy. Wow it sounds like I have actual voices in my head…I don’t..?

Happy Easter and see you in a week!


  1.'s alyssa's mom. You are a very good writer!!!!!

  2. Nice post. I remember going through some of the same experiences myself.

    At one point, I remember standing in the front of a line at the Kigali airport with a long line of Westerners behind me who were frantic that they'd miss their plane. In front of me was a counter of casual Rwandan workers going about a leisurely pace and a security person who was suppose to be directing traffic to the counters but was simply standing there waiting. It was hard not to revert back to the same attitude I'd normally display in the US, especially with a long line of people angry at me because I didn't take it upon myself to ignore the security officer and walk up to the counter without permission. In the end, I waited patiently... and, yes, we all made our flight. All that angst for nothing.

    Thanks for posting and reminding me of that experience.