One of my favorite parts of life in Nkomangwa so far is my host family, specifically my many siblings. It took me a full week to figure out who was actually a sibling and two to learn all of their names. I have eight brothers and sisters with three other children who live at the house.
I am growing to have a unique relationship with each of them, tailored to their personalities, ages, and needs…
- Muraza (3): She is sweet, but shy and slow to embrace me except to sit on my lap during play. When no one is watching, though, she has an active imagination and whole world that I am beginning to enter with her.
- Digioni (6): He was the easiest and quickest to win over. Physical touch is clearly his love language, so nightly back rubs and body drumming sealed the deal. He is sensitive and often crying, so one of my growing responsibilities is to cheer him up, distracting him as his sister bathes him, convincing him to share, etc.
- Sofina (8): She is curious and always watching me; as I write this I can see her head peeking over the windowsill. I know that there is a silliness to her that she has not shared, so I am as goofy as possible in her presence.
- Truti (10): She is a clear leader in the traditional reading of the word. A singer, she and I often lead our time for silly voices and goofy tunes.
- Duguterri (10): The goat keeper, when he gets to take a break from work, we play together. Recently, he got stuck in a room with the goats. When I released him and held him in his fear, it brought us closer and surfaced a previously masked tenderness.
- Janea (13): She is my teacher- showing me how to dance, teaching me Kinyarwanda, and scolding me when I coddle children too old or dirty for their liking. She is one of the house helps and is subsequently an old soul- carrying more responsibility around the house, and with it a burden and knowing in her gaze. But when she smiles, she lights up a room. Of all of the little ones, I lament not having words to share to understand her better.
- Weneza (14): She is at school the most of all of the children, so I have less time with her aside from our morning walk. She cares for the younger children and is quick to always lend a hand.
- Jarod (15): He has moves! I love watching him dance and he loves showing off. He is bright and often knows what I am trying to say through my miming and gimmicks. In general, we have an uncanny ability to understand each other.
- Wasi (17): She is my closest friend. We get to share many meals together, and her English is improving every day. Though timid, with encouragement, her humor, laughter, and joy exudes.
- Bebi (19): He often finds me around the community during the day and rides his bike past to say hello. He also is one of the helpers and spends most days in the fields. I am unsure if it is for room/board or pay, but confirmed that he does still have parents who live nearby.
- Immanuel (20): Emme likes to pull up songs he thinks I would like and play them on his phone for me. Mostly, he observes me with the kids, but when a translator is around, he is always engaging and kind.
My parents are loving individuals whose work never seems to cease. They have a thriving business selling produce from their farm, and they do a lot of service for the community. They speak to me as if I were fluent in Kinyarwanda, but are mostly kind about my slow learning. It is fun, though exhausting, to have so many people around. The kids are teaching me a lot about responsibility and play, as they approach both with great exuberance.