The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The American Problem

(Or) How English Lexicon Exhibits Signs of Psychosis


We hear it all the time. African civil war. African politics.  The Aids Epidemic in Africa. The 'African Problem.'


We speak of Africa as one entity. We speak of Africa as if all its trials, tribulations, pitfalls, successes, shortcoming, hurdles, and yes, its problems, were one thing. One really big thing. We speak of it in the same way we speak of other large things. We speak about it like we speak about countries. Sovereign states. Whole entities that are governed and represented by one set of people across the whole.


This idea of seeing Africa as one contiguous entity is not new. The word Africa actually comes from the Romans, who used the Punic term 'Afri' to denote people from the city of Carthage (in present-day Tunisia). Roman historians determined that this term itself derived from Epher, the son of Abraham who settled the region.  The Romans added the Latin suffix –ica to words to denote lands (like Britannica), hence, Africa. Because the Romans had little contact with other people from the continent (besides the Numidians and the Egyptians), it would have been common for them to refer to anyone from the southern continent as African. Combine that with Roman conquest and cultural domination of Europe, and we see the Western adage of Africa.


Africa, which is a whole CONTINENT (something not everyone knows), contains 54 sovereign nations. It is home to 1.1 billion people (over 3 times as many as in the Unites States). Somewhere between 1000 and 2000 languages are spoken in Africa (yes, there are so many that we cannot even agree on the number to two significant figures). Over 50 independent currencies. 11 million square miles. 30 million square kilometers. 6 time zones.


So when we say the 'African Problem,' we're talking about a whole lot of diversity here. It's literally the most diverse continent on the planet. Chew on that for a little bit.


But this article is called the African Problem. It's called the American Problem.


Ask anyone in Africa what an American is. You'll struggle with the wordage for a bit, but they're eventually say one of three key phrases. USA. Les Etats-Unis d'Amerique. The United States of America.


True, 'American' is officially listed as a demonym of the United States. Otherwise we'd be calling ourselves the United Statians (actually, much of the Spanish and French world do have words in usage that mean just that…it only really sounds funny in English). Even in Kinyarwanda, the word in Umunyamerika.


Am I an American? Yes. Is someone from, say, Chile, an American? Yes, but they wouldn't call themselves it. And that's the point.


We don't clump together America like we do Africa. The Western world has this one singular notion of what it is to be African, but a very fragmented notion of what it is to be from the Americas; to be an American.


The two American continents (from now on let's just call them America) together are 1.5 times the land area of Africa. America has 35 sovereign states (plus eight UK territories, three overseas collectives and three overseas departments of France, three public bodies and three constituent countries of the Netherlands, two unincorporated territories of the United States, and a very lonely autonomous country belonging to Denmark). That's a total of 58 separate recognized entities. That also makes it the most colonized place on the globe.


At first European contact, the Americas boasted approximately 1800 languages. Of those, 468 are known to still be in use today. America has 972 million people (just 130 million shy of Africa), spans 11 time zones, holds both the northern-most and southern-most points of land on Earth, and stretches north to south a total of 8,700 miles. America also holds 40% of all Christians in the world. To further purge the issue, the United States isn't even the largest player on the twin continents. New York City, the US's largest city by population, comes in third behind Mexico City and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The combined nominal GDPs of America would be about 21 trillion dollars (actually, 21,139,299,000,000 USD), which not only eclipses all of Europe, but is double that of the combined GDPs of Asia, Africa, and Oceania.


What all these statistics about America have in common is that they are all unfair. The twin American continents may have a powerhouse GDP, but also includes economies like Haiti (with a per capita GDP of $771), Nicaragua ($1,754), and Honduras ($2,264) compared to USA's $49,965 and Canada's $52,219. America is so northern-heavy, especially when it comes to financial matters and quality of health care, that any policy applied to all of America would either hurt the Northern countries or be ineffective in the southern countries.


The whole unfairness of the problem can be boiled down to one extreme comparison; taking an economic policy devised to help… say… Rwanda and applying it to the whole of Africa would be like taking a policy devised for Haiti and applying it to all of America, including Canada and the United States.


We don't talk about the twin American continents as one America, and for good reason. America is so financially, racially, ethnically, linguistically, educationally, historically, and geographically diverse that any broad statement would be wrong on so many levels. We might refer to North America and South America, but even those lines are a little blurred, like the geographical versus economic association of Central America (just pick a side already, amiright???).


So why do we talk about Africa as if it shares all its problems? Yes, Africa has unstable countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but it also has Botswana, hailed as the most stable, democratic, and transparent countries on the continent and one of the few former colonies to have never experienced instability since independence. Then there are the economic powerhouses, like Equatorial Guinea and South Africa, but also weaker economies, like Burundi. Treating Africa as one entity with one set of problems that can be solved with one set of policies is no fairer than doing the same to America.


So what is the American Problem? We don't have an all-encompassing problem in America, and neither does Africa. The African Problem is a sham; a tool used as an easy way to pretend we know and care about the region with little to no effort of understanding.
How do we go about solving the African and the American Problems? Start by recognizing that they don't exist and finish by doing some basic research on Africa. This would be a decent place to start understanding mondern African culture and media.


Newly featured: read the professionals saying it better than I just did.


Keep up to date on what's going on in the world here, here, and here. Also, have a look at this, this, and this. Surprises behind every link!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Sway _or_ How I Ended Up Still in Africa

A lot has changed in the past 12 months.

For those of you that do not know, I completed my original Peace Corps Service in November of 2012. When my training group of 71 arrived in October of 2010, none of us were truly prepared for everything we were about to go through. 25 months later, all of us had walked through a life-changing experience, but the 48 of us that remained had truly seen some amazing things.

5 of us chose to stay.

In late September of 2012, Peace Corps Rwanda's Country Director, Dr. Steve Miller, asked me to consider an extension of my service. He had joined the post in May of 2012, along with our new Director of Programming and Training, Bryan Dwyer. Over the course of Steve's first six months, he had started instituting a number of changes. He reworked the way the Volunteer Advisory Council supports and represents the Volunteer Community to Staff in addition to clarifying the role of Volunteers in development and in Rwanda. Steve was also looking at bringing on a Volunteer Leader.

Volunteer Leaders are Third Year Volunteers, that is, Volunteers that have finished their traditional service and chosen to extend for an addition year to help the post with matters somewhere between what Volunteers do and what Staff do. Traditionally, Volunteer Leaders help support the Volunteer Community by not only acting as a go-between from Staff to Volunteers (and vice versa), but also in serving as the first-line of defense in Volunteer support. From fielding questions about how to get around the country to welcoming new Trainees and finding ways to improve the ability of Volunteers to serve, Volunteer Leaders provide highly relevant experience and dedication to an organization that traditionally has a hard time keeping up with the innovations of the modern age and the capabilities of its Volunteers.

Dr. Miller's proposal was that I extend as a Volunteer Leader with 2 main scopes of work. He wanted me to serve as that front line of support to Volunteers, thereby providing a person who worked in the Peace Corps office, but was still a Volunteer and could relate to and understand both Volunteers and Staff, removing some of the burden off of Staff who have been spending considerable time on support issues that were outside of their job descriptions. He also wanted me to use my knowledge of technology, both in Rwanda and back home, to help reinvent the way Peace Corps Rwanda uses technologies and integrate more of their use into the life and service of the Volunteer. They even let me pick my own title; Technology Integration Coordinator.

So I was offered a position that basically allowed me to identify defunct pieces of our post and fix them, in addition to helping my fellow Volunteers manage their services. After two years of living and serving in Rwanda, it would have been incredibly hard to pass up the opportunity to reshape the post in any way I could. I accepted the position with little hesitation. In November of 2012, instead of moving back to the United States, I moved to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. In my mind, I was still embarking on the next chapter of my life.

The realities of serving as a Volunteer Leader, just like those of serving as a Volunteer, weren't quite what I was told to expect. While it's a great idea to have a Volunteer who relates to both Volunteers and Staff, I quickly discovered that neither Staff nor Volunteers would claim me as their own. I was constantly stuck between two worlds that both created artificial and nuanced reasons to see themselves as different. The Volunteers are no longer simply my friends. They are now mostly people I helped train, people whose hands I held during their early days of service. I now have a commitment to serve them just as they have a commitment to serve their communities. They are my village, my school, my health center, my Rwanda.

In the same light, the Staff that I work with now is the same Staff from my normal service. My old Program Manager, who was my Peace Corps boss for two years, is now supposed to work with me as just another Staff member. No matter what I do or how well I do it, the Staff will always see me as a Volunteer first.

All that said, I love my job. I have free reign over what I do when, what projects I work on and who I work with on them. I have the free time to also partner with other organizations in Kigali and still continue to serve the real Rwanda, even if it is the Kigali Rwanda and not the rural Rwanda I know and love so much. On the whole, extending my service was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

But now I'm faced with the same question I was faced with a year ago. What do I do in 4 months?

My new service ends in January of 2014. This gives me 4 months to determine what I do after Peace Corps. Dr. Miller has already uttered the term 'fourth year' more than once, which is usually greeted from me by quickly plugging my ears and singing the national anthem.  While I really do love my job and Peace Corps Rwanda, it's about time to come home.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates coming your way. In the meantime, stay up to date with what's happening with the world, the Syrian Disarmament, and the Rwandan elections taking place this morning. Also, take some time to understand more about Generation Y GYPSYs, Rwanda President Paul Kagame, and the 9/11 Falling Man Photo

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Aaaaand We're Back (Almost)

It has now been 7 months since I have written a blog.
That's about to change.
Well, not right now. I have a few things to take care of this week. Then it will be up.
Prepare yourselves.


Monday, February 11, 2013

The 25 List

I originally started this this past November, but was unable to finish it because I left it on my office computer while I was in America. Read on
In accordance with the fact that I have now been in Rwanda for 25 months (and the fact that I just turned 25), here are 25 things I didn't know when I left America:

25) Making a list of things to Google is nowhere near as effective as actually Googling them.
24) There is, in fact, such a thing as 'bad music.' Justin Beiber is currently running as its President.
23) Ask me to live without running water, fine. Ask me to live with a decent bed, I will cut you.
22) Avocadoes:  not so bad.
23) Hot showers are not counted as NEEDS, although they should be.
22) I can stare at a blank wall for 45 minutes before I begin to question why I am staring at a blank wall.
21) Alcohol made from pineapple = delicious. Alcohol made from bananas or sorghum = not.
20) Sarcastically talking back to Rwandans in English might not improve the situation, but it does make me feel a whole lot better.
19) Money isn't everything, but it is something. And if you spend all of it before the month is out, it becomes real hard to buy food.
20) I will read any book. Except Twilight.
19) Never underestimate the ability to use Google properly.
18) I cannot grow a beard. No, you cannot see the photos.
17) A flush toilet is always better that a pit latrine, except when the water goes out. That's when the 'flushing' part becomes complicated.
16) If you use a laptop for 6 hours every day, it's going to die on you.
15) Beer in Rwanda does not solve your problems. It just distracts you with its horrible taste so you can forget about the problems for 5 minutes.
14) American candy is a universally accepted form of currency.
13) Solving a Rubik's cube: not that hard. Getting people to care that you can solve a Rubik's cube: much, much harder.
12) Sleeping under a Princess-style mosquito net does not make you a princess. It makes you not have Malaria.
11) A college education does not prepare you for life; it prepares you to be able to prepare for life.
10) Drinking untreated water = bacterial diarrhea. It's simple math people.
9) A degree in Media Communication Technology and Social Scientific Research is mostly useless until you find yourself in charge of communication technology for a group of possible research subjects.
8) "War and Peace" By Leo Tolstoy is my Kryptonite; I can never get past the first dozen pages, and I've read "Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allen Poe," "Tony Blair: A Journey," "Before European Hegemony," "Ideology: An Introduction," and the Fifth Edition of "Diffusion of Innovations" in an attempt to put it off.
7) Regardless of what Ted Mosby thinks, a Pros and Cons list is NOT a scientific, reliable, or unbiased way of making a decision.
6) The single greatest travesty ever imposed on the American People by the entertainment industry was the cancellation of Firefly.
5) A concrete house CAN catch on fire.
4) It is common knowledge that intellectual property should be protected, but also that every person has the right to download EVERYTHING for free.
3) Personal space is a highly Western notion that is just as inconceivable to many rural Africans as family planning is.
2) Never, EVER underestimate the power of communicating with someone in their native language.
1) Sometimes, you just have to take action. Sitting around and thinking about it for too long is only straining your ability to process reality. Stop contemplating, get off your butt, and go get some things done. So they may not be perfect, they may not even have worked, but at least you had the courage to DO something and the foresight to learn from it. You did learn something, right?
More coming your way soon

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Website Quest

The quest to make and host a website, all for free.

For our ICT initiative, one of the things I am working on is creating a web site. I have very minimal experience with HTML coding, and even less with other codes and scripts like CSS, Python, and Java.

Another issue we have is cost. The basis of this Task was to use our resourcefulness as Volunteers to find a FREE way of hosting out information on the Internet. Volunteers tend to be really good at getting out of paying for an otherwise non-free service.

Let’s recap. Here are the goals:
1-Design clean, professional looking website
2-Host it for free (preferably at, but that’s flexible)
3-Be finished by November 12th, the Launch Date for STIR (the Resource in development)

You’ll know the project has succeeded when you can click that link and it works.

I started refreshing my brain on the syntax and references of HTML code. Not too bad. A quick look through took care of that. Still not an expert, but enough for this project.

I spent a few hours constructing a small webpage in Notepad, then changed the extension to .html and launched it in Google Chrome. Everything looks good, although it occurs to me that there are 2 problems: 1) There is very little style in my webpage. Adding this will require the use of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in an external document. Not proficient at coding style sheets. 2) Even the simple web page is getting past my organization ability in Notepad. As I add more complex elements to better the site, this will become a major problem.

After poking around again for CSS syntax, I was thoroughly confused and a little annoyed at my prospects, so I’m tabling that one for now. The second project is much easier. A quick Google search for ‘free html editors’ reveals several choices. CoffeeCup looked to be the most appealing, so I downloaded the free version and installed it. It appears to be a little limited (can’t use the really cool ‘snippet’ feature) compared to the licensed version, but we’ll make do. Contemplating trying to torrent a cracked copy of the full version, although this technically counts as software piracy. Hmm.

CoffeCup's HTML Editor, one of 'the best in the world'

The next problem area is free hosting. There are tons of places that host websites for a small annual fee. They have some great perks (large storage space, free email address, stream updates, etc), but most of them are just fluff for us. Our website won’t be too large (still debating if we wish to host our resource documents on our site or if we wish to keep them as direct-downloads from Google Drive). With the prevalence of free email accounts with just as good features as ‘professional’ email clients, having an email address through the site host becomes pointless (although the address would be kinda cool). This google search yielded fewer results, and no real.

After some digging, I am again turning to Google for a solution. There are two possible platforms: Google Sites and Google App Engine. Google Sites is extremely user friendly, but it doesn’t look like it’s possible to upload a full website built independently. While I like the Blogger feel to Sites, it’s not what we want.

Google App Engine, on the other hand, looks promising. Up front, it doesn’t seem to fit. Websites get generated in Python, which is a problem because I know nothing about Python. But after some more rooting around, I found a web review that reassured me Google App Engine was the right fit and gave me everything I needed to get started.

The Login for Google App Engine

Goal 2 finished. We will be hosting our website with Google App Engine, totally free. The address is

The URL is not pretty, but I’ve picked up a few hints in my rooting and digging that it may be possible to redirect the index to a new URL for free. Well, we’d have to get the domain name and register it for a nominal fee (something like sub $5). So maybe this won’t be totally free. Or maybe we’ll stick with an appspot URL.

Uploading the website is a little trickier than I thought. Following the directions from the review above, I downloaded the Python (2.7) runtime and the Google App SDK. Python installed fine and is up and running, so did the App SDK. However, the App SDK wraps up everything in a (somewhat) simple Launcher, but I had to redirect the file paths to the proper executable for Python and the App SDK. The Labnol website had a very basic website pre-built to launch with Google Apps. Downloaded, unzipped, and modified the application identifiers to load to our project. Launcher tested well and the default website loaded. Done.

The Google App Engine Launcher interface

The App Launcher was a little tricky to get down. Mostly because App Engine runs in Python. The basic website I downloaded came with a Python script file (.py) that compiles properly with App Engine. It also included a YAML file (.yaml), a sort of all-script-use file designed for use by non-genius people. Sweet. In order to upload, I have to load the project into the Launcher (this is only required the first time), and then Deploy it. The Launcher requires an email username and password (that has access to the App Engine Project). Launcher verifies the information, connects to App Engine, checks prior versions, and then loads the Python file (I think). The Python file initiates the YAML file, which loads the index.html file (the website’s homepage) and then all the other pages, style sheets, images, etc. A simple 5-page website takes about 20 seconds to Deploy. A larger one takes about 5 minutes. Not bad for Africa.

There seemed to be a problem at first with the Launcher actually publishing the website. I was editing the YAML file’s ‘version’ code so I could check the functionality. However, just because the App Launcher uploads it doesn’t mean App Engine publishes it. App Engine allows several versions to be hosted and linked, but recognizes a default that is live at the URL. If the ‘version’ code of the YAML file is the same as the live version, it gets published. However, we lose the previous version (App Engine overwrites it). The only way to keep all previous version remotely in App Engine is to change the ‘version’ code each time (it accepts alpha-numeric [like 12c]), upload, and then open up App Engine, go to the ‘versions’ tab, and set the new version as the default. A little annoying, but it works. It helps that the App Launcher has a shortcut to open up the App Engine Dashboard in your default browser. That’s nice.

I’ll move forward with the actual building of the website and style sheets later.

Friday, July 20, 2012


DISCLAIMER: The following blog contains spiritual and religious ideas that may differ from yours. In no way am I attempting to preach, convert, or dismiss. These are my beliefs and opinions. This is not designed to attack, insult, offend, or put down. It is, however, meant to give you an inside view of my life, my thought process, and how I operate. Just like all of my blogs.

Today is the first day of Ramadan.

Ramadan is an Islamic event during which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown for a full lunar cycle (a little less than a month). In general, they abstain from consuming anything during daylight, including food, water, or any other material meant to fill the flesh. This is not meant to be a punishment, but rather a purging of the soul, a cleansing of the body, and a refillment of the spirit. The signals of hunger, thirst, and craving sent during fasting are designed as a constant reminder of those who are less fortunate, those who have not, those who go hungry every day through no choice or fault of their own. Many Muslims attempt to read the Qur'an all the way through, but the focus is very much on knowing who you are, what you are capable of, and what is realistic. In Islam, unlike Christianity or Judaism, fasting is a core tenant (or pillar) of spirituality, and observation of Ramadan is required for all those physically capable. Ending in Eid ul-Fitr (or the 'breaking of the fast'), the sighting of the new moon, Ramadan is a time to grow spiritually, as a family, and as a community.

I am not Muslim. My family is not Muslim. Most of my friends are not Muslim. I do not live in Mecca. I have never been with 100 feet of a Mosque.

I am American. I am a practicing Christian. I do not understand Islam in its entirety.

This year, I am observing Ramadan.

This does not come out of some misguided attempt to become more worldly. This does not come out of a challenge to my personal faith or spirituality (although such things are not necessarily unhealthy). This is about the experience. The experience has been explained to me before to be like the excitement of Christmas Eve. Personally, I feel like there was either a serious translational error there or that person never experienced a Christmas Eve before. How can someone compare the anticipation of not eating or drinking during daytime for 30 days to waking up to your house getting broken into and tons of really cool, really expensive stuff left underneath a tree that you drug into your living room 3 weeks ago for no other reason than looming over said stuff?

Regardless of the probability, that correlation between the experiences is there. To me, that only says how powerful Ramadan and its fulfilling sense of community, piety, spirituality, and generosity are to compare to the endorphins a child's body receives at the mere thought of gifts.

Ramadan is a highly personal 'quest,' if you will. There are very few rules, and many practicing Muslims do different things. As a Christian observing Ramadan, here are the principles I have decided to follow for my own Ramadan:

-Fasting: No consumption of anything designed for the flesh (all foods, water, sex, etc) from sunup to sundown. In Rwanda, that will be something like from 5am to 6:30pm.

-Fasting of the limbs: My hands should not do evil, my feet should not take me to bad places, my tongue should speak nothing ill of myself or others. This is not restricted to daylight hours.

-Spiritual Growth: My thoughts and reflections should guide me towards a better understanding of my God and my faith

-The Bible: I will read the Bible. From start to finish. Not just the New Testament, but the whole thing. THE WHOLE 1200 PAGE BIBLE.

-Mental Clarity: Abstain from impure thoughts.

-Alcohol: No alcohol during daylight hours as well as a reduction of occurrences and amount consumed during night hours.

-Community: Significant increase in actions designed to create and foster communities. This is saying quite a bit, given the fact that I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer.


-Understanding: Develop a more detailed and in-depth understanding of the world's major religions with specific emphasis on Islam as well as its connection and relationship to Christianity.

This is not an attempt to live as a Muslim for a month. This is not a 'translation' of Ramadan into Christendom. This IS Ramadan. The only thing that's different is my spirituality (which, honestly, is different for each Muslim as well) and which Holy Book I take my faith from. During my initial research of Ramadan in preparation to making this decision, I came across many websites about Christians taking the month of Ramadan to pray that Muslims find the clarity of God and Jesus Christ. I disagree. Prayer, spirituality, and your religious savior are HIGHLY personal things. What any person believes is between them and God. I would (and do) pray that every person in this world can know the life and love of Jesus. I would never pray that this happens against their own urging. A person COMES to their Savior. They are not BROUGHT to their Savior. Their relationship with their God is theirs and theirs alone, whether it's based out of a book written in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, or English. Whether that book preaches the teachings of Allah and Muhammad or Jesus of Nazareth, God, and the Apostles.

Many Muslims believe that Islam is a continuation, or an evolution, of Christianity, just as Christianity is a continuation of Judaism. While I'm not about to get into who's right (because that's not the point), the concept and spirit of Ramadan is something that neither Christianity nor Judaism have. Is it not possible that the idea of Ramadan can be naturally applied to Christian thought and ideology?

My decision to observe Ramadan was not made lightly. I have never attempted to fast. Ever. Now I'm going to be doing it for a whole month. Also, school break also happens to start today. Meaning I will out of a structured job until September. On top of all that, I have my Close of Service conference with the other 54 members of my intake groups next week. It will be quite interesting sitting in sessions when I cannot have a beer, let alone a bottle of water or a meal, until the sun goes down. Luckily, I am not doing this alone. I have my own pillar. His name is Jed.

Some of you may remember Jed as the oddball that used to burst into room singing rap songs at the top of his well-tuned lungs. Well, he still does that. What's changed is that we tend to do it together more often than not now. I do believe there is a video out there somewhere of me playing Green Day's 'Good Riddance' on the guitar while sitting on top of Jed's shoulder as he sang in an ear-piercing falsetto. It was a Tall Doctor moment straight out of Scrubs

I digress. Jed is also observing Ramadan (as he has for the last, oh, seven years). When it comes to the logistics of how this whole fasting thing works, Jed is my man. He is also an incredible person and a great source of information on 2 or 3 world religions. And I'm not just being this flattering because I cc'd him on this email…

In order to stay healthy, I'm going to have to wake up early. Those of you who know me know that this is NOT something I like to do. I've been called many things in the last 25 years, but 'morning person' has never really been one of them. However, if I do not rise before the Sun, that means no breakfast. While my breakfast is usually more aptly named 'lunch,' I still like to be able to eat after sleeping for more than a few hours…

So here I go. Expect a higher frequency of blogs from me over the next month. In part because of Ramadan, but also in part because this month will help shape the next few years of my life.

-Don't Forget To Be Awesome


Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone powered by MTN.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Man

Human beings are cooperative by nature. Here's an example

Last month I was riding my bike home from Ndago, the district capital. Without warning, my bike jack-knifed, sending the handlebar into my rib cage and ejecting me from the bike. My first two points of contact were my right palm and the left side of my face. I didn't lose consciousness, but when I reoriented I was lying on my back, my backpack ripped open, writhing on the ground. The knees of my jeans were ripped open and blood was already congealing on my skin-less palm. In other words, I was broken and helpless.

Within seconds, a Rwandan man was at my side. In my delirium, I could only stare at him first. I could not process what was happening. He was talking to me quietly, asking me something. Repeating it over and over. He was then yelling. Yelling at someone else. Yelling at others who were running towards us. No words were ever exchanged. I have no idea what he was asking me. No idea what he was shouting to the others. Remembering back, I know now he was speaking Kinyarwanda. I can remember bits and phrases of what he said, but nothing that makes a cohesive thought. I also know the man spoke no English. He was a Rwandan farmer. Covered in dirt, missing most of his teeth, and had abandoned the plantains he had been carrying to come to me. In a normal state, I would have been able to communicate with him in Kinyarwanda. But it this state, I was going nowhere on my own. I was saying nothing. I was doing nothing. This man had no obligation to me. He owed me nothing, in my eyes or in his.

He laid his hands on me. When he touched my left rib cage, the place where the handlebar caught me before I went over it, I almost screamed. I was concerned, scared, frightened, pissed off, and really scared. The man ran his hands over me. In my mind I was convinced he was relieving me of all my possessions. All of the things he would never be able to afford. By now more Rwandans were around. Kneeling around me. Whispering and yelling. It was like I was removed, out of my body, watching all of this happening. Around me. To me.

What the man did, what he was doing, was saving me. We had almost nothing in common. We couldn't communicate, we couldn't understand each other. He had nothing on me and I had nothing on him. He was in total power. And he saved me. He picked me up, literally. He packed my things back up, every last one of them, and put them in my torn backpack. He brought me over to a motorcycle taxi, one that I hadn't noticed until I touched it. The man helped me on the back. I reached behind me to grab the handle bar with my right hand and picked my feet off the ground. I immediately slipped off the seat and almost fell to the ground. I painfully turned to see why I hadn't stayed on. The handle bar was smeared in blood. A lot of blood. My blood. I hate blood.

I was unable to close my right fist. I reached back and held on with my uninjured left hand. The tension of the muscles in my wrist and had caused the open skin on my forearm to bleed profusely. The moto driver and the man had a rapid fire conversation that I wouldn't have been able to understand if I had been on my game anyway. As we took off (to where I did not know yet), I could only think one thought: my bike. Where is my bike?

Halfway back to my village (which is where we were going, I found out when we got there), my head rolling with the difficulty of holding it up, I glanced at my right arm. Blood was pouring down my arm, dripping onto my jeans. My eyes caught my green shirt, where the color had turned red. With blood (did I mention I don't like blood?). I gingerly touched my face and my fingers came away red. I smeared the blood on my shirt and touched my ear. They came away red. I could literally watch the blood saturate my shirt.

The moto driver dropped me off at my house, where my site-mate Volunteer came down to help clean off the blood. The moto driver returned with my mangled bike. He stood in my living room for a few minutes, fascinated by the scene of the broken white man. It wasn't until he noticed the trail of blood droppings leading from my door to where I sat at the table. Bloodied rags and bandages littered the table. He promptly left. He did not ask to be paid for his double run.

I would later have three stitches put in my chin to close up the inch-long gash and another put in my ear. I was missing most of the skin from my right palm, my left forearm, my left ear, and the left side of my face. The Peace Corps doctors said I was lucky my ear was still attached and that the handlebar hadn't hit 3 inches higher, where it would have broken a rib or two. It took me 9 days in Kigali to regrow most of the skin and be able to walk without feeling like I had been beaten with a 2x4.

The point of this story isn't that I was hurt, or how cool I am now because I went through that. The extent of my injuries weren't that bad and at no point did I fear for my life. The point of this story is the man.

That man had nothing to gain from helping me. He had no real reason to coming running to me. He could have kept walking, he could have ignored my whimpers. He could have stared and said "Dore, Muzungu" (Look, a foreigner).

But he didn't.

He stopped. He helped. Even though we didn't speak the same language. Even though we didn't know each other. Even though he had nothing to gain. He did everything he could to help me.

I have tried to find this man. I've walked to the village (my bike is still mangled and, frankly, so is my desire to ride it). I point to my scar on my chin and ask for 'the man who saved me before.' The Rwandans do not understand me. They look at me just as confused as I look at them when they try to speak English. Finally, a young boy understands. He spitfires Kinyarwanda to the crowd. They all 'ahhh' in understanding. Finally, I will meet the man who was my model of human selflessness. The boy says they do not know who he was. They know he was a farmer who had come into that village to sell his plantains. They have not seen him in the weeks since.

Despite not being able to find the man, I am at peace. He could have found me. He could have walked to my door and claimed credit for his actions. But the fact that he did not only reinforces why this man is a great man. He did what he did not only without benefit to himself, but he did not claim the credit and admiration that he, by right, deserves. I may never know the great man's name. But I know him. I know him at such a level that I cannot describe it. I have seen into his heart and soul, and those I do understand.

-Don't Forget To Be Awesome
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