Part of the joy of living overseas is not only sharing our traditions with others, but also partaking in myriad cultural celebrations that are new to us.
Posts tagged ‘Foreign Service’
Our first Thanksgiving together very nearly caused some family strife. S’s parents had invited us to spend the extended weekend with them shortly after we had started dating – many months before the actual holiday – and when D’s mom got wind of the plan, she laid on a massive guilt trip, accusing D of sabotaging her favorite family holiday over “some girl he barely knew.” We wound up doing two Thanksgivings to mollify her, flying from Chicago to Connecticut and then driving to Maine, making sure to spend equal amounts of time with both families.
Despite being located in the same geographic neighborhood as Kenya, where we started our Foreign Service career, Rwanda strikes us as more dissimilar than it is alike its regional neighbors. In one respect, however, our experience in Kigali parallels the two years we spent in Nairobi almost exactly: being an expat in East Africa is a study in contrasts.
The distance between New York City, where D grew up, and Mahama, nestled against the bank of the Kagera River, which serves as the natural boundary between Rwanda and Tanzania, cannot be measured in miles and feet alone. A barren parcel of tse-tse fly-infested land just a couple of years ago, Mahama now hosts more than 55,000 refugees from Burundi, who began streaming into Rwanda in the spring of 2015 and continue to arrive in smaller numbers more than two years later.
The first week passed in a haze of cruel jet lag. The next was marked by Rwanda’s presidential election – a week full of long days at the office that seemed to persist long after the final ballots had been cast. The third week was blissfully uneventful and marked in its passing the midway point of our separation.
Junebug’s birth provided a reset of sorts. The six weeks D spent stateside closed the book on the first year of our Rwanda tour. D flew back to Kigali a few days after the anniversary of our arrival in Rwanda to find the country gearing up for a presidential election.
There are some American cities that, for better or worse, leave an imprint on one’s DNA. New York is like that – an international metropolis that makes life elsewhere seem pale by comparison, a city that exudes the kind of confidence that might be mistaken for smug superiority. Growing up in the Bronx – diehard Yankee fan country – it was impossible not to develop a deep-seated loathing for Boston, the only other East Coast city that could credibly lay claim to a similarly brash swagger. Even now, after spending the better part of the last decade overseas, the same reflexive antipathy born of a sports rivalry that knows no bounds stirs in D every time he visits Beantown.