A day of well deserved relaxation and much needed reflective time alone. After my first hot morning shower since arriving, rising late and gathering with the group for lunch at the famous Hotel Rwanda I was privileged enough to spend the afternoon there swimming in the outdoor pool and drinking Rwandan black tea with hot milk. There I was floating in the cool water looking up at the clear blue sky feeling like I was in paradise and knowing full well that I could be anywhere in the world in that moment but I was in fact in Rwanda, beautiful Rwanda. I felt no fear, no unease, no hostility, no anger, none of the things that people tried to fill my head with before my departure. My experience of Rwanda is one of gentleness, grace, love and joy. To be in a place that has had so much pain and kaos and to not let that impact my perspective comes quite easily as I learn to trust that my heart will guide me to where I am needed in the world. Rwanda has offered me such immense healing and I feel a great sense of peace knowing that I will be staying here after everyone else in the group leaves for North America tomorrow night.
The journey of preparation for this trip took me down a road of outward self expression which included an awesome blonde mohawk with pink highlights, black leather boots, thoughts of getting a tattoo, embracing sparkley tourquoise eyeliner and so much more. This was an attempt to demonstrate my inner strength to myself and to the world. As I processed what it would be like in Africa in terms of outward self expression I often felt like I was going to have to give up that expression and let go of that need to outwardly wear my creative expression of self. My suit case consisted of a carry on sized suite case that included not only clothes but 3 paris of shoes and all my toiletries – not much stuff considering I was possibly not returning from which I came. Today as I floated in the bright blue pool wearing my hot pink bikini top and aqua bottoms, still sporting the blond mohawk that now has an inch of dark roots and was on the verge of being shaved off or colored prior to my arrival, I realized that I am still me, all parts of me at every moment in my life. There is no leaving behind the girl who loves fashion and loves to play with make-up, there is no need to turn off personality aspects that don’t fit the environment, and there is no need for me to pretend that I do not enjoy being in beautiful 5 star hotels and relaxing in a pool. I can be all of these things AND be doing humanitarian work with a dance group, they are not exclusive, actually they make the other experience more rich. Fully embracing who I am leads to an authenticity in all that I do and I feel allows me to be more present in each moment as I accept the reality of those characteristics and not fight against them.
I made more contacts by embracing exactly this today as I walked into the managers office of the fabulous 5 star Kigali Serena Hotel spa to discuss possible opportunities for my skills. I was greeted by a wonderful man who told me that in the spa they work on a trade system where one’s skills are traded for use of the facilities. As I toured around the beautiful spa I met a personality aspect that tried to tell me I was being selfish and that it was not what I was here to do. I soon rationalized the need for the spa, pool, hot tub and yoga classes as a way to stay healthy and balanced while doing the very demanding and intensely emotional work I feel I will be doing here. I do feel this is a very healthy and important thing to do for myself. Can I really go back and forth between two very contrasting worlds like 5 star hotels and poverty ridden villages?
My answer for now is yes. I have no idea what is in store for me but what I do know from my own personal experience up to this point in my life is that I can only give to others if I have something to give them and the only way I have something to give is if I take care of and give to myself equally, if not first. Denying my own human needs or even pleasures doesn’t make me a better person, it doesn’t make me more of a humanitarian or a more caring person if I run myself ragged and put everyone or thing else before myself – to me that is a form of Ego that I am very familiar with. I am worth taking care of just as much as my love is worth giving. I want to be an example of self-love not only to myself but to others as well. Loving myself demonstrates to others the way that I expect to be treated and in turn, hopefully, allows others to expect the same of me.
As always, holding loosely to those expectations of both myself and others, making room for the fact that we are human and because of that we are all just actors this wonderful thing called life! Each one of us equally free to make decisions, choices and mistakes along the way. If I do hold true to any expectation of myself it is just that – I will make mistakes, guaranteed. The flip side of that is the opportunity for personal growth which keeps me going, gives me energy, fills me with joy and makes life worth living!