Today we are visiting homes served by Amohoro and CHABHA, and I get to reconnect with some of the agricultural students I met a few days earlier. We stop at Mary Grace’s house. I had noticed her days earlier. She is strikingly, model beautiful. Today her head is wrapped in a scarf and I am able to fulfill one of my Africa fantasies – to learn to tie a head scarf African style. I have been watching the women since I arrived. Some wear stiff, tall, almost architectural wraps. Others tie soft cloths around their head. They all look fantastic. I pull out the scarf I have stuffed in my bag and I ask Mary Grace and Irene, the Amohoro volunteer who has coordinated our visit, for assistance. They look at me as if I have asked them how to tie my shoes. Irene graciously wraps a brown and white scarf around my head, takes my picture with Mary Grace, and we continue on.
Later in the day, we return to Ivuka Studios for a gallery opening. We were first invited here by William, a local artist who volunteers with WE-ACTx.. But first we stop at David’s house – the executive director of CHABHA – to wash up and use a Western toilet. There we meet Aji, a chef from New Orleans who just opened up Mezze Fresh, Rwanda’s answer to Chipotle, and two other American women.
Together we stroll to Ivuka where a host of ex-pats are dancing, drinking and occasionally purchasing art and jewelry. Rabbi Brant calls it the Rwandan equivalent of Rick’s American from Casablanca. And we talk about the possibility of me being an ex-pat myself. It has been a backdrop conversation for the duration of the trip. I am soon to be single and I have no real commitments or ties to anyone or any place. I can do this if I like.
I keep making powerful connections, dropping right into my place in this city. And my travel mates only half jokingly ask me if I will stay. I am having this conversation again. And I realize that to do so would mean always being a bit of an outsider looking in. It would also mean putting my dream of rabbinical school on hold. My heart hurts. And I pay attention.
I tell Sue about our conversation. I am worried that I am squandering my opportunities. That I will disappoint others. And myself. She reminds me that I don’t have to change everything to step into the next chapter of my life. That I can merely go deeper in my inner journey. That I can move to Rwanda. Or Chicago. Or I can stay in Seattle. That I can work on my stuff. The stuff I brought here with me. And that I can go home with my Rwandan-Hebrew name, Liora, if I so choose.