Ndi umucecuru


Ndi umucecuru. I am an old lady.

I have officially been in Rwanda for 6 months now and I think it has prematurely aged me. The warning signs have been there all along. Many concerned Rwandans have warned me that if I am 23 years old, and have no immediate prospects for marriage, I will most likely be alone forever if I don’t act fast. I am finally getting used to the look of horror that people give me when I say, “Oya, simfite abana, ndi ingaragu.” No- I do not have children, I am single. You would get a similar response in America for saying something like, “Sorry I am late but I was outside killing kittens for fun.” I think that my seemingly perpetual state of singleness is offensive to some of the women here but I do have a description of my pretend husband well rehearsed  in case they really cannot believe that I am 23 and single.

There have been other subtle signs like falling asleep at the dinner table at 7:30 pm but I didn’t realize just how severe my case of premature aging was until last Friday. I spent my afternoon off folding tissue paper like an old lady. My fabulous Granny Ellen sent me three care packages and most of the items were wrapped in tissue paper (it was like having a second Christmas- thank you Granny!). After opening all of my packages I had an enormous pile to deal with:

The old me would have stuffed it all into a bag and tossed it. But the new me, the frugal Peace Corps volunteer in rural Rwanda, just couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. What if I need to wrap a gift and can’t make it into Kigali for supplies? What if I need very thin, multi-colored paper for a spontaneous craft project? It was simply too wasteful to throw it all away, so just like my grandmothers on Christmas Day, I sat and folded my tissue paper. With my mug of vanilla tea (made in Kenya and so delicious) in hand, and the soundtrack from Mama Mia blasting from my computer, I tackled the pile one piece of festively colored tissue at a time. After a while I had a neatly stacked pile of folded tissue to store away in my closet. I am not anticipating any tissue paper related emergencies in the near future, but should they arise, I have all of my options neatly folded on a shelf. Do I feel like an old lady because I spent a free Friday afternoon folding tissue paper? Yes, I surely do. I am, however, starting to understand why both of my grandmothers always insisted on saving their tissue paper from gifts- sometimes it is just too pretty to throw down a latrine. Some people might judge me for this but I can take comfort in the fact that my grandmothers will be proud. 🙂


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