According to C.S Lewis, “We are not living in a world where roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the center: rather in a world where every road after a few miles, forks into two and each of those into two again and at each of fork, you must make a decision.” For some peculiar reason, when I heard these words the first thing that came to mind was an image of a tree with its roots branching left and right as they search for nutrients in the ground. For every twist and turn, left or right, the roots find nutrients that nourish the shoot system making it blossom into a beautiful piece of nature. That’s exactly how I would like to think of my life, just that the roots represent my journey and experiences while the nutrients represent truths that I learn along the way.
My seed was planted right in the heart of Africa, in a country called Rwanda. I was born six years after the Genocide against the Tutsis in a period of political, social, and economic recovery. Naturally, this wasn’t the safest place to grow up. Three months after I was born five armed men came to our house, two stayed outside, and three broke into the living room. The three men put a gun to my father’s head, tied his hands and forced my older sister, who was 7 years of age at the time, and my older brother who was 5 years old, to lay on the ground.
Then they tied my father’s hands, made him lay on the floor, kicked him in the face and searched the house looking for a gun. When they didn’t find anything they stormed out of the house and killed our parrot on their way out.After realizing the danger that existed, my parents decided to move the family to Tanzania. After a few months in Tanzania, our family was invited to board a ship called the Doulos, which transported missionaries who were going to serve around the world. Our family ended up going to South Africa, where our parents were offered an opportunity to serve the local community as missionaries. This frightening, startling and seemingly accidental chain of events led way to a life of family adventures taking our family to countries and places we never thought we would ever step foot. However, being a young foreigner in these new environments, I only experienced this diversity from the surface, never immersing myself into these new cultures and people.
Instead, by the time our family returned to live in Rwanda in 2009, I had withdrawn from society, built a bubble around myself, resolving to extreme introversion and an unhealthy entitlement to my own perspective and what I considered to be truth, and had grown to feel perfectly comfortable with this character I had turned myself into. Then one morning, my mom came to me and asked me how I felt about going to school in the United States of America. It had been about six years since I had last travelled for more than a month and I always wanted to go to the U.S., so I said yes and within a few months, I found my self at Presbyterian Pan American School in Kingsville, Texas. Presbyterian Pan American School was an utterly different milieu. Every other place I had ever gone before, I was the new foreigner in society of locals but here it was different.
Pan Am was a coalescence of Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Venezuela, Mexico, South Korea, China, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States of America. Mahatma Gandhi once said “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the souls of its people.” I realized what Ghandi meant when he uttered these words as I connected with the hearts and souls of my comrades, the relationships I established with them became a magnifying glass through which I could see the reality of every background that these students represented, and this was beautiful. My experience at Pan Am burst my bubble of insecurities and brought me to a realization that this odyssey I call my life has been shaded by feelings and experiences that I possessed in those moments and in turn defined what I believed to be my truths. My English teacher always used to say there is something new to learn from every single person on earth, thus every single individual on earth carries a segment of the truth. Therefore since as humans our truth is determined by our background maybe as I share more truths with others, the coherence of my own truth shall also grow. Since my truth ends where someone else’s begins, then maybe life is a journey of collision with other perspectives from which one can extirpate yet never proclaim as absolute truth.
I have learned simply to seek a greater understanding of those around me by valuing the similarities and differences between us. This is the truth that I have gathered from my past 3 years. I am not sure that these truths will stand, but I truly wish my college experience will be an extension of my experience at Presbyterian Pan American School, disputing certain truths, vindicating others while allowing me to experience others.