“Home,” Scene Three

LISA, MARIE CHANTAL, and EMMANUEL walk onstage. There is a table with three chairs. They sit. WAITER approaches.

WAITER: Welcome to Cannabera. What would you like?

EMMANUEL: We would all like chipati.

WAITER: Would you like drinks?

LISA: I’ll have icyayi, please.

EMMANUEL: Tonic.

MARIE CHANTAL: Fanta.

WAITER: What kind of Fanta?

MARIE CHANTAL: Citron.

WAITER: I will be right back. (He walks away)

EMMANUEL: Risa, why did you choose to come to Rwanda?

LISA: I wanted to teach English.

EMMANUEL: Why Rwanda? Our country is developing country and has bad history.

LISA: Rwanda is a beautiful country. I love everyone I have met here.

MARIE CHANTAL: You did not have the fear?

LISA: I was afraid to be far from home, but now I am very happy here.

The WAITER returns to the table. He places a plate of chipati on the table, and gives a mug to LISA and Fanta bottles to MARIE CHANTAL and EMMANUEL.

EMMANUEL: The bread is called chipati. You can eat it alone or scoop up beans and cabbage.

LISA breaks off a piece of the bread and dips it in the beans. She takes a bite.

MARIE CHANTAL: Do you like it?

LISA: Yego, sawa cyane!

EMMANUEL: You like it! And your Kinyarwanda, it is very good.

LISA: Thank you.

EMMANUEL: How long are you staying in Rwanda?

LISA: Two years.

MARIE CHANTAL: Have you been to Congo?

LISA: No. I would like to visit Uganda soon.

EMMANUEL: Do you miss home?

LISA: I miss home very much, but I love being here.

MARIE CHANTAL: Earlier you said home is a place you should love and want to stay.

LISA: I love my home in America because my family is there. When I go home, I will be happy. But maybe soon Rwanda will be my other home.

WAITER: You are finished?

LISA: Yego, murakoze cyane.

WAITER: (laughs) The mzungu, she speak Kinyarwanda!

MARIE CHANTAL: She is living in Rwanda and speaking language of Rwanda.

EMMANUEL: Factile, please.

The WAITER gives them a receipt.

LISA: I will pay. (She places a few bills on the table.)

MARIE CHANTAL: Thank you, Lisa.

LISA: Thank you for showing me around Kibuye and chipati. It was such a good day.

MARIE CHANTAL: It is raining.

LISA: Oh, no. It’s such a long walk back to Kiziba.

MARIE CHANTAL: You live in Kibuye town.

LISA: What about you?

EMMANUEL: We will walk to Kiziba.

LISA: Let me pay for your motos.

MARIE CHANTAL: No motos will go so far in rain.

LISA: Would you like to stay at my house?

MARIE CHANTAL: I must be home for my children.

LISA: I understand. I will see you on Tuesday for class.

MARIE CHANTAL: Thank you, Miss Lisa.

EMMANUEL: Goodbye Risa!

They walk separate ways.

“Home,” Scene Two

The library is a house with a classroom and a small nook of textbooks and notebooks. The classroom has several desks, a chalkboard, and a map.

LISA: Welcome to Intermediate English Class. Good morning.

EMMANUEL and MARIE CHANTAL: Good morning!

LISA: How are you?

EMMANUEL and MARIE CHANTAL: We are fine. And you?

LISA: I am fine, thank you. Do you remember adjectives and adverbs?

MARIE CHANTAL: Yes.

EMMANUEL: No.

LISA: Let’s review. An adjective describes a noun and an adverb describes a verb.

LISA writes two sentences on the chalkboard: “The girl is loud” and “The girl sings loudly.” She points to the first sentence.

LISA: Is ‘loud’ an adjective or an adverb?

MARIE CHANTAL: Adjective!

LISA: Yes, because it describes the girl, which is a noun. Is ‘loudly’ an adjective or an adverb?

MARIE CHANTAL: Adverb!

LISA: Yes, because ‘loudly’ describes ‘sings,’ which is a verb.

EMMANUEL: What is noun and verb?

LISA: A noun is a person, place, or thing, and a verb is something to do.

EMMANUEL: Thank you.

LISA: Can you come up to the board and write a sentence that uses a verb and adverb?

EMMANUEL: (Writes a sentence on the board) The singing was loudly.

LISA: Actually, you should use the adjective ‘loud’ because it describes a noun.

EMMANUEL: But singing is something to do.

LISA: Well, you’re right. But sometimes in English, if it ends in ‘i-n-g,’ it becomes a noun. We call it a gerund.

EMMANUEL: Engrish is difficult language. But I will learn because I want to go to U.S.A. and get job.

LISA: You’re doing very well.

EMMANUEL: Thank you.

LISA: What kind of job do you want to do?

EMMANUEL: In Congo I was pastor but in U.S.A. I will take any job.

LISA: A pastor is a good job.

EMMANUEL: Now I cannot be pastor because I live in Kiziba camp.

MARIE CHANTAL: I sold fruit in market. Now I care for six children.

LISA: How old are your children?

MARIE CHANTAL: My youngest is baby and oldest is sixteen. I too want to go to U.S.A. but I do not have husband.

LISA: What do you want to do in the U.S.?

MARIE CHANTAL: U.S.A. has good education for children. I want my children to learn and get good job.

LISA: Can you not be a pastor in Rwanda?

EMMANUEL: Pastor is important job. Not a refugee job.

LISA: Marie-Chantal, can you sell fruit at the Kibuye market?

MARIE CHANTAL: The market is long walk away. And I have no means to purchase fruit to sell. All my money goes to school fees.

LISA: Do your children go to school here?

MARIE CHANTAL: They go to Kiziba school. They would get better education in Kibuye but we are not Rwandan.

LISA: How long have you lived in Rwanda?

MARIE CHANTAL: Twenty years.

LISA: Your children have lived in Rwanda their whole lives.

MARIE CHANTAL: But parents are Congolese. I know how to live in DRC. I do not know how to live in Rwanda.

LISA: So, DRC is home?

MARIE CHANTAL: For now, Kiziba is home.

LISA: But you do not want to stay in Kiziba.

MARIE CHANTAL: Kiziba is home because I live there.

LISA: Home should also be a place you love and want to stay.

MARIE CHANTAL: DRC was my home, but now I cannot go home.

EMMANUEL: I would like America to be home, but my Engrish is poor.

LISA: Your English is getting better every day.

EMMANUEL: Risa, what languages are spoken in U.S.A.?

LISA: English, but some people speak other languages, like Spanish.

EMMANUEL: Do they speak French?

LISA: Some do. I learned French in secondary school.

MARIE CHANTAL: Do you learn Kiswahili in secondary?

LISA: No, mostly Spanish and English. I also studied Chinese.

EMMANUEL: You have been to China?

LISA: No, I learned Chinese at University.

EMMANUEL: Why do you love languages?

LISA: The more languages you speak, the more people you can talk to.

MARIE CHANTAL: Most of the world speak English because of colonized by British.

EMMANUEL: But Rwanda was colonized by Belgium, so we were Francophone. Now we are Anglophone.

LISA: I love Kinyarwanda. It is a good language.

EMMANUEL: It is not useful in communicating with other countries because Kinyarwanda is mother tongue of Rwanda only. English is an international language.

LISA: Kiswahili is an international language.

EMMANUEL: Only Africans speak Kiswahili. It is better to speak English.

LISA: Just because more people speak English doesn’t mean it’s better.

EMMANUEL: I cannot get job in U.S. if I do not speak English.

LISA: Your English is getting better and better.

MARIE CHANTAL: Risa, how long have you been in Rwanda?

LISA: I was in Kigali for two months and I’ve been in Kibuye for a few weeks now.

MARIE CHANTAL: How do you see Rwanda?

LISA: I love Rwanda. It is so beautiful.

EMMANUEL: Have you tried food of Rwanda?

LISA: I’ve had ugali, matoke, and mendazi.

EMMANUEL: You have not had chipati?

LISA: No. Can I find chipati in Kibuye?

EMMANUEL: Yego. After class we will take you to Kibuye town and show you chipati.

“Home,” Scene One

An African market: colorful kitenge, people bartering, and lots of noise, animals, and pandemonium. Two Americans, LISA and KAYLEE, are walking through the stalls.

MERCHANT: Sister, welcome to Rwanda! I will make you a kitenge dress! Only four thousand francs!

LISA: No, thank you.

MERCHANT: Cheaper than anywhere else in the market!

LISA: Maybe we’ll be back later.

KAYLEE: The market stresses me out. Will you stay with me to help me say no to people? If I go on my own, I’ll buy everything.

LISA: No problem. I just need to pick up some skirts from Josephine.

KAYLEE: I hope they’re ready. It’s our last day in Kigali before going to our new homes. We’ll be official PeaceCorp members!

LISA: Where are you going again?

KAYLEE: Muhanga, teaching at a preschool. What about you?

LISA: I’m going to be living in Kibuye, by Lake Kivu, and teaching English at Kiziba Refugee Camp.

KAYLEE: It sounds like a big responsibility. You must be nervous.

LISA: I am. I’m terrified that I won’t be good at teaching it because I don’t speak Kinyarwanda.

KAYLEE: You speak French, right? A lot of people here speak French.

LISA: Yes, but imagine learning a third language through your second language.

KAYLEE: I don’t even have a second language.

LISA: It’s kind of ironic how we come from halfway around the world to teach our only language to people who already speak two or three.

KAYLEE: I understand why, though. English is more useful.

LISA: Hopefully it will help them get better jobs.

KAYLEE: It sounds like a challenge. I guess you aren’t one for comfort zones.

LISA: If I wanted my comfort zone, I would have stayed in the U.S. There’s Josephine!

JOSEPHINE is in her market stall, which is covered in fabric and has a small elevated platform.

JOSEPHINE: Amakuru?

LISA and KAYLEE: Nimeza.

JOSEPHINE: You are leaving so soon, it makes me so sad. Come, try on your clothes!

JOSEPHINE hands KAYLEE a dress and LISA several skirts. KAYLEE climbs onto the stall’s platform and JOSEPHINE holds up a large piece of fabric so she can change. LISA wraps a skirt around her waist.

JOSEPHINE: It is a little long.

LISA: It will fit my sister. She’s taller than I am. Kaylee, how does the dress look?

KAYLEE: (comes out from behind fabric piece) Ta-da!

LISA: Oh, I love it!

KAYLEE: (Hands money to JOSEPHINE) Murakoze Cyane, Josephine!

JOSEPHINE: Yego. When do you leave?

LISA: (Hands money to JOSEPHINE) Tomorrow morning.

JOSEPHINE: I will miss you so much. Be sure to come back and visit next time you are in Kigali.

LISA and KAYLEE begin to walk away.

LISA: We will! See you soon!

Colonial Subjectivism in Death and the King’s Horseman

In his play, Death and the King’s Horseman, Wole Soyinka explores the clash of modern Western and traditional African cultures and values through a real-life incident that happened among the Yoruba people of Nigeria in 1946. The village king has recently died, and in the tradition of Yoruba customs, his horseman, Elesin Oba, is expected to commit a ritual suicide. Simon Pilkings, a colonial administrator, is horrified and attempts to prevent the ritual by imprisoning Elesin. Many post-colonial readings of the play focus on the ethics and Eurocentrism of Pilkings preventing the ritual. However, post-colonial theory can be applied to a myriad of aspects of the play, not only the primary plot point. For example, Joseph, a native African who serves as Pilkings’s steward boy, can be interpreted as an example of, or even a symbol for, a colonial subject. Colonial subjects are, according to Critical Theory Today, “colonized persons who did not resist colonial subjugation because they were taught to believe in British superiority and, therefore, in indigenous inferiority.” This is demonstrated through Joseph’s cultural and religious conversion, his relationship with Pilkings as the colonizer and colonized, and his identity as the “other.” Soyinka, in his post-colonial narrative Death and the King’s Horseman, uses the character Joseph as an example of a colonial subject to cultural imperialism.

As a colonial subject, Joseph is “converted” from his indigenous African heritage to the Western culture that colonized his nation, resulting in a double-consciousness. Joseph’s

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Wole Soyinka is Africa’s first Nobel laureate in literature

cultural conversion is demonstrated by his mimicry of Western culture; he imitates his colonizers in dress, speech, behavior, and lifestyle. As Pilkings’s steward boy, he speaks in broken English, saying what Pilkings wants to hear. He is also a religious convert to Christianity. When Joseph tells Pilkings that he is a Christian and that seeing him in a Nigerian uniform of death has no power, Pilkings declares, “Thank God for some sanity at last. Now Joseph, answer me on the honour of a Christian…” (27). Pilkings views Joseph’s conversion as something that brings him sanity and honour. This causes Joseph to have a double-consciousness, a struggle between two cultural identities. However, he lacks double-hybridity, the ability to see both cultures as positive aspects of identity. Joseph says to Pilkings, “Master is white man. And good Christian. Black man juju can’t touch master” (29). Here, Joseph demonstrates Eurocentric thinking, the idea that European culture and values are the standard, and anything else is “other.” Although both Western and African cultures are part of Joseph’s identity, he views his own indigenous roots as inferior to the colonizing culture, as depicted in his relationship with Pilkings.

 

The character of Pilkings represents the cultural imperialism that infiltrates Joseph’s indigenous identity. Colonizers, such as Pilkings, convert native people to their way of life because they believe this is the correct way to live. Jane chides Pilkings for his disrespectful speech regarding Joseph’s baptism: “It isn’t my preaching you have to worry about, it’s the preaching of the missionaries who preceded you here. When they make converts they really convert them” (30). Joseph has not only been fully converted to Christianity, but to the same Eurocentric mindset that Pilkings brought with him to Africa. Jane also says to Pilkings, “He’s going to hand in his notice tomorrow you mark my word” (30), insinuating that her concern is not for Joseph’s security in his faith, but how she and Pilkings can benefit from his conversion. Despite being of a lower social and economic status, colonial subjects are often exploited by colonizers. Although Joseph converted to Pilkings way of life, he is not seen as equal to Pilkings due to his identity as a colonial subject.

Joseph, as a colonial subject, will never be fully accepted as a member of the colonizing culture. As a colonizer, Pilkings does not view Joseph as a full member of the dominant culture nor of Christianity. While trying to learn more about the upcoming ritual, Pilkings says to Joseph, “Don’t tell me all that holy water nonsense also wiped out your tribal memory” (24), insinuating that he expects Joseph’s faith to consist of syncretism, infiltrated by the inferior beliefs of tribal animism. An “other” is seen as “less than” compared to those of the dominant culture. It’s not another “right” way of thinking, but something strange and distant. Due to Joseph’s indigenous roots, he will never be fully accepted as a full member of Western culture by his colonizers. Despite his efforts to mimic colonial culture as a cultural and religious convert, he will always be considered an “other,” inferior to those who are not colonial subjects. It is not only Pilkings (the colonizer) who sees Joseph (the colonized) as inferior; Joseph has been taught to believe in British superiority and even sees himself as inferior to his colonizers.

In Death and The King’s Horseman, Soyinka focuses on the struggle between a Colonial member of the intellectual elite and the horseman of the late Yoruba king. Through the primary plot, the reader considers the ethics of one culture intervening in another, and to what extent the characters should accept differences in culture and morality. However, examining the minor characters, such as Joseph, provides a unique post-colonial reading that depicts the effect of colonialism on the average colonial subject. Joseph is influential in neither his indigenous or colonial identity. As a colonial subject, he is used as a pawn in colonialization. By attempting to understand the character of Joseph, the reader can gain greater empathy for the colonial subjects who have been stripped of their indigenous identity by colonialism, which sees them not as full members of their converted culture, but as a less-than “savage other,” neither fully African nor Western.

Death and the King’s Horseman

The play Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka examines colonialism by depicting the clashing of cultures and exposing the dangers of ethnocentrism. The story takes place in Nigeria, following several main characters: an Englishman named Pilkings and his wife, Jane, and Elesin Oba. As the late King’s horseman, Elesin Oba must commit suicide on the thirtieth night of the community’s mourning for the King. Pilkins is horrified by this tradition and attempts to prevent it by any means possible. The play exposes the reader to daily life in Africa, as depicted by the social hub of the market, as well as the various aspects of culture (cognitive, affective, behavioral).

datkhAs the day of Elesin Oba’s ritual suicide approaches, all the characters are forced to reassess their cultural norms and values. Jane is the best example of this. She confronts Olunde, Elesin’s son, asking why he is so nonchalant in regards to the death of his father. In doing so, she accuses their custom of being barbaric and feudalistic, proceeding to call Olunde a savage. In response, Olunde asks her to consider her own culture’s customs of self-destruction, such as the mass suicide of young men sent by generals to war. Jane says that she wants she wants to understand all that she can. Although Jane supports her husband in his efforts to prevent the death of Elesin, she is more aware of the delicate cultural circumstances than he is and even contemplates her own ethnocentrism.

One distinguishable quality of this play is that there are no simply “good” or “bad” characters. Even Pilkins, depicted as the “villain” of the story, is striving to do the right thing by saving Elesin’s life. Pilkins’ flaw was attempting to change the culture’s behaviors without fully understanding them. He did not stop to consider the significance of the ritual or how it influenced the emotional state of the culture. His intervention hindered the mourning process of an entire community. Pilkings could have learned something from his wife; Jane did not agree with the suicidal custom, but at least she attempted to understand it by seeing it through Olunde’s perspective. Had Pilkins approached this issue from a different perspective, perhaps the result would have been an opportunity for cross-cultural communication rather than the disruptive interference of a sacred custom.

What is immoral in one culture is sacred in the other. Sometimes it is necessary for people to intervene in another culture for the sake of human life and dignity, but discerning the necessity is difficult, especially when the culture is not disturbed by a custom that appears inhumane to foreigners. The death of Olunde could be interpreted to represent a post-colonial society in which indigenous cultures must go to extreme lengths to maintain their roots. Iyaloja’s words to Pilkings challenge the concept of colonialism:

“It is what you brought to be, you who play with strangers’ lives, who even usurp the vestments of our dead, yet believe that the stain of death will not cling to you. The gods demanded only the old expired plantain but you cut down the sap-laden shoot to feed your pride. There is your board, filled to overflowing. Feast on it.”

Through a disturbing yet enthralling plot, Soyinka begs one to question what defines culture and what defines humanity, and where to draw the line between the two.

Catholic Charities, Baltimore

Cherishing the divine within all

Being home in America is a change after my African journey, but my sense of adventure is as active as ever. Last weekend I traveled to Baltimore, MD with the Messiah College Agape Center. We served with Catholic Charities, an organization that provides services to people with disabilities, the elderly, and those suffering from homelessness and hunger. We stayed in the Project Serve house, living with recent college graduates taking a year to serve in Baltimore.

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The Baltimore Basilica

Most of our service involved volunteering at soup kitchens. The Weinberg Housing and Resource Center offers a myriad of services from meals to employment skills courses, with the goal of helping participants attain permanent housing. My Sister’s Place shares a similar goal, but focuses primarily on women suffering homelessness. The biggest place we visited was Our Daily Bread, which has served a meal every day without fail since 1981. Its success has even been celebrated by Pope John Paul II.

In addition to service, I also got to experience the lovely city of Baltimore. The Project Serve house is located right next to the Enoch Pratt Free Library and Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Both are wonderful libraries that deserve a thorough walk through. The Enoch Pratt Free Library even has a giant chess set. My friends and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Tabor Ethiopian Restaurant. If you enjoy injera, coffee ceremonies, and eating with your hands, it’s worth a check out. One of my favorite places in Baltimore is the Basilica, America’s First Cathedral. It’s a gorgeous building with a beautiful history, visited by Pope John Paul II and Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

If you live near the Baltimore area, I recommend volunteering for Our Daily Bread. They rely heavily on volunteers and donations. My favorite part of Catholic Charities is their motto: Cherishing the diving with all. They serve guests in a manner that respects the dignity of each individual person. I hope to carry this motto with me long after I leave the city.

Akagera Safari

During the final week of my stay in Rwanda, my friends and I enjoyed a safari in Akagera Game Park. Akagera is in the east of Rwanda, bordering Tanzania. Most of Rwanda is mountainous, and is either rain-forest or jungle, but some of my favorite memories occurred in the small savanna of the east.

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Sunrise in Akagera

Within our first hour of the safari, we managed to drive up close to giraffes, zebras, buffalo, impalas, baboons, and warthogs. Then we drove down to a lake, where we could see hippopotamuses and crocodiles emerging from the water. I was surprised they lived so close together peacefully.

We spent the night at a campsite overlooking a lake on the border of Rwanda and Tanzania. My friends and I cooked dinner over a fire. I woke up early to see the sunrise and was not disappointed – the pink and orange sky reflected exquisitely over the crystal lake.

When I found out I was accepted to study abroad in Africa, elephants became an ob

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Elephants and a zebra

session. I purchased clothing from The Elephant Pants and Ivory Ella, two companies that donate profits to the preservation of African elephants. Visitors in Akagera have about a fifty percent chance of seeing elephants. We saw no elephants on our first day, and began the next day trying not to get our hopes up. Much to our delight, we were fortunate enough to stumble upon a herd of elephants, and even saw some babies!

After our experience with the elephants, it began to rain so we headed toward the exit to drive home to Kigali. On our way, we caught a glimpse of a beautiful (and fast!) leopard. Seeing predators during the daytime is a rare sighting in Akagera, so we were lucky to finish our safari with this experience.

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A giraffe in the land of a thousand hills