The Road to Rwanda
The marido and I will be in Amsterdam next weekend.
I was raised in a sheltered Dutch American community. Calvinist. I went to Christian school, where all the kids had names like DeVries and Vanderberg and Jabaay. I went to church with them twice on Sunday and for catechism, Calvinettes (really!), and Sunday school. There were all sorts of rules that didn’t make sense. We couldn’t swim in our pool on Sunday. We could take out the mitts and ball, but not the bat. We couldn’t ride our bikes. We never ever went to restaurants or stores on Sunday. And around our grandparents, we weren’t to play cards. I went to Christian school through elementary school, high school, and even college, where I took two years of the ever-so-not-useful language Dutch. (Which today I can only speak only about 5 words - hello, goodbye, and I don’t know, which is a useful phrase.) We went to dances called “parties with music” because we weren’t allowed to dance. I was the good girl.
Members of my extended family went to the Netherlands to gather family genealogy. To Friesland, to a town where all the Vennemas and Walstras and Van Blah Blah’s were from. And practically everyone I knew in my childhood, except for a handful of neighbors, were Dutch American.
Adults worried about their kids going to college, even the Calvinist college, because they would “go astray.” I got a good liberal arts education there which did exactly what it was supposed to do–It taught me to think for myself.
In this environment, I’ve often wondered why even as a small child, I would think, “It’s better than living under a horse cart in India.” What did I know about India? Nothing. Except there were probably missionaries that went there. But I didn’t want to be a missionary. But I wanted to go. So, in my young mind, when I wasn’t thinking about being a stock car driver, I decided to be an international journalist. I’d go to India. I’d go to war zones. And I’d be good at it.
Rwanda? I won’t cry. I never do. I’ll visit basket makers and coffee farmers. I’ll talk to people about their lives. I can’t work if I cry. People say, “You must cry everywhere you go.” But I don’t. Because I don’t think I can work to make things better in my small way if I’m absorbed in my own emotion.
So, on the horizon, a woman who grew up very differently than who she was raised to be, will go to Amsterdam and then Rwanda.