February 20, 2015

Betrayed By Your Own Culture - An Expat's Journey Home

Have you ever felt like a fish out of water in your own hometown, in your own culture, and while speaking "your own language?"  


I know Alphonsine Imaniraguha would be nodding her head in agreement to that question, a question that those who have never left their hometown or country may be shaking their head in confusion to! I was so intrigued by Alphonsine's recent blog sharing her cross-cultural experiences living in the US as a Rwandan, that I was eager to get her permission to share a bit of it here! One of the many stories that really leaves me in mystery and intrigue is when she talks about her brother's wedding (Alphonsine stands, right, in a traditional Rwandan dress)..... 


"A few months ago at my brother’s wedding, I vowed to myself that I’d make an effort to use Kinyarwanda only during my 5 minutes speech. Howbeit, in front of our honored hundreds of guests, as I searched in despair how to say “on behalf of” in Kinyarwanda, I feigned a smile as I apologized to the audience because I had no other word to replace it in order to complete my phrase. I indeed felt betrayed by the language I have spoken my whole life :(."  (Read her entire, engaging blog here.)


Having met Alphonsine almost ten years ago, yes, ten years ago in Rochester, New York, when she was studying at RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), I was immediately intrigued. I remember when we met I told her, "You are the first Rwandan person I have ever met." I am sure I wasn't the first American to say that to her, and not the last. She intrigued me as I asked her about her country. As we had limited time to talk, I was glad to get in touch with her on Facebook and read her blog about her life, and cross-cultural experiences from time to time. She recently posted a blog entitled, "Expatriate Moments of Brevity: Living Abroad!" which drew me in.... and yet, again she has intrigued me. 


Alphonsine Imaniraguha was born in Rwanda where she lived until moving to the US in 2006. She is a Network Engineer with Cisco Systems in North Carolina and a motivational speaker through her non-profit Rising Above the Storms (R.A.S) with a goal to teach forgiveness, love and hope. You can find out more about R.A.S. at www.risingabovethestorms.org or her personal blog: www.asoothingvoice.wordpress.com

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