Being a PCV is hard, being white in a country as undiverse as Rwanda is hard, a statement I believe I have adequately proven several times in my blog. However, this past week I got an up close look at how hard it can be to be a non-white volunteer in Rwanda. My best friend in PC who I call my work-wife – we’ll call her C here – is African American and it causes her a whole host of problems that white volunteers do not face. We worked together in Kigali this week helping out another aid organization and I got to see just how different her experience is from my. For starters people refuse to believe in many cases that she is American. As I’ve said before despite all the evidence to the contrary Rwandans refuse to believe that there are black Americans and thus she falls into that category. Their response is always, “I think you are somehow Rwandan/African.” And when she does admit that she has heritage in Africa – both her parents were born in West Africa – they act like she’s proven them correct – she is African not American. It is very difficult to persuade anyone otherwise. Example:We were visiting a friend’s site together and decided to tour her school. When the other PCV introduced us to her students saying these are some other American volunteers they invariably answer with some version of, “both teacher?” Unsure whether to come right out and say it. Luckily C has a sense of humor and usually told them what she told her own students when the “muzungu” arrived at school and didn’t look very muzungu at all. “I am here to confuse you.” And confuse people she does. While we worked with the charity organization more problems came out as well. People expect her to know Kinyarwanda, wherever we go they just assume she is Rwandan and so they do not speak slowly to her the way they would to us. She often complains that people don’t have as much patience with her making mistakes in Kinyarwanda – and hers is much better than mine – she jokes, “its because I look like them, the second its not perfect they give up on me.” When she was in the market shopping with other volunteers once the vendors implored her to make her friends pay more because they thought she was Rwandan and would be on their side. We were walking down the street once when a belligerent Rwandan started screaming at her for ignoring them. Demanding that she respond and calling her all kinds of names for thinking she was better because she was with Muzungus. I should say here that C does not look Rwandan, she looks distinctly West African. Even when she tells people shes Nigerian many times they expect her to speak Kinyarwanda, it goes along with misunderstandings about the outside world. I guess I hadn’t thought about it before, what being an African American PCV in Africa would be like, but now that I see it its exactly what you would expect. They are asking more of her than they are of us, because they can’t quite find the distinction. By being American she still gets some of the passes that we get on not always knowing the culture, but outside of her village especially, she is constantly mistaken for a Rwandan and thus subject to a lot of things people would generally let slide for us more obvious Muzungus.