The plan is to stay healthy, which is much easier said than done. Something as simple as not washing my hands after a meeting can mean eye and skin infections. It seems I touch my face often. 

At meetings, hand shakes all around, in fact, all social interactions begin with a handshake. And every encounter is a meeting.  I feel like a politician, everyone gets my hand. They rush forward, big smile, hand out. How can I not? Their hands are strong and young. Some are children’s hands. What children have strong hands? The children of Rwanda, it seems. The men’s hands are the most impressive. Many feel as though they are made of stone.They take my hand and immediately loosen their grip. My soft mzungu hand is easily crushed. The women’s hands are as hard and as strong,but their grips are more a caress. They are careful with me. I have finally figured out that they want to feel my skin, to touch a person so different from themselves. I understand. That’s just fine. Me too.I am mesmerized by their smiles, the warmth in their eyes and the touch of their skin.

The other thing I realized is the softness or strength of a hand is a class indicator. The harder and more calloused the hand, the lower the class because you are gripping the hand of a farm worker. A soft man’s hand is the hand of a man with money, who pays others to do his hard labor.  In the US, we all have soft hands, or carpal tunnel from too much time in front of a computer or with our remote.

Some of our learners:

Alexis teaching


nursing mom learning English