|Journey to Rwanda - Page 6|
I awaken with some nervous flutters, listening to the sound of Muslim prayers over a loudspeaker. I've been imagining and preparing this training day for months, and here it is. There were many stories after the tsunami of well-intended Westerners rushing in to help, doing some type of treatment, and then rushing off without training any locals to carry on the work. I call this the hit-and-run approach to emergency intervention. Others have called it being a "disaster tourist." To counterbalance this tendency toward short-term relief activities, we vowed when we set up our nonprofit that we'd focus on enhancing the capacity of local communities to incorporate somatic interventions into their own ways of working.
The training materials we brought include PowerPoint slides and—just in case there's no electricity—large laminated posters highlighting the key points of our model. Before leaving home, we had our English texts translated into French, which many Rwandans speak. When we put up the posters, we find that there are some glaringly poor translations, which generates great amusement among the trainees. For example, a poster about ways to observe the activation of the nervous system is supposed to say "pupils dilate." Instead, the French version means "students dilate." These glitches help us all enjoy the humor of trying to share information across cultures.
We're having the training translated into multiple languages. Many of the participants request that the translators use Kinyarwanda, the country's indigenous language, while others want to learn in French. So our stalwart translators do both, sometimes translating questions and observations from the participants into English.
A key aspect of a somatic intervention is tracking bodily sensations. As we begin to show and discuss the skill of "tracking," a participant tells us that there are no sensation words in Kinyarwanda. We're told that the concept of feeling and sensation are much more similar in Rwanda than they are in the West. This poses quite a challenge, but several of the participants speak English and help us explain the language of sensation. One participant offers, "The smell of dead bodies is a sensation." A member of our team pantomimes various other sensations, such as what it's like to touch a hot stove or to have your heart pound during a fight with someone, which are greeted approvingly.