It’s official — Jinga, Uganda is now mere memories and a few trinkets and a changed heart with an impacted soul. I’m taking to weekend to gather my thoughts and spend some time with my loved ones here, but on Monday I will hit the pavement hard searching for a job. I’m looking forward to updating my resume to include my African teaching experience and will hopefully snag some interviews over the next couple of weeks. When I find time, I will post more photos and more stories, so say tuned. So far, adjusting to being home has been easy. It was so sweet to see Austin at the airport — I feel so lucky to have him as a part of my life and have loved how supportive he has been with my recent travels. I can’t imagine coming home to anyone else.
One last hello from Africa! I have to return the laptop I have been using here, so this is my last chance to write. I’ll be home in Denver Friday night… I hope to post more stories and more photos next week as I adjust to being home. I will be voraciously searching for a job and packing up my apartment, so life will be busy, but I promise I will not neglect sharing what the women here have given me. It would be selfish to keep it to myself. Thank you all for following me on this journey — so much of the unknown has become known and I am so grateful.
My time here in Jinja is winding down. Just a few days and I’ll be beginning my journey home to America. I have been caught off-guard to hear how devastated some of the women are that I am leaving. They keep telling me about how they wish I could stay forever and that they want to turn time back three weeks and start over. It is so humbling to have these women tell you that meeting you and knowing you has made their life better.
I am looking forward to at least a couple of days to wind down when I get home. There is so much for my mind to process through — I want so badly to hold on tightly to my memories and experiences over the last few weeks, but I know all-too-well that as time passes, these precious moments with begin to fade and I’ll be left with a handful of vibrant memories and a stack of powerful photos. I am beyond thankful for what I have seen. As Austin predicted months ago, I will return to American a changed person. My perspective of the world will never be like it was. My path has been altered.
As an exercise for my advanced English class, the women and I have been writing letters back and forth. They tell me about their families and I tell them about life in America. In the last few days, their letters to me have taken on another purpose: they have begun to share their experiences as refugees from the war in Northern Uganda and how they were tortured by the rebels. Despite their broken English, they are some of the most powerful pieces of literature I have experienced. One woman in particular wrote a flawless narrative of when she was abducted. If they give me permission to share their stories, I will post their writings and their photos. What happened to them is unimaginable. This isn’t what you read about in history books, it is what is happening right now. This is news, not history.
As I continue to get to know the women here, they continue to amaze me with how open and free they are with their hearts. I have never felt this well received before — they are all so genuinely happy to see me and are heart broken that I have to return to America. There are a handful of women I have grown especially close to and it is so hard to accept that I am about to return to my easy, simple life while they are here, struggling to secure the mere basics of survival. We are worlds apart.
That being said, I am ready to begin the journey home. I am ready to start seriously looking for a job and move forward in my life. However, now that I have tasted the international lifestyle, it will be hard to stay in the US for too long. There are so many parts of this life that I have come to adore: community, new foods, new languages, different traditions, friendships, love, adventure, wildlife… how can one remain satisfied with the same experiences everyday? I will never be content to settle in one part of the world having come to know the diversity that exists when boundaries are disintegrated. I have always known this all to be true, but now I have experienced it. My soul has been stirred.
Last week, I was getting my hair braided by one of the Pit-tek women (which was an adventure all in itself!) and one of the women, Adoch Betty, told me that she thinks God loves mzungus more than he loves Africans. Mzungu is the term that the locals lovingly call white people (or Asians, or anyone with light skin). I told her that disagree and that I wanted to hear why she thought that. She explained that since he was a mzungu, he loves white people more because they are ‘his people’ and that is why American’s lives are so easy and African’s lives are so hard. I just about lost it. “Betty! Jesus was NOT a mzungu! What do you think Jesus looked like?” She told me (and the other women agreed) that he was blonde and fair-skinned and had blue eyes. They think that Jesus’ mother Mary looks like me.
After this ensued a long conversation about where Jesus lived and the very good possibility that even though he wasn’t black, he likely had dark skin and a broad nose and dark hair and dark eyes. This was a completely new idea to them and they decided (collectively) that maybe Jesus doesn’t love mzungus more, but they still don’t understand why I was born in America and why they were born in Africa. I had no answers for them. I still don’t.
I’ve been so busy with life here that I haven’t been able to even scratch the surface of what I have been experiencing. I’ll have to do some post-Jinja blogging when I get home. Not to mention that posting photos here is SO SLOW. You’ll all have to be patient with me!
The past two days have exceeded any expectations I didn’t have about my trip to Murchison Falls! We made the 8-hour drive up here yesterday and arrived just in time for an amazing dinner! It was so nice to enjoy some real American food instead of the traditional Ugandan food (which has names like posho and matooke). This morning we went of a “game tour” with a guide who showed us Elephants, Hippos, Giraffes, Antelope, and even a Lion! SO amazing to experience the African wildlife… we even fed a few baboons!
One of the best parts of being here at Murchison is that we brought two of the Pit-tek ladies who have never been here. They had lived in Uganda all of their lives but have never seen a Giraffe or a Hippo or any of the typical African animals. We are also going to go swimming in the pool tonight, which will be another first for them! Good think I know a thing or two about teaching swimming…
I am almost out of time, but know that there are more stories coming and more questions to address. I continue to dive deeper into the minds of the women I am working with and they continue to pour their lives into mine. One short week and then I’ll be headed home… I’ll miss my life here, but I am so excited to be returning to Denver. My heart is split.
One of the first things I learned about Ugandans (and Africans, in general) is that they don’t ‘keep time’. This means that when you say that class starts at 10am, they might not be there until 11am. Or 12pm (when class is ending). It isn’t a matter of respect as much as a cultural shift in what time really means. For example, the women walk 30 minutes or more to get to the office from the slum that they live in (or a 5-10 minute Boda-Boda ride if they have 1000 shillings to spend). Even if they leave the slum at 9:30a to get to class on time, they may see a friend on the way (or a friend of a friend, or someone who looks like a friend) and they will stop and greet them and chat with them… this could happen many times on the way to class and it would never occur to them to not stop and chat or to leave earlier. They don’t think about time the way we do, so when I talk to them about class I frequently remind them to ‘keep time’ like the Americans keep time! At first, it seems almost impossible to function without the importance of time, until you realize that what it really means is that relationships and people are more important than appointments. For the most part, women understand that I, as an American, keep time and most of them are arriving on time to class, but every now and then, when I am with them, I too, forget to keep time and find myself being late for class. They like that I am becoming a little less American and a little more Ugandan.