I lived in New York for four months. When I moved, I moved for a temporary, contracted position that would last four months only. I didn’t know what was next, whether it was more time in New York or a move elsewhere (turned out to be a move back to Uganda!). Despite all of this, not once did anyone ask how my “trip” to New York was.
I studied abroad in Germany for an academic year, about 8 months. Similarly, I was never asked about my trip.
Why is it that after spending 18 months living and working in Gulu, Uganda, I still receive questions about my “trip”? Or insinuations about “getting this out of my system” and back to my “real life” and “real job” in the US? Is it because Europe or the east coast are desirable places to live while Africa is not? Is it that it’s ludicrous to think someone would willingly move to a developing country, without the motivation of being on a mission, living out a sacrificial calling, or viewing it purely as temporary stint and always having an eye on the return West? Now, it’s a correct observation that my moves thus far have not quite been indefinite (but are all of yours?). I don’t know if Uganda will be my permanent home (or even home for the next several years). I didn’t even know I’d be returning seven months after leaving the first time. I do know I’m about to spend a third birthday there which sounds pretty real-life-y to me.
There is danger in always looking around the corner, in viewing the present as only a stepping stone to the future. There’s danger in thinking America is the only place an American would sanely choose to live, work, and pursue personal and professional goals.
I am moving to Uganda. Again. While there are challenging aspects to living and working there, overall I find the experience very fulfilling and enjoyable. And also, very real. It goes without saying… It’s not a trip.
Here are some things I’ve been reading/doing:
- A beautiful, honest and hard reflection from IJM Gulu’s new director after his first day in the field this March (he started working in Gulu in 2015). A glimpse into the realities of life in post-war Northern Uganda for many of IJM’s clients and staff.
- If you’re reading this and are in the NGO/Development sector, please take this survey! I’ve just recently jumped on board with Wiki Development. Wiki Development’s goal is to improve sharing and learning across NGOs and the whole development sector. To help us learn more we’re conducting a survey and your input would be really appreciated. It should only take 5-10 minutes. Thank you for your participation and do please share this out amongst your networks.
- Acholi women are amazing.
- Sheryl Sandberg’s moving piece on grief, moving forward, and what to do when your option A just isn’t possible.