A few weeks ago, I ventured North for a work trip. My supervisor Jackie and I had some meetings in Gulu town getting a few legal and agribusiness projects rolling, and then traveled to Pajule to meet the members and staff of Akola’s center there. It was so great to be back in my “second home.” Very few of my international friends are still around, but it was lovely catching up with them and seeing how their professional and personal lives are going. I try to do my best keeping up with people, but of course in-person time is invaluable. I also had many joyous reunions with all my Ugandan friends around Gulu, including (but not limited to) former colleagues at IJM, my old house staff, and my favorite market ladies. There are significant differences in the various regions of Uganda, and while I’ve enjoyed settling into life here in Jinja and learning about Busoga culture, I have a certain special place in my heart for Acholiland.
I couldn’t have anticipated this, but leaving for over a week while still being pretty new to town has put me in little bit of a funk this past week. Still finding my rhythm at work and socially. The challenges of working for a small organization provide opportunities, and digging in to find that motivation to rise to them is its own beast. I’m ready to feel grounded and settled here in all areas, but of course these things take time. The initial distraction and stimulation of cultural adjustment didn’t exist this time around (plus the post-high-paced-NYC-experience-hangover) which has made for a somewhat challenging transition. I’m thankful for my lovely new colleagues who inspire me everyday and for the women of Akola that remind me why it’s worth it all.
I don’t normally post much “daily life” information as I don’t want to seem trite or self-indulgent, but I figured some anecdotes from my recent travels may amuse or enlighten some people back in the USA that would like a picture into my life in Uganda:
- I spent the weekend before I traveled to Gulu in Kampala. I got very ill and went to the clinic (I’m well now, no worries!). While there, the nurse told me I was very dehydrated (which I knew). Since it was after hours, their “store” was closed, so I had to send money on a boda to go pick juice and water for me. This is a silly inconvenience to me, but for some who can hardly afford medical care, the addition of things like supplies, bedding, food, etc while in treatment can be crippling.
- On the bus to Gulu, a man was in my seat (reserved). I politely asked to see his ticket to ascertain whether there was an error in double booking of the seats or if he was in the incorrect seat. He refused, saying “you are a fellow passenger just like me” and demanding that the conductor must be alerted and brought over to sort this issue rather than an entitled mzungu. Of course, he was in the wrong seat, which his ticket confirmed…
- As we were pulling out of Kampala, I was looking out the window. I witnessed a Ugandan construction worker being physically abused by his foreign boss in broad daylight in the middle of downtown.
- I endured numerous encounters where men asked me to be their girlfriend/wife/give my phone number to them and would of course never cease at a polite rejection. A few times this happened when I was “trapped” — sitting in the window seat of a parked taxi waiting to leave; sitting as a passenger on a boda. These are daily battles that exist in a unique way here, but are experienced by women literally all over the world.
- Our “taxi” from Gulu to Pajule was a small station-wagon-type car with several people too many crammed in (sparse public transport offerings between towns in Northern Uganda). I entered and the open seat was near a mama who was quite large and refused to shift even slightly. I spent three hours on terrible road with my right butt cheek on the seat, my left smashed into the plastic console/cup holder.
- I spent the night in a “hotel” where I took a bucket bath, because Pajule does not have mainline water.
Many, many more where that came from. My mental log is not so good, as so much becomes “normal” to me. I’m looking forward to someday hosting my first visitor from home so their fresh eyes alert me to the world around me that’s become common. Here is a great post from my friend Dani listing her favorite parts of living in Uganda. Here’s mine from back in the day.
There are illogical, heartbreaking, frustrating, corrupt, unfair, inspiring, silly, sad, encouraging, and often humorous moments that are sometimes related to this culture, sometimes related to my foreign-ness, sometimes just universal. Sometimes I will feel every possible range between hopeful and defeated in the span of a day (or hour).
I love soaking them all in, the good and the bad. I continually explore that delicate balance of self-care and self-sacrifice that is so crucial to someone working in development, but also something I’d argue every Christian or person aspiring to be selfless should practice.
God has blessed me with an enormously loving and encouraging support system of people all over… and I’m grateful for all of you that read my blog (hi, mom!). Sending love to you whoever/wherever you are!