It’s weekend. A warm and peaceful Saturday. I wrote a blog post on Day 180, but somehow it disappeared in the draft stage. My head has been too full with all the thoughts and emotions to write something down. But I am sure that many of you are wondering how my first few days in Uganda have been. I’ve given you bits and pieces already, but here is an overview of my first week thoughts.
(Morgen in het Nederlands!)
So here I am. I slept like a baby in my own little house at the office compound. It’s been getting a major refresher and yesterday it was ready enough for me to settle in. Next week we will hopefully get to finish the final details and it will really become a home. The first few days I stayed with the family of the country director, who wasn’t actually in Kampala this week, and I will forever be grateful for their hospitality. Being part of a family is one of the most precious things in the world. My own family is always the thing I miss the most when I am away. So seeing the girls robe jumping on bare feet and reading Little House on the Prairie books made me feel like home immediately.
I arrived in Uganda on Monday evening or actually Tuesday night. After a stopover in Kigali and a new navigation system for the plane, we flew to Entebbe, Uganda. I was most nervous about simply getting in. But with an online visa application and a shiny new passport all those worries were for nothing. I got in easily and after a long line to put my luggage through another security check, I finally smelled the real air of a warm Ugandan night. Got in the car on my way to Kampala. Tired from a long flight and cautious about all the horror stories I heard about traffic in Uganda. Let’s put it simply. It is absolutely insane and I probably haven’t even seen the worst.
That first day, I woke up thinking like I was at home. Mainly to blame to a very loud rooster. After a slow start I found my way to the office. There I was. At the place that is going to be more than just a workplace for the next year. It’s going to be a home too. The office was still empty this week. With colleagues at different sites in Uganda and abroad, I got to know various ZOA staff members one by one. Not just to learn about the work, but to learn about them and their lives. Listening.
Obedientia. Stand still and listen. According to the teachings of Saint Benedict this rule of life stands for obedience. The key to obedience, to God, others and yourself, lies in listening.
Okay, so about that. I am here to obey God in serving in His Kingdom with all that I have. Yes, I believe you can do that everywhere, but I also think my place is here for now. Practically, that means I am going to be part of the Program Advisors team. I briefly wrote about ZOA on day 162 when I announced I would be moving soon. And yes, in the past few weeks I have been asking myself why I was doing all of this. I had just settled in Utrecht again. But now I am here sitting on porch in Kampala, with a bit of a sunburn (yes, I have been using sunblock) eating fresh pineapple. Thinking about how I ended up being here. Last week I wrote about feeling surreal. And honestly, the surreal feeling hasn’t quite left.
And honestly, I am tired. But by now I do know so much more about ZOA Uganda than I did before coming here. Even if it is just from reading dry policy papers and going through programme plans. Hopefully I get to go out to the field soon to meet the actual people that are part of these projects. Then it will all really come to life. And so has my life in Uganda over the past few days come to life. Slowly but surely I have learned to find my way around in the area of the city I will be living in. I know where the local markets are that can get me enough fruits and vegetables to survive a couple days for just a few thousand Shilling (1000 Shilling is around 30 eurocents). My house is slowly become a home now it’s not completely empty anymore. I’ve avoided downtown Kampala so far, since I am not a huge crazy fan of busy cities. Give me the quiet life of a residential area or even a rural area. I don’t think my life will be boring. With millions of people around, that is going to be hard.
Conversio Morum. Stand still and change your habits. Live your life in a way that keeps you passionate and healthy. Life changing moments always start with a single first step.
I just hope I am able to make the right choices in the next few weeks in order to settle slowly. Today that meant going out for a while, but also just being on my own. Getting fresh lemons from the lemon tree in the backyard. Reading, thinking, cooking and writing. To unwind. To relax. To let it all sink in. I am in Uganda. I am going to be living in Kampala. I am going to be swamped in work soon enough. But I am also going to be just fine.
Stabilitas. Stand still and find your roots. Don’t try and run away from the place you are at. That asks for trust in your own resilience. Trees will only grow strong and tall, if they dare to grow, strongly rooted where they are placed.
More picturespicture will follow when I have better internet connection. Also I used some rephrased texts from Adem de dag by Mirjam van der Vegt.