2 weeks. It feels like so much longer. But it has only been 2 weeks. It’s hard to grasp in a way that I just spend a week up north and that I am now back in what will be my home for the next year. And it did feel like that. Coming home. My own place with my own things. It already smells a little bit like me and the sounds are becoming familiar. Although everything is better than Justin Bieber songs at 1 am, no offense.
This morning in church I met a young lady that grew up here in Kampala, but she has been working in other places around the world. Now she is back and realises that she has changed. Being in different cultures requires you to take a step back sometimes and let it all sink in. “It’s so easy to just adapt and start finding things that happen in a certain place normal, even though you were not used to them. But the danger in that is that you lose yourself. From a nice round circle that is you, pieces get cut off. You become a square, then a triangle and if you aren’t careful, there won’t be much left of who you are.”
Her words resonate with me as I think about the past two weeks. A lot has happened in a short amount of time. I have gotten a chance to travel across the country and meet people in the field. That was definitely a good way to get familiar with ZOA and with the context in which this organisation works.
Whereas Kampala is a city that has everything you could want, the North of Uganda is characterized by the harsh rural life. Earlier this week I wrote about the rains that should have been here, but are not yet falling regularly. As I talk with the local staff I learn about my generation of young men and women. They were born in camps for Internally Displaced Persons, in short IDPs. Those camps were the only ‘safe’ place in the times of the Kony wars. Most NGOs have left now. But people returning home isn’t as easy as it sounds. But being born in a camp away from home, means that many youth in their twenties now, haven’t got a decent primary education. In some ways it’s a lost generation. Families are in dispute about land. Farmers used to have 2 or even 3 good seasons of crops, but due to climate change, you are lucky if you have 1 good season of harvest.
And there I am. Sitting on a porch in a one-street town. Being one of the only two mzungu’s (aka white people). Having a cup of tea. I see a thunder storm pass in the South. I think about the days with the farmers, with the ZOA staff and the locals of Northern Uganda. I realise how little I know yet about this country and its people. Yet somehow it also starts to sink in that I will be a part of this culture.
The question is how it is going to shape me, change me and transform me. I am scared to loose myself somewhere in the proces, but I am also pretty sure that I will find new parts of me this year. So in the end, I think it will balance out. I’ll have another colour to add to my identity. Even if it is just the colour of brown, tanned skin due to the intense sun or the colour of green of the endless hills and grasses and trees along one of the many field trips.
Or the colour of my fresh juice. Because before coming here I promised myself I would be kind to my body, soul and mind. So after a week of rice, beans and chapati, a dose of vitamins was exactly what I needed. I still need time to find my way. I love the work, no doubt, but living in Uganda takes time I have learned. And that’s okay, cause it’s only my second week. I have 5o more to go.