Today is July 29th, so it has been over a month since leaving Uganda, but I still think about our adventure and all the amazing we met along the way often. Aside from getting sick, there are nothing but positive experiences from the trip.
Traveling to Uganda was my first time leaving the east coast, so I had absolutely no clue of what to expect of being in a country so far away from home for over a month. When we first landed, I was intimidated and had a slight uneasy feeling as we saw guards carrying AK-47s at the airport and again at the gate of the hotel which was surrounded by a cement wall with barbed wire. This uneasy feeling quickly faded during the first week in Uganda. Everyone we came across – from the hotel staff to the employees at Kitovu – treated us so extraordinarly well which took away the stress of traveling abroad for the first time. This is one of the big things that sticks out and I will remember from my trip: how nice and friendly everyone is. Between Betty and Steven checking in on us at our hotel when we were sick, Betty showing us how to cook pork, Robert and Stephen taking us around Kampala and Jinja (I’ll stop here, because I could go on forever), I felt at home even though I was halfway across the world.
A few things that I will remember from GROW 2014:
– I will still remember how everyone would say “Sorry!” for something that was not even close to their fault (like when we came into work drenched from the rain) which is much different from the US.
– When we were at a bakery and a random man (Ali) started to chat with us and subsequently invited us to see his beautiful Mosque and make us tea, then invite us over for an enormous feast that Saturday.
– Ugandan time is very different from American time (which is nice when there isn’t such a fast paced, rigid, schedule, but frustrating when you are waiting around for a couple of hours).
– Tammy; our awesome friend we met along the way and spent a lot of time with during our trip.
– Walking down the street and having children run joyfully up to you and hold your hand.
– Seeing children in the village having an incredibly fun time with extremely minimal resources. (There were to children I remember seeing rolling a tire with a stick around and seemed to be having a blast. I also thought this was one of the sharpest contrasts to kids in the US who would be upset if they didn’t have the latest iPhone.)
– Receiving amazing gifts from Betty on behalf of Kitovu and Francis.
– Having Aloysius as a driver and tour guide for our Safari.
– Visting the village with ART and having the children come up to me and kneel down in front of me to greet me.
– The gratefulness and joy of the SHGs who always greeted us with a song and left us with more avocados and pineapples that we knew what to do with.
– Getting absolutely soaked on our walk to work the first three days and then having it not rain almost the rest of the time there.
– Stephen, Annette, and Robert showing us tremendous hospitality in letting us stay with them. Also, when Annette asked us one night what our favorite type of Ugandan food was and the next day prepared our favorite dishes.
– How the day always starts with a morning prayer where most of the staff sings. And of course break tea at 10:30.
– Having a feast prepared for us when visiting the village. This experience was slightly weird because we had just finished surveying the group and discovered that some days they only eat twice a day, but then we are struggling to eat all of the food they prepared for us.
I am sure I am missing a few great moments from our trip, but there were so many I could go on for hours! This experience as a whole has been humbling. It really puts in perspective how fortunate, blessed, and lucky I am to have such a great upbringing. I try to not take things for granted and try to catch myself when I am about to complain about some trivial discomfort. During my first meal back in the US, my dad was struggling with the ketchup bottle because it wasn’t coming out fast enough and I remember him saying “this is a disaster” which made me laugh; hearing him describe ketchup not coming out at his desired speed as a “disaster.” So now, when I catch myself complaining at something insignificant in the grand scheme of things, I sarcastically think of it as a “disaster” and laugh it off. Moving foward, I hope to not lose sight of this humbling experience, but I know that I will not forget about the amazing experiences I had and all of the amazing people I met.