Sitting in the improvised office at my school, it has finally hit me that I’m going to be leaving this place soon. The reference books have all been returned to the library. Posters are coming down. Project materials are being put away or given to others and I’m beginning to sort out the rest of the random material objects that I’ve acquired over the course of two years living here.
How would I describe my service? In a word… enriching.
So many different aspects of my life have been enriched. I came to a completely foreign world with nothing but a desire to learn more about humanity and a hope to enact some positive change in someone’s world. I know I’ve fulfilled the former; it is, however, more difficult to speculate on the latter.
I’ve witnessed and experienced a poverty that 99% of Americans will never know. Then again, I’ve been captivated by a people so rich in kindness, humility and hospitality, the degree of which I have never seen before in my life. I’ve felt angry, confused and frustrated at the world here. And I’ve also felt overwhelmed with the warmth, love and humor that the people here have given to me.
I’ve felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and success during some of my projects. And at other times I’ve felt like a miserable failure. I’ve been humbled by what I couldn’t accomplish in two short years, but looking back in retrospect, astonished by just how much I could and did.
My world outlook has become… unstable. That is to say it has become more complex and less set in stone. I came here with the simplistic philosophy that the rich should help the poor. I’m leaving with this core belief still intact, however, there have been countless experiences and conversations that have required me to attach several addendums. Some of them I’ve elaborated on this blog, others you’ll just have to ask me about next time you see me.
I’ve become immensely more appreciative, I would even say patriotic, of the United States, simply by virtue of the fact that WE DO have it so good in our homeland. Almost everyone who goes abroad comes back with this notion. But to experience the “not good” – poverty, terrible roads, disease, bad government, power outages, disgusting plumbing failures or total lack thereof, constant harassment, near death traffic incidences (there have been numerous) and general feelings of loss and isolation – gives the idea a whole new meaning, one that cannot fully be perceived without having gone through it firsthand.
At the same time, I’ve developed a sincere appreciation for the things that are good about Uganda – the people, 24/7 warm weather, healthy meals, laid back lifestyle, fresh produce and a verdant and diverse physical environment.
All of these separate emotions and perspectives taken collectively only seem to complicate the world for me and make it virtually impossible to form a solid opinion on anything. And maybe this is a good thing. However it persists to annoy.
Overall, I will leave Uganda feeling amazing. I feel truly fortunate to have been provided such an opportunity to live out one of my dreams for the past two years. To be able to work and live in this contrast environment and gain a whole new understanding (or misunderstanding) of the world we live in. To have the opportunity to share myself with my community and hopefully leave something behind that they will remember. And to learn from and interact with a whole new people I could never have imagined. I’ve loved this life.