Yesterday I published a collection of draft posts from my time in Uganda. Some of them had photos, some don’t. Some were finished, some weren’t. I just decided I was fine with publishing what I had digitally transcribed from my journal…even if some things were missing. It felt like a to do list that needed items crossed off.
I’ve had a few months to reflect on my travel time and I still struggle to explain it all -well I struggle to remain coherent when I talk about it. Mostly because I haven’t really spent my time reflecting in a productive way. I haven’t been spending my time in NY in a productive way either. I forgot the importance of writing and sorting out my thoughts. I’ll remember how important it is at times, but that doesn’t mean I end up writing…and that’s my problem.
I started blogging and journalling consistently five years ago out of fun, maybe an adventure of personal growth and just because I wanted to. Around that time I started writing small editorials about current events. They say if you want to get better at something, you just need to do that something. You need to do it over and over. Maybe after 10,000 hours you’ll become an expert too (Google it, I’m too lazy to link it). So I was blogging, journaling, editorializing and I was working. Work with all of the emails, memos and fun paperwork things that come with that. Anything else? Yup. I was also going back to school.
I saw a noticeable improvement in how fast I could turn around my work, be it for work, school, news or personal stories. Then, as life goes, I became distracted and started blogging less. I started writing fewer and fewer editorials. Eventually, I struggled getting assignments finished as work took over and my ability to turn my thoughts into action items faded away. I’ve been through quite a bit in the past two years, but I have said very little.
Flash-forward to my second year of grad school. The semester coming to an end. I can hardly write a casual one page response to what I am reading. I postpone my work. Every assignment makes me feel anxious. I have late papers from last semester. Late papers from this semester. I’ve fallen into a hole and it’s time to climb out. So why start blogging now?
Now more than ever, I need to write. Write about nothing. Write about everything. Short. Long. It doesn’t matter. If I am going to finish this stage in my journey, I need to write.
I want my voice back. This is step one.
It’s a wrap. The IFP is over and my friends had left for vacations and other travels. I’ve decided to stay in Jinja for an additional week and pick up on a few other projects while I am here. I figured, if I have the opportunity, I need to take it. As much as I want to come back, I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to return…so I feel like ever project is that much more important.
I cannot wait to go home to see my wife…I’m looking forward to seeing my whole family again. Two and a half months doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when you are always busy. It’s once you stop to take a break you realize just how long it’s been and how hard this trip was on them too. Being here has been amazing, and I feel as if I have a Ugandan family here. Saying goodbye to them will be emotional I’m sure. The thought of saying goodbye makes me miss my family again.
In addition to the thousand plus photos I took, I have many moments and images saved as memories. The combination of positive and negative images has left me with the difficult task of trying to contextualize and explain what I have seen, what I have experienced. The crux will always remain with relativity…without good juxtaposed to bad, the value of happiness will never be understood. Without showing or explaining the darkest moments, some of the lightest will not carry the weight they deserve.
Wether it’s development work, photojournalism or documentary films: there will never be an easy solution to this problem, just the desire to tell the story right and the hope that you actually accomplish that goal.
If you are just joining the story, there were five of us in Jinja: Achilles, Edie, Darcy, Alicia and I. Achilles was our student-faculty coordinator who worked as a teaching assistant in our class and graduated at the end of last semester.
Achilles left two days ago. Edie leaves in one week. Darcy and Alicia leave in nine days. Then it will be just eight days left for me, seven in Jinja. I have some work to do here still and some people that I would like to visit in the settlements. It’s hard to believe the time is almost up. It feels like I have been gone a long time…and it feels like I was just in New York a few weeks ago.
It will be tough to say goodbye to a place that has become so comfortable, so much like a second home. I hope I will return and I look forward to a future visit -fingers crossed of course. I just don’t know if I will get the chance. This trip just makes me realize that there is so much work to do and it is so important to do it well. I need to remember that I said that when I go back home, when I go back to school, when i get my diploma, when I go to work…things should be done half-assed.
There is still so much to learn and the people I have been working with have so much knowledge to give.
I headed to the back garden at a local café and was happy to find one of the couches empty. I sat there and reflected on the peacefulness of the day, the quiet in the garden; while sipping on a smoothie…despite the previous day’s tense conversations.
Why does something so ridiculous as a smoothie somehow make everything become okay…even if it’s just for a few minutes? Staying sane while surrounded by insane situations, takes a type of mental strength not many people have. The ones that can last in this work are few, the ones that are successful -in terms of accomplishing their goals, are even fewer. I need to learn from their work.
Staring at the grass, I watched a small spider crawl up onto the couch. Traveling with what seemed like a purpose over my books and onto my bag, he stopped. I can only describe his movements as “tasting the air” while looking at me. He was feverishly moving his arms on a motion like digging a hole with two hands…but only touching air. After sharing a curious moment, he left for the pillow and dropped to the ground. Simply continuing on his way.
I suppose I should take a lesson from this moment: take a deep breath and carry on.
We visited the source of the Nile today…if you didn’t know, it starts in Jinja at Lake Victoria. The water takes about three months to travel from the lake to the Mediterranean Sea. We brought some rolexes with us (chapati omelets) to have a small picnic. When we got there, it was a bit more touristy than any of us planned, but it was still nice to see. After walking away from the vendors we found a nice spot n the grass to relax for a little bit and have a snack.
Later we decided to try this Chinese restaurant we have been interested in, but had yet to feel adventurous enough to try. Why? Well it’s attached to a gas station (petrol for those of you using “proper” English)….and that doesn’t usually scream “Our food is amazing!” Interesting enough, in Uganda it does mean that. The food was excellent! We also had a bit of a romantic ambiance if you will. We ate outside in the garden under a grass thatch umbrella.There were frogs crooking all around us and it started to rain a little bit.
Needless to say, it was an adventure well worth the wait and one we’ll be making again in the near future.
I’m in-between assignments today -I also needed some lunch, so I decided to take a brain break and sit outside. No headphones. No book. Just a pencil and paper. Just a bottle of soda. crest bitter lemon if you wondering.
There are few foreigners here, also called “muzungus”. The ones that are here are mostly missionaries or people on vacation. You rarely see the same faces for more than a few days. That might sound like it could be lonely or depressing, but it’s actually quite nice. You find yourself spending more time making friends with the local people and less time socializing with people just because they look like you. The fact they are only in town for a few days minimizes the chance you would see them at the same cafés over and over.
It feels good to sit in the same place for so long. It seems like it’s been a long time since I last stopped to smell the roses, let alone in another country. Between school, graduating, surgery, moving, starting grad school, our wedding, flying home for the holidays and all the things that come with daily life…and that’s just the past two years. It’s been a fast pace of always moving for more than that, so takin a few minutes feels good. Really good.
With all the people here that do come and go, it makes you realize how much you miss when you just blaze through a town, city, state or country; without sitting still. If we miss so much when we travel, how much do we miss when we are home? It makes you wonder if is matters, wouldn’t we all take in life’s little moments more? If we did, would we accomplish less? Even if we accomplish less, would we enjoy what do accomplish more? Makes you wonder what We have lost or gained by running through our lives more rather than just a brisk walk.