01 April 2011

One Year

I spent much of this past week at home with a not so fun head cold. Yes, colds happen here in Africa too. At any rate, it was good to rest for a few days and the time at home also gave me extra time to reflect on the past year and where I am now and how I got here.

One year ago, I had no idea I would find myself in Uganda now. One year ago, I was a recent graduate of one of the best library science schools in the country. One year ago, I was working a part-time, temporary job and although I was thankful for the income and experience, I was also eager to 'start my professional career'. I was sending out resumes, interviewing, networking. And yet nothing seemed to come of all of it.

I watched my friends get jobs and move away. I rejoiced with them and I envied them. I remember talking to friends after they moved on and began their new jobs. I sympathized with their struggles at being new and trying to learn their way around new cities. I tried to empathize as they began their full-time positions and made the adjustment from grad student to working professional. I listened to how they were trying to meet people and make someplace new feel like home. All the while I secretly felt like saying, "But at least you have a job!!" Of course, I didn't say that because, first of all, it would have been incredibly insensitive and, secondly, I have enough interpersonal communication skills to know I shouldn't invalidate their feelings.

So, after listening, I gave them the only advice I could:
  1. Be patient with yourself. It's ok to take things slowly and want to just watch TV when you get home. Busy social lives don't happen overnight.
  2. Set small goals...instead of trying to find the Target, grocery store and your favorite restaurant in one weekend, just pick one. One new thing a week. Or something like that...the point is to set reasonable goals so you can learn your way around your new home without getting stressed out.
I don't know if anyone took my advice but that was all I could think of at the time that might be mildly helpful.

One year later, I find myself in Uganda. One year later I am in my first professional librarian position. One year later, I discovered that, thankfully, there was a bigger Plan that would bring me here. To Uganda. To a beautiful country. To a library where I get to do everything library-related that I enjoy (and, yes, some of the things I don't).

One year later, I am working in a library I love.

And, yet, I don't necessarily listen to myself.

I have been here three months and lately (especially when sick at home) I wonder at the loneliness. My friends moved to new corners of the country and told me stories of feeling lonely and spending evenings and weekends alone. And, let's face it, moving is stressful. And lonely. Then why do I expect to move to a new country and magically feel settled? Not only did I start a new librarian position but I also entered a new culture, a new country, a new language, a new way of living.

I find myself needing to follow my own advice. Be patient with myself and set reasonable goals. And, maybe I need to add two more things. First, be bold. Too often I shy away from things because they are new. And, second, don't play the comparison game. It is too easy to look at other 'mzungus' (white people) who live here, see how settled they are, hear about their friends, and feel a bit left out. But they have been here longer than me. And I take comfort in the fact they have been in this place before too. This place of searching for home and comfort. This place of wondering when a new country will feel comfortable. This place of learning patience. Really, the same place everyone finds themselves when they move.

One year from now I hope to look back and say: it took time and patience (and a pinch of bravery) but I made Uganda home.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing, Rachel. It can be hard to make a new place feel like home.

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  2. Oh, Rach, I totally know how you feel about "home." After moving to completely new places around the world (where I knew no one) several times in my life, I've come to realize that "home" is really not anywhere here. That said, while we're here, we like to feel like we belong, don't we? I think that's what makes us lonely. I pray for good friendships to grow for you so that a year from now, you DO look back and see Uganda as "home for now."

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