15 December 2011

Into My Heart: Reflections on a Year in Uganda

I'm doing a very American thing right now. I'm sitting in a Starbucks in Chicago, using my laptop. It's kind of weird, to be honest. But it's fun too...I love Chicago! The buildings, lights, everything. I lived here for several years after I finished my undergraduate degree and before I got my masters. It's so fun to be back. But it's weird too thinking about all my friends back in Uganda and at RTC. The pace of life is so different here. And it's cold!

Anyway, in case you couldn't tell by now, I love what I do at RTC. I love the students and I enjoy my work. It's such a privilege to be there...learning, growing (I hope!), helping, serving, trusting. I honestly want to  tell a good story with my life, to love the people around me and be a part of their lives. I continue to hope and pray that my time in Uganda is about more than just computerizing a library.

I was recently contacted by my alma mater and asked a few questions for an upcoming newsletter. Of course, introspective person that I am, I spent a lot of time answering the questions. It was actually a good exercise to think a bit more about my time and reflect after a busy year. To think about the challenges, my job, the joys, the beauty, etc. One thing they asked me is whether I am enjoying my time in Africa. I'm sure at some point you can all read the final article but for now here is my response to that question:

Can you tell me a little bit about living life abroad? Are you enjoying your time in Africa? How long do you plan on staying?
I love living here! I live just outside Kampala, the capital of Uganda. In some ways my life is totally different than when I was living in the US. And in some ways its the same. For example: I still go to work, do laundry, go to a supermarket. But I: go to work via walking a dirt road, wash my clothes by hand, and take a motorcycle taxi (called a boda boda) to get to the grocery store...or I buy my food from the shops (probably what people in the US would call stands or stalls) around my house that sell everything from fresh veggies to laundry soap. Life is the same and yet different. Some of the differences are harder to get used to (inconsistent electricity, for example) but there is also something freeing about learning to live life in a different way and to live without all the 'stuff' we have in the West. 

My commitment right now is for 1.5 years and I know already I will be very sad to see that time come to an end. Africa, I think, has a way of getting into your heart. The people and places become a part of who you are. I'm learning so much by living here. There are challenges, of course. Daily I am faced with poverty, injustice, pain, sadness...but I am also reminded that people are people everywhere. While we feel sadness and pain we also feel joy, love and happiness. I am enjoying my time here because along with my library work I have the opportunity to see the world, to learn from others and to be a part of something that's bigger than me.


As I think back over this past year, there is so much to process. I left for Uganda on New Year's day...I thought I was embarking into a wonderful 'adventure'. And it has been an adventure but it's also been a million more things. It's been full. Full of loneliness, beauty, laughter, amazing people, challenges, sadness, pain, beauty and Love. I see the things that happen there, I hear the stories and despite the many, many hard things, I have to believe that I Someone is bigger than all of it. The students of RTC have taught me so much about faith. If they, who come from such radically different worlds, can trust that God is control, how can I not?

As I am away from my Ugandan home and friends for a few weeks and am in the US, I am sad. Sad to leave even just for a few weeks and sad to say goodbye to some people I won't see when I return. But I am also thankful to see friends and family. I am happy to visit Chicago although it feels a world away from Uganda.

And ultimately I am also blessed. Blessed because I have been there and because I am going back. Blessed to have many places to call home.

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