June 3rd: Embracing & Pit Latrines

12:22 PM

June 3rd

After two red eye flights, and a day spent in London I am finally in Uganda. I arrived in Kampala at 7:45 this morning and was greeted by my former teammate, Boni and another Invisible Children alumni, Ronald. It was one of the most joyful reunions. I think I have found a lot of beauty in leaving because it only means better hello’s.

We began acclimating to the culture from the moment we stepped into our private hire (Ugandan language for a privately-owned taxi). Cars in Kampala drive as if they are in the middle of some kind of crazy dance. As we are dodging fifteen passenger vans and boda-bodas (motorcycle taxis), both Anna and I realize we have become our mothers, as we clench tightly to the door handles and flash our imaginary hand-brake. Don’t worry Mom, we’re safe and even you would be impressed at their incredibly fast reflexes.

We arrived at a marketplace where we walked through a suburban neighborhood situated behind an alley. Behind that alley is Ronald’s hostel (their form of dorm-type living). We received a grand tour of the complex and the college nearby that Ronald studies at. I think something in your life changes the moment you pee in a pit-latrine. I wouldn’t know because I haven’t yet gained the courage to try it out but mark my words it is on my bucket list. If you do not know what that is, google it, or just dig a hole in your backyard and go to the restroom in it. <---Absolutely kidding about that. I love this culture, each and every little thing. 

As are most international ventures, the beginning was uncomfortable. This culture is so different from America, even the English spoken is different. I have started to learn a lot even in the first 24 hours, like how to barter in a street market and how to properly set up a mosquito net. I also learned that Uganda does not believe in preservatives, all of their food is organic for the most part. The mangos are sweet and the avocados are literally the size of my head. This is my kind of place.

The best part of the trip so far has not been the food or the surroundings, but the PEOPLE. At night, we started talking to Ronald about life in Uganda. What started out as casual conversation turned into an in depth discussion on the war, Joseph Kony and where he grew up. Ronald grew up in Pader which is Joseph Kony’s hometown. Putting his story into words is difficult but I’ll summarize by saying that Ronald experienced the war more than any average person should experience anything. Even though I have heard these stories for months with my time at Invisible Children, it continues to impact more when things become personal. But while you might think that Ronald would be bitter and angry, he is one of the most joyful people that I have ever met. He is currently in the process of starting a ministry that allows kids on the streets permanent alternatives for their lives. It is an organization that he dreamed up in High School but now that he is in college he is taking the steps to make it happen. He spoke to us about the power of togetherness and how he doesn’t believe that these are the end times, he thinks all the atrocities are simply making way for a time of justice. I feed off of others passions, and hearing the conviction in his voice as he talked about the need for justice, reinforces the sanctity of human life and the calling that I feel to protect it.

As Ronald was telling us his story, “Keeping up with the Kardashians” was playing on the tv in the background. In this certain episode, Kim was worried about losing her million dollar house because she was spending over $5,000 dollars on clothes. My first inclination when he started talking was to just turn it off, but it was important to experience both. The combination of the two conversations demanding our attention made me realize the things that matter and the things that just don’t. The conversation with Ronald mattered, it mattered so much. His story and the power of his resilience is what I have come to Uganda for, so that I might understand a world apart from overspending and material lust.

One thing that Ronald came back to throughout his conversation was the word “embrace”. He said that in the middle of his life during the war in Uganda, when he was escaping to the bush every night, that he kept asking God why? What his answer always came to was that with everything there is an opportunity to embrace. I have found that Uganda is so different, and sometimes uncomfortable, but with every crazy adventure and inconvenience that comes my way, I am challenging myself to EMBRACE.

That was today, it seems unreal to me that I have only been here for less than 24 hours.  Tomorrow, I’ll be heading to Rwanda for the week! Here’s hoping for far more adventures and the courage to embrace.

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