When it was time to leave the US, I was excited about my new adventure and all the things I would get to experience.
Now, two days into my new life, I can't stop crying. It happens to me every time I go somewhere new. A gut-wrenching, sobbing depression that makes me want to curl into a ball and vanish. My family is so precious to me, and at this moment, being so far from them fills my heart with dread. I can still feel the tear stains across my face when the weeping begins anew.
Fortunately, my family knows me, and my sickness, very well. They are supportive on the phone and keep me from making any rash decisions. My parents assure me that they are all right, and that if anything should happen, I am only a day's travel away. Aren't my parents perfect? They know exactly what to say, and they save me from myself.
I didn't want to end a post with miserable feelings, so it is the day after I wrote the above, and I'm doing a little bit better.
Today I made it to Kanungu, my beloved village (travel in this country deserves a post all it's own...) With a little help from my British friend, nicknamed Professor, I managed to truly surprise my Ugandan mom. I call her Maama Murungi, which means beautiful mother, because her heart is so big and has such a capacity for love. She calls me her American daughter. Professor is staying with Maama and her family these days, and together we took a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) to the house. It was already dark out, and as he was greeted at the door, Professor said he was sorry for being so late, but that he had a surprise. At that moment I came from around the dark corner and shouted, "Maama Murungi!" I am the only one who calls her that. The astonishment on her face quickly gave way to enthusiasm; imagine being young at Christmas and opening the last box to find the one gift that your parents had told you was too much to ask for this year. Mind, I don't mean to make myself seem big. I only want to share the feeling Maama showed as she jumped up and down with two feet, hands in fists by her ears with her eyes squeezed tight as she bounced around the room. My Ugandan family expresses joy the way everyone in the world should- effusively. I think such expression makes us stronger. My mom and stepmom back home are that kind of powerful in their love with hugs. I know that's part of what I'm missing right now.
These past two days have seen me surrounded by friends from last year who have reacted with surprise and joy at seeing me again. I have shared much laughter with them, and lots of stories from the time we have missed.
Still, I struggle.
I admit that I wanted this to be easy. I thought, 'I'll just bounce across the world and drop seamlessly into a new life.' How silly of me.
I've decided that I will come home to visit at Christmas. This is different from my original plan, but the shorter time away from my family seems much more bearable. Fortunately, I have the savings to make it happen.
Are you tired of this turmoil yet? Me too.
I can promise that it will get better as August comes and I begin the routine of my work and the experience of getting to know my students. I know that, and my parents know it. The interim is just lousy. But purpose changes everything.
Tonight is the last night one of my friends is staying in the village. I was with Volunteer Uganda a year ago when he came to join the organization's leadership team, and now I will see him depart. He has helped VU grow in many ways, and he will be missed by friends both muzungu and Ugandan. His going makes me think of the lines in the world, and how we define what is important. This year of life has been so many things to my friend. He has joined a community, and helped innumerable people through supporting volunteer teachers and works of his own. He has made new friends, visited new places, and surely seen things that few in the Western world ever will in their lifetimes. But to his supervisors at university in England, will this year be more than a check mark in the internship box on the checklist toward his degree? I was glad to hear that he will be writing many papers on his experience, but how many people will ask to read? How many will see what he has done and be driven to do the same? The world is a very big, and sometimes scary place. I am a testament to our irrational fears as people challenged to go away from home and do something that isn't easy. Could you do it? Could you give valuable time to change the lives of children?
Lots of love,
PS- If the answer may be yes for you, check out