It was a beautiful morning waking up in Kampala!
Wow… It feels weird saying that even now. It was (and still is) hard to believe that I was there. The day was fresh, and I was anticipating some cool experiences as we made a few stops and hit the road for our ultimate destination of Kasese.
Our first meeting for the day was at the Five Talents Uganda national office. The program here was set up a little different than the program in Kenya. In Uganda the Five Talents organization actually functioned a little more like a lending organization and the provider of the funds for microloans.
The office was very different than what you would think of for a financial institution, but my Western mind was still adjusting to the way of life (and work) in Africa. I was tickled to find out that they worked very hard to set up a special conference room for us to meet in. Little did I know that this special arrangement would be a couple of desks and chairs squeezed into a garage. Like many other things in Africa, it worked for what we needed it to do…
The meeting went well, and we learned some cool stuff about the microfinance program there in Uganda. But more than the details of the program, this part of the trip was just another smack on the side of the head showing me how different life (and work) is here than back in the States.
As we hit the road for the long drive out to Kasese we had a lot of time to read, nap (which is tough sometimes on those bumpy roads), and think. I was definitely tired, but it was hard for me to sleep. I couldn’t help but to soak in the AMAZING coutryside and just think about where I was at, what I was doing, and how I felt like this was changing me.
I was in a land that was no stranger to turmoil, and that was something that was far from the way of life in which I had become very comfortable. The truth is that regardless of your political affiliation, we have been fortunate to have peaceful transfer of power (from one president to the next) in the States for many generations. But Uganda was the home of horrible dictators like Idi Amin, and guerrilla fighters like Joseph Kony (one of the World’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives for his use of child soldiers).
The truth is that I simply couldn’t relate to what life is like for the people in this land. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was never going to really understand what their lives must be like.
I struggled with whether just knowing about their pain and turmoil would be enough. What would I really have that I could offer these people? There was no way that I would be able to fix generations of hurt.
But I had to remember the words of our team leader Jim when he told me that it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the needs in places like this. We have to content with doing just our part in the bigger picture.
As we approached our final destination of Kasese I knew that I wanted to continue to immerse myself in the local culture as much as I could. Even though I knew that my effort to immerse myself would pale in comparison to the proverbial walking a mile in their shoes, it was important for me to get as close as I could to how they lived there in Uganda.
I was determined to step up my commitment to this over the upcoming days. But one thing that I can tell you is that if you are ever in Uganda, then you might want to pass on the smoked fish for lunch…
Check out more from this series in the africa diaries.