Time works in an odd kind of way moving more in a nonlinear indiscernible fashion. It holds you in moments but also whips you through space until minutes become a blur and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a completely new place. A combination of the two tends to be how my last few months have gone by, many beautifully distinct and meaningful memories in what seems like a flash. I often ask too much of time, as if I can tell it to move in an impressionable fashion to accommodate for all the things I need it to, but it doesn’t. It moves in a much more meaningful way than I could ever think to ask it to. Nonetheless the last few weeks have somewhat swept me off my feet. So you learn to flow with the current of time at whatever pace or direction it chooses. You learn to do what you can when it’s possible and to devote the rest of your energy to enjoying the experience of flowing along and all that it brings.
Even though I am currently over 7,000 miles away from Uganda the distance has made the country and my time there all the more beautiful to me in a new way. It’s awesome how immersing yourself completely in a new place and group of people can cause it and them to become so deeply in engrained in you. How now hearing about Uganda in passing, in the news, in others’ stories makes my heart do a little leap in a way it wouldn’t have done before. Because those people there are mothers I lived with, teachers I worked with, little boys I played soccer with and girls I ran, sang and danced with. They are all vibrant and full individuals in my mind and heart now. They have become real to me through the process of sharing space, stories and experiences. I think this is simply awesome how that act of engaging can foster such strong and genuine feelings of compassion and connection. Even more awesome because as I am finding out I learned and am still learning so much as a result of knowing Uganda; the process didn’t end when I left the country.
I am finding myself continually making connections, using experiences I had or stories I heard while I was there in discussions now. Uganda continually comes into my thoughts in a way that causes me to view the world around me differently. The experiences I made in there remain with me in a way that allows me to contrast the communities and cultures I am in.
One of the experiences that I find most valuable and universally applicable is the broad concept of community and family I discovered in Uganda. The boundaries of family really are far grander and more generous in Uganda than what I have witnessed back in the United States. In Uganda society is very much community oriented in the way that sharing and caring for others extends to most everyone around you. I found the result of this to be very rewarding to me as an outsider, but also to those that lived within the community because it allows for many strong and generous relationships.
There was a study that found Uganda to be the second friendliest country in the world. I have yet to visit the first, but I couldn’t agree more. They are invested in one another. I have not witnessed more singing, hellos and warm smiles than I did while in Uganda, especially from children. The children are so extremely full of life and laughter. Yet if you took a snapshot and looked at it out of context you may only notice their tattered clothes, dirty feet and hands, runny noses and comparably thin bodies. But if you made a conclusion of these children’s quality of life based on this information, you would be grasping at generalizations and completely missing the truth. While these children’s clothes may be tattered, that doesn’t stop them from grinning and shouting “Hello, how are Yoouuuu” then bursting into laughter, grabbing your hand and walking with you. Their bodies are dirty because they spend their days running around playing outside, building toys from the bottles or containers they find and enjoying them just as much as a child living in Los Angeles would enjoy their truck bought from a store. And their runny noses and small bodies don’t stop them from exploring and enjoying the world around them. It is far too easy to completely miss how vivid and dynamic the truth is when looking at a snapshot of something. It is far too easy because those figures aren’t real to you, not real in the way people you know are. Yet these people in photos aren’t distant and their stories are as authentic as yours, both beautiful and difficult.
For this reason I would like to share photos of a few of the many people and stories I have of Uganda, because I want them to become real not just to me but to others. I want them to become real just as every person and being we share this world with should be real to us whether we know them or not. So as I share my stories and pictures I challenge you not to look at these as a snapshot, not to draw generalizations, but to look at them with open understanding that their kindness and happiness is some of the most genuine I have witnessed. And isn’t that what we are all essentially searching for? Aren’t we all searching for simple and authentic happiness?