Friday, July 6, 2007

What Africa Taught Me

I am now sitting at Entebbe airport, surrounded by a cacophony of languages, announcements, and ring tones. I was just rereading some of the emails that I wrote and received during my three-week stay in Uganda. It was really nice to reread them, if not a little painful to read the raw emotion and exposure of my terror in the early days of the trip.

Mariska (Noah’s Ark volunteer coordinator) told me that if I was able to stay and finish my project, I would be really proud of myself. I stayed and I finished, but I don’t feel proud. I feel satisfied. I am satisfied by what I have learned about myself, and about how the most of the earth’s inhabitants live.

I value my education now more than ever. I value my life, my liberty, and my riches more than I ever did before because here I have seen how truly privileged I am. I think this new found sense of gratefulness is not simply owing to the contrasting African poverty but rather the chance to see just how helpful my ethnicity, nationality and education level are in navigating a completely foreign environment.

I came to Uganda because I thought I had something to offer. In retrospect, it was Uganda who stretched out her hand to me and enveloped me on a strange and terrifying journey. Now as I sit at my journey’s end, I am more knowledgeable and more powerful than I was 22 days ago. Now I am changed in small but lasting ways.

I feel as though a deep thirst has been quenched. I have always wanted to see Africa since reading National Geographic as kid. Now I have walked alongside her people and tried to tell what little I know of their story as accurately as possible. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought and braver than I could have imagined.

What little I had to offer is far less than what the people here need. Of course, I did not go with the idea that I could solve a problem or find a solution to end poverty and suffering. I guess it helps with my overall satisfaction that I did not come here with unrealistic expectations. But I do think that what I did here was meaningful, to the people with whom I interacted and to Noah’s Ark. I think it will make some small difference in guiding the direction of the health clinic that will be established here within the next year.

I am not finished, and that is also a satisfying feeling. I feel like this is just the beginning of my life, and the beginning of my own small efforts to improve the health of people who are suffering, whether in my own country or abroad. I can only hope that the rest of my life is as challenging, meaningful, and thought-provoking as these last three weeks have been.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

1 comment:

wanderlustjill said...

Mas! Mas! Te quiero mucho y que Dios los bendiga.