Late last week I boarded a plane in Johannesburg. As I walked on the plane I heard exclamations like, “banange,” and “bambi.” My heart swelled and I couldn't stop the smiles that came to my face. I was going home to a place where I knew some of the language, where strangers greeted each other openly and where common sense wasn't always common sense.
I was sitting a few rows from the emergency exit rows and overheard the stewardess ask a Ugandan if he was able to assist in the case of an emergency. The man looked at the stewardess dumbly and she repeated the question. He then pretended to understand and nodded his head. She asked him another question to which he replied with an affirmative nod however the nod didn't answer the question. So she asked him if he understood English. The man said no. The stewardess told him she was going to have to move him to which the man quickly said he didn't want to move and the charades began again. Finally, the stewardess turned to me and asked if I spoke English and then if I could sit there and act in the case of emergency. I agreed and became the translator to the Ugandan man sitting in that seat. I was the only one around who understood South African English and Ugandan English and so I became the emergency exit specialist. Again, I couldn't help but smile because this scene was so typical Africa.
My plane began the descent into the Pearl of Africa and my heart began to race. I looked down at the lush green vegetation, the red brown dirt paths, dug-out canoes with fishermen and the bright red round sun as it sank beyond the shimmering silver Lake Victoria. My grin couldn't be taken away. The man next to me asked if I was happy to be landing in Uganda. “Oh yes!” Then he asked if I was scared to which I replied, “Oh yes!” He was taken aback and tried to reassure me but he couldn't understand my fears.
We landed and I received several “kulikayu,” - welcome back's. I went through the resident line at immigration and was welcomed back. I went to get my suit case and the power went out. Welcome back Amanda!
I was in South Africa for almost 2 months. I had 2 months of hot showers, flush toilets, any variety of food I desired, clean living conditions and most any comfort I wanted within a 10 minute walk. Now, I was going back to a place without all those comforts, a place that seems like mass chaos and a people who have a hard time with critical thinking. I didn't know if I could do it again. I didn't know if I wanted to do it again.
I've been back for several days now and I'm so happy to be here. I know it comes with its difficulties and there will be adjustments but I also know this is where I'm supposed to be right now. I didn't tell anyone I was coming back so it was a surprise for everyone. The children at school ran to greet me and my neighbors came out with arms outstretched and tears coming down their faces. I drank 2 welcome home sodas in the first 5 hours of being back at site. All the priests in my town called to welcome me back. Everyone on the street stopped me to talk. Word spread quickly and I had more calls and people stopping by to welcome me home. It was beautiful and very touching.
Most everyone knew I went to South Africa but as for the reason it was mixed knowledge. Many asked after my health but a few think I just went for the World Cup. It makes me laugh.
With all the joy of being back I also am thrown back into Ugandan life. I've learned of 2 people who died while I was away. The constant presence of death is something I had sadly, gotten used to and must face again. Annet was so happy to have me back primarily because of our friendship but she also told me she was happy I came back because she was afraid people would think she'd poisoned me. Neighbors poison one another here over little disagreements. These daily present thought patterns must become part of my life here again.
One “improvement” I found that made me smile was this title written on my latrine door using charcoal: “This Is Amanda's Toilet.”
I'm back in Uganda. Still working on healing and recouping from surgery, parasites, colon issues, and whatever other havoc was/is played on my body. It's going to be a process. Adjustment is rarely easy. But I'm here to make a go of it. Bring it on Uganda!