| Nov 13, 2009
It was a bittersweet parting. The big hearted farewell speeches by our new Ugandan friends showed true compassion for the work we had done and for our contribution to their lives and those of the refugees. Although a team from North America leaves Nakivale each month, I felt their genuine sense of sadness at our leaving.
The cake we bought for the party was a big success. Not a morsel was left, even the broken pieces of icing were gathered in a bag for the children.
For me a month was a long time and I often dreamed of home. I don’t regret coming to Uganda, it was so much more enriching than a month of my life in Ottawa. It challenged my complacency. An experience such as this has helped me value more dearly my family, my friends and the life I have in Ottawa.
Do we have to suffer to truly experience happiness? We all experience enough heartaches in our lives, do we have to go and seek it out? Of course the answer to these questions is no. Yet, a visit to one of the world’s poorest countries does help put our troubles in perspective.
I think about Joey a lot. Every day after working in the clinic he goes home to his tent, a plastic sheet laid over a frame of sticks. He lost his new job as a headmaster and his community in the Congo. He now lives in limbo, stuck in a refugee camp waiting for a never ending war to stop. Despite a life that would make the strongest of us despondent, he smiles, laughs and maintains his hope. Hope that things will improve.
It makes the tribulations of my life seem small and insignificant. I will think of Joey when I’m feeling miserable. Fortunately this doesn’t happen often as I’m generally a happy and optimistic person. I don’t know whether that’s my nature, my genetic makeup, or because I had a happy childhood. I do sometimes have the sense that something is missing in my life, that there must be more to life than the pursuit of pleasure. For me it isn’t the need to help the less fortunate. I do this every day in my job in Ottawa. What is lacking may remain permanently elusive but my time with the Ugandan people and the refugees in Nakivale have brought me closer to identifying it. Words fail me but perhaps it is state that I will call, until a better word surfaces, serenity - the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
My month in Uganda has been a welcome respite from the competing demands on my time at home in Ottawa. It has been good to have one focus, to live quietly and to work at something that is consistently rewarding. It has also been a pleasure to write this blog each night. To attempt to put into words our adventures of the past month while, at the same time, conveying the feelings I experienced at the time. The process of writing has helped crystalize for me the significance of my time in Uganda.