Where did the last three months go?

Greetings all,

As I write this, I am 2.5 weeks away from my flight home, and I’ve hit an odd place in my experience.  I find myself increasingly viewing things through a strange lens of transience, often jumping in my thoughts to how different things will be when I get home, instead of just soaking in the experience and accepting it for what it is.  I get sort of mad when I catch myself doing it, because I feel like that decreases the impact of the real experience, to be constantly comparing it to something I’m anticipating.  When I am navigating my way down the dirt road to our house each night, using my flashlight to step around potholes and spots with a particularly large amount of mud that will squelch over my flip flops and in between my toes, trying not to get hit by NGO vehicles with the obnoxious massive antennae, politely declining the boda boda drivers who pull up next to me and say “yes sister, we go?” while maintaining good Ugandan manners and greeting everyone who I pass, I shouldn’t be thinking “wow, when I get home, getting around is going to be so different.”  But I do find myself thinking things like that more and more (even if I’m smiling in appreciation of the current experience).

I am still really enjoying my time here and know I am going to miss Uganda so much when I get back, but my thoughts are increasingly on the life that is waiting for me back in the States.  My friends and I are already planning the first things we’re going to do when we get home.  Ideas range from spending a day at the spa to eating cheesecake to just sleeping.  My list is still forming, but includes Starbucks, foods that are unavailable here like grilled cheese sandwiches and ice cream, a long hot shower (first item on the agenda!), watching The Office, and of course spending time with all of you people!  I feel like I am getting ahead of myself, and I’m somewhat surprised that I keep thinking about these things, because I really don’t feel homesick.  I guess I’m just sort of excited to get back to what I know, and maybe to have some time to process everything I’ve seen and done here.  And suddenly, my journey home is starting terribly soon.  I can tell because my massive container of malaria prophylaxis is getting extremely close to empty.  2.5 weeks is no time at all compared to the time I’ve already spent here, but a lot can also happen in that time; it’s not like I’m leaving tomorrow.

I’m trying to make the most of it, by doing the things that I’ve been thinking about but haven’t gotten around to doing yet.  We ate some of the local food (native to the North, and not all of Uganda) that we hadn’t eaten yet today for lunch, I’m trying to get the rest of my postcards written and sent (though I will probably beat them there at this point), and I might be convinced to try eating ants if the opportunity presents itself (they’re eaten widely here, though I wouldn’t exactly call them a delicacy).  I also kind of want to go rafting on the Nile, but we’ll see if I have time/money/a companion with which to do that after the program ends.

Today is our last full day in Gulu—we’re leaving tomorrow morning to go back to Kampala.  I’m definitely going to be sad to leave this place and all the friends I’ve made here.  As I type this, I’m sitting at the bar/internet café that has become our favorite hangout.  We’ve come to know almost all of the staff, as well as many of the regular customers.  I’m going to miss walking in there and being greeted by my name.  I’ve enjoyed living the small town life for awhile.

It’s interesting, because I think this is the most immersed I’ve been in a community in my whole life, and I was only here for five weeks.  I know all of the little shops on the main street, and which ones have the juice and peanut butter I like (the peanut butter guy even knows me now).  And I know which gas stations are most likely to have kerosene for our stove, even when there’s a fuel shortage.  I’ve gotten used to riding motorcycles around, and am going to miss that thrill and the wind in my hair when I have to go back to riding taxis and sitting in “the jam.”  I never quite got used to the cockroaches in our kitchen, and I don’t think I’m going to miss those.  It’s been a really fun five weeks, and I’m sad it’s coming to an end.  But I’ve packed my suitcase, said my goodbyes, and am all set to go back to Kampala tomorrow.  It seems like people here don’t really make a big deal of goodbyes, which I like.  I am usually one to try to slip out the back door while everyone is looking the other way instead of going through dramatic farewells.  Here, they just say something along the lines of “we’ll meet,” or “nice time,” which is one of my favorite Uganda-isms, and maybe give you an affectionate handshake, then you’re on your way.  Of course, you’ve exchanged phone numbers and possibly e-mail addresses, so you’ll be hearing from them later, but the point still stands.

So another chapter of the adventure is closing, but the journey isn’t over yet.  I hope I’ll still have a lot to write about in the next few weeks.  I’m going to let this be a short post today, because who says I need to write a novel every time, anyway?  I’ll give my readers a break, and save my words for the largest paper I’ve ever written, which is due in a few days.  I hope all is well in your world.  In peace, CMK.

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