So as of Friday, my semester has officially ended. I’ve turned in my 36 page final paper, signed all the paperwork, picked up my passport (the visa has been successfully extended, so I’m still in Uganda legally. Score!), and we’ve even had a “reintegration” lecture about what it will be like to return to the U.S.. The rest of my time in Uganda is mine to do with what I like. I suppose this means I have gained two new labels: SIT alumnus and senior in college. How did that happen? Even though school is over, I don’t think I will feel like this semester is over until I’m back on American soil. I scheduled myself an extra 8 days in Uganda to do whatever I wanted to do after the program ended, so I’ll be hanging out here for awhile longer, while many of my program-mates fly home.
We spent the last week behaving like real tourists (something we have been trying very hard to avoid this whole time). Throughout my time living here, I have been careful to correct anyone who calls me a tourist or asks if I am here on holiday, because I think there is a significant distinction between the implications of “tourist” and “student.” But after practicum ended, the program took us to one of the most touristy locations in Uganda–a group of islands on Lake Victoria–to hang out while we did our final presentations. We stayed at a pretty cool resort while we were there. It was sort of the type that is supposed to make you feel at one with nature: we slept in large huts right on the beach and had a bonfire every night under the stars. You could tell that it was designed to target the interests of tourists who have come to Uganda for eco-tourism, and I guess it was pretty effective. It was fun to just chill out and relax on the beach, though. When we returned to Kampala, we finally went to some of the local craft shops, which are so obviously targeted at tourists that we had been avoiding them, to buy some gifts for people at home. It was very strange to finally be a tourist in this place where I’ve lived for the past 4 months, but I guess it’s good practice for my next week (during which I am probably taking a trip to Kenya and/or Tanzania with my host sister–more on that as details develop), and probably a good step in the process of attempting to readjust to life in America.
Even though I’m excited about traveling with my sister and looking forward to going home, the end of the program has definitely been bittersweet. It has been really weird to say goodbye to the friends I’ve made here as they leave for their flights home. I haven’t written much about my program-mates in the blog, but they were generally very amazing people. I am going to miss hanging out with this group a lot. Of course we will keep in touch, which is one of the beauties of living in the digital age, but it’s still a bummer to be splitting up. I also just can’t believe the program is over. It has definitely been hard at times, as you’ve heard, but it was such a phenomenal experience. I’m sad that it’s coming to a close.
But I don’t want to take up a lot of space complaining about that. All things in life eventually end, but that just opens the door for a new opportunity or experience. I think I will close this blog entry there, because I don’t have anything too eventful to talk about right now. I hope that next time I post, I will have some good stories from my Kenya/Tanzania trip. For now, I just want to say happy mother’s day to my mom, my stepmom, my grandmothers, and all the other mothers who might be reading:) Enjoy your day–you earned it! Peace and love from a rainy Kampala. ~CMK