Bye Uganda....turebane bwanyima (see ya later)
on Volunteers Abroad (Uganda), 01/Oct/2009 19:00, 34 days ago
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In about 18 hourswe will say goodbye to Uganda and board our flight home to Scotland via Dubai. Last Friday we left the campus and said farewell to everyone. We have spent our last six nights in Uganda at the hotel where we spent our very first night in Uganda - the International Landmark in Muyenga, Kampala. We've stayed at this hotel so many times over the two years that the staff know us well and we are greeted with hugs when we arrive. preparing to leave here I am reminded of an incident at the Dubai Airport in May 2008 when returning from a visit with my family in the US. We were walking to our gate for the Entebbe flight and I heard the announcement for the flight to Glasgow (ourhome airport). I was overwhelmed by homesickness and nearly burst into tears. I wanted to boardthatflight, not the one to Entebbe. However, I did recover from the ensuing bout of homesickness and once we hit the one year mark in October I knew I'd be fine.It's difficult to summarize two years of living in this small country in East Africa as we've had experiences we'd never imagined in the UK or the US. I will certainly never forget this country or the lovely people we've met. Has it made me realize how fortunate and spoiled I am? You bet! Will I remember not to take all the conveniences of the western world for granted? I hope so. Has it made me realize what is/should be important - more than 'stuff'? Yes! There will be reminders of our time in Uganda all over our house after we get home - crafts, carvings, masks, wall hangings, photos, etc. I imagine it will feel strange for a while to be surrounded by a very white Scottish population. It will feel strange not to be treated as a celebrity. And it will be bloody cold and wet!!Looking prepared as I thought I was, I suffered from serious culture shock when we first arrived and it took me quite a while to adjust and become comfortable. Danny had no problem adjusting at all except for figuring out the money. I thought I wouldneverunderstand the accents!Before we left Scotland for Uganda I scoured the internet for information on living in Uganda and especially for blogs by previous/current volunteers. I quickly realized after arriving here that the people who advised me that I wouldn't truly know what it was like until I was actually living here were spot on!One of my favourite things about living in Uganda is that everywhere we go small children wave, jump and down with excitement and yell‘mzungu, how are you?’ when they see us drive or walk past. Being a ‘celebrity’ and centre of attention most everywhere we go was intimidating at first, but I soon learned to enjoy it. It’s quite strange to be seen as someone special, a celebrity, just by virtue of something you have absolutely no choice in – being white. In some areas frequented by tourists we encounter kids with their hands out shouting ‘give me money’, which we refuse to do as it turns them into beggars. It’s unfortunate that many tourists don’t realize what they are doing when they give the children gifts or money. If the children do something to earn money, such as performing for us, that’s an entirely different matter.Making a difference….a well worn out phrase….We didn’t come here to save the country, but have we ‘made a difference’? Danny has made quite a lot of differences in many peoples’ lives and I’ve made a few as well. We’ve made some very good friends and we will miss them greatly.By being retired and having an income aside from the meagre living allowance provided, we’ve made this 2 years much more enjoyable. By having a car we’ve had the freedom to explore the country, enjoying several of the nice lodges and national parks on many occasions. Mobile internet also helped tremendously to keep us connected to family and friends. We’ve been able to be very generous with a select number of Ugandans, but wished we could help even more of them.Would I do this again?I don’t regret coming to Uganda at all, not for a second. Knowing what I know now I would do this again. But two years away from home is enough. I would not agree to going on another two-year placement, although I’d quickly agree to a 3-month placement andmightbe persuaded to go on a 6-month placement.We intend to visit Uganda in the future and hope to return to see our co-sponsored student, Doreen, graduate from university. We will also visit with other friends we've made here including dear friends Tugume, Mushabe, Ayebaze, Lwamafa and their families, and others.We have enjoyed living on the Bishop Stuart campus and always felt like a part of the community. The staff and their families are wonderful and we will miss them greatly. The campus is safe and in a lovely location. The electrical and water problems and frequent interruptions were simply part of a package that any volunteer can expect. I was alwaysverythankful that we had a proper flushing toilet instead of having to use a long drop outside.I willingly admit though that we enjoyed the campus much more when Lwamafa Javan was the principal (during our first year). The college was run more effectively, smoothly, and predictably, the atmosphere was happier and staff morale higher when he was there. Javan cared about the students, staff and college and would always listen to suggestions and opinions. We miss him as does everybody.Uganda's futureI have many suggestions on what Uganda needs to do in order to make much more rapid progress, but since there are already plenty of people who do just that, I've refrained from putting in my 2 shillings except to say corruption and the acceptance of corruption as a fact of life in so many areas including government, roads departments, police, education, businesses, etc. is the main problem.