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Wrapping it up.

July 24, 2011

I figure that I’ll mesh the last two weeks together because they are both one big blur at this point. It’s 6AM and today I am leaving Masaka in five hours. I’ve said my goodbyes and thank yous. Three weeks ago I would have told you I could easily come home. Today, my thoughts complicate and I don’t know how to feel about leaving.

Lets recap, these past two weeks I: helped build two more water tanks, ate a ridiculous amount of free matooke, saw a traditional healer (or professional burper), got some bruises, went to Jinja, white water rafted with elderly Dutch men, rode horseback on the Nile, ate food that my stomach didn’t remember how to handle, got peed on by a monkey, ate a feast, and became a “son-in-law”. Whew, I can fill in more of the details later.

Warning, the following paragraphs are self reflective and probably pretty sappy. Okay, the challenge of this post is that it is hard to leave things you are invested in. I left my home with caution but ease knowing I will be back. Here, I am pretty confident that one day I’ll make it back to this beautiful country. The plans are indefinite though and it may be a while. Still, isn’t that exciting? Isn’t it something to look forward to? In the end, it seems that advice we talked about in the beginning is the most truthful. The strongest part of your experience will be the connections to the people you meet. Although we all try to be our best and contribute sustainable projects and be conscious of our impact here, no one can be perfect. After this experience, I feel like the work I did here did help and strengthen Tulina Esuubi HIV/AIDS group. What was more important is the self-worth and confidence that emerged from my group, as well as me. They appreciated that someone was willing to work with them and not for them. My last day with the whole group we conducted a follow up workshop on proper hygiene and how to take care of the water they collect in the future. It was grand. Everyone appreciated the workshop and after it was over and I hinted about saying goodbye, they stopped me. “No, no, no, no…you’re not leaving. We have prepared!” What could this mean? We sat down in an empty living room with simply a table and chairs. The meal that came out next was a feast for at least 8. I was so humbled by their thanks. They cooked a special meal for us called ‘mpombo’ which is chicken cooked and steamed inside banana fibers. Apparently it is served to the potential groom at an introduction. So now, I am Grace’s (woman we built the tank for) son-in-law. Following there was singing and dancing and prayer. I couldn’t have thought up a better goodbye. 

Now, I feel like I’m stretching. Do I want to go back to America? Heck yes. Oh, how I’ve missed some of the simple things that make life sweet like cheese and refrigerators. Still, there are simple things everywhere that make life so awesome. Leaving my family was hard. When you first went to college it was hard to call your dorm your home. After a few weeks though, when someone asked you where you were going you would answer with “home”. After two months in Uganda, the plot next to Muwonge Pork Joint (as I would tell bodas day) has become another one of my homes. Pretty quick right? So where is home? I like think the more you travel, the more your home becomes everywhere the people you care about are. I’m proud to say I have homes in two continents.

Sitting in the airport finishing this post doesn’t feel real. Seriously, I feel like I am dreaming. Yesterday, I was in my village eating dinner, playing cards and thinking how everything can change so quickly. Like taffy, I’m now stretched between two places and eventually I’ll have to break. Slowly I’ll lose my orientation and regain it again. Most likely in the next few weeks I’ll find myself scowling at prices, attempting to bargain in inappropriate places, saying “yes please” a lot, and gazing at supermarkets and/or bathrooms (maybe supermarket bathrooms? Sound appealing?) Anyway, I don’t really know how to wrap this up. Thank you to all who have been supportive. Mr. Heston, CPS Staff, Heston Interns, FSD interns, all who donated to the project, and FSD it’s been real, you all are wonderful. I can’t wait to share a beer and some stories soon. And, thanks to my mom and dad for having a strong heart. Uganda, you are beautiful and I hope to be back one day.

Maybe this is a good way to end this cultural experience:

“We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.”
          -George W. Bush

See you soon Mom!

Cheers,
Mike Altman

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