Wednesday, January 11, 2017
This is a post I wrote right after coming back to Uganda in November, but was never able to finish publishing it. I thought you still might like to read it :) Many of the situations and feelings are just as true coming back this week after Matthew’s wedding!
Whiplash is the best word I can think of right now to describe this past week. Well, whiplash without quite the level of pain that comes with actual whiplash :) It’s not exactly painful per-say to be tossed back and forth between two very different cultures and lifestyles, but it certainly is a challenge!
In the 2 1/2 months of being back in the States, I actively tried to fit myself back into American culture, values, and thought patterns. Some of that required active thought choices, and some of it was a more natural change. But public speaking and connecting with Americans requires me to get out of my African mindset and back into my American value system.
But now I find myself back in the thick of African life. My day guard, Issac, has a list of requests and problems to solve that he’s been waiting to address until I came back. A variety of repairs, changes, and decisions around the house and school have also been waiting for me to get back. It’s back into the swing of African living… like calling the electrician 6 times a day to be told each time “I’m on the way coming.” It’s a guessing game whether or not he will actually show up that day (and 6 weeks later the problems is still not fixed!).
Everyday I also remind myself not to get lost in my work or thoughts and make sure I greet every person I see. Greeting it a big deal here. It’s so easy for me to have an issue I need addressed by someone and jump right into the problem only to remember after a couple sentences that I haven’t properly greeted that person yet.
Right off the bat, everyone wants to figure out how much of my Lugwere and Luganda I remember or have forgotten while back in the States! So my ears and brain have to be back on full power just to understand what people are saying to me, and inevitably Luganda ends up popping out when I was asked a question in Lugwere, or vice versa. Thankfully my Ugandan accent is pretty steady and easy to slip back into.
Sitting properly is a big deal here too, and making sure knees are together and skirts are always at least to the knee whether standing or sitting is closely observed…so no more Indian style :(
I also came back to find that the main highway (which I hoped couldn’t get any worse) has been torn up even more than when I left! A large part of it is down to one lane that everyone tries to make into 2 lanes. This resulted in me nose to nose one day with a lorry stubbornly claiming the right of way and me having to back out into a wider area. Can I just say how much I wish I could be moved out to Kamonkoli already? :) :) My only comfort is that the roads will probably still be this bad in January, so I’ll be that much more grateful not to have the daily commute! :)
All of these small things throughout everyday life add up to quite a case of whiplash. A distinct feeling of disorientation pervades my days right now. My mind is in constant action trying to remind me how I should act, and what I need to do in this situation. All routines and auto-pilots are being reset again. And for some reason, I still find myself wondering why I feel tired! :)
But even though the differences between life in Uganda and American can be a challenge to adjust to, the incredible joys far outweigh the challenges!!
Like the way the whole school erupted in shouts of joy and welcome when they saw me driving up the first day! Or the number of hugs, jubilant smiles, and times I’ve heard “I missed you,” that have greeted me every place I’ve stopped. I love that hundreds of times since I got back, I’ve heard “Well be back!” It’s such a joy to be reminded of how much they love me back! I can’t imagine losing that. And if that means dealing with a case of culture-whiplash from time to time, I’m more than ok with that!