My journey home was long but good. Saying good-bye to the people at Ot Nwal Me Kuc was difficult and sad. After a long and tiring day we made it to Entebbe and I had dinner with Charity, the woman I met within an hour of arriving – sick and pregnant. This time she was healthy and full of life and it was a joy to see her and get to know her. She came with me to the airport and it felt I had come full circle.
|Charity and me on the shores of Lake Victoria|
The next day after an eternity of flying I was going through a long line in security at customs. One more stop and I would be home. I made a comment out loud about the number of security stations I had been through and the man in front of me agreed. Come to find out he too had flown in from Entebbe the night before and after briefly saying where we were staying in Uganda we began to share what we were doing. He is in the military part of the Special Forces that are there to train the police and government soldiers in Sudan, Congo and CAR – he spent most of his time in the CAR. I looked him in the eye and asked when they were going to stop Kony and he replied “That’s what my job is and we are trying.” I had discussions in Atiak with people about Kony and wanted their opinions and it is clear that stopping him, even though he is no longer in Uganda, would make people feel safe and offer some justice. We spent the next 20 minutes discussing the limitations, the corruption, the stories I heard and the women I met and the scars I saw. The situation became more personal for both of us. We left each other in gratitude for the work we are both doing and once again, I felt this was not an accidental meeting but one that was important, not only for myself but for he as well.
I've been home one full day now and tired as I am it feels good. As I reflect on the last few weeks of my life I realize there are no words to adequately describe my experience. Only those who have been there can relate and yet I need everyone to understand to validate what I have been through. It will take a long time to process it all and try to connect these two very different parts of my life.
It is easy to assume that the people in Northern Uganda are oppressed: limited healthcare and education opportunities, poor infrastructure to support modern technologies, limited food supply and income, high rates of maternal and infant mortality, lower life expectancy... And by our western standards the poverty seems overwhelming to a population as a whole. Years of war and corruption within their government has left the people with only their own limited resources and those of the NGOs that come to help and offer some ease to the difficulties of their life.
Yet, the simplicity of this life, with all the joys and sorrows, far surpasses much of the quality of life we have here. I do not pity the people I met and saw, I envy them in many ways. Yes, there were things that were difficult to see and I wish I could alter, but there were also lessons to me in resiliency and what defines a people and a culture and a good life. My job was to serve the women and families the best I could and not change them. In many ways I feel I have succeeded. I tried not to judge but to observe, and give my compassion and my skills to aid these women and children when it was needed. I feel good about my experience as a whole and as good as it is to be home with my family, it was hard to leave this beautiful and wondrous place.
|Two moms and their sons with their attendants|