Last night I returned to Seattle after nearly 20 hours of straight flying (less than an hour layover in London, spent in a security line and then running through the terminal). That was from Nairobi, Kenya – despite the fact that my trip home began at the airport in Entebbe, Uganda.
After leaving Entebbe Thursday morning, our plane encountered a problem en route, and we had to turn back. After circling Entebbe for two hours to burn fuel so that we could land, we diverted to Nairobi as apparently they were better prepared to handle 200 some odd hungry, tired, and somewhat frustrated passengers. The British Airways crew on the plane did an admirable job handling the problem. The ground people in Nairobi were slightly less efficient / communicative, but they got us all put up in hotels and I got on a plane to London first thing the next morning (though to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded a full day to look around Nairobi, having never been to Kenya before).
So I got in at about 7:15 last night, and I think it was 8ish when I made it through customs. Despite all that travelling, I was quite restless, and after a nice shower and change of clothes – I went out and met a couple friends in Seattle.
Being home is strange.
I’m happy to be back, and the nice cool weather in Seattle is certainly appeciated. I’m enjoying fairly everyday things a great deal (especially food – from a Panera sandwich I had for lunch, to the latte I’m sipping at Kahili right now). The comforts of my bed, shower, laundry machines, and the lack of mosquitos and other bothersome insects are all… well, wonderful.
On the other hand, I find my mind continually drifting back to Africa. And in strange ways. Sometimes it’s expected… seeing my car in the garage didn’t necessarily inspire something I’d call guilt, but did invite thoughts about how many villages could be fed for how long off of its value. The same thing happened earlier today when I bought a sandwich and iced tea for about $8 or so. That’s roughly two months rent for some of the widows I met around Mafubira. Two months rent. For my chicken caesar sandwich. It’s just weird.
Then there are thoughts I didn’t really expect. I haven’t really decided what I think of these thoughts… but I continually find myself seeing or doing something and thinking, “What would Pastor Nelson think of this?” (or John Mark, Irene, little Richard, Kitembo, etc). What would they think of the cars on the street, the clothes people wear, the houses, the shops, the food, the phones, or the art (and the “art”) on Kahili’s walls.
One thing that struck me very quickly upon entering Uganda was that life, in so many fundamental ways, really isn’t all that different. As comfortable as we are here in the US with our nice houses, cars, computers, etc – they don’t change how life is basically lived. We still sleep at night, eat a few times each day, wear clothes to keep us warm, put roofs over our heads to keep us dry. Kids still play games with their friends and run around outside. People still greet each other, talk about the weather, drop-in for tea or host guests for dinner. Life is pretty much life wherever you go.
Poverty, it seems, is not.
What I mean to say is that I don’t feel bad for those living in Uganda or any part of Africa who are healthy and earn enough money to take care of their families. I don’t think they’d want me to. Maybe their house is small, they don’t own a car or computer, and they do their laundry by hand. In the US that might seem like a tough place to be. But they’re doing okay, they’re able to live and be happy, and hopefully give their children the opportunity to grow up to be happy as well.
What breaks my heart is that even in a place where $8 buys two months rent, there are so few people who can even manage that. There are children living without even a proper a latrine, who have to walk a mile just to fetch water (that isn’t even clean) to bring to their house made of sticks and mud. I met a widow who couldn’t walk, suffering from Polio, obviously unable to afford proper vaccination.
Then there are the things in Uganda that seem so out of place in all this. The unending plethora of Coca Cola advertising being the first example I noticed. Something about it just felt wrong to me.
I should probably gather my thoughts more before I keep ranting… I’m not even sure at the moment what my point is. I think I have a few of them to make, it’s just going to take some time I guess. Anyway, I meant to be working on getting some pictures and videos from the trip up on the blog or Tusubira site, so I’m going to go do that for a bit. More later for sure.