So, I’ve been in Uganda a little over a month. What in the world have I been doing all this time? Well…a little bit of everything. I don’t take pictures everywhere I go in attempts to not look more out of place than I already do.
So, when I first arrived, I was greeted by one of the drivers from the school. Well, it didn’t happen in exactly that order. I must of walked right passed him in the crowd of people waiting for their passengers. This chick wanted to blend in and act like I had it all figured out when in actuality, I was totally confused on where to go. One of the drivers, who was trying to flag me down for a ride, followed me all the way to the parking lot as I continued to play it off like I was waiting for this supposed mysterious driver sent by the school. I ended up needing him afterall. I needed to use his phone to call this said driver because I didn’t have a local sim card. I quickly pulled up the phone contact list that was sent via email weeks prior to all the teachers in preparation for the first week of orientation. Thank God for gmail because although I didn’t have wifi access, it still allowed me to pull up an old email! I contacted one of the teachers who was very sweet during my first few days of transitioning, by the way. She was able to connect with someone from the school who contacted the driver, inquiring on his whereabouts. Turns out, he was in the slew of drivers afterall! So, he found me and we began our commute into the city of Kampala!
Of course, I immediately saw people on the street selling things, children playing, unkempt living conditions and people moving about the city. It didn’t phase me just yet. I needed more time. I was literally trying to sink in the fact that I was here. I am actually standing on African soil, driving in a van in Uganda and embracing the motherland and truth. It was a piece of me and an undeniable connection that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. All I knew was I was in the right place. I couldn’t believe that this once distant dream had finally came into fruition. The dream I revisited over and over constantly, especially since I’d first moved overseas two years prior. It felt great to be in this mystified place that I knew must be filled with goodness since people have been trying to take it over for centuries.
I was merely a passenger and an observer in awe at this new country, its canvass and glorious wonder. Of course, I was still trying to process what had actually happened. Over the last few months, I toiled and contemplated with even making this trip. I was so much in fear it was ridiculous, mainly from listening to family members and of course, leaving my son. You can read more about my apprehensions in my post http://msblackexpat.com/2015/09/01/it-just-takes-one-step/.
Growing up in America, most African Americans weren’t exposed to positive images of Africa. Now, if you were apart of one of those conscious, Pan African Nationalist families who actively celebrated African unity and glorification proudly, that is great. I hope you are teaching your kids the same. I am thankful now for the family members who did celebrate African culture. As an educator, I know firsthand how schools limit our knowledge when it comes to exposing African history at its finest. In fact, if it was left to the history books, black American history started after the slave trade, which is so far from the truth. It is so liberating to experience this continent from a different perspective other than the pre-conceived notion that was fed for so many years. That, my friends, is another blog post for an entirely different day.
The Africa I used to hear about is not the Africa I see today: prosperous people, successful businesses, rich families who are full of life and people from all over the world. No matter your ethnicity, growing up, you would more than likely hear negative depictions of Africa, unless you’ve had the opportunity to explore it previously. In fact, in my opinion, it is still by far the richest continent because of its bountiful resources. So, to explore it for myself, to see the red soil, smell the air, see the people and embrace the community was priceless. I always tell people its so hard to explain my position on living here. I am in a good place spiritually other than dealing with missing my son like crazy. I know that he is getting a great experience with his dad. I firmly believe boys should have a relationship with fathers. This is one of the reasons I sacrificed.
Ok, so hands down, Uganda is non-comparable to Dubai but I’m not feeling totally uncomfortable here either, just out of place at times. That’s the American in me. However, the acceptance is a lot higher. In the UAE, I was never truly accepted and shouldn’t of expected to be. It was a very unequal society with the locals considering any other nationality inferior. Here, they may not think I’m Ugandan, mainly because of my complexion, but I still feel embraced, accepted and loved. Now, I’ll keep it totally real. To a certain extent, I feel these emotions because as you know, people can be people, women especially. Some of the women I’ve encountered have been very harsh here. It also stems from their level of awareness and self-esteem status. If your an attractive woman, your not from here and look like you have something going for yourself, of course, you will have haters. Everywhere. That’s inevitable. It’s all about how you handle it and up to you to be strong enough to ignore the foolishness.
This experience is making me stronger in unimaginable ways. I have gained a new sense of independence because I have had to find my way around the city, deal with cultural nuances and adjust to a new way of life. I have to stand firm and attempt to intermingle with the culture, the people, other expats and co-workers alike in attempts to find a place of comfort. A lot of it has to do with my son being in the States. This is a new challenge for me. Usually, my life is fully consumed with him. I love being a mother. It brings me joy and gives me a heightened sense of purpose. However, now that he is away, I don’t know what to do with myself, at times. So, this intermingling has a lot to do with me keeping myself busy in efforts to keep my mind from straying or getting that nagging sense of loneliness and despair. It will all come together. Uganda is showing me through experience that I am definitely not here by happenstance. God is showing me through my spirit that this is ok-life is where it is supposed to be now for a reason. I am taking that and trying to trust the process in the interim.
The first few days
Since the school is sponsoring me, that was my first priority: being on their schedule. I had the opportunity to meet a few of the administrative staff at the school, see my classroom and run a few necessary errands such as changing over my currency, getting a local sim card and trying to find peace in this new place, especially my apartment. I couldn’t stand the plain white walls so I inquired about a painter with the local driver not even 1 week after being there. I’ll show pictures later of the final results once it is apartment ready! My students are great by the way. I really like the school overall, despite a few things here and there but who says life is supposed to all fall into place?
This post could actually turn into a book if I allowed it. Its so much to share. But, in attempts to be more consistent with blogging, I will segment this POST by making additional POSTS about the things that I still need to POST about…feel me?
These other blog posts will speak more in detail about the cultural transition, being an African American women in Africa, perception, transportation woes, language barriers, food exploration, my job, missing my son, socializing, self-recognition, the dating scene and being an outcast…yes, and outcast in Uganda. That is one of the reasons why I haven’t been writing often: I get discouraged. I sit here with all these experiences and epiphany moments spinning around in my head and I’m like ahhhh I should blog about that and this and that…hmmmm.
Stay tuned because I may also attempt to do some vlogging, too through You Tube. I’m being brave I tell ya!
I know everyone’s perspective is different but as an African American, I feel that it is important if we as brothers and sisters of the US visit and explore Africa at least once. When I look into the faces of the local Ugandan and other Africans who live here, I see my cousins, sisters, brothers, sorors, uncles, aunts, teachers, friends and family. Faces are familiar and spirits are kindred. We are all connected somehow and it’s important for us to maintain those ties, educate communities and build up our families. It is even more important to debunk the myths and negative perceptions that continue to falsify this amazing place. Its equally important to dispell the negative stereotypes that African Americans have from others around the world. Believe me, everyone isn’t like this but there are a few that give me the side eye or try to come to me with some ridiculously crazy notions because of the media’s portrayal of African Americans.
I speak with friends who say they never want to visit because of the bugs and the violence and poverty and the this and the that. Folks! We must stop falling into the mental slavery trap that is holding us back from progress. We can’t move forward if we are still stuck in our backwards and ignorant mentalities. We must grow and be the change we want to see and stop falling for other people’s ways of control. That has gone too far. That topic is for another time and believe me, I have a lot to share about African American and African relations. I really think I want to do a dissertation on that one day….lol.
I’ll return soon with more insights, perspectives and experiences from…Uganda!