All posts by Aurelia Roddy

What is…?

We have been trying to uncover the definition of these words throughout our entire trip.

PEACE:

Peace is when one can live in their home or town or country and feel safe. They can be at ease because they know that they are secure and protected.

Peace is when one is happy and content with the life they are living. They are satisfied with what they are doing and are doing the best they can. 

JUSTICE:

Justice is when one recognizes that what they did was wrong and they do everything in their power to make it right again.

Justice is NOT seeking revenge.

RECONCILIATION:

Reconciliation is when two parties can come together peacefully and put the past behind them.

Reconciliation is being able to move one and start fresh.

FORGIVENESS:

Forgiveness is truely accepting what has happened and not holding a grudge against anyone or anything.

Forgiveness is realizing that things happen, and we cannot dwell on the past.

 

It’s not goodbye, it’s see ya later.

Alright, so it’s been a long two weeks to say the least. Besides dealing with the shock of re-adjusting to the American way of life, we’ve spent close to 5 hours per day editing and putting together all of the footage we shot. As surprising as it sounds, sitting in front of a computer screen for that long can really wear you out.
 
Throughout this experience, I’ve learned that I’m not the greatest at video editing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun & interesting, I just often feel like I don’t measure up compared to some of the other students.
 
So instead of editing film, I’ve spent my time blogging, working on our papers that are due Tuesday, & helping with random odd jobs, just so I don’t feel completely useless.
 
With the last day of class finally upon us, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit sad to say goodbye. We’ve spent the past five weeks together & I’ve gotten to know everyone so well. I mean, it’s kind of hard not to when you’ve been through the stuff we’ve been through. Between all of the inside jokes (“Peace is the fruit!”) and recapping of crazy events (the boarding pass incident), it’s safe to say I’m going to miss everyone a ton.
 
That being said, I’m also very excited to start my summer. However, while I’m enjoying laying out by the pool, going to baseball games, & hanging out with friends, I’m always going to keep the people of Uganda in the back of my mind.
 
It would be impossible not to. 

It’s the simple things…

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Uganda. The people we met. The places we visited. The things we experienced.

After being back in the States for awhile, I’ve come up with a short list of things that I especially miss about the country.

Here they are (in no particular order):

*Eating fresh mangos with every meal. These things are amazing, especially straight off the tree. Even though the strings get stuck in your teeth, they are delicious.

*People singing & dancing. I wish people in the States were as free & open as the people of Uganda. None of them are ashamed or embarrassed to sing out loud, in public. Not everyone has the most beautiful or in tune voice, but hearing their music never failed to bring a smile to my face.

*Having genuine conversations with people. Not over text message. Not over Facebook. In person. Getting to know everyone on a much more personal level; a level you can’t reach through technology.

*Mosquito nets. I rather enjoyed sleeping with these things…I sorta felt like a princess under a canopy. Not to mention how vital these are to the people of Uganda. A single net can protect multiple children from Malaria, which is potentially deadly to young children.

*The rain…everyday. I love the way the weather is in Uganda (at least during the rainy seasons). It will get so hot, the sun beating down on your neck, the sweat running down your face. Just when you think it can’t get any hotter, the clouds roll in & the skies open up. Rain.

*The children. They are everywhere. With half of Uganda’s population under the age of 18, you can imagine just how many kids there are. They followed us everywhere we went, laughing & holding our hands. There was such joy in their eyes & in their smiles that it was almost heartbreaking. Kids in the States will throw fits if they don’t get a new toy or a piece of candy, but these kids, who have nothing except a dirty old soccer ball, are as content as can be.

*Stargazing. It always amazes me just how many stars are actually in our sky. Living in a city, I rarely get to witness just how bright they shine. Sitting under African skies, feeling the warm breeze, I have never felt more at peace in the world. 

Visiting Uganda really brought home the fact that it’s the simple things in life that really matter; they’re the things you will remember.

Playing soccer with the kids in the village behind our compound. Braiding hundreds of bracelets on our 5 hour bus rides. Trying new foods. Overcoming fears. Making new friends.

It’s true when they say that you won’t remember the times you were uncomfortable. Because now, all that comes to mind is the good. 

Summer Camp

It’s been five days since we waved goodbye to Uganda, the country we called home for two weeks. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to leave. I missed my bed, my family, my lifestyle in general. 

In some ways the trip was like summer camp.

You know the drill: Pack a bag, leave home, make new friends, & be uncomfortable. It’s okay though, because in the back of your mind, you know it’s only temporary.

What I am still trying to come to terms with however, is the fact that although I “lived” in Uganda for two weeks, I was able to climb on a plane, fly half way across the world, & jump right back into the life I’m familiar with. The people we met do not have this option. 

It’s hard to wrap my mind around the fact that just because we left that world, doesn’t mean it’s disappeared. The people we met are real, & they are still living in poverty that we got to fly away from. I often find myself wondering what they are doing. Mostly I wonder about the kids. The children we met that live behind the compound we stayed at in Lira are probably asleep in their huts, no mosquito nets protecting them from malaria.

I am still coming to terms with the way I am feeling.

I can’t think about it too much or I become angry with myself.

A few days before returning home, all I could think about was the food I was going to eat when I got back to the States. I was so tired of eating flavorless rice & beans. I was being provided with a solid three meals per day, yet I wanted more. MORE. That’s all we ever want. Nothing is ever good enough.

I couldn’t just be happy with the rice & beans, considering people living down the road probably hadn’t eaten in days.

It’s a learning process, & hopefully I’ll get to a point where I’ll be able to sort out my feelings & think clearly. I want to come to terms with the fact that I was lucky enough to be born into this lifestyle; that I’m lucky enough to be able to pick up & leave a situation whenever I feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. 

Isn’t it nice? To be able to do that?

Think of the people who can’t. 

It’s all downhill from here…or is it?

You might be wondering how on Earth I have time to write two blog posts today, considering I haven’t even been able to manage one per day. Well, the reason I have so much free time is because my immune system has finally given way to all of the wonderful illnesses that Africa has to offer. So here I am at the hotel (with Sara, who is also sick) while the rest of the group gets to go to Jinja to see the source of the Nile. Besides the light headedness, not being able to eat, & constant sweating, I feel just fine.

Up until this point however, has been awesome. We spent the past few days in Murchison Falls National Park, where we had no internet access…or electricity. We were able to get electricity via a generator for 5 hours per day (5-7 am & 7-10 pm). We also couldn’t leave our cottages after dark, unless we wanted to come in contact with water buffalo (I wasn’t gonna risk it). On the plus side though, we actually had hot water!

While at the park, we got to take a boat ride on the Nile, where we saw hippos, elephants, & crocodiles. A particularly large crocodile decided to charge at our boat while we were all taking pictures of it (I thought of you, Trina!). I’d be lying if I said I didn’t freak out. We also got to see the Falls, which was amazing.

The next morning, we had to wake up at 5 am to eat breakfast & go on a SAFARI! It was great with Fred behind the wheel. What do you do when you can’t see the lions’ den from the road? Most people would just groan & be disappointed…but not Fred. He kicked that tour bus into gear & drove across the field until we were right up next to it, while all the other safari-goers just played it safe & watched in amazement.

A while later, on the drive back, we got stuck in a huge pit of sand. We all had to get out of the bus, while some good samaritans helped pull us out. Standing in the middle of the safari, knowing what kind of animals were surrounding us was definitely a memorable experience.

Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to grab lunch, & then we headed back out on the road to Kampala. What was supposed to be a 6 hour drive, only took us 4 & a half thanks to good ol’ Fred (he really is like Chuck Norris). The drive was very eventful, including an intense fly battle (we won…thanks to Matt’s fearlessness & determination), & me accidentally throwing a banana peel at an innocent motorcyclist, Mario Cart style.

It’s been an incredible run, but now I’m ready to go try to eat something, & maybe nap. I need to get better before the 30 hour journey home!  

New Friends

Okay, so it’s been made clear to me that I’m a bit behind most people in the blogging department…so I’m making up for it today by writing TWO! 

Now that we’ve wrapped up the filming portion of our trip, it’s been nice to just sit back & reflect on what we’ve encountered while here in Uganda. Our days of filming we’re always jam packed, often visiting two or three sites in one day. Although it was exhausting, it was well worth it. Each trip was an adventure, & we often went to great lengths just to “get that B roll!” 

All of the people we met in the process will always be in the back of my mind, & there’s no doubt that they will affect the way I live my life when I get back to the States.

There is one women in particular that I would like to talk about, named Eresi Ekol. Although it was never mentioned, it was clear that she is a prominent member in a village we visited, called Abia (the site of yet another massacre by the hands of the rebels). Her clothes were colorful & bright, just like her personality, & her smile was infectious. I had the pleasure of speaking with her after the interviews. We talked & laughed, & she held my hand while she guided me around the school yard, introducing me to even more people. Before getting on the bus, she looked in my eyes & said something that I will never forget: “Now that we are friends, just promise me you won’t forget about us.”

I simply replied with, “I promise.”

I believe that I owe it to the people I have met not to forget about them, since so many of them I can now call my friends.

Mrs. Ekol, I promise I will never forget about you. 

Just a Smile

It’s amazing to me how unaware most people are to the suffering around them. The longer I am in this country, the more I am starting to realize that we, as Americans, live in a bubble: a comfortable bed to sleep in, three meals a day, & a guaranteed education.

Those of you reading this blog will never be able to fully understand the truth in my words unless you were to witness it for yourselves. 

Bar Lonyo: a former IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp & the site of the mass murder of 319 men, women, & children.

Here is where I got my first glimpse of humanity & its rawest form.

We conducted interviews all morning, asking what life was like during the war, & how the inhabitants of Bar Lonyo reacted to the rebel attack that wiped out most of their village. It amazed me how heartbreakingly honest their responses were.

After the interviews, the entire village gathered to welcome us. They performed songs, dances, & skits. Everyone was smiling & laughing, especially the children. 

We brought a suitcase full of gifts for the people of Bar Lonyo. Inside were various everyday items like shirts, towels, pencils, & sheets. The children formed a line in front of the suitcase & as they did this, a scary thought occurred to me: there was no way we had enough gifts in that suitcase for everyone in the village. 

It was complete mayhem.

There were women behind me clawing at my shirt. There were men shoving me, trying to grab whatever they could get their hands on. There were children screaming & crying because they were getting trampled.

By the time I got out of the chaos, I was shaking. We all were.

Standing there in the middle of the camp, the sun beating down on my neck & flies swarming my face, it took everything in my power not to break down & cry. I was capturing photos of these people with a $600 camera, yet they were prepared to do anything just to get a new bed sheet for a bed they don’t even have. 

I got to the bus as fast as I could. As we drove away from the camp, I looked out the window & made eye contact with a little boy about 10 years old. He was wearing a tattered red shirt…& he was smiling at me. He was smiling at me like I was the greatest person in the world. I have never felt so ashamed in my entire life. I was about to drive away on an air conditioned bus, eat a nice dinner, & sleep in a comfortable bed, leaving him to grow up in this village, where most children don’t even get to attend school because it is too far away.

I wanted to get the hell out of that camp as fast as could.

At the same time though, I never wanted to leave. I never wanted to leave because I knew that when I did, I would be taking their only hope with me.

I will never forget that smile.

35 Hours

It’s been a lonnng journey & I can honestly
say I’m exhausted. After four flights, we finally arrived in the city of
Entebbe. We collected our luggage & drove to the hotel to get settled. The
weather was beautiful & I rode the entire way with my head out the window.
I just couldn’t believe we were actually in AFRICA.

Staying in a hotel here is a bit different than
staying in one in the U.S. For one, we can’t drink the tap water. We must use
bottled water…even to brush our teeth, & we are advised to keep our mouths
closed when we shower. Another thing: mosquito nets. Unless we want to risk
getting Malaria (I don’t), we must sleep with these over us every night. I
actually kind of like them…

In the morning, we loaded the bus & started
the “five hour” drive up to Lira. After getting through all the traffic, it
actually turned out to be about eight hours. We kept ourselves entertained by
singing & laughing at people sleeping (ahem…MaryBeth & Molly). Oh…we
also saw baboons & the Nile River…no big deal.

Our hotel is beautiful. Everything is so green
& the people are so friendly. We met a huge group of kids behind the
property of the hotel & they were hilariousss. They loved getting their
pictures taken & were totally goofing off for the camera. It was amazing
how we could communicate with them without speaking.

Oh, & I can’t forget to talk about the bugs.
Here, they have these things called white ants. They are these huge flying ants…like
the size of dragonflies. Sara & I accidently left our windows open & a
bunch of them decided to make themselves comfortable in our room. After a long
& strenuous battle though, we showed them who was boss.

Overall, it’s been surreal. It’s still hard to
believe that I’m actually in Africa. But after 35 hours, we’ve made it. I can
already tell it’s going to be an unforgettable experience.

So long, America!

Well, our trip is officially underway. If I’ve forgotten anything in my disheveled bedroom, it’s too late now. After successfully completing the first leg of our trip, I can somewhat relax & let the experience happen.

Leading up to this point was not easy, though. Let’s just say I’m on hour 28 of no sleep. Between saying goodbyes, updating my iPod, & making sure I have everything I need, there was no time for shut eye.

The most important of these was obviously the goodbyes.

How did I spend my last night in America? Like any stereotypical American would: I went to McDonald’s. Sweet tea & fries for around $2? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. It’s gonna be awhile before I am reunited with the delicious taste of greasy, fattening foods; I had to say a proper farewell.

As for my friends, we laughed & hugged. I reminded them for the millionth time to read my blog, & we parted ways.

My family was a different story. My father kept repeating how proud of me he is, & my mom just cried.

It’s strange to think that although I’m coming back in two weeks, the person my family & friends said goodbye to, isn’t the same person that will be returning.

As far as how the trip has been going so far, it couldn’t be running any smoother (knock on wood!). I would like to say congratulations to Chase for completing his first flight…EVER!

Well, the others are waiting to blog so, until next time… 

 

Preparing Myself for the Road Ahead

I woke up this morning not really knowing what to expect from this class. All I knew is that it was going to be an intense 8 hours. So far, it’s been going by fast, and it’s only gotten me more excited for our upcoming trip.

These next few days will be devoted to a crash course in both theology and journalism, which will be interesting considering I’ve forgotten almost everything I learned in Theology 100, and have no experience in filming/journalism.

As I’m writing this, my first blog post, “Waka Waka” by Shakira is playing (cliche, I know), and I just can’t help but daydream about what it’ll be like to step off the plane into an entirely new world. Although this won’t be my first time out of the country (I’ve lived in Romania, and I’ve traveled to Israel a few times), this trip will be VERY different from any that I’ve been on.

For one, my parents will not be with me (this has both it’s positives and it’s negatives).

Second, I’m embarking on this trip as part of a class (two actually). This means that although it will be a ton of fun, it will also be a ton of work.

Third, Uganda is a developing country. I will see and experience things that will undoubtedly change me as a person, things that most people will only ever read about in books, or see on the news. 

I am both excited and scared. Excited because this is the trip of a lifetime; the trip I’ve been wanting to embark on for years now. I am also scared, because I know I will never be the same afterwards.