We all made it back to the United States, safe and sound.
Everything in Omaha is exactly the way I left it two and a half weeks ago: the showers are hot, the beds are comfortable, the T.V. is on, and the air conditioning is blasting. The only problem is, I’m not the same person I was before and ay, there’s the rub.
It is as if Omaha, with all it’s comfort and consistency, is urging me to forget what I saw in Africa and default back to my old ways. However, it seems that additional steps have been added to my thought process, making it impossible to neglect the memories. Images from Uganda play on repeat in my head and insert themselves into everything I think and do. When I put on my shoes before heading out the door, I see the bare feet of a group of African children playing in the street. When I walk into our computer lab classroom at Creighton, I see a dark school room with dirt floors, a few broken desks and a single chalkboard.
My mind is constantly trying to compare my experience in Africa with my life in Nebraska in an attempt to bridge the gap between these two places. However, the truth is that Uganda and Omaha are truly a world apart. Essentially every single aspect of my day-to-day American life is different than that of a Ugandan. I drive a car everywhere; they ride bikes or walk. I am constantly on facebook, twitter, and email; many of them have never seen the internet. I worry about eating too much, they worry about getting enough food to survive.
It is hard for me to come to terms with these extreme inequalities and differences, but what I have come to realize is that we all have one, essential thing in common: we are all people, we are all part of the same human family. We all deserve the same basic rights, and as someone who was blessed to be born into a position of privilege, I feel incredibly responsible to defend the humanity of my African brothers and sisters and work for a more just world.
However, it is also important to remember that not all the differences we encountered were bad. The world would be a terribly boring place if we were all the same, sharing one language, culture, and history. I loved and embraced encountering new things, like eating grasshoppers and learning traditional African dances. I think sometimes Americans believe the world would be better off if everyone was American; we want to spread our culture as far and wide as we can and impose our values on anyone we encounter. While I acknowledge the luxuries and privileges that accompany my U.S. passport, I also know that the American way is not always the best way.
I want to help Ugandans have the best Ugandan life they can have, and I want to live my life in a way that does not negatively affect the people of the developing world just because their lives are so different from my own.