Written as I work at the front desk of my apartment complex. The local time is 4:18 a.m. That’s 12:18 p.m. in Uganda. Just as I start to awaken from the muddled reality of jet-lag, I take on this shift. Deal with it body.
Suddenly a Tourist
Our last few days in Uganda were spent in a game park, at a very nice lodge. The food was amazing, there was a pool, and it was the only place we encountered that had a shower curtain. We went on a few safaris; saw elephants, hippos, Ugandan Kob, and (fortunately), a few lions. Tim got an amazing photo where you can see the reflection of our bus in the lion’s eyes, we were that close. The incidences of encounters with Caucasian tourists also increased 2000-fold in the park. There were people from Germany, America, France, Spain. All there to see the treasures of Africa, I’m sure. And the place was beautiful; I’m glad we went. However, it was definitely weird to be there. Obviously, this experience felt oddly removed from what I had come to understand to be the treasures of Uganda; the classic family hut in the middle of nowhere. The refugee church-songs that echoed through the empty Savannah. Brokenly conversing in the local languages, which would change with each place we visited. The change in the tone of our experience – between filming for our documentary, and staying at the game park – was all very abrupt.
Before I knew it, we were on the plane back home, as if the State Department had said “Time to come home kids” and sucked us up with a big vacuum before any of us could take one last breath of African air. All very abrupt.
I knew, even before I left, that this trip was going to end up serving as an introductory trip. A lot of my time was spent getting used to the culture, the weather, the food, and working the documentary. As such, I don’t have one “Theme of the Trip” statement that I can distill from my time there. I do know that I’ll want to go back; someday, somehow. I was aching for home by the end of our trip, but once I recover, I know Africa will be calling.
Some of the most salient things that I did learn from the trip are also the most obvious. These are things that we all know: refugees don’t have a lot, and go through substantial suffering; in general, a lot of Africans do too. Deep happiness, and deep faith can be found in places of deep suffering. I heard from people there, and personally choose to believe, that these fruits come from these people constantly being reminded of their hunger. The lack of food, security, trust; it all spurs on a hunger for the presence of God. And after drawing closer to God, something inside these people is fulfilled. This is the spring form which the deep happiness flows.
Father Kevin put it nicely when he said in our of our interviews: “There is more joy in this chapel than I’ve experienced in the church in America. I’m convinced it’s because these people know their hunger, they know that they have little other than one another
and God in their lives. And both come through, and both will satisfy, and both will
provide, and it’s that paradox that St. Paul talks about; when I’m weak, I’m strong. If
we know our insufficiencies, if we know how much we need to depend on each
other. Those needs are often met and that is a cause for joy.”
Blueprint to Reality
Again, we all know this. Personally though, I often trick myself into believing I need more things, better grades, or more experiences to reach that elusive happiness. At least now I have tenable experience which can fly in the face of that logic. The memory of the experience is strong enough (and fortunately will be preserved in the form of film) to provide a conviction in my heart capable of steering the direction of my future life – a constant reminder that deep joy requires little less than to link hands with God, and one another. While this might seem obvious / inconsequential, I hold this in extremely high value.
To end, here is a short video I took of my friends while at Murchison Falls in the game park. It is one of my favorites, as it exemplifies the joy and radiance found within the character of these wonderful people. May this serve as an extremely brief teaser as to what our documentary might look like; for some reason it’s really blurry. Our documentary won’t look like that :)p.