(Title inspired by: The Runaway Bunny)
As a Political Science major at Creighton, 22-year-old Alison Prater came into her trip to Uganda with general knowledge of the basic political and social structures of the country. Prior to her departure, Alison also began to read books describing the sociological and political structures in Uganda as well as personal accounts of living among the people. Her knowledge deepened and her perspective changed as she met the people and experienced the culture.
The two-week program in Backpack Journalism, immersed the students within the Ugandan culture while simultaneously creating a short documentary film about the role of music within the culture. Alison had never been to the developing world nor was she familiar with camera equipment, but she welcomed a new challenge and approached the trip with an eagerness to learn.
“The amount of sincerity from the people was overwhelming.” Most places give you some sort of greeting when you arrive, but she said she had never received this kind of welcome. Even thousands of miles away from her home, she felt at ease.
During her two weeks, she learned how to separate what truly matters in her life which she believes comes with any kind of travelling.
“You can live off the people around you. It doesn’t have to be about degrees, majors, or money.”
It was not easy to balance making sense out of the injustices around her while also keeping up with her personal thoughts. She did not let this affect her ability to actively participate in her role as an interviewer for the film project.
She said she struggled to remain focused sometimes, but she remained patient and asked for help when she needed it.
“It was difficult, but it brought me closer to the subject matter.”
Her greatest challenge during the trip was dealing with emotions in a foreign place. “Every single coping mechanism you usually have is ripped out from under you.” She struggled to process the immense desperation and suffering around her.
“You can’t cry. It’s not an option because you have to look at it.”
She realized there were times when she could pretend that whatever was happening around her was not real. However, she was quickly reminded of the reality of the situation when she saw children wearing Green Bay Packers or Jonas Brother shirts.
“It was connected to my world directly and that made me sad.”
In addition to being exposed to new and often heart breaking sights, Alison faced the challenge of sharing it all through the class blogs.
“For the first time in my life, I was speechless.” Her journal became more of a list of events than a descriptive narrative. She said it was hard to find the words when her mind was still trying to make sense out of everything that had happened.
“It was jarring.”
Although it was overwhelming at times, she said it was refreshing to be able to experience such a range of emotions. Her emotions in the United States typically focus upon stress or anxiety, yet in Uganda she experienced “pure solid emotions.”
“I never knew I could experience that many feelings in one day, one hour, one minute.”
Her time spent at the top of Murchison Falls inspired what she called “pure happiness.” As she and her fellow classmates ran around the slippery rocks with their expensive cameras, warm light spread across the sky and it began to rain. She suppressed her urge to jump in the water, but the impact of the power of her surroundings remained.
She said her time in Uganda is something to keep learning from and working from..
“Africa changes people. No one comes out entirely different, but no one comes out entirely the same.”