Tag Archives: bus

The Onlooker

Kampala is the most populated city in Uganda and, therefore, very crowded. This is painfully obvious during rush-hour traffic. And, to get to JRS Kampala from the hotel and back, we had to cross the city in this traffic, so we spent a lot of time on the bus.

These bus rides have been challenging for me. Last summer, I was a participant in Creighton’s Peru FLPA in which students live and study in the urban poverty of Lima. It is a service learning program, so we served at various service sites in the community. To get back from service sites and overnights with our host families, we took the public bus (M1). And, despite some surprised looks from other bus riders, it was a way to delve into the reality in which these Peruvians were made to live and an act of solidarity.

In Uganda, riding public transportation is not an option for us. We are hauling around large, expensive camera equipment and working under a time crunch to get all the footage we need to assemble a documentary film when we get back to Omaha. So, I get it. However, we still see public transportation on our route in addition to many other vehicles, motorcycles, bikes, people walking, and children selling stuff on the streets.

The ease and comfort of our commute compared to most residents of Kampala is unsettling for me. This is magnified by broken, wordless interactions across windowpanes as I make eye contact with riders on the vans used for public transport. These vans are usually packed as full as possible (and then some) and sit lower to the ground than the bus I ride. This creates a physical hierarchy in which I am situated higher than the bus riders using public transport and, therefore, looking down on them.

And the eye contact is pretty unbearable, but I will not let myself look away. Under the circumstances, looking – and gently smiling – is the only way (that I can think of) to recognize the fellow human being in the vehicle beside me and dignify their life as of equal worth and value to my own. And, as our respective vehicles chug along, I feel like an onlooker in a landscape of hardship and suffering from which I am undeservedly spared.

But, on a positive note, today I had my best interaction from the bus so far. We visited the home of a South Sudanese refugee named Lewi that we interviewed yesterday. After getting some establishing shots outside his home, I played soccer with his sons. We started with passing but quickly transitioned to headers. The goal was to get as many consecutive headers. Our highest was an impressive three headers! Before you judge our soccer skills, you should know that we played on a very slanted ground next to a brick wall with a toddler at our feet.

We left after getting B-roll, and, as we drove away, the family stood outside their home and waved goodbye. When Lewi’s son spotted me through the windowpane past Tim (sitting between me and the window), he stuck his chin out farther and grinned harder so that the rest of the skin on his face tightened. To see each other better, I had to duck under Tim’s waving arm, and he had to duck under his dad’s waving arm. I made a silly face at him, and he made a silly face back. And, in that moment, the glass of the windowpane seemingly dissolved so that it no longer was a barrier. And I was grateful for its opacity that allowed me to connect to my new friend a moment longer.

It’s no coincidence that my best interaction from the bus only happened after I left the bus and met (and played soccer with) the person on the other side of the windowpane.

A Memory Not Forgotten

Time is a funny thing. You can be in one place one moment, living a spectacular experience, and then you can be back into the same scenarios that you live every day.

Those unique experiences become memories, memories that are kept alive through   photos, sounds, and daydreams that occur throughout class.

It feels hard for me to believe that I did the things I did in Africa just less than a week ago. It feels hard for me to believe that I played soccer with kids from a village, worshipped the gift of new oxen and plows with a whole town, and that I stood on top of Murchison Falls in the middle of East Africa.

But besides the fact that I witnessed all those amazing things, there is one moment that happened that I can’t get out of my head since I’ve departed away from the country nicknamed “The Pearl of Africa.”

On one of the final days of our trip, a child came up to the opened window of the bus I was sitting in. She was wearing a tattered purple shirt and a skirt as brown as the dirt she was standing in. She came up to the bus and asked me for money.

And I didn’t give any to her.

It bothers me to think of my actions in that moment, and sometimes I try to validate why I did such a thing. But I can’t.

There are no words. It’s hard to put into words that to help her, I couldn’t give her any money. I think in order to understand, you would have to experience Africa yourself.

In fact, there are no words to so many things that I saw while I was in Uganda. Although there was so much beauty that the country holds, there is also so much poverty.So many things are given to these people from back home, and the references are everywhere. i

You want to help these people, you hate to see them suffer the way that they do, but in order to actually help them out of the struggles they live every day, you need to but in the time and talent to actually give them things that can be a lasting monetary value instead of a paper bill.

Giving money then not caring anymore isn’t always the right answer, but giving a damn at the end of the day is, even if you  don’t have anything to give.

I will never forget the girl outside of the bus. I will never forget her eyes. I will be sure never to forget the millions of other people like her. I promise that I will give a damn, for the sake of you living the life that you wish to live.

Cheers.