I hope that it doesn’t sound naive to say that the moment I landed in Africa, I started planning how I would move there. I have complete intentions of spending at least two (but maybe more) of my remaining years in Africa. I think I started planning this initially because of the life, the smells and the fire that I experienced in my first hour their on night bus ride from Entebbe to Kampala. In TriDelta (I am now an alumni member but was once a founding mother of the Epsilon Mu chapter at Creighton) we talk about why we joined and more importantly, why we stayed. I think that the same conversation should apply to Africa. Yes, it is important to talk about why we went there. But I think it is more important to talk about why we will go back and my reasoning certainly goes deeper than what I saw out of a bus window at 11pm.
On our second day in Abia I was really torn up about everything that had happened with Teresa and her mom. After being surrounded by death on a second degree or even third degree level for the week beforehand (knowing that 1/3 of the kids at Ave Maria had HIV, seeing emaciated stomachs and bare feet and looking at the children who wore down coats in 90 degree weather because they had malaria) it was utterly and completely jarring to actually hear it on the telephone and hold it in my lap. For some reason I felt the need to stay strong and completely repressed everything until later that night. But there was a moment in Abia, when a little boy in a green shirt held my hand that I caved a bit and let some emotions through. Patrick and I had volunteered to do some b-roll while everyone else was interviewing. We were attempting to get images of the huts that the people of Abia lived in when this little boy (about seven I would say) came up and shook my hand, but didn’t let go. With his other hand, he grabbed Patrick’s and still didn’t let go. So the three of us stood holding hands for a couple of minutes. I can’t imagine that this boy knew the emotions I was feeling, but the toothy smirk he gave me made me feel like he knew mine and I knew his. When I remembered that I needed my hand to film I took my arm and put it around his shoulder. He lifted his arm around me. A few tears escaped my stronghold and after a large breath I managed to exhale out “apwoyo,” which means “thank you.”
The next day I decided to get a tattoo when I got home. It says “apwoyo matek” which means, “thank you very much.” My hope is that the boy in the green shirt, the life, the fire and the desire I have to return because of those things will be with me until I do go back. Maybe then I will be able to say something more profound than “thank you,” but I certainly can’t think of anything more fitting.