I’m sitting out on one of the decks of our hotel. There are lights in the skyline that leave a silhouette of the building in which they are supposed to illuminate. Beyonce’s “Halo” can be heard from the building neighboring us. Dogs are barking every few minutes in the yards nearby. Everything sounds so American from where I am currently….
Except it’s not. It’s Ugandan.
Just from the driving on the streets of Kampala foreigners can experience so much that the city has to offer. Life is completely different here compared to back home: foot traffic loosens the dirt sidewalks as vendors do their daily business from wood constructed shacks, babies carrying other younger family members on their back ( 50% of the Ugandan population is under 16 years), and hundreds of ladies can be seen throughout the day carrying a variety of woods, fruits, and other supplies on their heads. In some respects, some things that I have seen are straight out of a National Geographic special, or if not out of a Sarah McGlocklin commercials about dogs, substituting babies instead. If I were to write this yesterday I would have dedicated this whole post to everything I have seen so far that would have been not far from the expected before entering the country.
But I’m going to try not to do that.
Instead, I want to talk about two specific things that I’ve noticed so far: barbed wire and eyes.
I know. Those are two completely different topics, and no, I’m not planning on tying them together in a big red, yellow, and black bow of extravagant thought. These are just observations so far. Work with me.
Buildings here come in all shapes and sizes: from the slum shacks I mentioned earlier, to the newly constructed shopping malls that can give Westroads a run for their money. Yet, something that buildings definitely don’t have at home are 10 feet walls with a plethora of sharp objects placed on top of them.
Barbed wire, broken beer bottles, metal spears. Take your pick.
Whatever the physical enchantment may be, each item placed there was meant to keep people out, which is funny, because the American definition of walls with sharp objects placed upon them are meant to keep people in.
I understand this is a developing nation. I understand that there is crime. I understand that there is heartache. I also understand that in some respects, these people are living to die, and in turn, dying to Iive. But, although I could read and write 1001 ways that tell me that these people aren’t happy or supposed to be happy with their lives, I have just as many smiles, laughter, and a sense of community that has brought people together.
Although there are more trying things in the Ugandan people’s lives than not, they do in fact have one things figured out that the American people and many other first world countries do not: people’s happiness and community are important, not the bullshit that the media and our culture tells us we need to be happy.
Yet, I find something else interesting. When I look at the Ugandans people’s faces that say that they are blessed with what God has given them, their eyes say a completely different story. As we’ve been driving by the people on the streets in Kampala, I’ve been noticing more and more that there are more to the smiles and grins that I’ve seen on the exterior. There are more to the people of Uganda than what we initially see at first.
I’m interested to start talking to them and learning their stories, and finding out what exactly that “more” is…