Editor’s Note: Betty Liedtke is in Uganda. While she is gone, we are publishing excerpts from her upcoming book about her first trip to Uganda, in October, 2011.

Tuesday Evening, October 11, 2011

I am in Africa! It doesn’t quite feel like it yet, because I haven’t actually gotten off the plane. Our Amsterdam to Entebbe flight included another stop – in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. That’s where we are now. It’s just a short stop, under an hour, and those of us going on to Entebbe were told to stay on the plane. But even though we weren’t able to get off the plane, at least we were able to stand and stretch after the long flight from Amsterdam.

I had a chance to talk with the three other people sitting in my row. Neat young people! One of them has been to Africa and Haiti, and is now on his way to Congo. The other two are a married couple who sound as if they’ve been on a number of trips like this. He’s a songwriter and works with children. She’s a writer, although she doesn’t think she’s any good. Also, she thinks that her husband – who is the one who told me what a good writer she is – is biased because he’s married to her.

Just before we landed in Kigali, I finished reading Left to Tell, a book that several people have been recommending recently. “Read it before you go to Uganda,” one of them told me. I didn’t have time to read it before leaving for Uganda, but I finished it by the time we got there, so I’m hoping that still counts.

I can understand why people were telling me to read it. The book is about a woman who was hidden for several months, with six other women, in a tiny bathroom during the Rwandan genocide of 1993. It was a powerful story that grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. Even more so because Kigali, which is mentioned often in the book, is where I am right now, although I’m not going to see anything outside of the airport – and even that is only what I can see from the windows of the plane.

Uganda is mentioned several times in the book, too. And reading about all that this woman suffered and endured – which included most of her family being murdered – made the discomfort of a long, cramped airline flight seem totally petty and insignificant. It put things in perspective rather quickly. But I’ve always found that to be the case. Whenever I’m going through something unpleasant or uncomfortable, even things like the cancer and heart damage I had years ago – I usually see or learn about someone who has recently been subjected to, or who’s currently going through, something that’s way, way worse than anything I’ve ever had to endure.

I’m sure that seeing the poverty and conditions in parts of Africa is going to do the same thing to me – help me to see with new clarity and understanding how fortunate I am and how good my life is. Even when things seem uncertain, unpleasant, or overwhelming.

We’re taking off now from Kigali. Next stop – Entebbe!

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 18, 2013.
©Betty Liedtke, 2013

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