I slept till around noon the day after I got back from Uganda. Actually, it was noon in Uganda. Here in Minneapolis, in my own bed for the first time in almost three weeks, it was 3:58 a.m. I popped awake and couldn’t fall back asleep, but I’m not sure if it was because of jet lag or because once I was awake my brain immediately filled up with so many thoughts that it was impossible to turn them off and go back to sleep. That often happens when I’ve got as much going on, and as much to think about, as I’ve had during my time in Africa and in the weeks leading up to it. Still, I was disoriented for the first few seconds after I woke up.

“Where am I?” was my initial reaction, and I lay still for a moment or two while my mind did a rewind and fast-forward search through bits and pieces of information. I’m in a hotel in Uganda. I’m dozing on a plane. I still have days to go. No. I’ve returned. I’m sleeping in my bed. I’m home.

Once I had that part figured out and processed, I did some quick analytics. I went to bed around 9:30 the night before, after a very warm and welcome shower and after experiencing the great joy of brushing my teeth. It was a joy because for the first time in a long time, I could rinse my mouth and my toothbrush with tap water instead of bottled water reserved for this purpose, and without the fear that I would instinctively stick my toothbrush under the faucet and risk becoming very, very sick from ingesting just that miniscule amount of the local water. It was also a joy because I was still recovering from close to 48 hours on the road, in the air, and at other places where it was either impractical or impossible to place me, a sink, some water, a toothbrush, and toothpaste all in the same vicinity at the same time.

The six-and-a-half hours of sleep I got was about the norm for the time I was in Africa, but not enough for the healthier habits I wanted to return to or establish now that I was back in the States. So after I woke up on Saturday morning, I stayed in bed for almost half an hour, trying in vain to get back to sleep. Finally I decided to get up and write, which I always do much more easily and productively before I’m fully awake. Perhaps I would also do a few other Uganda-related chores – like unpacking and starting laundry – while I still had the first-thing-in-the-morning energy that allows me to get so much more accomplished than I can in the same amount of time later on in the day. Then, perhaps as early as 8:00 or 9:00 a.m., I’d be able to take a nap, having finished or eliminated some of the nagging and nudging thoughts that got me up and kept me up at 4:00 in the morning.

It was too early to consider breakfast, but already the idea of it tugged at my heart as I thought about breakfast in Uganda – the soft sounds and smells of the dining room in the hotel, the cooked vegetables and beans I ate every day (and that I would never have had for breakfast at home), the sausage that was in size, taste and texture unlike any I have ever eaten elsewhere, and the eggs, either scrambled or in an omelet, that I enjoyed in spite of the suspicion by one member of our group that it may have been the eggs – or the oil in which they were cooked – that made her ill during our first few days in Uganda.

It will be a gentle transition that I make in returning from life in Uganda to life back here in the States – in many ways, including with regard to the basic necessities of life. Sleeping. Eating. Taking care of my physical needs. But also tending to some things that are equally important and valuable. My memories. And my dreams.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on November 3, 2011.
© Betty Liedtke, 2011