I’ve just returned from my fourth trip to Uganda in the past three years. I’ve gotten to the point where landing at Entebbe Airport makes me feel as though I’m coming home.
So much about each trip is different from the others, with different teams, schedules, plans and programs. But so much about each trip is comfortable and familiar. I know that after I retrieve my luggage, I will be greeted and warmly welcomed by people I’ve come to know as family. After hugs and handshakes, we will load up the van and start the long, bumpy drive toward Kampala and whatever home or hotel we’ll be staying at this time. Along the way, we will catch up on each other’s lives and activities since we saw each other last, and we’ll talk about our plans and intentions for this trip.
The night air and the rhythmic accent of Ugandan voices lull me into something of a hypnotic trance – enhanced, no doubt, by the fact that I’ve been traveling for the past 24 hours and am now eight time zones away from what my body is used to. No matter. I know I will quickly adjust.
I also know that I will be well-fed and well-protected while I am here, and that many of the plans we have at the start will change and evolve by the time we get to them. There will be unexpected surprises and unanticipated problems along the way, and we will adjust to them as well as we are able. Since the first trip I was on, back in October, 2011, our motto has always been, “100% scripted, 100% flexible.” The flexible part always gets more of a workout than the scripted part, and that’s actually a good thing. It helps me become stronger than I was, and stronger than I thought I could be.
When all is said and done, I know that I will be overwhelmed by the gratefulness and graciousness of the Ugandan people I’ve come to know, as well as those I’ve just met. There will come a point – and already has – when an email or post I receive after returning home, telling me of the impact I had or the difference I’ve made in someone’s life, inspires me and humbles me. And I say a prayer of thanksgiving that I’ve been given the opportunity of doing this, and the privilege of going back regularly to do more.
There are physical and emotional challenges that I face when I’m in Uganda that I don’t experience in the States, and when I return home I am especially appreciative of that first hot shower, of being able to brush my teeth with tap water instead of bottled water, and of sleeping in my own bed. Yet I find myself already missing the glorious sunrises, the sound of roosters crowing, and the African spiced tea I can’t quite duplicate here. And I find myself already looking ahead to the next trip, whenever that may be. Sometimes I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. But I always know I am home.
The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on August 28, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014
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