After work today, I went on a long jog along the winding dirt paths that make up the outskirts of Gulu. Just outside our house, there is a road that winds past houses and huts, past women selling fruits and veggies, water pumps, through fields of maize, around Gulu High School, through a soccer field, past clucking chickens, goats and mooing cows, past compounds of children running to the edges of their property, waving and yelling “mono (white person), bye!” and ends on the top of a hill that overlooks the stunning savannah of Northern Uganda. This spot has become my sanctuary.
Today I was up there, stretching after my jog, thinking, reflecting and about to head back to the house, when I heard little voices giggling in the distance. I looked over and about 30 feet away, down the hill in their compound, two little Ugandan boys, probably around age 4 or 5, were imitating my every move. They had their hands in the air and looked like little yogis, about to begin a series of sun salutations. I began stretching, turning, and jumping into the air to see if they would follow me, and they followed suit. I attempted to challenged them, doing handstands and cartwheels, and they kept up! As I began walking back down the path towards their compound, they ran away and hid behind their mothers who were hanging laundry, and had not noticed our 3-minute hilarious interaction.
As I walked home, it seemed that everyone I passed greeted me with the most genuine smile and wave, or even words of support, in their beautiful accents: “You have completed your exercise, well done!” or “Congratulations my friend! You have won the race! Good Evening!”
There are times when I have felt out of place here, wondered what I am doing here, but today reaffirmed why I am here. I am surrounded by incredible human beings, beings who have all survived an awful war, who have experienced more death, hurt, sacrifice and sadness than any of us will ever experience, beings who sustain the will to continue after such destruction.
So, in closing, my heart goes out to all of those who have welcomed me to this new life. Without even knowing it, weather it be through a wave or a smile, a cartwheel, a conversation or a piece of advice, you’ve made me feel at ease and welcome, so thank you.
The title of this blog entry, “You Are Almost Welcome” is the typical Ugandan greeting. When I finally saw it in writing on a board at a recent staff meeting, I finally realized that they are saying “You are ALL most welcome.” Made a bit more sense. I kept wondering when I would be all the way welcomed. 🙂