The spring break of my senior year I took a trip to Uganda to do humanitarian work in a village. After months of raising money to support my airfare, and the help fund a new kitchen, and water storage/filtration system I departed for a place where I have never been before. I arrived at the Kampala airport at the break of a new day, it was dark, sticky and hot outside. When I stepped inside the airport building to go through customs and immigrations as I had so many times before, this was like no where I had ever been to before. At various corners around the building there were men sitting with automatic rifles patrolling and watching everyones movement. Inside it was hot, clammy, I felt moisture accumulating around my hair line under the off colored yellow lighting. We all gathered into a van, luggage packed all around us, sticky and dirty from days of traveling. We travelled through the night, trying to push the windows as wide as they open, yearning for some fresh air. We arrive at our quarters for the night, the sheets and thin and my skin feels dirty, and is catching on the fabric as I toss and turn, before a slip into a much needed sleep.
I open my eyes to next day to people, plants, animals languages and voices I’ve never encountered before.
On the van ride through the capital, Kampala, I am one of the few white people, for one of the few times I’ve ever experienced in my life, I am the minority. I am different. Men shout out there window towards us saying things in a language I don’t understand. The deeper we travel into the country the more apparent it becomes that I am different, with my clean fairly new clothes, nice tennis shoes, no holes in anything I’m wearing.
For the next week I spend almost all my time outside under the sun in this equatorial region with children in the school and around the village. They stare, some run away because they’ve never seen a white person before. They love to talk though and ask questions about everything. They want to know if it’s true about snow, and the mountains. They hear we build houses with running water just for our chicken and cows and animals. They ask why, all this coming from children who have no running water, and some with no house. Some of the children just want to be held, to be picked up off the ground, where their bare feet have always been in contact with the soil of the Earth. Young children, who don’t speak English rub at the skin on my hands and arms, with curiosity in their eyes. I am told that they are seeing if the white color of my skin will rub off.
At this moment I realized my worries, of the new shoes that I want, the concert I want to see, the question of whom I will go to prom with, all of these problems of luxury don’t matter. I’ve been throwing luxury brand toilet paper on peoples homes, when they don’t have a toilet, or even toilet paper at all. At this moment I realized I live in a reality that isn’t even reality at all. At this moment my view of the world and my life inside that is shattered, nothing that I cared about mattered. Never before that had I understood fear, troubles, or struggles. Nor may I ever like the people who I connected with here.