+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Greetings from Kanyanya. It has now been over a week since I arrived here in Uganda, and it feels as if I have gone from being in a black and white, still-frame movie to a color motion picture. Everything is alive. The green is greener, as one friend told me it would be. The roads are red, bustling with people moving around the landscapes of their lives. The birds are chromatic and diverse; bright blue hummingbirds, shining yellow birds, and enormous terradactyl like creatures dot the clear aired sky. Languages and cultures are also chromatic, which is the theme of this post. Yesterday, I was sardined in the back of a landrover with about 8 other people from the surrounding nations- Kenya, Tanzania, and of course, Uganda. Among us, there were more than eight languages spoken and likely as many cultural heritages, though me and my colleague were the only ones coming from a faraway land. The stories are rich and complex, layered and dynamic, yet parallel to the stories of anyone. Anywhere.
Being here is an incredible privilige- I am one of four students from UBC who are participating in a short term internship (4mths) with an local organization here in Uganda called TASO. In the big picture, four months is such a short time, thus, I am happy that this internship is co-designed by TASO and UBC to be the first four month stage in a period of three years, where following students will build on the work that we do this summer in a continuous flow. It is a unique opportunity to lend our time, skills, and enthusiasm to come alongside of people who are doing amazing work in their country, who serve with excellence, and who have been leaders in change in Uganda and beyond. This indigenous and grassroots organization was founded over 25 years ago by 16 Ugandans who saw a need, and gave their lives to create change. To be able to learn from and serve them is a great joy.
Initially, I was unsure about coming to a nation not my own simply to learn; worried about being an inconvenience, about imposing my own perspective, making cultural blunders… For the first few days, I did feel very awkward, and was not sure how to fit in. I felt awkward about coming- struggled to find words to describe, justify my presence here. What I am learning, is that to be caught in a tension which may feel uncomfortable, is not a bad thing. I am here to learn. I am here to serve. I am not here to change the world, change a nation, or “help”, as so many people may think. As I continue to learn about the work that TASO does in Uganda, I am so humbled to have the opportunity to meet the pioneers of change, and to come alongside of them as they bring change to their nation. I think that that is the best position to take, and to take slowly. This organization has stood the test of time, and I am convinced that it is because of the reason for which it began; love. This love transcends borders, languages, cultures, and histories, and creates a common story of which we can all be a part; a new story that is being written every moment of every day, in every language, tone, and color. It overcomes and re-writes old stories. This story is not of one color or geography alone; it is simultaneously unified and chromatic as the flock of beautifully colored birds that flies overhead, peeks through the windows and inhabits the trees.