By God’s grace, I have arrived in Uganda safely. As I write, it has been three full days since arrival. (And now one week and four days as I edit). We definitely hit the ground running. And, I’m rolling with it. Upon arrival, my cohort was placed in a temporary quarters. We live out of our suitcases, and run by a schedule that is revealed nightly. Back home I’m used to planning ahead, settling in the first night I arrive on campus. Here I can’t do that, at least not yet. Wi-fi is pretty unstable and there are other amenities that are unfamiliar, like using squatting lavatories. The mornings are usually cold. We bucket bathe sometimes, and on occasion flush our toilets with a bucket of water. Thankfully, bucket bathing, bucket-flushing-toilets are not new to me because of my upbringing in Ghana where I lived this way. But I find that I’ve lived long enough in America to see some of the discomforts and ways in which living in America has re-formed me. Already, I am beginning to become aware of issues concerning my identity and cultural differences. There are also moments that feel nostalgic, humbling, and deeply satisfying despite the unknown, the unplanned, and the surprising. More will be written on some of these issues in future blogs, but for now I’m grateful that my flexibility muscles are being flexed and developed.
By rolling with the day and events as they come, I’ve been able to be more present and trusting in the journey and in God’s providence. Each moment is sacred. Each step is a gift. Each space is an opportunity for contentment. Each day is beautiful in its own way.
For this first piece I am reminded of my vision of embarking on the journey as a pilgrim and not a tourist. My vision was inspired by my study abroad program coordinator who impressed this upon me after one information session/ Q&A. I had asked her about vlogging/blogging in Uganda and how I can prepare myself. I asked about limitations, cultural norms, etiquettes, and general information. It was during this conversation that I was challenged to come in with the mindset of a pilgrim and not a tourist. You might be asking about the difference. While this is not an official terminology, some differences that come to mind are as follows. The tourist mindset is that of a consumer. With this mindset a student enters another country with the idea of being entertained first and foremost. Learning may occur, but not be prioritized. Usually, good communication, cultural respect, and awareness is sacrificed for the content the tourist wants to capture. The pilgrim, contrarily, prioritizes learning. The pilgrim hopes to be changed for the better by the end of his or her journey. To promote healthy relationships, be culturally respectful, and fully present, the pilgrim may sacrifice content for understanding. The pilgrim adopts a posture of teachability. In short, the pilgrim is a receiver, a true student.
For now the lesson is this:
Much of life can’t be raced, or forced. No matter what has happens, we can only live with what we have now. Tomorrow is dependent on what we have in the present and it helps not to frantically anticipate all the is to come. Roll with life and you’ll be surprised at all the beauty you’ll see in the people and places around you.