I just counted 16 posts. In five months, that's only about three per month. Not too many, so I figure I will right another one now and try to bring it up to three and a half.
I only have a week and a bit left in Uganda. Then, I'm going to head back to Kenya for ten days before leaving for Amsterdam on Aug 19. It has gone by so quickly I can hardly believe it. I'm already starting to think about home, but I know I will miss Africa terribly. There will definitely be an adjustment period.
All the friends I've made here and the things I've done with them have been incredible. There is always something different and exciting happening. Celebrations, trips, activities, and of course work. But my work is guiding trips and teaching amazing, well-behaved and eager-to-learn children, which is hardly a downer. So when I have downtime, I of course have to spend it thinking about negative stuff. While there is no doubt that I am doing something here, chipping away at the cultural and educational issues in Uganda, I can't help but wonder if there are more pressing problems that I should be thinking about. Here almost everyone has enough food, and a place to live and we can concentrate on things like teaching students creativity and self-esteem. But when I know people are dying of AIDS and starvation and living with war or as refugees, I wonder if I am doing enough. I guess nothing will ever be quite enough.
I've had a lot of conversations lately about these things, reached a few conclusions and come up with a few conundrums. For example, should someone feel guilty spending more in a weekend (on food, a few drinks, transportation) than some people make in a month? Especially people who are your friends. I know I feel guilty, but its not my fault. And should I stop living my life because other people can't? I don't know. Similarly, when someone asks me for money (on average a couple of times a day) I say that I will pay them for something, but I don't give it out for free. When the street kids come by with baskets of bananas or mangoes, I buy them, but I don't give money. Is it fair of me to demand something from people? Just because I have the money, do I deserve it more than them? Do I have the right to decide who should have it and who shouldn't? I mean, you can say you're teaching them business values and ultimately contributing to development, but what makes me think that I can be so high and mighty as to assume I can teach lessons to people who work at least as hard as I do in worse conditions and still end up in abject poverty?
As great of an experience as I am having here, sometimes I feel guilty and I can't help it. My friend Laura said that we should just live our lives and give back as much as we can and not feel bad for what we have. But how much is as much as we can? Is it possible to live our lives and give back as much as we can, or are they mutually exclusive? I ended up in tears that night cause I couldn't get over the feeling that if I agreed with that, I would be making excuses to make myself feel better. In the end, I concluded that I didn't have to give up everything I have and live in a little hut somewhere for the rest of my life, but that it's not a bad thing to want to do more than I am. What if I decided I have done enough? I've ticked all the boxes and now I can just sit back and feel good about myself. Even though that is a feeling I really really want, the idea that there is always something more that I could do will continue to motivate me, and what could be better than that?
And now that I've barfed out everything on my mind, I would welcome any comments people have on this subject. I know most of you guys who are reading this are very socially conscious, and working hard for things you believe in. I welcome any insights.
In other news, I hiked up a mountain last weekend. Its called Muhavura, it is a 4127m dormant volcano with a cater lake at the top, and it sits on the border between Uganda and Rwanda near Kisoro Town.
The ascent was fun, with some incredible ecosystems which changed drastically every 500m or so, similar to Kilimanjaro. we all got mild symptoms of altitude sickness - fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, headache - every step felt like a five minute sprint. It was quite funny actually. cause we all felt a bit drunk, and had to stop every few steps to catch our breaths with heart rates of like 180 bpm (yes, we counted).
We ate lunch in Rwanda. I was trying to get everyone to speak French there, but it didn't catch on. There are enough languages here without adding French.
On the descent, a fellow volunteer, Biggi, tried to learn the Canadian National Anthem from me. He didn't, but it led to each of us singing our national anthem to the group, which was quite fun. Among the 8 of us, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Iceland and Slovenia were represented. Quite a variety.
On Friday, we went to a concert with a popular Ugandan band. The Mzungus all ended up dancing on the stage with the band in front of hundreds of people. Except me cause I was getting a beer when they went up. That was pretty funny. Once again I am amazed by what we can get away with just because of the colour of our skin.
This weekend I am heading to Jinja to raft the rapids at the source of the Nile. Supposedly it is one of the most fun things you can do in Uganda and I am really looking forward to it. Next year, they are planning to build a dam there to provide some much-needed power to the country, so this will be my only chance. How can I not?
After that I'l' be in Kampala for a couple of days and then I'm coming back to Kabale for a few last preparations before I return to Kenya. I'm sure I'll have lots of stories then, so tune in next week for another exciting entry ;).