Yesterday morning. 3AM. Wide awake. Thoughts, worries, anxieties, filling my body. Making me feel weak and sick. As soon as I talk to Bjorn, my love, the tears don’t stop. I don’t make any sense. I am vulnerable; I am weak, when all along I thought I had this. I thought I could do this, no problem. Move to a new city without knowing many people. But, at this moment, all I could think of was, “Why did I do this? Why did I decide to leave all the people I love to come to a distant city for four months? How will I survive?” Waiting for the sun to rise, I realized (with the help of Bjorn) that the best answer was to get up and moving. Realizing that this sad emotion is like any other emotion that comes and goes, impermanent. As my friend Hilary, who spent three years living in Nicaragua, suggested to me, writing is a great cure. So here I go.
It is my second full day and I feel so much better. I will admit that the nights are quite hard. Possibly because for the last year I have lived with Bjorn and have become accustomed to his warm body next to mine. And now all I have is a dusty mosquito net. Makes getting up in the middle of the night for the bathroom quite funny. I also switched rooms at the hotel I am staying at, so that I am not right next to the lobby that cares for drunken men all night long. Telling stories, laughing, and drinking. Now I have some peace and quiet.
But, the most important thing that has restored my sanity are the amazing people that I am working with including Hilda, Sarah, Monica, Lilian, Hope, Fred, and Michael. Walking into MEMPROW offices the first day, I already felt welcomed. Monica was making herself some hot lemon water and then showed me the possible places that I could sit. The first was an office for “some privacy”, but instead I told her I wanted to work with the other girls if that was ok. There didn’t seem to be room, so I didn’t want to push it, but she said no problem and before I knew it there was an empty desk awaiting me. And right to work we went. I already have a few projects that I am working on including profiling the girls that have gone through the trainings so that MEMPROW can publish a book. I conducted an oral interview of a MEMPROW Girl today that became quite emotional, but inspiring. It can be overwhelming to realize that a majority of these girls have experienced sexual abuse without realizing that it is wrong. I have also become the in-house editor so that most things that are being sent I edit, which makes me realize how detail-oriented I am. Hilda told me that if there is anything that needs editing to just do it and do it I have.
We are preparing for our three-week field visit to the northeast region of Nebbi District. We leave on Wednesday and are putting the final touches on our activity plan. MEMPROW is completing a three-year advocacy project (funded by Amanitaire) to keep girls in school through educating the community on girls’ sexual and reproductive health. Then, we are conducting a ten-day social survival training, which aims to increase girls’ self-confidence through learning their rights. I will be teaching a couple sessions on meditation and mindfulness practices. I am so grateful for the opportunity to teach something that I am so passionate about. I was going to teach yoga, but given that there is little space, I think meditation and a bit of yoga before will suffice.
I am very excited about this work and can’t wait to see it all in action. I have really connected with Sarah, another Program Officer, who is so sweet and easy to be around. We went to the City Centre yesterday, which was quite a crazy place. Cars and motorbikes everywhere, vying for the space to move through the crowds of traffic and people sneaking through the crevices to get around. There were so many picture perfect moments, but Sarah told me that it wasn’t a good idea to take my camera out and especially to take pictures of people before asking. In these crowds, every picture would include fifty or more people, so you must come to Kampala to see the real deal. J And the real deal is hectic and alive and dirty and beautiful all at the same time. Riding on the back of the boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) last night after our adventure, I had this huge smile from corner to corner as I was full of love for this city that is so radiant, welcoming, and safe. Different than I have felt in other cities.
I am now sitting at the restaurant at my hotel, using a piece of wood as my table, waiting for my Indian dinner (there are many Indians living in Uganda) and drinking my Reeds Cider. Life feels pretty good and I feel that I am here for a reason. Learning about project implementation and myself. Learning how to face my vulnerabilities and challenges with an open heart and strong and steady mind. Meditating and yoga in the mornings and evenings are keeping me sane and I hope that I can teach the others around me about the inherent power we have within ourselves to change how we perceive our circumstances. I believe that I had this sleepless night to remind me what sadness and depression feel like, so that I can deepen my awareness of my mind. Reminding me that we can all handle anything that life serves us and decide how we response. Namaste.
Sarah the Model