The past week and a half has been a whirlwind. I have often found myself without clear thoughts or a clear head and on a kind of autopilot trying to make it through the next few hours let alone the next few days. Yesterday marked the end of my official placement as I completed “the final presentation” to the Ag- Inputs team although in many ways the placement has been more about the process. The last presentation did not really mark the end of everything for me, but rather just the official passing of knowledge that has been happening throughout. To be honest, I have not really been able to come to terms with the idea of leaving Gulu let alone leaving Uganda. In so many ways Uganda has become my home. A place of familiarity, a place of comfort, but most of all a place that inhabits people I love. It has also been a place of challenge, of discomfort, and a place that encompasses certain things I will never become accustomed to just like other places I have lived. Due to feeling strange about not sharing with you my last few days in Gulu and my thoughts over the past week I thought I would take this time to fill you in.
When August 7th arrived I knew I had exactly one week left before I would be leaving Gulu for good. Although in many ways this was an unfathomable thought, I would be lying if I also did not feel ready for the next few weeks to come. As I tried to figure out what I wanted from my last week I committed to two things; one, to stay curious, and two, to not think too much; to just let thoughts come and go without feeling the need to grasp onto them. As I found myself travelling to Lira (a nearby distinct) for work and to my friend Santo’s community for the last time, I began to accept the day for what it was. Whether it meant walking around to random shops in search of someone willing to talk or doing yoga on a rock face in a nearby field, I found myself feeling at ease. I spent the majority of my last few days with people I loved doing things that I enjoyed. Things like making g-nut paste, learning how to cook a few of the meals I had failed to learn, reading under my favorite tree, engaging in challenging conversations and taking the time to stop and embrace the beauty of the day and the conversations that could unfold. However, along with the beautiful moments came anxiety, fear, discomfort and the unknown. I found myself trying to fight off ideas surrounding what “I should” be doing, how “I should” be feeling and what was “right”. As I woke up on August 13th, I realized that it was my last morning at home with Sarah. Although I was not leaving Gulu until the 14th in the morning, I had decided it was best to sleep in town due to the severity of the rains disrupting the roads where I lived and needing a bug free zone to get rid of the pesky critters that had set up residence in my bag. I tried to embrace that last time I would walk to the small store in the nearby town center to buy breakfast, embrace fetching water from the borehole for the last time to bathe, and hearing the sounds of yelling children and busy people starting off their day.
(The shop where I would buy our breakfast, you can see some of the bags of different types of breads)
I spent most of my day venturing around Gulu town and nearby area’s saying goodbye to friends and people that had impacted my time in Gulu. I remembered the previous night as it was my “last supper” with my friend Santo who I had met in Canada prior to coming to Gulu and the conversations that unfolded. I recalled moments of happiness and distress in the places that I returned to and generally tried to be as present as I could be, for I do not think it was really possible for me to come to terms with leaving until I was forced to. At around 5pm I began to walk back home knowing that it would be my last dinner with Sarah. Sarah had made my favorite meal, beans and rice with cabbage (her beans are unbelievable) as we chatted about her business, life, love and the moments that had shaped our relationship. In many ways I feel as though my relationship with Sarah has taken on many forms, all of which has brought challenge and beauty to my life. As the hours flew by and 9 o’clock approached, I knew I had to head back to town before it got too late and no boda’s were around. As I gathered my last few things and put Joven to bed, I was hit by the fact that this was goodbye, for now. As I said goodbye to the others in our compound while fighting off tears and the reality of the situation, Sarah took my hand and started to pull me in the direction of the road. We walked hand in hand until we reached the town center and had to say goodbye. As I hugged her one last time and hopped on the boda, I realized that although I was sad I also felt at peace; I knew that although Sarah and I were saying goodbye to each other physically, we would still be in touch.
Since leaving Gulu I have been in Kampala working with Julia and Ellen on our final presentation while simultaneously trying to figure out my thoughts. Although I do not have much to show for the amount of gears that have been turning in my brain, I have come to realize this.
Most of what I have been struggling with these past few weeks does not entail others validating my experience or my value add to the AVC team, but myself coming to terms with what I have done and the experiences I have had. I think in a lot of ways the “I should” mantra has and continues to plague much of my thoughts and although I am trying to fight it off there still lies a valuable challenge within it; trying to determine when it is existing in my mind because at my core I believe it is something I should/ want to do versus if it is something I have created as a result of what others or society is dictating “I should” do.
(Read this blog post for some context to these thoughts: http://annahopkinsblogs.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/shouldingallovermyself/)
Additionally, I have been trying to figure out what this question (posed by Julia in a recent blog post) means to me as it has been a continual thought over the past three and a half months.
How can I move forward in a way that escapes old thought- patterns and flaws and is rooted in a desire to serve something greater than myself, but allows for self- love and personal growth?
With three days left in Uganda and many moments to experience until my departure, I wanted to leave you with a few words.
Although in many ways many of my blogs were perhaps too long, not as informative as I would have liked, and randomized to say the least, I have come to like the fact that this medium has been more about letting you into my heart and mind rather than the things around me. So, for those of you who have read all, many, or just this post, thank you for being up for the journey with me.
Josephine and I
Some of my friends walking to the market to sell, I decided to snap a shot as I walked to town
I was walking through the market to get some pinapple and some women were dancing! Yes… I did join in
With Barbra and Santo, Santo took the shot when I was trying to get the camera back
With Santo at Fort Patiko, also known as Baker’s Fort. It was a military fort built by Samuel Baker and was completed in 1872
Moses, one of the Agro -dealers in Gulu town and me
Some of the boda drivers near Layibi, Tito is in the mix too
A view from the 2nd floor of Jojo’s palace of part of Gulu town
Ronald, Josephine, Ellen, Lawrence, Julia, me and Ronald together for our last night
The family (Me, Joven, Sarah)