Monday, August 11, 2014

Goodbye Gulu

I’d been preparing for the day that I would leave Uganda even months before I embarked on this journey.  Although I knew that time would fly here, our departure date still felt too soon.  There was a sense of urgency in the last days - have I picked up all of my clothes from the market? (Have I tied up all the loose ends at work?  Have I been able to say goodbye to everyone?  Have I packed everything?  Do I have enough photos?  Have I completed all of the research that I thought I had so much time to do?)  Days before our departure back to Entebbe, tears were beginning to be shed, hugs were plentiful and promises were being exchanged to stay in touch and celebrate each other’s accomplishments from afar – via the wonder that is social media.

It is bittersweet, leaving Gulu town. I long for many comforts of home and am excited about starting a new school year but will miss the vibrancy, exhilaration, curiosity and ‘live-in-the-moment’ attitude that I have embodied here.  I have worked hard (and sometimes found it easy) to create a life in the short time that I have been here.  I will miss the Potato and (malaria) Pill breakfast every morning, dodging puddles/ruts and sliding within a mud-soaked van into work in the mornings, the endlessly friendly faces and greetings (even shouts of ‘muno!’), deepening friendships, learning a new language, squeals of joy when the power comes on, Sankofa deliveries, commiserating about hardships and joys with friends in the evening, impressive lightning shows, impossibly inexpensive (and delicious) pork joint dinners, sherbet sunsets, tucking into my mosquito net at night and the countless other smells, sounds, tastes and visions that Gulu offers.

Although an incredibly poorly timed illness kept me away from our GSSAP goodbye celebration, one of the women’s empowerment groups that I have co-facilitated in my time here held a goodbye party for me earlier in the week.  I have added a few photos below to share occasion. 

The group served a delicious dinner of rice, millet paste, groundnut paste, chicken and Fanta. 

Then they presented Lucy (the group leader from THRIVE) and me with a brightly colored dress, headscarf and necklace, even a necklace gift to take to my mother back at home.  

Making sure it fits!

Celebration dance.

The finished product!

The lovely ladies and myself.

 I was at a loss for words, and still am, about how to thank each and every person I have met – and even Gulu town – for making this learning experience such a profound one for me.  I hope that I was able to teach as much as I learned, that I listened exponentially more than I spoke, that I shared support and friendship as much as I gained it and that I will hold the unbreakable bonds that have been created/lessons learned here within me as I move along to the next adventure.  Thank you all, apwoyo matek.

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