Another month has passed and so much has happened! It can be hard to recount everything that has occurred during that time so I’ll try and give a short summary (along with some visuals!) of what life has been looking like for me lately.
I have officially reached the halfway point of this experience which is again a mind-boggling fact…and halfway means midterms! School work picked up a bit, but once these assignments were completed we entered into a time of retreat in Serere, Uganda for rural homestays!
During our week in rural Uganda, each student was placed in the home of a family to live and learn beside them. It was a week full of new experiences and learning and growing…and growing older! My 21st birthday will definitely be an unforgettable experience as I shared it with a family that I had just met the day before and in a context so different from what I am used to. Yet even so far from home, I felt the love of family and friends as I was surprised by the visit of the USP staff and warming birthday wishes from loved ones from back home!
I learned to do a lot during my time in Serere including pumping water, learning to carry water or vegetables on my head, milking a cow by hand, peeling cassava, shelling g-nuts, and grinding flour. Rural life is hard work! Yet I was also able to enjoy the work as tasks were shared with the fellowship of my host family and the surrounding neighbors.
While I valued the time spent in Serere, I was excited to greet my USP friends as we headed for a time of debrief from the week to enjoy the beauty of Sipi falls. This time was helpful to process what I had learned from rural homestays about what poverty is and is not and to consider the complicated interconnectedness of education, migration to the city, job availability, and cultural expectations. Following this time of refreshment, we traveled back to Mukono to return to our studies.
Another week flew by, and in no time I headed out for another action packed weekend at Murchison Falls National Park to appreciate the beautiful landscape and wildlife there! The journey to and fro our safari was quite an adventure, but the thrilling experience was so worth it. It was such a surreal moment to sit on top of a van riding into the African sunset as I’m looking into the face of giraffes, lions, and elephants. God’s handiwork is amazing!
Among all of this fun and busyness, most of my time during the week is spent at my internship at Refugee Law Project where I am practicing and developing my social work skills. Even when many of the clients do not speak the same language as me and require an interpreter, I have learned how to rely more on nonverbal skills. With time, I have become more and more comfortable interacting with the clients with such different life experiences from myself while continually learning from their stories. I have learned how to take initiative and use my voice which gives me confidence for my future work as a social worker. I have also truly recognized the value of being a well-informed social worker that is knowledgeable about resources and current events to be able to holistically and effectively engage with clients.
As usual, time is flying, but I look forward to all of the learning that is still ahead here in Uganda. Some days, however, I really just wish for a quick chat with a friend from home or a hug from my Mom, but I have been blessed by wonderful new friends that I love and that care for me so well. Each day, I pray for an attitude of presence, patience, and a willingness to learn. As life here becomes the new normal, sometimes I need to take a step back and recognize how amazing this experience is and how wild it is that have this great opportunity for learning! I am so thankful.