I have been fascinated with Africa ever since I can remember. Everything about the continent fascinates me. Someday I hope I can live and work there. So you can imagine what a treat it has been to go on an Agro-Mission to Uganda. Winston Churchill had called Uganda – the pearl of Africa, and its easy to see why the minute I landed there.
Uganda has land size of 241,139 square kilometers (roughly twice the size of the state of Pennsylvania), it is nearly double the size of Bangladesh (133,911 sq km). While the population size is about 18% of Bangladesh’s population (BD 160 million vs. Uganda 30 million). So you can imagine how green, clean and sparsely populated the country looked to me. I loved the fact that life had a slower pace there, you could see it in the faces of the people on the streets. There was poverty, the country needs a major impetus on industrialization, agricultural intensification etc. but everywhere the people we met were still happy. They know how to unplug from the hussle of life and enjoy the moments in life that really make up life. The only other country where I have met people who are always smiling was in Indonesia, but only really specifically in Bali. Partly because it is a tourist place and partly because the Balinese too know how to slow down and enjoy life. In Uganda, if you meet someone without a smile and give them one of yours, there’s a very high chance that not only will you get a grin in return, but you might actually be inquired after or asked to join that person for a cup of tea.
A friend had said that we do not travel to see places, we travel to meet people. I agreed with her, thinking of all the wonderful people I have met in all the countries that I have visited, but Ugandans really are the cream of the cake. I loved that the adults don’t treat you with suspicion and the children might call you a “bazunga” (outsider) but they don’t mean it unkindly. I loved the smiles and grins from adults who sat in traffic jams and laughed at me photographing sofa’s being transported on bikes. I loved it when I went for walks in the villages and got invited into people’s houses to photograph them with their entire brood of kids. Like everywhere else, the children posed, asked all sorts of questions and took great delight in being photographed. The women fixed their hairs and their smiles, while the men flirted easily with both words and gestures.
In a remote village in Uganda, in a place called Bududa, a couple opened their home to my colleague & me. As I am younger in age, I was referred to as the “daughter” while my boss was referred to as “brother”. As I found out over the next couple of days, these designations went beyond words. They shared their home, their family, their life as easily as we share the air that we breathe. And in that remote village, on my first full moon night in Africa, I realized that I had truly found a “home”. If home is where the heart is, then that’s where I was, whole heartedly. For the first time in a long time, my body and soul were in one place, truly at peace, no longer looking elsewhere, the gypsy blood was not calling to see more places. The home, hearth & people, held me in place and I could see myself setting down roots there.
While there are many fascinating things that I want to write about, for now, I will have to stop here. Until next time, enjoy the beautiful landscape and some portraits of random people I met.