Tuesday, May 25, 2010

experiences nonetheless

Last week a group of students from the University of London came to visit my site for a research project on the role of tourism in development. I have to say that their visit was really my saving grace last week. The truth is things have kind of ground to a halt lately here. My house is still not finished, and I find myself with less and less to do as each day goes by, and because of the restrictions on travel, I will often just sit in my Mbarara apartment for days on end. Even when I do get to go out to site, my organization frustrates me in almost every conceivable way, but I won't go into that now.

I actually wasn't even supposed to be there for the student visit, as I was going to travel to visit my friends Charlene and Brian in a neighboring town, but due to my supervisors unrelenting insistence, I ended up cancelling the trip. I was a little upset about having to cancel, but when a van rolled up and I saw that the group of visiting students were all girls my mood picked up slightly. I was only supposed be with them for a few hours, but after my supervisor Enock hijacked everything he turned their two hour morning visit into an all-day affair. Even though I was embarrassed by Enock's imposition, I was actually relieved to have someone else to talk to that day. The alternative being just Enock and me...

I ended up hanging out with the group for the rest of the week, and I got to be pretty close with some of them despite only having met them a few days ago. I actually even went on a Safari with one of the girls (Lorraine- from Zimbabwe but has lived in England for the past 7 years) and a couple of other friends that live here in town. These past few days have easily been the best I've had since coming to site. It made me feel like myself again.

Their presence however, both when they were here and in their absence, has highlighted what my life has actually become. It made me think of what things must look like to somebody just stepping off a plane from London, and it also helped me remember what life outside of this place was like for a few days. "Yes, I do see this kind of poverty every day." "Yes, I do actually work with this man." "Yes, I do eat this every day." "Yes, I spend every waking hour either alone or with people that treat me as more of a novelty than an actual person." "Yes, I will be here for the next two years..." The list goes on, and while more than one of them told me they think what I am doing is noble, I also know that not one of them envies my position. It's probably safe to say that many of you reading this at home wouldn't trade positions with me either.

The point is that this is my life, and it's what I've come to know and accept. Hopefully it will get better as I continue to integrate into my community more fully (assuming my house ever gets finished), but for now it's my reality. It can be lonely, boring, difficult, and definitely frustrating, but I also hope it's giving me the chance to experience something unique. Even if those experiences are hard, and the good ones only happen by every once, and even those are often short-lived, they are all experiences nonetheless.

Check out the photos from my safari with Lorraine, Brendon and Dennis here:


  1. remember that skills and frameworks are universal. even though things are tough and disheartening, you can still work on building personal skills and sharpening your framework for understanding the world. this will be invaluable. if you can figure out enock, im sure you can figure out anything.

  2. great advice, as always, ian. thanks a lot man.

  3. "Yes, I spend every waking hour either alone or with people that treat me as more of a novelty than an actual person." I know that feeling... I call it the Panda Bear Effect.

    Those pictures are amazing. Real amazing.

  4. It takes guts, and a good heart ( which is why the girls, especially me warmed up to you so easily). Great photography, I kinda borrowed one for my profile picture.