Monday, June 16, 2008

You can't always get what you want, or can you?

My Luganda name is Ayagala, which means one who wants/needs. It was picked for me because it's very close to my last name. In America I’m used to getting what I want. If I want to flush the toilet or take a shower, I can do that any time. If I want to use the internet, there’s usually nothing stopping me from doing that. If I want to call somebody, my phone is not going to kick me out of a call because I haven't paid enough money in advance. When I go to meetings, they usually happen on time and last for an hour at most.

That’s not the way it is here. Sometimes we don’t have water in our house, and the internet is excruciatingly slow if it is available. Every time I want to call somebody on the phone, I have to pay a little over three dollars. Meetings can happen at any time of day, even if they are scheduled for a certain time. They can last for three or four hours.

I realize now that my life in the states is all about getting my way as fast as possible, but it seems like the lives of Ugandans are about celebrating being alive.

Most people who live in my village and in the surrounding areas don’t have running water at all. Some don’t have electricity, and many people only eat mashed up plantains, yams, and peanut sauce every day because goods like meat, milk products, rice, and imported fruits like apples are expensive.

Despite this adversity, or at least what looks like it to me, the people in my village are some of the friendliest and happiest that I’ve ever met. It’s impossible to go anywhere without being asked about my welfare by a smiling face. Our neighbors even shared fresh jackfruit and sugar cane with us.

My favorite part about being in this country is interacting with the children. Wherever we go, they run up to us, arms flailing, and say, “Bye!” until they can’t see our backs anymore. What's even more incredible is that some of these happy children have no parents. When we visited a school with no walls, the students sang for us with so much joy that soon we were infected. We had to sing along with them.

I’m not quite sure why people are so happy out here, but it may have something to do with how beautiful the landscape is. Sometimes when I’m walking around the village, I have to stop and stare at the silhouette of a tree against the sunset or at the morning fog settling on the lush green hills. It’s so quiet that I feel like I have to silence my thoughts. When people ask, “What is the meaning of life?” enjoying moments like these has to be part of the answer.

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