My first week in Uganda my boss told me there were three things that interns/fellows needed to be successful for their year. Patience. Humility. Assertiveness.
Patience because things don’t work like they do where we’re from. People are not the brought up the same way. Expectations are completely different– from customer service to government to accountability… But you’ll get no where if you let the frustrations get to you.
Humility because though you’re educated, you don’t know it all. Actually you understand very little. Just because you come from a place that has figured some things out, doesn’t mean that those things will work here–or that they should. Listen. Learn.
But, assertiveness. Because the status quo is not OK. People being abused by the system that has been tasked with protecting them is not OK. A better way is possible. But you will meet opposition from every side–because people benefit from the brokenness of the system.
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I have been back in Saint Louis for two weeks. I was prepared for the worst as everyone warned me that reverse culture shock is much harder than arriving. I had made so many dear friends and was in some ways nervous and unsettled about leaving. But being back home has been a sweet, sweet time so far. I have SO many loved ones. I am so glad to be a part of their lives in a more direct way again. It is comfortable, cozy, known.
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I am happy with the work that I completed in the last 16 months. It has been challenging. I spent most of my initial time in Uganda scared to death at what was expected of me with no idea how to get started, let alone accomplish anything. But as with most things, you just have to dig in somewhere.
It took about 8 months to feel comfortable with my job and my life–and to own them as mine (this is right on schedule according to cultural adjustment timelines). And slowly anxiety about my job gave way to excitement as a picture of the project design was brought into focus polam pola with each trip to the court or judiciary’s IT group or sitting for hours hammering out detail by detail how practically we could reorganize, resource, train and monitor a series of reforms in our pilot area courts.
Vague ideas transformed into detailed design and budgets and timelines and procedures and training curriculum and procurement recommendations and a growing list of collaboration partners. Could transformation of a fundamentally broken court system really might just maybe be possible??? Does that seem arrogant? My boss thinks we have the best chance that the Ugandan Judiciary has seen in my portfolio. Why not dream–and then follow through in faithful, compassionate word and deed? We know we’re trying to do the impossible. We surrender our little plans to the One who sits on a throne of justice and grace. Oh to know the unfamiliar passions of God!
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I turned in my multi-hundred page portfolio of recommendations to my field office director with a feeling of relief–and still, incredibly, knowing that there was so much more! So much will happen the next few years! My innovations and designs will be reworked and refined through trial and error. How I would love to be a part of it! But it was time to hand it off. I placed much of it in the capable hands of my BFF Richard Asiimwe (shout out Richie! Miss our talks– and you fixing my computer!) I worked till a couple hours before my plane left. And boom.
You leave one world. And step into another.
Not better or worse. Just different.
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Water fountains. Interstates. Strollers. Carpet. Over abundance. (Too many) options. Ubiquitous smart phones. Tall people. Enormous people. Expectations. Change of seasons. Heated water at sinks. Seatbelts. Directness. Hyper safety. Driving. Good beer. Good coffee. Unlimited internet. Complaining. Continuous improvement. Emission standards. Libraries. Customer service. Midwest salt-of-the-earth friendliness. Parking lots. Blending in & being anonymous walking down the street. No 5AM call to prayer, goats or roosters waking me.
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Scott would chide me for jumping between too many subjects. Alas, I am an inconsistent poster. Webale nnyo bassebo na bannyabo!