02 March 2009

Worlds Collide

Age-mates, roommates, Sisters, and friends - Mynda & me
Mynda and her bride-liness (these photos are from her first shower on Sat. morning thrown by women from the church she grew up in)
Mother and daughter :)
Flourless Molten Chocolate Cake topped with coffee ice cream from the Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square.....yum....
The UN in Geneva, Switzerland (I really like this chair sculpture - a statement re. landmines)
Lucerne, Switzerland

So, it's been a while since I've written here, but I've been a bit busy. I'm hoping that you can tell by the photos above that I am in fact no longer in Bundibugyo...I left almost 2 weeks ago already...sheesh...and have be up to all kinds of antics since then. I flew with Stephanie, Scott, Baguma and Jennifer to Kampala for the Uganda Nutrition Congress for 2 days, then left Uganda and spent a few days visiting a friend in Geneva, Switzerland, and arrived back here in St. Louis this past Wednesday. The antics began Wednesday and continued for several days as I surprised my parents, brother, old coworkers and several friends who all thought I was coming in several days later...there were mouths hanging open (even full of food on one occasion), screams, tears, hugs, double takes, "oh shit"s, and the very laid back "hey....what are *you* doin' here?" Needless to say I've been having some fun :) I love surprises.

But it has been a lot...

I do this to myself all the time, regardless of what culture I'm in, I try to do too much...I enjoy every minute of it, but then I hit the wall, really hard...that happened on saturday night for the first time this trip. I was sitting at the dinner table with my brother and parents with my head in my hands...they graciously asked if I was feeling okay, and listened as I very slowly tried to put words to the overwhelmed state I was finding myself in (most of you probably know the type of communication I'm talking about, when I don't really finish my sentences and say "I don't know" a lot)...they listened as I tried to process how I got there and how I might need to do things a bit differently in order to keep from ending up there again. I'm so grateful for the freedom to be a mess with my family and they still love me and they know something of the mess themselves so they understand some parts of it...

But even more than just trying to do too much, there's this experience of worlds colliding...and I'm the only common piece, which means I'm the one that experiences the weight of the tension when they collide...there's no one else around who really understands the collisions, the why's, the how's, the who's, the when's, the what's...no one who really understands what the weight of that tension...it's a pretty lonely place.

It started when I was driving home from the Chocolate Bar the other night (see picture of decadence above). I had just been told that it seemed I was readjusting well, and I had tentatively agreed knowing that it could be that the adjustment just hadn't hit me yet. It was a commercial on the radio for the American Cancer Society...plugging the importance of prevention and diagnostics and research and so forth (all good things I might add)...whoah...the only way I can describe it is with the word "weight"....it hit me like a ton of bricks...cancer isn't even on the radar in the lives of the Ugandans I interact with...prevention? prevention of what? diagnostics? what diagnostics? Just the contrast of realities and priorities I guess hit me pretty hard...then I got home and checked email before bed (because I can, because there's internet access any time you want it, and you just click on a link or type in an address and it goes there, now now, not now in a few minutes, but now now), and I read team emails getting passed around about life and challenges and frustrations and joys in Bundi and the weight hits me even harder.

Now, you might be thinking that this weight has to do with the "haves" and the "have nots" and to some extent it does, that's one part of the differences between life in the States and life in Bundibugyo, but even bigger than that is just the stark contrast in realities and priorities...the contrast in what is first and foremost in peoples minds, hearts, lives...they're just so different...and what we "have" in the States and what they "have not" in Bundibugyo or what they "have" in Bundibugyo that we "have not" here in the States, is only a tiny piece of this puzzle...realities, priorities, they're just really different...and in other ways very similar...

And one set of realities and priorities is not necessarily better or worse than the other, they're just different...I have peers in both settings/cultures/communities that think that one or the other is better or more "real"...but the truth is that neither one is more real, nor better than the other (although that frame of mind likely makes life easier) they are just different....this lonely suspension between two worlds that collide, valuing both, loving both, and also being frustrated with both, is hard.