Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How do you measure a year in the life?

How do you start something that just ended...

This can be a shout out, or a sappy sentimental summary, an Oscar night list or an introspective treatise. It could come off like a song, a poem or a high school yearbook scribble. But I would like to think that what my boy Chubaka O'connor says about traveling is true: you learn more about the world than about yourself. Its not to say that backpacking around the world is easy; it takes courage, flexibility, and openness. However, it is non-committal, and it is in commitments that we find ourselves, that we shine. While traveling, we can, and do, re-invent ourselves after each smooth or rough landing. The trick is to adapt quickly, and easily, and without too much fuss, to cherish change. With each new place, we make new friends, we bathe in new experiences, and we take in as much of our surroundings as we can. The difference is that we know that, unlike life back "home" we are only a flight, a ferry, a matatu away from a new friend, experience or environment, and therefore, as a conscientious traveler and human being, though you remain the best person you can be, there is always a way out, a way to escape, a flight to catch.

That must have been the introspective part.

The high school shout out will come soon, but first, we want to remember. We want to remember the pot-holed streets, going the wrong way around the rotary on the back of a boda boda in the night. We want to remember drunk on waraji and bitter lemon, and the sobriety of poverty and death. We want to remember cherishing a medium rare fillet mignon after a month of flavorless matoke. We want to remember the force with which the boy walking naked in front of the police station hit us (remember Rusha?). We want to remember the hospitality of those that live in a scrap wood shack and the baby that was swept away by the flood. We want to remember Scott's spin mix and lounging poolside at Kabira country club. We remember the days and weeks without water or power, and last call at Bubbles. We want to remember the worst bathrooms, outhouses and beds of our lives, and the gentleness of Sonam's village. There is so much we want to remember, and especially, there is nothing we want to forget.

You know, coming back to the States is not so hard. This is a wonderful country. While true adjustment may take as long as our 9 months on the road, adjusting to anything, especially a place like "home", now seems easy in comparison to some of the adjustments on the road. It is easy to romanticize the third world, especially a place like Uganda, but life there is hard and cruel. Life here, while mired in American greed, capitalism, and the ever present gladiator-style race for the best, works. A society that is based on universal principles, that elects its leaders and changes power peacefully, that celebrates community, volunteerism, health, and commitment to a better world, isn't so bad.. is it? The third world is a troubled place, a place where those who can, take, and take, and take, leaving a wake of destruction that swallows up the multitudes who are powerless to take. Its a place where societal and economic pressures can be self destructive and thoughtless and backwards. Its a place of suffering and shit eating, again and again, apathy, hopelessness and despair. It is because of this dark background that lights burn brighter. It is because of this void that faith in God, in people, and selflessness becomes more apparent.

I guess that was the treatise.

There are so many people to thank and to love. So many people that made this possible. First of all our parents, who came to visit, who read our blog, who sent us shoes, who worried for us, and who were proud of what we did. Our family: Haddas, without whose help we could not have done this, who managed our lives and responsibilities back home, and Leah, who's amulet (it's not a sailor being crushed by an anchor Leah, it's a sailor navigating dark waters by sexton) kept us safe from lurking evil and sketchy 140 km matatu rides in the "death seat" past the soul snatching spirits of Mabira forest. To AJWS for making this possible and our selfless friends and colleagues at KCCC, who day in day out, without pay, keep the faith, keep the light, and work tirelessly for the betterment of their community. We thank the people of Kamwokya, who open-heartedly allowed us access to their lives and community, making us feel comfortable walking through the slum at midnight, letting us sit on their benches while mending shoes, and sharing their celebrations and their sorrows with us. To our friends in Uganda, who made our lives better and more entertaining, who "understand" because they were and are with us, and who taught us that life is whatever you want to make it. We thank all the drivers, captains, animal drivers, and guides, who took us from place to place with no incidence. We thank Peter, who brought us to the peaks of Uganda and Dickson, who took us to the top of Kenya. We thank Wolfgang for listening to us and documenting our experience, and Marc for hosting us in Nairobi. We thank the Egyptians for their hospitality and their coffee. We thank our family in Israel for their love and support, for hosting us, for showing us an amazing time, amazing food, and some killer mountain biking. We thank Shiva, Ganesh, and even Kali for ensuring our safety, and teaching us what true balagan is. We thank Sonam for picking leeches off my feet and drying our soaked bags, and all the porters and work animals who carried our crap to the heights of the world. We thank Buddha for teaching us the 8 fold path and returning my parents' passports to them. We thank every meal, good or bad, every cold drink, be it to raise a toast to life's paths, or to quench our thirst in 115 degree heat, even the ones that made us sick. Mostly, we thank God and the universe, for allowing us to be born into these bodies, these times, and allowing us the privilege of doing this....thing.

That was the shout out. There are so many more, and "thank you" does no justice to the gratitude and sentimentality that we feel. We are so grateful.

Mwebale Nyo
Asante Sana
Toda Raba
Khob Kun Kah
Thank you

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