4 weeks down and 2 weeks to go and I am not even close to ready to begin thinking about saying goodbye. It is hard to believe that we have already been in Uganda for 1 month because although it feels like we just arrived, it also does not because of the relationships that we have made. I have grown accustomed to making new homes in different places since I was 13 years old when I left my home in New York for prep school. Although there is still no place like my actual home, from that point on, I have found It relatively easy to make a new home for myself in a new place. Usually, it takes at least a couple of months for me to feel fully at home in a new location, but for some reason in just 1 months time, I have found myself calling this place home with ease.
I believe that this is due to a couple of reasons, the first being the homestay experience. In the two times prior that I have lived abroad, I have never had the opportunity to live in a homestay. Not only is our family some of the most warm, welcoming and kind people you will ever have the privilege of meeting, but they also truly go above and beyond to make sure that we are well taken care of in every possible way. We are able to share our experiences from the day and the week around the table at breakfast and dinner, and we are able to laugh, joke and enjoy getting to know each other in a meaningful way. We are able to discuss any topic from politics, religion, current events and much more in a respectful, honest and refreshing way. Just as they have and continue to teach us so much about Uganda, the culture and the health care system, we find ourselves in the humble position to share similar things about home in the US. There is a saying in Luganda that essentially means, “After two days, you are no longer a guest”, but if I were to go further, I would say in our home after two days, you are now considered family.
The second main reason that it has been easy considering Uganda home might be the fact that this is the first time in my life that I am not a minority. This is something that I have tried to find the words to accurately articulate and although I on rare occasion get the shout of “Mizungu” , which translates to White person (but is also just used to define anyone that is not Ugandan), most days my patients speak to me in Luganda as though I am one of them. When I give kids lollipops on my walk home, they say “Thank you Auntie” and my heart explodes, and when I talk to my hospital family, they begin to make plans for me to marry one of their siblings or friends so I can stay here for good. In the hospital, my opinion is never second guessed by my patients or co-workers, and I am always referred to as “Doctor” and not passive aggressively asked if I am a nurse or medical assistant. To be fair, the word for Doctor/Any healthcare worker is the same in Luganda (Musawo) but I still feel that the microaggressions that I am used to enduring are no longer an issue here. When I walk around in our neighborhood, for once in my life, I do not stick out like a sore thumb (until I open my mouth), and it’s actually refreshing to not have to navigate a space and find out where and how I fit in. I do not feel the need to find someone who “looks like me” and create an alliance because everyone looks like me.
To me Home is a place where you feel that you can be your true authentic self without worry of judgement and the knowledge that you will be loved in spite of. I feel extremely fortunate and blessed to have found such a Home here in Uganda.