(Lugandan word meaning Goodbye)
I initially intended to title this final reflection on my time in Uganda “Amaka” meaning family. But I had already introduced that word to you all in my reflection about “Home”. Therefore, although it breaks my heart, I have decided to title this last reflection about Uganda “Weraba” which means Goodbye.
Just as I spoke about the ease in which I am able to adapt to a new home, over the years I have also found that when it comes to adding people to my family, I am able to do that with relative ease as well. I do not believe that it is because I just open up to everyone, but rather relationships have always been one of the most important things to me, so I invest them wholly. I do not take for granted when someone decides to invest their time in getting to know me, and as a result of that, I have always found myself adding friends to my extended family.
During my time in Uganda, I was fortunate to create an entire Uganda extended family. In addition to my host family, I created special bonds and relationships with many of my co-workers in the hospital and formed a family that was unexpected. A few of my friends who had traveled to Uganda prior to me for the global health elective prepared me for what to do, what to expect to see and some of the cultural differences to be aware of; however, no one could prepare me for the warm, welcoming and beautiful community that I would find. From the first day that we arrived at the hospital, we were embraced by all of the hospital staff and immediately made to feel as though we were a part of the team. I quickly found my way to the midwives in maternity and was instantly made to be a fixture on the ward. Within no more than two weeks’ time, I had already exchanged numbers with many of my new friends and I became aware that these relationships were not meant to be transient but permanent. Initially, I had thought that I would spend a few weeks at our home hospital and then spend the remaining time at the large women’s hospital in the city, but with some of those plans falling through I took it more as a sign that I was where I was supposed to be. Even when in the final couple of weeks, I was afforded the opportunity to spend time at a hospital whose maternity ward was busier than ours, I found myself excited to return to my hospital at the end of the day to be amongst my family. Do not get me wrong, I truly valued the experience that I had at the other facility and was fortunate to perform many deliveries, assist on cesarean sections and perform vaginal repairs, but the relationships that I had with the staff there felt more temporary, it did not hold the same permanence as my St. Stephen’s family. Even when I was gone for only half the day, upon my return, I always felt missed as my family at the hospital always welcomed me back with open arms.
As we approached our final week, I tried to prepare myself mentally to say goodbye. I have never been one to cry or become overwhelmingly emotional when saying goodbye, but I do not like the finality that the word “goodbye” holds. I taught my St. Stephen’s family to say “See you Later” when we do not necessarily want to say goodbye because we know that our paths will cross again. Although there was no way to accurately translate it into Luganda, the sentiment was understood. I feel incredibly grateful to have formed this family while abroad and although no amount of whatsapp messages and calls will take the place of being there, I can only look forward to the day when my feet land back in Uganda and I will be able to say Wasuzu Otya to my Ugandan family again.