Monday, March 15, 2010

What Will it Be?

I have a Lusoga name. After a day spent in a small Ugandan village, the village men named me. I am Chitibachi (I'm spelling it as it sounds to me). It means, "What will it be?" Which is perfect given my current interests in both phenomenology and eschatology. And it also indicates the massive openness that going to Africa, in this case Uganda and Kenya, leaves with you.

I'm not the most traveled person in the world, but I've been to Italy, Germany, Austria, Belize, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, and Texas. None of them are Africa. There are things in Belize and Brazil that are similar. But its still apples and oranges. And I've come to two conclusions as a result. You shouldn't say you know anything about life until you've been to Africa. And then there's no way really to say anything about life.

It is simply overwhelming, both for the good and the bad. The mass of humanity over against the landscape is pure sensory overload. And the human need, even in the relatively stable places I went, is omnipresent. I can't imagine living as a Westerner there. The pressures of responding to the needs are so high, and the persistent guilt about Western privilege in the world would constantly gnaw at you. How people do it is beyond me. They have my utmost respect.

On the plus side of the ledger is the pure joy people there have in welcoming you. I know that this sentence is related to the preceding paragraph. But, there is a joy in many of those lives, hardscrabble as they are, that I can only envy. Who is rich here?

I have no answers or solutions or responses. I am left only open. What will it be?


Jeff said...

It is a special place, Africa - one that stays with you like a splinter in the mind that won't quite work itself out. It's been almost 9 years since I stood on the continent, but I'm still discovering the ways it shaped my life.

I would love to discuss / hear your thoughts on your trip. I wager you're finding out that it's difficult to relate the experience to anyone who hasn't been there, and much easier to understand anyone who has.

Did you journal while you were there?

Mark Love said...


You're right about connections based on whether or not you've been. I have friends who lived in Uganda who feel like now I can understand in part some of the residual things they live with everyday, things they just couldn't put in context for someone who hasn't been there.

I did journal some while I was there. But I have some pretty striking mental pictures that will always stay with me.


Jeff said...

This was mine. I will never as long as I live forget standing over Mathare valley, looking out over the expanse of a million people, and feeling more helpless than I'd ever felt in my life.

There are more, obviously, but life changed when I came back. Sometimes it gets away from me, but I'm always pulled back. It was a Matrix moment, of sorts. My prayer is that it will be the same for you.