As I come to the end of my Atlas corps Fellowship experience in the United States, I am constantly bombarded with reminders of things both good and bad that I experienced over the last year and 6months. Don’t get me wrong, I have had the time of my life and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat! But sitting here and thinking, I am reminded of the strength of my character, the will in my heart and how much I have grown in a few short months. But given what I know now, I would definitely do things differently.
Over the months, since my arrival, I have lost all my luggage, been in and out of the ER, lived and worked in two cities, fallen in love, had my heart broken and have broken a few myself. I have met some interesting and not so interesting people (two of my best friends are 60yrs apart in age!), I have seen and done some exciting things and I have also chosen not to do anything at all. All in all, its been an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
As I get ready to leave the US and all my new friends and families, I started to wonder, what are the things I am going to miss the most and what am I not ever going to miss? There are many things that I am going to miss and equally as many things that I will not miss and here are some of my favorite.
I will miss the luxury and convenience that is the washing machine, both the dish washer and the laundry machines. I will miss the smell of freshly washed and dried clothes as I return to the life of doing dishes and washing clothes by hand and hanging them out to dry in the sun minus fabric softeners and auto driers.
I will miss the trains and buses and the convenience that brings for those of us that were working and living in three different states. Let me not forget to mention the added convenience of good maintained roads, elevators and escalators. While they weren’t always perfect but coming from where I am from, this is better than not having them at all.
I will miss the “holy trinity” that is constant running water, electricity and internet that many people in the developed world take for granted. Not to mention the fact that you can carry some of this convenience in the palm of your hand or in your pocket. Don’t get me wrong, we do have smart phones in Uganda and flaunt the latest models of whatever gadgets are out there, thanks to the Chinese. But what use is a Smart Phone if you can’t use Google Maps, download game apps, access your bank account or listen to internet radio?!
I am also going to miss Netflix, online shopping, Frozen Yo, Target, the thrift store and food trucks but most of all I am going to miss “Forever Stamps”!
On the other hand however, I am not going to miss the smell of burnt rubber in the metro terminals; I will not miss this damn weather and look forward to lots and lots of sunshine and having one wardrobe for every season come rain or sunshine (my favourite season and one that we have all year round)! I will definitely not miss spring allergies and the flu which I have had more of here than I have ever had my whole life. I will not miss my itchy winter clothes, they are all packed and ready to be given away to hopefully some homeless people somewhere to keep them nice and warm. Speaking of which, I had never seen so many homeless people in my whole life until I came to the US. Talk about culture shock, makes you wonder if this so called developed world is worth all the hype.
I am not going to miss the food or the sweets. While the rest of the world struggles to find a spoon of sugar for their tea and use sugar as a currency or will take sugar as dowry in exchange for their daughter, it’s easier to get candy and sweets here than it is to get a meal. As i type this, I am eating Red Velvet cake left over from a birthday party last week, mostly because I have gotten into the culture of having a sugar-fix about this time everyday as is the tradition here. It feels so good and I have been known to sneak around in the dead of night in search of yet another midnight sugar-fix because of this new addiction. Talk about giving up one bad habit only to replace it with yet another! My teeth are certainly looking forward to going back to the life of no sugar and no nicotine.
Most of all I am not going to miss the politics, all the crime and punishment on the news, the pharmaceutical commercials with side effects that are worse than what you are trying to treat.
I am not going to miss the sound of sirens and speeding cars, crashes and the loud obnoxious neighbors fighting about nothing, the sight of all those drunks on the streets every weekend and I will especially not miss the not-so-cheap really bad American beer yyyyuck!
I have experienced and learned so much in such a short time and even earned myself the title of “Mama Africa” among the fellows. Whatever it is, I have been there done that and lived to tell the story. I have grown as a professional and as a person and wouldn’t trade it all for anything. My advice to current fellows and those to come is to make the most of this experience so that like me you have some great and not so great experiences to share after it is all over, and have made friendships that will last the rest of your life but most importantly, that you have no regrets.