In Uganda I finished one book and read another – both beautiful works of creative nonfiction. The Chains of Heaven took me through northern Ethiopia visiting remote villages and monasteries more secluded than what seems possible. And through it all, it was as if Philip Marsden was saying, â€œThis is what life is in Ethiopia. Here is history that lives on today.â€ The Bookseller of Kabul took me to Afghanistan to get to know a family that seemed different, but was trapped by tradition on every side. And through this family, Asne SeierstadÂ seemed to say, â€œHere is Afghanistan, where tradition traps people and slowly destroys women.â€
And while I am reading these books, I am in Northern Uganda where there has been an incredible amount of pain and heartache in recent years. I visit villages that, just two years ago, were on roads that were dangerous to travel. I pass schools were children were abducted. I hear stories of bravery in the face of evil. I hear of a child left for dead by the rebels, but who survived. I see houses newly rebuilt as people returned from the camps. Driving through the beautiful countryside it takes my colleagues, my friends, telling me these stories to make it real because there are no bombed out buildings to indicate recent destruction. Just red dirt roads. It as is if I am reading a creative nonfiction book through their stories. And so, in my head, I am in Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Uganda all at once.Â
I spend one day visiting villages where our partners have not worked, and the next two days I go where they have worked. I say worked, but really I mean loved. How to explain the difference in these villages? Where they have not worked, people are drinking out of streams and water holes that resemble mud holes. Latrines are falling down, it seems as if the bush is pushing in on the village trying to slowly suffocate it. In the villages where they have worked, clean water is being drunk from wells or biosand filters. There are drying racks for dishes, latrines with doors and roofs and solid floors, hand washing stations, and garbage pits. The compounds around the houses are clean and the bush seems content to stay where it is. Are the children and the clothes cleaner? Is there a brightness in their eyes? I would like to believe so, but maybe it is just my imagination. Regardless, it seems as if there is hope here. They could live steeped in past pain, but this is a story of change, of growth, of hope. And that is why I say my colleagues and friends loved on these people. Because items and things can change the physical, but for the heart, it takes love.
Ethiopia was about history and today being one. Afghanistan was about tradition trapping people. Uganda was about hope and love prevailing. Uganda was my favorite story.Â