June 7, 2010
This past Friday I had an incredible self-realization experience.
It happened after I left the ARLPI office at 5:00 p.m. trying to rush home before the storms came again. (Earlier that day it had rained so much that water was coming up to the doorway in the small office where I have been working. I absolutely love the rain and it was refreshing as it splashed through the window and onto my hot bare arms and face.) I couldn’t make it back to my home in Peche, and of course I forgot my rain jacket that morning, so I had to stop inside of a small store to wait for the storm to pass. While I was waiting there was the most beautiful little girl standing inside the doorway wearing a slightly dirty pink dress. She came up to shake my hand, as most Acholi children do, and I asked for her name. She didn’t respond at first so I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. The child said, “My name is Stella. When I am old I want to be educated.” At that moment I couldn’t say much due to the lump in my throat. When I was able to speak I couldn’t help but vow to her, “You will be.”
Fortunately I made it home without drowning and somehow managed to hold myself together. I sat there in the little Peche house watching the rage of the storm. I heard the little Sudanese baby wailing next door and saw the wind terrorize the branches of the huge tree outside of our secluded compound. I was overwhelmed with the fury of the rainstorm and was in awe that something so beautiful and purifying could be sent to me after having such a mentally exhausting day.
In my stupor I realized that I was suddenly ravenous and pulled a huge mango out of my bag that I had bought earlier that day in the market for 1000 Ugandan shillings, which is quite pricey for a mango by Ugandan standards. I cut up the fruit and began devouring it. It was truly the sweetest, most delicious piece of fruit that I had EVER tasted. My senses were overloaded—the crack of the stunning lightning, the sticky juice running carelessly down my hands and arms, the cold air blowing in through the screen and tousling my wild hair, the thought of something more powerful than anything on this mortal Earth blessing me with that moment by myself. I couldn’t handle it.
I began to cry…
Big, fat tears clambered down my face in utter confusion. I couldn’t decide if I was weeping because I missed my own home and my own way of life or because of something else. After a moment the face of the little Acholi girl appeared in my mind. I became angry that she may never be able to go to college and that other women have had their lives ruined because their lips have been cut off or they were raped in the bush at the age of 12 by an LRA rebel. I was angry and exasperated that Americans take so many things for granted such as running water, food, electricity, and the ability to live.
I then remembered that I was BLESSED. I was born in America, I have an education that absolutely no one can take away from me, and I can wear what I want and say what I want without being beaten or spat upon (and if a man tries to do so, may God help him). I am a WOMAN.
In the midst of this moment I found that I had somehow managed to maneuver myself to the floor and was sitting with my wet face pressed to the barred doorway. I stood up to wash my hands but opened the door instead. Rain came flooding in and without hesitation I stepped outside in my bare feet. My tanktop was quickly soaked and thick mud covered my toes. I’m not sure what came over me but I raised my hands up to the dark, threatening sky and I danced. I don’t know how long I twirled around but I do know that happiness consumed me and that my face was cleaned and my spirit was too.