Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Follow The Light


Well, forget the camera bit since I normally do--I'm a terrible tourist and always have to be reminded to snap a few shots of the world around me.

For a moment, focus on the light.

Last night I went running again in Berlin. I love it, and I feel amazing both during and after. For the eleven months in Cairo never once could I run outside. Even in Tennessee this summer, it was just too hot to think about doing much besides eating cool fruit or basking in the lake. As I was running I could hear my feet thudding in rhythm along the pavement and somehow became sidetracked by all of the precarious shops and things around me. Before I knew it, I was lost. Again.

There was not a lot to be seen, and I couldn't hear anyone or the sounds of traffic. I wasn't worried but noticed the sun was no longer on the horizon so I picked up my pace, all the while thinking about the time I had to walk to my home in Uganda during the darkest night I have ever seen in my life.

That evening was during the same summer as the 2010 FIFA World Cup that took place in South Africa (fortunately I had made the bet that Spain would win--so I thankfully received some free lunches and drinks that week). On this day there was a huge bombing in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, and people all over the country were stricken with grief and fear. There was a curfew placed in the post-conflict town of Gulu and I remember that I was visiting my friend Erin, and her boyfriend Sam, in the bus park about fifteen minutes away from my home. I stayed much later than I should have, but I missed my dear friend, Jayanni, who had left only days before and just wanted to be around other friends during such a trying time.

I left Erin and Sam, then began to walk out of the bus park in search for bodas (which are motorcycle-taxi's where you basically sit behind the driver, side saddle if you are a woman , and then hold on tight) so I could be driven home. A strange sensation washed over me and I realized that there were not any bodas on their stages. I stopped for a moment, pulled out my mobile phone, and turned on the small flashlight before making my way farther beyond the bus park. Everything was pitch black, stained in ebony. There wasn't a soul breathing, nor children playing. I remember pulling my cardigan closer into my body and descended into the darkness. I walked for a few meters and knew that there should be lights or candles burning in the humble windows. I searched for the kind women who always sold grilled corn in the evening, my eyes strained to see the last of their kindle in the night. There was nothing.

In that moment of emptiness my mobile phone died, of course, and I stopped in utter disbelief. I raised my hand to my face and couldn't even make out the shape of my long fingers. I was on the road between my home and the bus park, where Ugandan military barracks were located. My skin crawled as I inched forward, while I imagined all of the horrible things that happen to women in the night. Rape, abduction,  torture, and other forms of oppression flooded through my mind. I was mentally drowning myself and sinking under the weight of all the negative thoughts. I couldn't help it. My ears were burning to hear something--anything.  Again, there was nothing.

I quickened my pace and began to pray that I would know when to turn right, around the bend that would lead me to my home. Everyone on that road had seen me before, surely if something happened someone would help me. I began to pray a bit more for direction and illumination, and my feet moved with assurance and soundness even though I was sweating from the anticipation of being at home in my small bed. I remember praying and asking for protection. I thought to myself, "Stupid girl, you should have done this sooner..." I felt immediate comfort, just from talking to Him.

Then I saw it.
I thanked God.
I thanked Him, and I thanked Him, and I thanked Him.
I had found my road, and now there was movement but I was not afraid. I slowed my pace, not wanting to frighten anyone, and before I knew it I was nearing the small, muddy trail that would take me past the hut of the quiet Acholi woman with the three children, and into my yard.

I had been too terrified to realize that every single star was haunting that night--there must have been millions of them just beckoning me to notice them. I felt so small and cozy under their blanket. I realized that there was such a nice breeze that I wouldn't have any trouble sleeping. A quiet laugh forced its way out of my throat. I had been thinking only of myself, and never of God--The Giver of Light. The giver of what I should had been searching for the entire time. As soon as I had spoken His name, my body and mind sprung into ACTION.

Remembering this occasion I felt relief as I ran through the streets of Berlin, which gave me such profound happiness and a sense of power. I said a quick prayer, looked around me, and found streetlights--the light I needed to return home.

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