24 in Kampala: What I’ve Learnt So Far

Had you asked me a year ago, the direction in which I thought my life might be heading, or which country I saw myself living in, I know without a doubt that ‘Uganda’ would not have been among my first 100 guesses.

Sitting in a dark, dilapidated, local cafe in downtown Kampala, waiting for my (instant) coffee, I find myself marveling at how life will sometimes take all of our expectations, all of our safe plans, our predispositions, our malnourished ideas of adventure, and will throw them to the wind. And that, I suppose, is what has happened to me.

I’m a selfish and impatient snob. These are characteristics or tendencies of mine that remind me of how unlikable I can be. Even on the days on which I manage to hide my self-seeking nature, I know that it’s only a matter of time before it rears its ugly head again.

I’ve often prayed to be humbled; to gain a fresh understanding of our time here on Earth; to see, no, to grasp, life from the perspective of those less fortunate than me. It’s a dangerous prayer, I suppose, in that it can turn your world inside-out when answered.

I think… In fact, I am almost certain, that once the turning upside-down and inside-out begins, it doesn’t really end. It becomes temporarily neglected and forgotten along the way for most of us, I’m sure, but it always creeps back – that feeling of desperate longing to live a life that counts, that exhaustion that comes from being a slave to our own needs. I know that I’ve gone through periods, months at a time even, during which I’ve rushed through life: I would spend too much money and too much time seeing to myself, and after a while, it would always become sickening and I would be forced to look at what an unsatisfying future I was being faced with.

Uganda is a heartbreaking place in that it is deathly poor but matchlessly welcoming. When confronted with such paradoxes it becomes difficult not to look at those within ourselves, I suppose. Which concern me the most? How conditional my happiness is; how conditionally I let others into my life; and how conceited I can be, despite my crippling fear to step out, speak up and live the kind of life I’ve never been quite brave enough to live.

Today I explored Kampala. Making my way around the chaotic roads on the back of a boda, I visited markets, mosques, local supermarkets. I was pretty frazzled by the end of it and when a child – he must have been six or seven – ran up next to me on my way home, I hardly listened to him. Annoyed at his persistence, I eventually cast him a glance. “Water, water,” he said, pointing at my full grocery bag. A bottle of drinkable water. That’s what he wanted.

I’m grateful for a life turned upside-down. I’m grateful for changed worldviews and for the chance to be working on my character. I’m grateful for being told that I’m bratty and high-maintenance, for losing best friends and lovers who loved me unconditionally, I’m grateful for stuffing up. And I’m grateful to be growing up as a 24 year-old in a wretchedly selfish, but altogether worthwhile world.

About Hannah Moore: Between my artist father and German mother, my creative ability and love of language was inspired. Ever since I can remember, I have been cobbling words together and telling stories to satisfy my creative urge. Passionate about people and driven by a sense of adventure, I find meaning in grappling with the consequences and beautiful ironies of our time here on Earth. Now that I have the wonderful privilege of traveling the world for work, ‘grappling with the ironies of life’ has become a matter of urgency, if you will. Read more about my travels on my blog www.hannahmoore.co.za.

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