It’s been a few days since I landed in Entebbe airport. The moment I stepped out of the airplane I smelled a familiar scent. Hard to explain, but it seems like every airport in East Africa has the same smell. It’s a combination of humidity, zica (red dirt), heat and smoke. I think. The bumpy roads, the chaotic traffic and the darkness that’s different to Finland’s welcomed me back to Africa! Having been here a few days now I could actually write a book about the traffic. The roads belong to cars, vans, boda-bodas (motorbike taxis, no helmets), people, dogs, cats, goats, cows, poultry… Let’s just say that there is no space for checking your phone while driving.
Now that I’m here I feel like I’m at home. If you didn’t know, I lived with my family in Ethiopia when I was a kid. I also went back there as a voluntary worker in 2007 and have visited East Africa as often as I can. When I’m in Finland, I miss Africa every single day. Uganda, just like Ethiopia, holds so much beauty in its people, the nature, the culture. So many people have so little and live a life of a survival game, and still their souls are so full of hope. These people are fighters and just visiting here inspires me to work harder, every single day. My life is so blessed and I should be thankful for it every single day. And right now, the biggest blessing is that I get to be back in Africa.
There’s a saying, which I hear a lot: “This is Africa”. TIA. That phrase can be used in so many different circumstances, the good and the bad. Despite all the beauty, there has been a bit to worry about lately and some of my friends have been sending worried messages so that's why I want to address this. A few days before I got here there was a major robbery in our family friends’ house. The couple had been drugged and there had been stones all around the house so that they would’ve been stoned if they had woken up. Every single, even a bit valuable thing had been taken and many locals have been amazed that the couple is still alive. This has raised serious talks about the safety of the households here. It’s Christmas season and (violent) robberies are very common, because the stolen goods can be sold easily as Christmas presents. But, what I want to say here to all the friends who have sent the inquiries, please don’t worry. “This is Africa, if you’re afraid, you have to leave.” I feel like I’m in the right place now and I feel calm. If something was to happen, so be it. I knew the risks when I came here, but I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now.
But to end on a happier note, there are already so many things that I have experienced since I got here! I’ve been an honorary guest at a primary school and held an inspirational speech there, I have met so many gorgeous women through the Caring Hands organization (the organization I'm working for here) and these people have stories that need to be told. I’ve also had talks with teenagers who don’t want to let their social status stand in the way of their dreams, I’ve laughed with them and I’ve danced traditional Ugandan dances with them. Btw, these kids know how to twerk! I’m in a very happy place now, being able to inspire and be inspired.
TIA, this is Africa – the people, the nature, the scents, the attitude, the inspiration, the smells, the colors, the electricity breaks, the traffic, the food, the beauty - even the risks.