Team Uganda: Saturday Fun Day
The Land Rover lurched across the red dirt road riddled with bumps and dips, giving the fifteen of us the “African massage” that we had experienced all week on the drives to our clinic sites. I breathed a sigh of contentment as we crossed the Nile into the north part of the Muchinson Falls National Park, some of the 1,300 square miles that makes it up. We were finally able to rest after five amazing (but tiring) days of running clinics during the week.
As the Land Rover turned its first corner into the park, we were greeted by mischievous baboons with several babies clinging to their mother. Within minutes we observed herds of four types of antelopes and saw our first giraffe. I was in awe of it’s elegant stride and large beautiful eyes, having not seen a giraffe since I was a young child. Little did I know, we would see hundreds of giraffes during our three hour safari, some of the 700+ giraffes that lived in the park. Before we knew it, we saw five lions, several elephants, and a leopard in the beautiful open hills. As we maneuvered our way across the landscape, we drew closer to Albert Nile, a river separating the Blue Mountain range from Murchinson Falls National Park. On the other side of the mountain range was the Democratic Republic of Congo. Peeking out at us from the Nile were several hippos, which were significantly larger than I anticipated. We made our way back after hours of driving through the park with cool winds and hundreds of animals all around us. It was truly stunning and unlike anything I have ever experienced. The beautiful symbiotic relationships within the different types of animals were so evident to me as we journeyed across the Ugandan hills and I couldn’t help but marvel at how the landscape was so untouched and peaceful. Driving back to our hotel in Masindi, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this trip to Uganda, but also bearing witness to so many aspects of this culture, from the medical community, to the rural poverty, to the way of lif- and finally to the animals and landscape.
We ended our last night in Uganda with an encounter of pure joy. Sharing our last meal with our Ugandan friends, we had our last conversations and laughs at a long table, plates filled to the brim with Ugandan and Indian food, eating with the people who welcomed us from the first day with open arms of kindness. What came next was a stunning display of culture and energy. A local dance troupe displayed several local dances in the hotel courtyard full of energy, jumping, calling and songs. They performed with so much joy and excitement, taking pride in their display of their culture. At times, our Ugandan friends from the Masindi-Kitara Medical Center would join in if it was their district’s dance. Everyone was laughing and smiling.
At the end, the dancers grabbed us and before I knew it, we were dancing to drums with grass skirts, every race and age taking part in the dance. As we moved to the music, arms flying and feet stepping, I looked around and realized that every single one of these people were strangers a week ago. And yet, on our last day, we leave as friends, having been united in service across states, countries, and cultures and came together to impact a community for the better. I will never forget this night, not just for the beautiful music and dancing, but for the celebration of community, of service, of love, of gratitude. Tonight was the mark of joy encapsulating the whole week, and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect way to celebrate it.
+ Bekah Bettis, MUSC Nurse, South Carolina