Next Stop, Uganda Please January 13 2012


Next week, Perry and I will board a plane where we'll probably arm wrestle for the window seat before buckling in for a flight that will take us to Entebbe, Uganda.

Uganda. I keep rolling it around on my tongue, trying to imagine what it will feel like to be there.

I've read so much about it that I can close my eyes and feel the colors of it. The red Earth, the fluorescent green, the heat hovering gently over the treetops, the deep blue of the sky, the rising mountains. It's all just a picture painted in my head spun from the words of too many books. When I was younger, I'd perch myself on a rooftop, a fence, or a tree branch. With a book in hand and anything I could scavenge from the kitchen, I'd read so much that I'd convince myself I'd been to thousands of places around the world throughout varying points in human history. That's how I feel about Uganda. I'm craving to know the country beyond the superficial painting I've created in my head.

I'm eager for the noise and smell of the country and the palpable manifestation of its soul hitting you from every angle as you sit, sticky and sweaty, crammed in the back of a bus while the country rushes in at an overwhelming pace. It's a sensory overload that leaves you reeling before you clamber out of the vehicle and into a small village where the reeling stops and the country settles into you. You grasp the hands of those around you as introductions are made. Palm against palm is a far more intimate gesture than we give it credit for. Eyes are laughing, gazes dancing back and forth, and your soul will rush forward in a moment of pure joy. It's good to be alive. It's good to be in this place, with these people. It's good to hear their stories, to collect them, and secret them away for another time.

A collector of stories. That is essentially what I am. I carry the gazes of people within my heart and when it becomes too much, they spill from me and onto paper. I tell their stories. I close my eyes and nestle myself within the sound of their voice, the lilt of their accent, the low of their sorrows, and the high of their joys. I read them from cover to cover and then I translate it.

Uganda. I am aching to have its stories poured into me. I am excited to go somewhere new, to travel, to explore the meandering roads cut through a nature so wild, it roars forward and will not be subdued. But mostly I am excited to meet people. To sit, rocking back on my heels, my mouth half open in a moment of self-forgetfulness, listening to the tangle of life experiences pour from the mouths of those around me.

And Perry? Well, in the unlikely event that I am able to peel his camera out of his hand for two seconds, he just wants to tumble over the treetops of the Impenetrable Forest in a bush plane manned by a ruffian pilot with a heavy Russian accent, a penchant for Vodka, and a disdain for safety. I used to think that it was me who instigates these ridiculous situations while traveling. Now I realize that it's not me. It's these lunatics I keep traveling with and my inability to say "You know, actually, that doesn't sound like a good idea." So if anything insane happens on this trip, blame Perry. I just wanted to sit and talk to people.