As I stepped off the plane the humidity enveloped me like a blanket. The scent of smoke filled my nostrils. Memories flashed through my mind. I took a deep breath and the edges of my mouth curled upwards.
I went through Customs, a procedure I have done twice at this airport before. The only difference this time was an exaggerated amount of alcohol was squirted into my hands, undoubtedly done because of the Eboli breakouts. Frankly, after an 8 hour flight this very welcome.
I was in and out, with my near 100 pounds of luggage, in just a few minutes.
My eyes darted back and forth sifting through the unfamiliar faces until my glance fell upon Medi, S.O.U.L. driver and one of the most gentle souls I have ever met. This was more than enough of a greeting for me but then I felt a pull from behind me and saw Mama Ali and Mama Suaya! This got my heart racing with joy. Mama Ali was the woman I had lived with my first 7 months in the village. She is like a second mother.
As we walked back to the car in the dark muggy night, words that I have not thought about in over a year escaped my mouth. This not only delighted but surprised me. It felt like I was coming back from a weekend away…had it really been a year and a half since I had left?
In the car, we asked about the well-being of each other families, a formality in Uganda. Mama Ali reached for my hair and said it must be longer than when I left. We joked about me cutting it off and giving it her. For the next 10 minutes she combed it with her fingers and braided it.
In my experience, this country has a way of challenging and nurturing you which is unique to other countries I have visited. I was so grateful to be experiencing the latter straight from the plane.
Six weeks is like a blink of an eye compared to past “visits” but I am ready to hit the ground running. Here we go…