Saturday, January 8, 2011

I am mad at Uganda

The first time I went to Uganda in 2008, I fell in love with the country.  I loved everything about it:  the beautiful people, the lush countryside, the music, the dancing, the culture.  I loved the rich red earth and the smell of the cooking fires rising up the hillsides each night.  I loved the tidy fields of tea farms and the tranquil beauty of the Nile.  I loved the majestic animals and the friendly smiles on faces everywhere.

 I loved Uganda so much that I could not wait to return.  I dreamed of it, yearned for it, pined for it for the next nine months...and then I went back.  Once again, I was in love.  This time with the children, all the children, especially three amazing children who were to be my own. 

Leaving this second time was like cutting out your heart, leaving it on the operating table and walking out of the hospital to get on a plane.  My heart sat parked in Uganda for 18 months while I fought the insanity of governments, both mine and foreign, until I could return to claim my children.

For those 18 months, I thought of Uganda every day for 547 days.  Every morning I thought of Uganda and every night I wished for it as I fell asleep.  I asked, pleaded and eventually begged God through tears to bring me back to Uganda.  And finally, He did.

But, upon my third time to return to the "Pearl of Africa", something happened.  I got to know my children.  I started to hear their stories.  I comforted them after their bad dreams.  I got doctor's reports about their conditions.  I learned where their scars came from, both visible and invisible.  And sitting here now home from Uganda for two months, I am angry with Uganda.

I am angry at this place that robbed my children of their childhood.
I am angry that my children spent most of their lives hungry.
I am angry that they lived in fear.
I am angry that they have witnessed more death than I will probably ever see in my whole life.
I am angry that they know how to wrap and bury a corpse,
that their hands are calloused from hard labor,
that their prayers are full of petitions for the friends who have nothing,
that they want to sleep with lights on because too many bad things have happened at night.
I am angry at this place.

This place can never give them back what has been taken.  My princess will never forget the agony of lying in pain with no doctor to help her for months; my son will never forget crying alone in his bed at the orphanage when he just a toddler; my teen will never forget being so hopeless and hungry that she wanted to drink rat poison and end it the age of nine.

The children keep asking me if we will visit this place, this place I loved like my own.  And every time they ask me, I have to turn my face from them.  How can a place so beautiful be the source of so much pain?  I know I will return with my children one day and we will rejoice at this homecoming.  We will eat the food, we will smell the earth, we will dance with the people.  But first, I have to get over what this place has done to my precious ones.  I am mad at Uganda right now.