It feels really pretentious, as if this list is completely exhasutive of whatever is being talked about. I hate them more, though, because they are incredibly uncreative. But whatever. I just want everyone to know that, as I do this, well...I'm not happy about it.
Time. It's been blowing by. The only thing that compares to the speed in which time is moving in my life is from my freshman year of college. And, I fear, time was moving quickly for much different reasons back then.
In any case, I've learned a lot with my time here.
1) Spiders may hunt and kill other small animals, but that doesn't mean it's good to let them live inside your house. They bite too.
2) A room is a room is a room. You can be in Uganda or Haiti or Washington D.C., but if you're sitting on your computer staring at a wall, well, don't expect to be blown away.
3) Books are a dangerous ally in the place of isolation. Dangerous because, in time, you find that the books are taking the place of your human relationships. And you might not mind very much.
4) Kindles suck. Books are infinitely better.
5) If you want something to get done, bad, and it shows....you'll end up paying 5 times as much and will get a fifth of the community participation. Do it slow, let it grow, and act like you'd be fine if it never happened. If it doesn't, then your finger isn't on the pulse of the community, because they didn't want it. If they don't want it, it isn't going to exist.
6) Sometimes, in the act of being "Ugandan," you can lose sight of your mission here. I am not an Atesot, I will never be. It's awesome that I wash my own clothes and can cook my own meals, but if doing that costs 3/4 of every day, then what have I really done as a volunteer besides build my own capacity? I am not here for me. That will happen, and in more abundance, if I focus on my community and ditch the "independent man" pride thing.
I've learned how to say hello, how are you, and thank you for cooking in 5 different languages (other than english). I can wash my own clothes in buckets, cook an upside down pineapple cake from a sigiri, I can hand-sew a bowtie. I enjoy my alone time, as always, but have learned not to romanticize it as much as had in the past; being alone is inevitable, so one should also appreciate the time spent with others. I have learned to teach kids, and they have taught me what controls them. I have learned how to dress right in Uganda, and have learned when I'm able to disregard those rules. I've learned that when you're my color, the first price is rarely the right price, and that if you're persistent, you are paying less than most Ugandans.
I'm no longer worried about being able to pay back all of the things my community has taught me. Ok, that's not true; it's a constant sting in my brain that continues to nag me on an hourly basis. But I've realized that, for the most part, that's not what the community is looking for when they help me. Me helping them is listening to them; me empowering them is letting them be prideful in their own way of life. And it's a pretty sweet life.