Arrival In Uganda
Dear Friends and supporters of Fair Earth,
Over the next two months, I will be posting updates with stories, photos, and information about the artisans we work with as we develop and produce our new product line for 2010.
Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.
Thanks for your involvement and support for Fair Earth!
Below are some excerpts from accounts of my first couple weeks here. ENJOY!
I was catapulted full speed this year from the craziness of holiday retail into a journey to Uganda. Despite what seemed like endless hours of research, design, consulting, and preparation, I still felt horribly dissociated when I climbed into a cab from my apartment in Chicago with Nicholas and Kiran, icy-fingered and luggage-laden, and asked him to take me to O’Hare.
Shifting worlds at this speed—and being thrown so quickly from one tempo to another – is still not a skill I have accommodated myself to.
The dissociation continued through London, where our layover gave us enough time to take the tube to Picadilly station and do a tourist blitz walk/run through the city. We then stopped over in Dubai for a couple hours, pushed our way through endless duty-free shops and what seemed to me to be an exorbitant number of travelers for Christmas Day, and boarded the plane for the final leg in the journey. After a brief stop-over in Addis Ababa, we made our descent over Lake Victoria into Entebbe.
Every time I stop off the plane in Uganda I am overcome with two things: first, the LIGHT. This past year I read Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuscinski, and he also spoke about this –“More than anything, one is struck by the light. Light everywhere. Brightness everywhere. Everywhere, the sun…”
He also wrote about another overwhelming feeling I get when I travel by airplane – the violent way it shifts me from one world to another.
“In times past, when people wandered the world on foot, rode on horseback, or sailed in ships, the journey itself accustomed them to the change. Images of the earth passed ever so slowly before their eyes, the stage revolved in a barely perceptible way. The voyage lasted weeks, months. The traveler had time to grow used to another environment, a different landscape. The climate, too, changed gradually. Before the traveler arrived from a cool Europe to the burning Equator, he had already left behind the pleasant warmth of Las Palmas, the head of Al-Mahara, and the hell of the Cape Verde Islands.
“Today, nothing remains of these gradations. Air travel tears us violently out of snow and cold and hurls us that very same day in the blaze of the tropics. Suddenly, still rubbing our eyes, we find ourselves in a humid inferno. We immediately start to sweat. If we’ve come from Europe in the wintertime, we discard overcoats, peel off sweaters. It’s the first gesture of initiation we, the people of the North, perform upon arrival in Africa.
So, upon shedding my sweater and peeling off my layers of winter clothing, I opened my arms, breathed deeply, and stepped off the plane into the next two months of living in this world.
Driving from Entebbe to Kampala and then on to Mutungu where my Ugandan family lives, my senses are intoxicated and I relive years spent in Africa within a couple hours. Already my skin is dusted with red earth, my eyes jolt from the jerking traffic on Kampala Road to the luscious banana trees bursting with fresh fruit, the sun beats down on my face and every cell in my body is fiery warm, I smell matoke cooking and car exhaust and fuel fumes and freshly-cut wood and pineapple pulp and paraffin and roasting maize. I hear cars honking, boda-boda drivers screeching as they swerve their way in and out of traffic, street hawkers selling their wares, wind rushing past my ears, the familiar and intoxicating role of the Luganda language, the dance of Ugandan music, drumbeats escalating and fading, and then the sound of my own heart beating faster and faster as all of this again becomes a part of the way I move and think and breathe.