By Ben Morrison
This being the first day that we had spent away from Bukinda, the differences - both internal and external - were very noticeable. The first that came to me was the increase in insects in this part of Uganda. An amusing wake up call from the 'Clappertron' made me swiftly aware of the itching red spots covering my legs. There had been very few flies and bitey bugs in the village, and this increase was most unwelcome. I enjoyed a shower for the second day in a row. After living in the village for two weeks, trying conserve water, I took a (cold) shower only when it was essential, and so now showering everyday with hot water was the most bizarre idea ever. I think our ready and unlimited access to clean water, with a constant choice of both hot and cold, is the thing that I have previously most taken for granted. How easy it is, how commonplace. And yet that is not the case in Bukinda. It is not exactly scare in Bukinda, or in TPC at least. There they are fortunate to have a tap and a large storage tank, but it can run out (and did run out on a couple of occasions), and it does need to be used with consideration. But the majority of homes in rural Uganda don't even have taps and are forced into trekking to collect it and carry it back from standpipes - some having to go considerable distances. The idea of wasting water, perhaps running the tap unnecessarily as I brush my teeth, is something that I now feel more strongly about. I hope that when I return home, with the abundance of water around me again, I do not forget what a privilege this is.
The biggest difference, however, and what disappointed me the most, was not being able to wake up to all the kids' lively personalities and the hustle and bustle of joy and happiness that the children brought that I had become accustomed to over the days. That I dearly miss.
After breakfast, all students from Years 9, 11 and 12 clambred aboard one bus, where we lathered ourselves in suncream and bug repellent, to go chimp trekking, whilst the Year 10s boarded another to go on a game drive. We would switch activities for the afternoon session. Once we arrived at the lush ravine that is home to 25 chimps, we met our tracker named Adolf. He had a very amusing and engaging manner and went through the ins and outs of the ravine with us as well as the dos and don'ts. "No doing poo poo in the ravine so animals don't come to taste it" and "If a chimp gets irritated by your presence and decides to come and beat you with a stick, do not fight back, just stand still and accept the blows" were the two that I most remember. So with the bizarre thoughts of monkey attacks and beatings in our minds, we set off. Within the first hour of walking we saw many monkeys, yet no chimpanzees. We did not know whether we would - there is a 50% chance of finding them - so we did not feel too disheartened, but we carried on enjoying the walk and the green ecosystem of the ravine and saw many interesting bugs and hippos.
During this chimp free gap my mind started to wander, and I thought back to Robert, the orphan that always chose me for our afternoon and evening activities, and what he had told me while I was saying goodbye to him. "Please come home again" was the phrase that rang in my head. "Please come home again." This meant a lot to me as it showed that not only did I believe that The Peace Centre was my home, but so did he. This brought a big smile to my face. I never thought that in just two weeks I would become so close to a child in TPC that we might consider ourselves 'brothers', and yet this happened. It was at this point that we spotted a chimpanzee swinging down from a tree which brightened my mood even more.
I am becoming aware that I will need to adjust back to my own culture when I return to Shanghai and this is something that I never considered before. I have never had to readjust back to my own culture after a trip or holiday, but it will be needed now as I have seen, and lived, so much that is different to what I knew before. It has challenged how I think and how I want to be. And it all comes back to love. A strong love that grew in two short but amazing weeks. Why should I waste water, or waste opportunities, when those I love don't have them? I mustn't. I must honour that love by being grateful for my privileges and by making the most of every day.
I wish the absolute best for The Peace Centre, for all those kids living there, and especially for Robert. I will return one day so that I can be a part of this family again. So that I can 'come home'.
Who are we?