Volunteer Blog

28-7-2017, Reverse Culture Shock

Returning home after your first visit to Uganda isn't always easy, as Beth perfectly articulates in the blog she has written:

Everyone told me it would be tough going to Uganda, the terms and customs that needed to be followed, the poor conditions and sights I would be confronted with, .... but no one told me the biggest shock of all would be coming ‘home’ to our developed world. Nothing could prepare me for the feelings I’ve experienced post my return from Uganda.

It only took a little time in a third-world country, to be really rocked and somewhat bitter when I returned home from the sheer quality of life we get to experience and are exposed to. The cleanliness of the streets, the ridiculous abundance of options in the grocery stores and our wardrobe, the wastage, water sources everywhere,,, the general comfort of everything! The opportunity in front of me was overwhelming and hard to digest.

The feeling I got when I looked around at people was - insufficiency and dissatisfaction. We aren’t rich enough, we don’t have a good enough car, our house is too small, we are too fat, or too skinny. Nothing ever seemed enough. But whilst we are so consumed worrying about what we don’t have, and how we don’t look, we are only cluttering and subtracting time that could be spent being grateful and thankful. For the community I had just been immersed in, being fed, clothed and sheltered would be sufficient, and even that is a luxury at times.

The instinctual question asked when you return from a trip is always “How was your trip?” When asked my face would light up, because It was my chance to talk about the people and experiences I loved so much, .... but 80% of the time the listener was just wanting a one line response - ‘Yeah, really good thanks’. It annoyed me why they didn’t want to listen? Did they not care? Was it not my responsibility to pass on my learnings and teachings and educate the developed world on ways they could help? I still have to constantly remind myself that this was my experience, and not everyone needed to feel as inspired or moved as I. Not everyone wanted to hear my story, and that needed to be okay.

My first day back at work exposed me to many mental challenges, one that still sticks was when my boss said to me ‘That was probably the worst time of the year to go away, end of financial year. You have missed so many ‘important’ things’. I felt tears build in my eyes, and I knew in that moment what he classified as important, was very different to me, and somehow that needed to be okay.

The first time I saw Aaron after our trip, we hugged like we have never hugged. No words were needed, there was a mutual understanding, a transfer of love and safety that we both clearly needed. Those still in Uganda (Helen and Mum) advised us to stay close to each other when we returned. I never actually understood until now how important that advice was to follow. We constantly check in with each other and ride the waves of emotions as they come, together. Mostly our conversations end in laughter and smiles, just like the Ugandans would want.

I didn’t quite know where to place my emotions or how to settle the tears. I needed to find a strength, a strength greater than anything I needed to use in Uganda to get past these thoughts. I knew I had to channel my emotions into new energy. Energy that would allow me to focus on all the great things I can do from Australia to support my Ugandan family.

I’m not blinded or fooled by my travels to Uganda. I know I can’t save the world, nor do I need to give up the freedoms and luxuries I enjoy and give them to people who don’t have them. I don't need to adopt a life of poverty just to understand the plight of those less fortunate. Rather, it has made me thankful and mindful. It’s caused me to consciously manifest an attitude of thankfulness and gratefulness.

Whilst home is always home, I wish I still had the dust on my feet, and the Ugandan’s in my arms.

Until next time – Siima Kyolina.

- Beth Lilford.


Beth commented on 28-Jul-2017 09:18 AM
A journey I will forever treasure. Thank you HUG for giving my heart the opportunity to expand to lengths I never knew existed. It all makes sense now. I WILL be back!
DJ commented on 31-Jul-2017 09:38 AM
God now I am nearly Crying! Every single word resonates, what a definitive & articulate description of some of the inner wonders that can occur if you open your eyes & heart, put aside your biases, & just live & learn.

I too have undergone these feelings, they aren't bad, they are to be treasured & taken as a gift. Not everyone will get that experience in their life, I wish for them they had that opportunity.

More than anything, Uganda can show you that despite the negative predispositions we mostly have, Joy & Happiness can be found anywhere at all, almost always where you least expect it :)

Thank You Beth - Thank you all HUGgers - Thank You Uganda!

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