To be honest, I’ve been avoiding writing since I’ve been back. There’s still so much to be written and shown from Uganda and I don’t feel like I’ve completed that piece of the story…so I’ve held off on posting photos from my work here in Las Vegas. My head is back in Vegas, but my heart is still in Uganda.
Even though this was my fourth trip to the same country and to many of the same people, I’ve found myself a little shell shocked this past week. Usually a person will go through reverse culture shock after leaving a developing country and returning to their own country. Maybe it’s prideful, but I didn’t expect to have such a hard time adjusting back, I didn’t see anything I have not already seen…but this week has made me realize that there is no “getting used” to extreme poverty and human suffering. Thank God too! I don’t ever want to be so used to hunger, violence and injustice that it doesn’t tear me apart.
So here I confess that although “I’ve seen it all before” I really haven’t. I haven’t seen the individuals and heard their personal, unique stories. I have never before held the hands of Sara and Annette, little girls in the slums of Kampala, who live in vulnerability and fear, surrounded by drunkards who could easily come in and rape them while there mother is at work at night, it’s happened to their older sister. Before this, I had never met Adong Juliet, a 6 year old in the bush of Lira whose father died and whose mother is dying of AIDS. She sang a song about being thankful when I met her and I was so convicted by the irony of a 6 year old, alone in this world singing about thankfulness and me, so often annoyed or frustrated by the least important things. I’ve never held a feverish baby fighting malaria, whose mother died at childbirth and whose father has never visited her but is withering away from AIDS. I had never heard Brian’s story, a brilliant, funny sweet boy whose father and mother are both alive, but his father rejected him and doesn’t even acknowledge that Brian is his son. Brian just can’t make sense of it all. I almost lose it every time I think of Tonny, our 14 year old Otino Waa boy fighting cancer in Lacor Hospital.
These things are not supposed to be easy to experience. And I need to remember that as I process through what I know and what I’ve seen. The piece I always come back to is, what can I do? At this point I try to use my voice, to tell their stories and invite people to get involved, I try to work with Otino Waa as much as I can, and I pray for the people I know and love from so far away. I don’t feel it is enough and I want to do so much more. I want to give each day to helping these people…but that time hasn’t come yet.
This may be more then you expected or wanted, but it’s at the core of me. I love photography because it tells a story in its own unique way. I don’t take photographs in Africa because they make cool photographs, I do it to tell a story in an effort to create change, not just awareness.
So I ask for grace as I post a mix of work that I love as a portrait and wedding photographer in the US, and slowly start to pour out the stories and photos from a place in my heart that has been broken in the right way.
Thanks for walking this journey with me,