There’s an anecdote that kicks its dusty way through people’s lives at all the right times. The idea that if you don’t know what to do, do anything. The moment you begin to move, the right choice becomes clear. It’s been that way this week, as my life wends its puzzlesome way around some invisible tether.

The point of decision has been a while in the coming. The result of unbelievable emotional seesawing about my next travel project abroad. Almost the day after writing about the difficulty of choosing, only two possibilities remained standing in my heart. Part of me wanted to go and trek the Annapurna circuit in Nepal. Wanted to get away from doing things because I feel like they will matter and instead just spend some  away from the world of responsibility – journalistic or otherwise. Massive, cold skies to do little but think under.

The other half of me wanted to return to Uganda. To the powdery orange dust floating warm off the roads. The stuff that would mix with the fabric of your clothes, and the smell of fires in the evening. For all the pages and pages of diary entries – which will appear here in the coming posts – we only scratched the surface. I left able to tell you where some interesting – nay, fucking fascinating – stories lie. But didn’t have the time, or the mind, to see them during the first pass. Wisdom, as is its custom, came later.

The page you never, ever touch until you know a journal’s destiny

And there lay the conflict. Whether to do something to escape the world. To retreat into introspection. Or to return to face a place that turned out to be so difficult emotionally. Measure up once again. Stay another round and try to do more. To do better.

In truth, after my post on deliberation, I felt I wanted the escape. I took a beautiful, leather bound journal that Katherine had given me, and opened it to the all-important first blank page. The page you never, ever touch until you know a journal’s destiny. Slowly, deliberately, I wrote Annapurna in it.

The ink was barely dry before I knew that wasn’t where my heart was.

Trekking would have been enough, if all I now wanted was adventure for its own sake.

Fun. Epic photographs of myself hiking at a few thousand feet. These are undeniably cool things. Possibly some of the coolest. But in the end, they are only snacks. Short bursts of look-at-me escapism that would leave me wanting more. Waiting another year to return again for the next hit, like some impoverished junkie.

Going to Uganda and learning, interviewing, photographing. Trying to make a difference. Trying to bring something back. This is something of a different order, for a heart that is learning to do more than simply be adventurous. It would be about investing in something more important than escapism. My tiny little fist swinging at the corners of the good fight.

No amount of return would ever be enough, it’s true. But a life spent on my own entertainment would be nothing at all.

 

Limited Hero.

Categories: Africa, Journalism, Travel, Uganda
  • Caminochile.blogspot.com

    The tiny fist swinging at the corners of the good fight…I need to keep the line as a mantra for when it seems futile to try to help on my volunteering travels.

  • I really do believe that everything counts. Even if it’s not enough, it’s more than there was. And it’s a more-than-there-was that wouldn’t be if you didn’t do it.

  • I love the way in which this post forces oneself to stay honest about the motivations of this work… and prizes both what fulfills us and where we can be of service. I also love that you wrote it all out to see what felt right. That’s how I check if I have the right spelling of a word: I write it on paper. What a lovely way to use that for our feelings, guts and instincts too. As always, I am inspired by your writing.

  • Saskia

    Just last night I spent about two hours talking to my roommate about our time in Uganda. The conversation moved on to what we would like to do next year, individually. I realized we really did only scratch the surface while there. The scrapings we gathered from under our finger nails as we left and returned to “reality?” have made me realize how important it is to return… Watching the ‘history-in-the-making’ news about Sudan and remembering sun-hued conversations we had while there has made me want to get my hands dirty again…very dirty.

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