I once overheard a group of college students discussing how social media is ruining the world. Since then, this topic has returned to my ears, mind, and eyes more times than I can count. In the past few years my opinion on this topic has entirely shifted and developed to degrees I had never thought of. While I do believe there are many negative side effects of poor social media (and media in general), I have come to love the benefits of media, story sharing, enhanced perspectives, and raised awareness. As you all have seen in this past year, I have explored the beauty of photography, videography, writing, and story sharing and with this has come a lot of personal growth as a writer, as a traveler, and as a human.
Before Uganda I would have never considered myself a “writer” and to be fair, I don’t even know if even would today. Having always been an avid reader I will say that I never took into account how hard (yet therapeutic) it is to write. The art of expressing moments or experiences into words and physically writing down your thoughts and emotions while also having to consider the multiple perspectives and the depth and variables of every person, place, and thing involved is by far one of the hardest tasks to do tactfully.
I have failed and I have succeeded. I have tried and I have grown. All I can say is that within the last fifteen months I have consciously attempted to convey my experiences here. My experiences as an English teacher and Peace Corps Volunteer in a government school in Northern Uganda, as a privileged white-American placed somewhere far from her birthplace, and the continuation of a twenty-three year old girl falling in love with life, herself, the world, her community, children, and the human connection altogether.
Upon reflection, I was a part of that group of girls who deemed social media as “shit” and the world’s nemesis. I did not know what a “Twitter” or a “hashtag” was and honestly, understanding the whole “trending” thing was harder than any organic chemistry class I had ever taken. As much as I am ashamed to admit this, I unknowingly had shaped some of my perceptions off of the oftentimes one-sided and manipulative media of the world. Although I had traveled around the globe and back I still held many misconceptions about this world we live in.
I had been to South Africa and still let the media convince me that Africa is starving and poor. I looked at pictures and thought, “Oh, another white girl with some African kids,” with a bad taste in my mouth as some of you may think by glimpsing at any of my pictures. I no longer think that when I see my friends’ pictures because I have learned something very important in these many months which I will share with you.
Take it or leave it.
Africa is not what the media tends to show. Yes, there are hungry kids, kids who can’t go to school, and kids without families and medical care but the same exists in your neighborhood in North America. And in Europe, South America, and Asia. Africa, more specifically my home of Uganda, is diverse. Again, just like North America, or more specifically, The United States. There is rich and poor, love and hate, boys who are educated more than girls and girls who are more successful than boys. There are age old traditions and new age technology. There is religion, innovation, and creativity. There is hope, acceptance, and friendship. There are huts and homes and mansions and buildings with many stories.
My goal in the last 15 months has been to show you the many realms of this niche of the world I live in. The children, youth, and adults you see in pictures, these are my friends. These are my family and my community. These are the kids who wake me up in the morning with echoing knocks on my metal door just to play outside and the brothers and sisters who I hold while they cry. These are the babies I walk to the health clinic with their moms and give the last drops of my filtered water. These are the friends who I grab beers with and have deeply insightful and philosophical conversations with about love, life, and the world. They are the teachers who I dig in the field with, repair mosquito nets with, and walk to the market with.
This is my home.
The pictures with my pupils Miracle or Danny on my back is the same as your picture with your niece and nephew in your arms. This is my family who I love more than anything. And when I am not already begged to take their snap, I always ask before I share anything about someone with the rest of the world. Yes, they know what Facebook and Instagram are. Maybe I am saying this in defense of myself but what I really wish you take from this is just another perspective. Next time you read an article, hear an opinion, or see a picture think of the “other side” of the story.
Don’t define your opinions and views because of one article you read or picture you see; these are just pieces of a much larger picture we will understand some day. Ask questions. Think. Forgive.
To those of you who have responded to my blogs, photos, and posts–thank you. While yes, I am trying my hardest to offer another (and many) perspectives of “Africa,” I am really just trying to show you my life here. Day-in and day-out. The love I am constantly surrounded by, the inspirational humans I get to call my friends, the frustrations I experience, and everything in between. Please continue to share your thoughts with me, I am open ears.