There is something peculiar, maybe even surreal, about reading Heart of Darkness while actually in the African continent. Despite it racist and imperialist tones, the imagery that Conrad uses to describe the landscape accurately portrays—even a century later—the enigmatic pulse of a continent that is oh-so-foreign to outsiders, but at the same time, strangely comforting. It is a bit how I’m feeling about the city of Kampala after 8 weeks—it has become a strangely comforting place for me.
As I’ve slowly watched my supply of un-read books dwindle, I’ve come to realize that I am leaving this place I’ve called home sooner rather than later. There is no doubt that I am more than thrilled to return to ice cubes, cross-walks, good coffee, and wireless internet, but at the same time, I know I am going to miss the random strangers who ask how I am doing, fruit straight from the tree, and my adopted family. The beautiful thing about the human memory is that it tends to crystallize the good in every situation, but I really wonder what my memory of this experience will be 2 weeks, 4 months, a year after the fact. I’m not a deeply reflective person, and in many ways I avoid looking inwards, but my impending departure makes me feel like I should work to digest the ways I’ve learned, changed, and adjusted. But the more I try to, the harder it is. Perhaps, and hopefully, my awareness will be an evolving process.
Strangely enough, what I am most wary about in my return to Seattle and the United States is how to share my experience with other people. It’ll be a formality for other students to ask how my study abroad was, but how in the world do I reply? People’s interest in experiences they did not share in only runs so deep, and I have this fear (possibly irrational) of tarnishing my true memory by glossing it over to share with other people.
Other than these musings, which I’m assuming are typical at the closing of a chapter, I have been trying to maximize my time in the sun and Kampala, and prepare for Jimbo’s visit to Uganda! That’s right, my John Denver doppelganger of a father is coming to visit on the 14th and staying through until my departure on the 23rd, when his is unfortunate enough to have to fly to Kenya for a week-long safari… In typical Burruss fashion we’ve (or I’ve) constructed an itinerary heavy on waterfalls, wild animals, and bus rides—light on sleep and sanity. When I’m falling asleep or deathly sick through the first week of classes at SU, this itinerary, as well as airplane travel through far too many time and temperature zones will be to blame.