At our house we have a cement wall with a metal gate around the property, and at night, our guard David makes sure people do not try to rob us. He is a super cool Ugandan who makes a lot of sacrifices to work with us. He lives here during the week and his family is about an hour away. He does not see them very often. In fact, his wife had a baby recently and so we gave him time off to go see his son for a few days, but it was a very short visit. David does so much for us and we love him. He is very funny and easy to trust.
So David was hanging out with us one night and Cassie told him to tell us his rainbow story.
“Do you know what a rainbow is?” David asked us in his deep voice. He has a thick accent that almost sounds like he is British and is holding a hard candy on the back of his tongue. We were all sitting in our living room that evening and the lights were dim so I couldn't clearly make out David's dark face. I was a little bit confused by his questions, but answered that it is a reflection of light off of water.
“Here, when you are a child, we learn that a rainbow is a living thing!” He puts a little emphasis on the word “living” and raises his eyebrows a little bit to get his point across and make sure we understand him. “If you are near it, and go to it, it will kill you.” Some of us laugh at this. It doesn't sound like something you would continue to believe after childhood.
Then he started to tell us about a trip he took with some HELP volunteers in 2013. I think the fact that he gave us the year makes it pretty clear how big a deal this moment was to him. They were going to see a waterfall, and David got to it before the rest of the group, but noticed a rainbow!
“I ran back to the group and I am whispering, there is a rainbow, there is a rainbow!” He tells us. “And they say where?? and start to yell and cheer because they are happy.” He imitated white girls cheering and yelling excitedly which got me to chuckle. I love hearing what Africans think we sound like.
David said to the girls, “What are you doing??”
Poor David didn't understand why these Mzungus would be so happy about seeing a rainbow up close. They eventually had to explain to him that a rainbow is just a reflection of light and not a giant killing monster, and convince him to go stand in it. David said he was so afraid he brought his knife out in case something should happen. When he said that his eyes were wide and I see his white teeth in a big, almost sheepish grin. He got a picture of himself with a rainbow and he lived to tell about it!
“Sometimes,” he says “I can hardly believe it. I showed my wife the picture, and she can hardly believe it.” The entire story, David has that grin on his face. You can tell it still sounds crazy to him to be so close to a rainbow, but he also understands how funny it is.
I love that story.
“In order for a man to discover greater oceans, he must be willing to loose sight of the shore.”
Saleh gave us this quote on his radio show when we came on as guest speakers. The show was about volunteer work and how locals can get involved in their communities to make a difference. Consider this my plug for all of you to get involved and make a difference. It doesn't have to be big. Cassie tied this into how we not only have to do something like leave our literal shores and come to a foreign land like we did to come to Uganda, but we all have metaphorical shores. Insecurities, doubts, addictions, fears or anything else that might hold us back can be a shore. If we want to discover endless oceans, reach our infinite and eternal potential, we have to abandon those shores. Forsake, overcome, leave behind.
Maybe it is a rainbow in disguise. I think by being willing to trust his friends and step into the waterfall, David left behind a shore that was holding him back. What rainbows are we afraid of in our lives? Maybe it's really just a beautiful reflection of light that we don't understand. Maybe it's actually something that would bring us joy to experience rather than something that wants to harm us. How can we know until we try?
Are you afraid of taking a class this coming semester? Are you starting a new job? Be willing to leave your shore and discover a little more of your endless potential. Look around you and find something you have always wanted to do. Look for the rainbows instead of the monsters. Leave your shore, and discover the endless possibilities of the ocean.
Being here in Uganda has helped me leave many shores and discover rainbows along the way. It's possibly the biggest lesson I have learned from this adventure, and I think that's no small feat. I love talking to people here, but the first day I was scared to look strangers in the eye! Traveling has always been something I have enjoyed, but I have needed people to push me to do it. This trip was very much out of my comfort zone, but I'm thankful for the support I had to come here and I have grown so much from it. I have discovered passions I never knew I had. Staying in America was a 'shore' for me that I didn't know I needed to leave. Now that I am here, I don't want to return! I have so many ideas in my head of how I could do it better, or what I want to continue to work on. But I'm glad I know how I can improve, because it just means I will be more ready to leave my next shore behind.
Next stop, finding the rainbows of teaching <3