Tracy Hathorn returned to South Africa after spending over two decades in Uganda. She recounts why she is so glad to be home and speaks about what she missed most.
After 21 years in Uganda, I am back!
My outlook on life has changed and now I look at my homeland through new ‘eyes’, I am excited about everyday stuff that most people do not even see. I feel happy & positive and want to spread my friendliness but I hold back, even just a little.
When you live in a country where you have limited choices on just about everything you are overwhelmed with the choices that you suddenly are faced with. Shall I buy vanilla Rooibos / Five Roses or orange infused tea? Its mind boggling when you are shopping….is it really necessary to be given so many choices? Gone are the days of going grocery shopping within an hour. Now you stand in one place for at least 10 minutes to make a simple decision on the choice of tea or coffee…do not get me started on buying a simple loaf of bread.
Let me put aside the little ”discomfort” of choices and rather look at all the little pleasures I indulge in. Driving around on decent roads with a great road infrastructure while using my ‘WAZE’ (we have become great friends and I refuse to travel without her) observing new modern buildings, our beautiful countrysides, traffic lights that work, constant upgrades of buildings/roads/parking areas….making it easier to get from point a to point b. While driving around, I am also constantly aware that I should be on the ”lookout” for the ‘baddies’ out there. Something that I am learning about – do not want to, but its a matter of survival and so I am more tuned in on my surroundings at all times. I do not ‘wonder’ how I ended up at the mall, I know exactly how I got there. I took the safer/better route to ensure a pleasant experience.
Stopping at the nearest coffee shop for another amazing cup of coffee (the choice factor comes in here too) is so easy , but i miss the familiar faces of my frequently visited coffee shop in Uganda where the waiters knew me by name and my order. I took time to get to know the waiter, shop assistant, security guard, car park attendant, receptionist in the bank, tellers at Shoprite/Game etc and it gave me great pleasure to know that my smile or short sentence on how the day is going, affected them as much as it did me.
During the last 6 weeks, I asked myself on a few occasions if i could make a difference here too? Everything is working, people are getting on with their everyday schedules and life does not ‘revolve’ around me. (shocking!! but I had to come to terms with that too). Here people are rushing to the next meeting, quickly closing another deal, drive far too fast to get to the next appointment/picking up the kids from school and they do not have time to ”see” what is going on around then – they are all busy. Believe me, I understand busy. I think I ‘invented’ busy but during all of the busy stuff, there is always time to make a memory. Every small memory becomes a part of your history and I made ‘my’ history in Uganda, but starting to make new memories in my homeland.
Having lived in Uganda for 21 years and being involved with many projects, meeting people from all over the world, gaining experience in so many different fields, working with Ugandans on a one-on-one basis while learning so much of the culture, the people and the country, I know somewhere during all the years, I made a small difference in someone’s life which made a huge difference in mine.
In my homeland, I am just another statistic and I will learn to accept that, BUT I will not stop being friendly, helpful, positive, approachable, excited and wanting to make a difference, even if that means that I have to use my ”Ugandan skills” to achieve it.
Now its time to visit the coffee shop. I am determined that someone else (the waiter in this case) besides my family & friends ”sees” me and I will make an impact!