In the West of Uganda, on the edge of the Nile and Lake Albert, lies Murchison Falls National Park. This beautiful, protected area is home to lions, giraffes, elephants, monkeys, hundreds of variations of antelope, and many small communities.
Having spent the past 10 days in more urban areas, we took a couple of days away to witness some of the exceptional natural beauty and extraordinary wildlife that calls Uganda home. Winston Churchill called this country ‘The Pearl of Africa’ and it wasn’t hard to see why when we journeyed out into the beautiful countryside.
On part of our drive through the extensive nearly 4000 square kilometres of the park we drove past hundreds of mud-hut villages. The beautifully, perfectly constructed houses, round with heavily thatched roofs, shared flat clearings surrounded by fields of corn and maize. Children were laughing and dancing between the houses and through the fields, while men and women worked the land, sometimes helped by the children. Small fires were lit outside the houses with pans bubbling away on them. Washed clothing was laid out on the thatch to dry. There was laughter and joy on the faces of the people living in these small communities.
And yet, why is it that I felt like I was witnessing more laughter and joy here where people have so little than at home in the UK, where people have so much?
The beautiful simplicity of the lives I could see was inspiring and admirable. They appeared to live off the land, within a close community, and shared their back garden with elephants. This life free of complications made me consider our busy, hectic, dissatisfied lives.
Having spent the past 10 days in a more urban area of Central Uganda, we had been confronted with levels of poverty that we couldn’t even have imagined. The endemic corruption that so blatantly impacts those most in need was enough to make even the most cynical amongst us despair. Yet, I did not see despair in the faces of the people we met. I saw joy, laughter, and love. The barefooted children danced through the mud left over from a storm. The women sat together outside stores for hours, crafting their wares and chatting animatedly with each other. Men met each other in the street with hearty handshakes and enormous smiles. Where material possessions were scarce, their hearts and spirits were overflowing.
Why is it that we, who have so much, are so dissatisfied? Why is depression so rife in our ‘Western’ world? Have we caused this? Have we made things too complicated?
Additionally, who are we to judge these lives? What right do we have to believe that, because we have more ‘things’, more money, important jobs, we are better better off than them?
“Africa has taught me that possessions in my hands will never be as valuable as peace in my heart…” – Barrett Ward (http://www.themochaclub.org)