My mom once told me a story about my late Uncle Terr, her brother and a huge influence in my life and in the lives of my three sisters. Terr was a wanderer, a backpacker, a gypsy, a vagabond, a mountain man and a desert drifter, whatever you want to call him. He was a mzungu in the truest form – an outsider, who “zunga zunga’ed” all over, wandering almost aimlessly from place to place throughout his life, making himself at home wherever the wind took him.
He was a free spirit in the purest sense. And he was my earliest inspiration (coupled with some Indiana Jones) to explore the world around me throughout my own life. To create my own adventures, to embrace and love my ability to adapt to new surroundings, and perhaps my inability to truly find my “place” with any group, individual or location for too terribly long.
My mother told me how the road in front of her house, the home I grew up in, used to be a dirt road that wound its way up to the main street passing through my home town. Before fences were erected and new homes were built, she could see all the way up the road.
And after months of hearing absolutely nothing from her dear brother, as he roamed the beaches of northern California, the deserts of Death Valley, or the forests of the Sierra Nevada’s, one day, he would come walking down that road, pack slung over his shoulder, beard grown long, the wear and tear of months on the road exuding from his body and soul.
Here in Kyabirwa, I am that wanderer. The one who, after disappearing for a weekend, or even weeks at a time, off working in the city or traveling to some distant part of Uganda, or dancing under the stars lakeside in another land altogether, suddenly reappears. And when I do, I am met with a crowd of kids running my direction with the same excitement my mother had seeing her brother for the first time in god-knows-how-long. I am met with maamas welcoming me home. With brothers and sisters telling me they are happy to see me and asking how my travels treated me.
I am met with love, with acceptance, with family.
I am a lingering remnant of a nomadic people, domesticated by sovereignty over millennia. I cannot sit still without restlessness overcoming my soul. So I drift, just like Uncle Terr did so often throughout his life. But like Terr, I always return, and I always return to love.