Arbitrary as they may be, is remarkable what the borders we have drawn between sovereign lands can separate.
The border crossing from Rwanda into Uganda feels like stepping into another world. In a brief 2 minute walk, the peace and serenity of Rwanda’s perfectly manicured roads snaking through rolling green hills gives way to a cacophony of touts and hawkers. Police officers become much more comfortable grabbing your arm and harassing you about whether you know Chuck Norris, the use of the word mzungu increases exponentially, and immigration officials instantly take a surly turn.
Re-boarding the bus brings roads in far worse condition passing through incessant clouds of diesel fuel and burning trash, and the ferocity of hawkers shoving maize, water and sodas speaks to the saturation of the informal market and the desperation triggered by extreme poverty.
Yet at the same time, you can’t help but novice something else proliferating all around you: smiles.
If one can make such a statement, I would say that Uganda is the happiest country I have ever visited. Even in the face of often indescribable hardship, you hear laughter in every direction, and offering a smile to a passerby will rarely, if ever, be met with a blank stare.
Perhaps these distinctions are only perceivable to those who recognize that Africa is not, in fact, a country, that each country within this glorious continent has its own unique personality.
Regardless, I am blessed to call this country my home.
The smiles are contagious, and I feel like every day spent here is an act of all Ugandans letting me in on a secret that few are privy to: that joy is worth feeling, worth sharing, worth spreading, no matter your lot in life.
And I must say, when I step off the 12 hour bus ride into the steamy Kampala night, when the flood of boda drivers bombard me with offers for a ride, when we jet off into the swarm of traffic dodging the honks of matatus and crowds of pedestrians, that same smile once again becomes a permanent fixture on my face.
It’s good to be home.