Saturday, July 24, 2010

Which one of these statements is not true?

a) Life is absurd.
b) I am a brat.
c) Anyone who is reading this is lucky, lucky, lucky.
d) Ugandan cuisine enabled me to drop a couple pounds.

Well, here I am, near an Olympic-sized swimming pool that is shrouded in the shade of palm trees. Bougainvillea grows on the fence, cute fiercely yellow birdies flutter around, Kenny Rogers is playing in the distance, and secret servicemen in dark suits are huddled under umbrellas on the neighboring terrace. Donc, a is true. Life is absurd. Absurd!

I am stuck in Uganda after missing our redeye last night. It took us 3.5 hours to drive 50 kilometers through Kampala’s diesel-polluted, anything-goes traffic. Nearly every African head of state arrived in the capital yesterday for the African Union conference, rendering some streets impassable. We had nearly four hours to get to the airport and make our flight. I was sure we’d make it. And after four days in Gulu, there was nothing I wanted more than to fly back to Paris. As amazing as this experience has been, I am ready to be back in my own space, with Milo, not having to talk and listen to business associates. Because, b, I am a brat.

But we didn’t make it. We arrived at the airport 25 minutes before our plane was due to leave, so they wouldn’t let us on. After spending 40 minutes rebooking our flights, we were lucky enough to find a hotel near the airport—which is actually more posh than the other places we stayed—and we’re camping out here until our rescheduled redeye tonight.

Being at this hotel, with its meticulously manicured grounds, giant swimming pool and even more enormous buffet is pretty surreal after the places we’ve been this past week. And it really makes me feel like my priorities are all screwed up. I am elated to be back on my laptop, connected to the Internet. But after visiting these very humble homes this past week, being welcomed by the most gracious and warm, yet poor and sick, people, I should be ready to join an NGO; to eschew my hair highlights and designer jeans and expensive pastries and do something for others. I spend money freely, I go to the movies and travel, and I think nothing of all my electronic connections. I feel so “normal” and relieved to be on my trusty laptop today. While I always try to be mindful of how lucky I am, this week proved it: I am so, so lucky. Anyone who is reading this, simply by having a computer, an Internet connection, electricity is lucky.

It’s just bizarre how you can hear about tragedies, witness hardship, experience intensely emotional connections and then just… move on with your own life.

For the truth is, as authentic and humbling as our days in Gulu were, our nights were spent with Westerners, eating healthy dinners and drinking bottles of wine. And while the wine has been mediocre at best, the food was pretty decent. Especially the fresh fruits (pineapple, mango, bananas) and vegetables (tomatoes, avocado, cucumbers and that lovely root vegetable, the potato, that is so delicious when fried and served with every meal, even breakfast). I thought I’d be able to repent for a summer of pastry explorations and amazing dinners and perhaps drop a pound or two down here. Au contraire—d is the untrue statement. Airplane food and breakfast buffets and fried fish and bottles of beer don’t exactly make for a svelte figure.

But a new week begins tomorrow. In Paris, if I’m lucky.


  1. Good to hear from you !
    Very interesting too ... have an easy flight home!

  2. I love your blog..and wished i live in Paris:)..Lucky you!