I was blinded by the darkness when I landed in Entebbe. Only the moon shone through the black cloudy sky, lighting up the drivers' faces asking me repeatedly: Madame do you need a ride? Do you have a group? Are you alone? Are you sure someone is coming for you? I can take you.
Courtney told me I might want to cry when I landed and I didn't understand why. But then I landed and I wanted to cry. For the first time since April I began to wonder why I chose to give up two weeks in a foreign country, alone. Why didn't I persist when my friends and family told me they wanted to go to Africa, too?
For some reason I became friends with the flight attendant en route from Amsterdam. Near customs, she ran up to me, asking if I had forgotten my jacket by chance. No I hadn't, but do you want to hug right now? I wanted to ask her.
I was alone for the next hour and half, filled with excitement, fear and worry. Was someone actually meeting me? Why didn't I exchange phone numbers with anyone from the group? I couldn't wait to see the stars. I couldn't wait to see the scenery.
And then I found my group. I'd never met them but they felt familiar immediately. There was a burst of excitement as we joined together and loaded on to the bus. We were here at last!
Once we left the airport and began driving, silence fell over us. A mix of exhaustion and awe hit us all at once.
We drove about an hour to our hotel in Kampala - taking in the scenery - both sad and beautiful. The roads were dirt and the sky was big, black. There was an odd mix of advertising: US-made products, "proud to be African" signs and PSAs, begging people to get tested for HIV.
We passed a house made out of an old Huggies billboard. After that, every billboard we passed, I thought: you're next, sign. Who will you shelter someday? Whose home will you be?
Emaciated livestock lined the side of the roads. Women walked along the street, balancing baskets of sugar cane on their heads.
There was trash everywhere. So much trash. People just living on the streets among the trash. Bodabodas zipped by. There were no road signs, intersections simply a game of chicken. I have been to foreign countries that have felt very foreign before. But this truly felt like a different world.
We arrived at the hotel and I felt an odd mix of excitement and confusion. Where am I? Why am I here? And what will happen next?
I couldn't wait to find out.