Written for Ruja

Last weekend we stayed for one night at a village named Kachinga. Contrary to what image your mind might conjure up when you read the word “Africa”, the landscape of this place was lush and stunningly beautiful.

The path leading to it was a temperamental clay road that offered grace to travelers on sunny days and threw a fit when it rained. Nestled behind matoke trees along the road were homes made of essentials—bricks, cement, clay, doorways, and windows. A modern touch was given to the home that hosted us in the form of solar lights.

Our host was Robert’s mother (the Ugandan director of RUJA). A master of hospitality, it was evident that this was a skill she had refined through years of lovingly opening her heart and home to others. She prepared for us a meal of matoke, rice, beef, and lemongrass tea (the leaves of which came straight from her yard). We went to bed not too long after the sun went down and woke up with the alarm clock of a sunrise and the sound of rain on the roof.

In the village people walk around barefoot without worry. In the same breath, they open their homes to strangers without flinching. Which leads me to perhaps one of my greatest realizations from this trip—life in the village is not worse or better than life back home. It simply is different.

It is easy to approach these experiences with the assumption that we carry something superior and are bringing improvement to them, but this mindset is incorrect and incomplete. Cross-cultural partnerships are a two-way street and must be viewed from this lens of respect. Because the truth is, they are experts in things we fundamentally lack and vice versa. They are hospitable, we are efficient. We align our lives with the clock, while the clock somehow finds a way to align itself to their lives. For them, cooking is a labor of love. For us, cooking is another item on our to-do list. We have clean water readily accessible to us. They have an abundance of fresh food at their fingertips. So you see, one culture isn’t superior to the other. Both have strengths and areas that necessitate growth. We need each other.

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