Uganda: Coming Home
Laura Leach ‘95 worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uganda for the past two years. She has been sending updates to KWConnect about her experiences in Africa — this is her last post. Click here to read her story from the beginning.
O-F-Z-Q-P – I flew through the eye chart with my left eye. I was in the middle of my close-of-service physical exam, and it seemed impossible that my two years were already up, but here I was just two days from flying home.
When I switched to my right eye, everything looked blurry – really blurry. Since I’m the last remaining member of my family who is not yet sporting a pair of glasses or contacts, this made me nervous, but Karen, the Peace Corps Medical Officer, assured me my vision was fine.
What I was soon to discover when reaching home is that I was now going to see things clearer than I ever had before. That’s what happens when you spend two years in a foreign country and come home. You see things differently and notice details that have gone unnoticed for years.
Now I was going to see things clearer than I ever had before. That’s what happens when you spend two years in a foreign country and come home.
I left Uganda on April 28. There were walk-to-work demonstrations going on in Kampala that day, and I was a little bit nervous about getting from Kampala to Entebbe to catch my flight, but the Peace Corps driver got me safely there in plenty of time. My flight was from Uganda to Amsterdam, where I quickly devoured a lot of cheese during my layover, and then flew to Detroit.
In Detroit, my sister Kelly surprised me at the airport. It was my first time back in the U.S. for more than two years, and the first time I had seen anyone from my family during that same period of time. I was stunned (in a good way) that she flew from New York to meet me.
The two of us flew the last leg of the journey together and were met at the airport by my Dad, Mom and sister Lisa. As soon as I saw my mom, I started to cry. It had been a difficult week saying goodbye to the friends I had made, the work that gave me such a sense of fulfillment and the country I had grown to love, but now I was home!
What I Learned
The number one thing I’ve been asked about my experience with the Peace Corps is if I am glad I did it. The answer is a resounding YES! I learned so much from this experience. I learned how much I take for granted every single day while people on the other side of the world are so grateful for the very little bit that they have.
I was greeted with enthusiasm, acceptance and joy almost every single day while I was in Uganda, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. Certainly things in Uganda were not perfect, but the things that bothered me while I was there seem so insignificant now that I am home, I can’t imagine why I let them bother me so much at the time.
I was greeted with enthusiasm, acceptance and joy almost every single day while I was in Uganda, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
I also learned a lot about the challenges that women face in other parts of the world – domestic violence, an inability to exercise their reproductive rights, unequal access to education and good jobs, and I could go on.
I learned about life for children in Uganda where many children are treated like property, or neglected, or sexually abused, or fail to receive an education, or are living in poverty, and yet they are so light hearted and full of joy. I became good friends with a little girl who was HIV+ and learned a little bit about the challenges people who are HIV+ face as well as their families and communities. I even learned a little bit about myself along the way, too.
What You Can Do
I have enjoyed sharing my story with the KWC community. The Peace Corps was a wonderful experience for me that I would recommend to any students finishing their academic career. You will learn about the world, about yourself, and develop important skills that will help you in your future careers no matter which path you chose. To learn more about serving in the Peace Corps, you can go to their website at www.peacecorps.gov or you can feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Thanks for reading!