Tuesday, June 15, 2010


One thing that blows my mind every day are the sheer number and size of anthills here. I’m not talking about those puney little ants that invade the pantry. I’m talking about the beefed up, size of my pinky toe ants. They are so big that you can see their nasty pincers without a magnifying glass. In Uganda, the red anthills get to be the size of bears. And, thousands of giant ants inhabit them. Since I’ve arrived I’ve wondered exactly how ants build these things, more specifically how much time it takes and how many ants it takes.

This morning I got my answer.

I was reading in the front yard and bonding with Aberforth and Wendy when I looked at the ground and noticed a lone ant. I visually followed him for a few moments and discovered a small, quarter sized pile of red sand about a foot away from where I was sitting. The ant placed another grain of sand in the pile and then disappeared under the gate for several minutes before returning. His sand gathering process was immensely intriguing. There was plenty of sand and dirt nearby that would have suited his needs, but he chose to trek to who knows where for several minutes to get sand from a different location. Why? If he continues at that pace, with no help, it will be years before the ant hill is completed. For a reason unbeknownst to me, the sand nearby was not good enough to make a solid ant hill, so the ant was willing to take the time to find the best sand to construct his home. But that leaves another question unanswered. How will he convince other ants to help him build a home all of them can thrive in? I think that other ants will only come if the one ant can build a good, solid foundation.

Then my thoughts turned to development. And again to what makes development “successful”. Each step in the development process is a grain of sand. If I build my process with the closest sand I can find instead of the best sand I can find, my ant hill won’t last very long. But, if I do build my ant hill with the best sand, then others will want to join me in my quest. As time goes on and as my ant hill gets bigger, responsibilities will be delegated and sustainable skills will be learned. Ideally, everyone benefits because of the initial quality of my ant hill. In my mind, the grains of sand represent the relationships I can develop with those around me. The stronger the relationships, the stronger foundation. The stronger the foundation, the more sustainable it will be. The more sustainable it is, the more people will want to join me in my endeavor to build a strong, prominent ant hill. Everything moves in a cyclical process with results and consequences that become eternally intertwined.

I know I talked about development and relationships last week as well, but it is something which resonates in everything I do here in Uganda. My grains of sand are those relationships and if I don’t take the time to seek out the best grains, I will eventually fail. It is my duty to my fellow main to drink those three cups of tea and become family in their eyes. I will strive to listen and understand what the truly need. I want to fulfill those needs in whatever way I can.

Forgive me for being repetitive, but realize that the people and the relationships are often far more important than the task at hand. Without the relationship, the accomplishment means nothing.

Over and Out.

1. Kaile and Blythe at the source of the Nile
2. Ant hill
3. Fisherman on the Nile