Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Pearl of Africa

”Hold on to the rope and lean back. Trust me.”Those words echo through my head as I lower myself over the edge. The first two steps I take before feeling the strength and security of the rope are the most mentally challenging moments of my life. I stepped down onto the bar that would make the transition from no sense of security to total trust in my rope slightly easier. One more step off that bar and I felt a tug. The rope tightened and my heart rate slowed down significantly.

“You’re doing a great job, Lexi. How do you feel,” asked Robert, my safety rope belayer.

I responded, “This is incredible.”

Robert smiled and replied, “Good, kee

p going, and remember to relax and lean back.”

Now the speed at which I descend is in my hands. Robert is just my back up singer. I pulled up 300 feet of rope just a few inches and started to belay myself down the side of this sheer cliff face. After gaining trust in the rope and descending about 50 feet I pulled the rope tight behind me and stopped to think about what I was doing. Because of the lack of momentum, I start to spin clockwise very slowly. Immediately to my right, about 8 feet away, I see the largest waterfall in Africa. It moves at lightning quick speed with power that mimics a stampede of a multitude of wildebeests.

I continued to rotate ever so slowly and when my back is facing the cliff, I can see the world. I quickly glance up to make sure I am not breaking any rules or doing anything wrong. Robert flashes a quick thumbs-up to let me know that I can take my time. Within an instant I realize that I can see several countries from my airborne perch 250 feet off the ground. In my mind, I am looking down from the heavens at the entire world. Oddly shaped lakes, snake-like rivers, competitive, majestic mountains, and vast, treeless expanses; I can see it all.

Before I can comprehend everything I’ve just witnessed, I’m facing the wall again. I decided I should continue on my way down. The rushing sound of the water pushing through countless walls of air acts as a soundtrack to my thoughts as my mind drifts to Uganda’s nickname: The Pearl of Africa.

I was told very early on that Uganda is called The Pearl of Africa because of its nice weather. Originally I believed that the weather was the only thing giving definition to Uganda’s nickname; it is beautiful weather. It does not get warm until after 10 in the morning and the nights are always comfortably cool. Humidity is not overpowering in Uganda, but it’s still moist enough for greenery to be within every range of sight. In the moment I was hanging next to Sipi Falls, looking at the world, I realized there is so much more meaning in that name.

Uganda is a Pearl not only because of its weather, but also because of the rich culture, incredible people, and humble society. The culture is one of love and welcome. Every wear I go I am greeted “You are most welcome”. It’s a sincere statement from loving people who are honestly welcoming me into their homes, businesses,schools, and even their lives. Those same loving people work hard to make just enough to support their families, but they also place a lot of value in taking their time in everything they do. They enjoy everything and never hurry. They place value on time spent building relationships with others and their families. The society is humble and prayerful. Ugandans know they don’t have much, but they offer what they can. I’ve never been turned away or felt unwelcome. Prayers have filled the my last two weeks as all of the people I’ve built relationships with have sent me off with the protection of God surrounding me.
Those most compelling reason for me to come to Africa was to learn about another culture. I’ve done that and learned so much more. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to live or for a more welcoming, caring group of people.

Every characteristic I’ve mentioned is a pearl in any society. The combination of them makes Uganda a pearl to the world.

Sadly, this is the last post from Africa. One more post will follow after I get my feet back on US soil.
Over and out.

Picture 1: Sipi Falls
Picture 2: Sunset from the top of the mountain
Picture 3: Rachel Leavitt
Picture 4: LtoR Mary, Rishida, me, Victoria, and Lucy. Some of the Young Women from the Seeta Branch.