It's gone fast, very fast. Although my time here is not quite over, I am passing the baton to my friend, and next Noble Fellow, Gabriella. You are most welcome to Uganda, Gabriella.
It's hard to think about leaving a place you have come to love. I have done it before and I know I will have to do it again, but this time seems a little different. I remember just a few months ago it seemed like the day I would leave for Uganda would never come, but here we are and it seems like just yesterday I was waiting in Will Rogers airport for my first flight.
Now I am wondering, how do I go about wrapping up my time here? How do I put all the things I have learned into a condensed report or tidy presentation? How do I describe the drenching rains, the smells of the market, the hospitality of the people, the innovation of the farmers, the task ahead of Uganda?
Even harder, how do I begin to thank all of those who have invested in me for this trip? How do I show my thanks to the Noble Research Institute for the opportunity, to Watoto for hosting me, to Oklahoma State for guiding me? What about all the individuals and organizations that have taken me under their wing, opened their doors to me, transported me, fed me? How do I return the favor?
Okello and me
Some might think that I traveled here to offer solutions or give answers, but most of what I have done is ask questions. I'm convinced that a good question is as important as a good answer. I will leave Uganda with new insights and perspectives but also with new questions.
I have learned enough to fill a book. I have gained a better understanding of what I do and do not like. My time spent in Uganda has reaffirmed my decisions to work in agriculture. Plans in Uganda can change on a whim, but sometimes that's not such a bad thing. One of those changed plans was the opportunity for me to stay an extra six weeks. I seized the opportunity before it changed again. I'm glad I did.
Perhaps my best attempts at showing my appreciation are feeble at best, but I still want to try. I want to thank the Noble Research Institute for the wonderful opportunity; they have been there every step of the way. I want to thank Watoto Sustainability for making me a part of the team and teaching me so much. Thank you to Oklahoma State; I am ready to be back on campus. To all the organizations and new friends, Webale nyo and Apoyo matek.
I leave Uganda with a lot of hope. I know that the development of the country is in capable hands. As for me, I know I will come back to Uganda. I will tell these stories until I'm hoarse. I have a lot more to say, but I also have a lot more to learn.
Tanner Roark is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Roark is from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where he focuses on international agriculture development.