Where do I begin?
Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember and remember more than I have seen.
As I wait in the Entebbe airport for the first of the three flights that stand between me and home, my mind is flooded with so many thoughts, questions and memories. But the one that floats to the surface is: "Where do I begin ?"
Where do I begin to neatly package the experiences of this summer? How will I put all of the challenges, triumphs, questions and laughter into a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation? How can I explain the feeling of riding on the back of a boda through the bush or meeting in the garden with my students each day? Do I tell the story of dancing in the gym with my S1 girls? Or the one about a boy from P6 who wants to be an electrical engineer? Perhaps the tale of my toe and a garden hoe colliding and the resulting duct tape Band-Aid?
Where do I begin sharing the stories of the incredible people I've met and worked alongside? How can the giggles of the S1 class (these were generally brought on by something I had done) be accurately described? How can the diligence of farmers be adequately detailed? Maybe I should open with the story of Emmanuel the agriculture director at Restoration Gateway (RG) who is constantly on the move at RG but always finds time to greet the children and include them in the process of providing maize, g-nuts, and eggs to RG.
Where do I begin to capture the hospitality I have been shown over these past few months? I have been welcomed with open arms to this country, into communities and into homes. I have been fed well and listened to. I have been asked questions, and I have been given answers to my own inquiries. The graciousness of my hosts has been overwhelming.
Where do I begin in thanking those who made this experience possible? My best attempts will fall short, but here it goes:
To the Noble Research Institute thank you for this incredible opportunity.
To Oklahoma State University thank you for guiding me through this process and encouraging students to make international travel a part of their academic career.
To Watoto thank you for hosting me in your beautiful country.
To Restoration Gateway thank you for making me a part of the family and for sharing your vision with me.
To my family thank you for supporting me in this amazing adventure.
Where do I begin summarizing the impact this summer has had on my life? My time in Uganda has opened my eyes to the trials agriculturalists in the developing world face each day. My choice to pursue a career in agricultural development has been reaffirmed. I have formed bonds with a nation that I have come to love. I have seen challenges that appear insurmountable. Uganda has a long road ahead, but I have met courageous, inventive and inspiring people who will change this nation.
Truth be told, I don't know where I will begin, and I doubt I will ever really be able to describe my time here in a way that does it justice. There are too many stories to tell and too many moments to relive them all. But, I am abundantly grateful for each and every one of them. Apoyo matek, webale nyo and thank you, Uganda. My heart is full.
Gabriella Bragoli is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Bragoli is from Chico, California, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on food security and development.