I am writing this with a scarf tied around my neck, and two woollies, a hat and waterproof over-trousers on. I am sitting on a bank of a steam watching the daffodils nod in the wind and the clouds scud overhead, and the children are scrambling over rocks. Exactly a week ago, I was sitting by another stream, whilst the girls and my colleague Enock waded in the water, and butterflies rose in clouds around us. That was Uganda, and now we are in England. What a lot can happen in a week. It is all a bit perplexing.
At one level, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Brian’s elderly mother became much more frail over the autumn and winter. We decided he should go and visit her. He arrived in early March and it was clear that she did not have long to live. Brian was at her bedside when she took her last peaceful breath..
I arranged for the girls and myself to fly back to the UK for her funeral and to be with Brian. We were once again in a mental space that had to bridge continents, one which involved thinking about airports and tarmac, and timelines and supermarkets and responsibilities we had been able to put aside for the last many months.
We left early on Tuesday morning after a lot of warm goodbyes. Little Roo stood up in Morning Prayer and made an announcement to all the assembled staff about our forthcoming travel, we had a final (for now) supper with our friends, people popped round, we shared out the fruit we had left in our house.
It felt odd to be leaving – somehow breaking a contract of being there. I felt somehow guilty to have the option to walk away if something was difficult. That isn’t an option open to most. We took the forest road to Kigali – it’s closer to fly from Rwanda than to go to Kampala. Whereas our last trip through the countryside was mesmerising and baffling, this time the landscape made sense. I recognised names of villages and points of reference. There was our hospital clinic at Byumba. There was the village my patient came from. It was fabulous.
Being in England is not at all straightforward. We have no-where that is home at present, and the tasks facing us are emotionally challenging – preparing for a funeral, and going through the belongings of my late mother-in-law.
I have also been home to my mother’s house in Oxfordshire. I feel as if I am a time traveller. Everything is so familiar. This is the house I usually visit twice a week, calling in, fetching the girls. It is all exactly the same as when I was last here. Now when was that – was it just a few months ago? or a whole lifetime ago…. ? so much has happened and so much inside has changed, and yet the material that surrounds me is just the same.
And back in our Ugandan life things have become more complicated too. Our Ugandan home is very close to the border with Congo. There has been an issue that has made us reflect a little more rigorously about the risks there are of living so close to the border of one of the most chaotic countries in the world. One of our abiding sensations as a family in Uganda is of being safe and secure. With a time away from Uganda to reflect on our lives so far at BCH, we can see how transformative our time there has already been for all of us. It has been a place of so much community, so much happiness, so much biodiversity, so much opportunity, so much to treasure, the chance of ‘making a difference.’ Will these concerns change how we feel about our Ugandan home? We desperately hope it won’t. We all want to get back there very soon.
So our minds are full, and we are trying to find a way forward for ourselves, thinking about loss, closure, openings and belonging.