Monday 11 March 2013

Yes, I've been to a Ugandan landslide site

Bududa 26th June 2012

I felt compelled to write this after watching "The Impossible", a film highlighting the devastating effects that nature can have. 

I was staying in the village of Bunabumali, in the mountainous district of Bududa, Uganda. The district is characterised by lush, green rolling hills, dotted with clay houses with shiny tin roofs and diverse farmland plots which grow coffee pods, avocado/matoke trees and green beans.

Without electricity in the village, word of the landslide spread via mobile phone. On the day, the school was buzzing with rumours about the estimated devastation of the landslide, the death-toll and the hows/whys of what happened.
The next day, in casual "African" style, the teachers arranged a small school trip to the landslide site, a 3 hour walk away.

I accompanied the children, hand in hand with many students who insisted upon walking within a massive congregation with me. We passed villages and schools, occasionally stopping to wash our feet. Despite the moderate climate, I flushed red as the effort of walking in the heat got to me. Despite the tiredness, I was in good spirits, as the surroundings remained picturesque, green and beautifully tranquil. The children were incredibly good natured and chatty, laughing whenever I attracted stares from the locals and frequent comments of "muzungu! (white person/foreigner) how are you!?" 

The site of the landslide became visible from 40 minutes walk away, a large dark brown spot in the  midst of tropical hills. As we got closer, I felt a shift in the atmosphere characterised by worried onlookers, the military, and media crews that brought to reality the extent of the landslide. 
I saw TV crews and the Ugandan Red Cross. Armed guards and the police drove past in open air jeeps. 

We walked up a steep slope towards Arlington International School, a school famous in Bududa due to it's sponsorship links with American companies. The crowd density increased as we proceeded to walk up steeper and steeper. 

My visit to Arlington School, to a music show a week before. 

At the landslide site, many areas were cordoned off with tape. Crowds and crowds of people came to witness the damage with a calm yet solemn demeanour. Deep holes, fallen trees, rubble, running water , wet soil and broken houses represented the small community that once resided on the hills.

Emotionally, the day was a blur for me. I remember thinking "Why?, Why here?" How can I help? I was angry at the injustice and frustrated at the lack of emergency support. I couldn't comprehend how something so devastating could happen just through nature's course. 

I took the boda-boda back to the village with Joy and Eseza (my host sisters). I realized that the risks of landslides in Bududa are very real. The land is intensively farmed. Digging loosens the soil, the hills are steep and the monsoon rain spells can be long and heavy. 

Behind the risk of landslides, lies the livelihood of the Ugandan people, where land is their biggest asset and subsistence farming feeds the family. I truly wish that natural disasters could not happen. We often read about earthquakes, tsunamis and floods in far-flung destinations and we underestimate the extent of these events and the permanent scar that they leave behind.  
Witnessing the site of the landslide first-hand made me realise how impermanent everything is and how vulnerable we are to forces/processes far stronger then us. I feel I matured a lot through just seeing it that day and never before had I felt such deep sorrow for people I did not know. 

Secondary Sources 
- (BBC News Pictures)
- (The Guardian Article)

Monday 4 March 2013

An Introverted Traveller with extrovert actions?

Psychologically, I have been defined as a ISFP. To be extrovert one is a risk taker, talkative/powerful and energized by stimulation. An introvert focuses more on their internal environment through thoughts, feelings and ideas.

Travelling almost represents a paradox between the two personality types.

A solo traveller implicates the need for space away from societal expectation, where one can absorb new environments, new cultures and experience the personal reflective growth that travelling abroad can bring about.

On the other hand, solo travelling implicates being a risk taker, the desire for action and stimulation and the ability to soak in new environments and be at ease with meeting new people.

It is so often that we revert to stereotypes to categorise people who travel. Examples include:

The Full Moon Part-ier: 

The hippie:

The 'Gap Yah's

The Tourists

Lets start by breaking apart these stereotypes. Regardless of who we are, we travel because we are unified by the same thing, the desire to see the world. Whether introverted or extroverted, we all have different travel styles and there isn't a perfect way of travelling that we should all strive towards. A introvert may be more attuned towards a slower paced life of travel whilst extroverts may embrace a adventure holiday. 

In Nepal, I found no greater joy then quietly observing the rolling mountains of Pokhara, reflected on Phewa Lake. Yet on balance, meeting other like-minded travellers and locals alike also became a defining part of my trip.  

Being loud or quiet does not define what we can or cannot do nor does it indicate our potential or spirit. I am introverted yet adventurous, sensitive yet stubborn and clumsy yet rational. There isn't a defining factor that separates one type of traveller from another and the only suggestion I'd make is to go with everything with a open mind, and endless opportunities and experiences will come your way.