Weeks of hecticness, of too many things to leave behind in proper order, errands to run, of papers that need to be finished, of emails that need to be sent, people to say goodbye to and then, all of a sudden, there are only a few days to go before departure. As always I have been a bit ambitious in what I thought could be done in a few days. It’s deep in the night. I’m sitting in the attic of a friend’s house in Amsterdam, struggling to finish a big paper in just a few days. I try to focus on the here and now but my mind is already elsewhere: it’s travelling to London, to Dubai, and finally: to Kampala and Gulu, where I will live and work for AP for several months.
I do not feel comfortable introducing, describing or even analysing a situation in a region where I have never even been. Not yet. I did my research but as it stands, many of you probably know more about it than me. (I case you don’t, let me refer you to this excellent, very comprehensive report by Refugee Law Project on the background and impact of war in northern Uganda and a more recent and future oriented report on reconstruction after the war.) For this reason, I hope you don’t mind me starting off this blogging sequence with some very self-centred pondering. I can’t wait to write about the things around me in Uganda as soon as I’m there. But right now I’m still in this empty echoing attic room, and it is just me and my doubts, my insecurities, my hopes, my eagerness and my determination.
To be honest with you, I have been going through a bit of a mental struggle the last few weeks, which I think has unconsciously also kept me from posting this first long announced blog. Doubts and insecurities bugged me every time I sat down and wrote the first few lines. Not doubts about me wanting to go or about the project I’ll be working on, because that’s what the abovementioned eagerness and determination refers to, but doubts about the usefulness of me going and about whether I am ready for the tasks ahead. Researching the situation in northern Uganda is not an uplifting undertaking. The ordeal but also resilience of the people of violence-torn northern Uganda is something beyond my comprehension. It makes me feel silly, inexperienced and green. Why do I want to go? What on earth do I think I can change or contribute? And even if I would just go there for experience and learning –my own benefit- isn’t that in some way immoral and perverse? What seemed so natural, and what made so much sense when I first embarked on this fellowship, became, during the last weeks, confusing and has been making me feel restless.
In the end I decided to just share these pre-departure thoughts with you. I admit I wasn’t too sure about writing these things down in this first blog –knowing exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it is just so much cooler- but I have made the conscious decision to, in this and the following blogs, be as honest with you as I can.
So why do I want to go? Because yes I want to help change things for the better and yes I want to learn, to experience, to grow and to become a better person better fit and better able to contribute something to matters that strike me personally as particularly weighty and important: means to improve universal respect for people’s right to live a life in peace, dignity, security. Stuff every single person is equally entitled to. I want to see and understand and become involved. More involved than I am now, than I can be now.
I think we are all connected, and injustice being done to people far away is injustice being done to me personally and us all. This reflects the pedantic terminology of human rights books and treaties, but I feel it to be true. I studied “human rights” in the context of international human rights law and while being fully convinced of their importance, I want to incorporate a full awareness of their value and significance in my daily existence, so I can join in the global efforts aimed at securing them. I might be inexperienced, green, naïve, it might in some way be immoral. Despite all of that, it is what seems natural to me. Yes, it starts to make sense again. I accept my insecurities and doubts but also this drive. Lo and behold, my restlessness is receding, I regain focus. I am ready to go. As ready as I can be.
Next time less about “me”, I promise. As this is my first blog, I would like to warmly invite you to continue reading the following ones on my work and the situation in northern Uganda and share with the other readers and/or me any remark, criticism or question you might have (whatever you write, I will respond). Next posting from Uganda! For now: thanks for reading this blog and take good care.
Posted By Annelieke Van De Wiel
Posted Jul 18th, 2008