One year ago you called me Muzungu

Melissa Peterson

One year has passed. A simple 365 days, gone, just like a breath. We didn’t speak the same language, in fact, we never spoke a word. But your eyes. It was your eyes that spoke more than words ever could. Dozens of people around and we found each other staring, past the cultural barriers, foreign languages and the color of our skin. For that one moment, we didn’t need words, we caught each other in the eye, and somehow, we understood each other. You lived in a rural village outside of Gulu, Uganda, some said I was the first Muzungu, white person, you had ever seen.
One year since I saw your face. So much has changed, but yet I wonder how much has changed for you. Do you still walk 5 miles every day for clean water? Do you still suffer from the effects of malaria? When is the last time you had nutritious food, or someone told you that you matter in this world? I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I know is that you haunt me. In my dreams, in my daily life, it doesn’t matter. The simplest noise, smell or word and I’m back there, with you in the raging heat, dust, smells and sounds of Africa. You haunt me in my comfort, someone complains about not getting enough French fries with their fast food, and I think about you. I lie awake at night, thinking of the time we kicked around a dried-up mango for hours as a soccer ball. When I do finally fall asleep, I hear the voices of your brothers and sisters, singing out with such power and grace, that I feel it in the depths of my soul. And for that one moment, I’m back there with you. When I wake up, for the first few seconds I have to think about where I am, because in my soul, something tells me I should be with you.
Most people will say never go there, it’s not safe. Why leave the comforts of home for a land ridden with disease, war and poverty? Well, it’s because of you. Your people. In the eyes of the world, you have nothing, but you will never know that. You have more joy, than anyone I have ever met. The way you can smile, and laugh, in the midst of destruction, shows more heart than I can say.
They’ll probably tell you I went back to my comfortable lifestyle and worry-free life. But what if I told you, not a day goes by when I don’t think about you. I don’t even know your name, and you never knew mine. But you still haunt me. When I think of comfort or safety, you are right there, staring me in the face. Calling me, telling me to come back. I’m not from Africa, my heritage is German, and I grew up in America. But there’s something about the place you call home, that calls to me. Saying you need me and maybe even more, I need you.


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