30 Day Travel Series: The God Convo After Seven Years
I don't really know. Yes, I guess. I don't know, are we Christians?
I go to church more than he does and I definitely talk about god more than him. I guess he says things like “God Bless” more than I do, though he barely ever says it. But it wasn't until one dusty day in Uganda that I realized that we had never explicitly talked about whether or not we were Christians.
We were in Western Uganda sitting outside a café. We were both drinking Krest, a delicious bitter lemon soda. We had just endured a six hour bus ride and I was exhausted. Plus I had finally pulled myself together after a thirty-minute bawl session, crying about how unsolvable the problems in Uganda seemed.
I had started crying on the bus because there was a man next to me reading a book whose pages were scorched from some fire and looked like it was from the 1970's. It was called, How to Be a Man of God. I felt overwhelmed for him. I was proud of him for trying to improve his life, but I was mad at all the systems in place that had made it so he had to read this falling-apart, outdated book. I was mad at the missionaries, I was mad at the culture of global aid and I was mad at the government for not providing for the people of Uganda. And I was just sad because I wanted him to have everything he wanted in life. But since I had been in Uganda I had been ambushed by proof that getting what you want, or getting even your basic needs, is so very difficult. Lack of access to clean drinking water, expensive and sub-par public education, serious lack of jobs, electricity, and roads are just a few of the reasons.
We were already having a hard time because we had witnessed so much hardship in the past week, and something about that guy’s book threw me up against a wall and the tears silently started to flood down my face. When I got off the bus I was still crying. Julian tried to comfort me, but he was also depressed so we just dragged ourselves down the street and plopped ourselves down at a café. I thought maybe this was how the rest of our trip was going to be. I couldn't think of one positive thing to say and it didn't seem like Julian could either.
It wasn't until I went way overboard that our depression began to break apart. Through my sobs I said to Julian, “That guy on the bus has no other books; that is his only book and it’s burned; that's probably one of his only possessions and that's a total and complete disaster for him!” I looked over and Julian was cracking up. “What is so funny?” I asked. He told me I had lost it. Now I was just making things up. He said, “You don't know that that was his only book. For all we know that is one of a thousand books he has and that is his favorite or maybe he found that book on the bus. I know you are sad and overwhelmed, but can you stop focusing on that guy’s book?” He was right, I even laughed a little too. I hadn't even considered that I had made that whole story up in my head about that guy and his book. I needed to pull myself together. I opened my computer.
A man walking by the cafe stopped randomly at our table and introduced himself to us. I was absorbed in my computer but he and Julian chatted a bit. He told Julian about some hikes we could go on in the area, about a hotel that had availability and some places to get good food, I think he ran a travel agency or something. We weren't interested because we were leaving town in a few minutes to do a workshop with vanilla farmers a few villages over.
After Julian politely declined the mans offers, he asked Julian, “So are you guys Christians?”
"Well," Julian laughed a little and nervously said, "I don't really know. Yes, I guess. I don't know, are we?" I felt his pleading look in my direction.
"I'm not, no." I said without looking up. I started to roll my eyes but I stopped because it wasn't that weird of a question, it was just weird to be having the 'Are you Christian?’ conversation with my boyfriend on the side of the road in a small Ugandan town after seven years of dating.
I looked up at Julian. "Are you?"
"Yeah, I guess," he said. He trailed off, "More than anything else..."
That was news to me. As I watched Julian and the guy talk, it made me wonder what else I assumed I knew but had never thought to verify by asking the direct question.
This is one of 30 untold stories of launching a global project (with my boyfriend, Julian) about love, story telling and connecting change makers.
Read all 30 days here: http://www.smithmag.net/community/people.php/HBOX
Throughout Vietnam, South Africa, and Uganda, we engaged with 650 everyday people working to make the world a better place to share their stories. Inevitably, there were parts of our adventures we couldn’t tell while on the road, because we were a start up trying to prove our merits as a serious social change project or because of nervous families monitoring our journey. But the truth is while we worked passionately to bring our dream project to life we also had an adventure of a lifetime. Here are the stories behind the stories of the Million Person Project: http://www.millionpersonproject.org.