Nomad no more…

by chelseawattsny

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There were many factors that motivated me to live in Kampala, Uganda for a month this past April, but one thing I felt certain I would discover on this journey was a breakthrough or revelation about Home. Having lived in a nomadic way since childhood “Home” is a concept that I have created my own meaning around for as long as I can remember and largely home, for me, was were most of my stuff was. Yet increasingly, as I’ve gotten ride of much of my “stuff” and what I do have is store in various places, this definition has felt limiting and had led me to feeling “homeless”.

In the past year, as I’ve explored and being a Global Citizen, I’ve explored embracing the whole planet as my home. Unfortunately, that’s one of those “truisms” that without being grounded in experiential knowledge lives on as an intellectual concept – not unlike saying “I love everyone” which I have also said and I believe to be true, but it’s not until I experience love for someone I’ve just met or for the woman on the train who seemingly gives me a stink eye on a day when I’m hungry, short on sleep and contenting with an active 5 yo that I KNOW that I love everyone.

Also, as a multiracial person (with almost half of my genetic heritage coming from various African nations) I thought that perhaps there might be some magical sensation in “returning to Africa”. This last piece was the most quickly dispatched. In Uganda, and I’m guessing in much of Sub-Saharan Africa – I am considered a mzungu “aka lost white person”. Coming from a county where no matter how much you like to watch I Love Lucy, or listen to Patsy Cline, or pass notes in Hobbit runes, if you are permanently tanned year-round you are black, and furthermore for many people being black has a particular texture and comes with certain inherent stereotypes – but I digress.

Beyond being “white” in Uganda I also came to appreciate all the more having grown up in the United States and how much I enjoy being American. Had I been born and raised in Uganda, I’m certain I would feel that way about Uganda – it’s not a matter of one being better than another it’s a deepened sense of appreciation for my indigenous roots – not those of my blood relatives hundreds of years ago, but those of the identity that I have created, and continue to create, for myself in this lifetime. I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve shared them with and for how they enrich me and allow me to enrich others in my travels. Ah Dorothy, you were home all along.

Which brings me to my leading edge experience of home. But before I go into that I feel it’s important to mention that I love good food, food that tantalizes all of your senses and feeds your soul as much or more than your belly. That could be a 7 course meal at a Michelin rated restaurant made in the French Alps with fresh ingredients hand-picked that morning or or the juiciest grass-fed burger with bacon, cheddar, heirloom tomatoes, fresh pickles, hydroponically grown butter lettuce, onion jam and red pepper aioli served with a side of out-of-this-world truffle fries. By comparison, most of the food I ate while in Uganda fell squarely in the category of functional, substantive nutrients. This one factor alone was enough to leave me feeling a little off balance and not at home. And to that being without the other creature comforts that I have come to enjoy and rely on (like hot running water and wi-fi) and increasingly I felt as though I was the least at home I had ever been – which sparked the realization that this was the perfect place for me to discover a deeper experience of home. If I could feel at home here, I said to myself, I could feel at home anywhere.

From that point on my journey transformed into an inner homeward voyage and throughout the rest of the month I said yes to anything and everything that interested me: I taught acting classes at a major university, I advised local NGOs and gave speeches to students and organizations inspiring them to take action on their passions, I sang at an open mic night and a poetry session and at schools, I travelled to villages and visited families and ate at their tables, I sat for a photographer and poet whose soul radiates beauty and light. It was incredible to experience myself in ways that I had previously only dreamed of and to realize that I am already as valuable as I could ever hope to be. I also began a daily habit of meditating for one hour every morning and for that hour I would give myself 100% of my love and attention. This final piece was perhaps the most transformative, and I continue that habit today, because it was in the moments of intentionally giving my love and my attention to myself that I experienced the joy, the fulfillment and the bliss of Home.

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