Peace Corps asked Volunteers and RPCVs to share “defining moments” from their Peace Corps Service. Although I did not submit any photos, I volunteered with the Defining Moments video team and am the first person with the red shirt which is pretty sweet. Since I didn’t actually take the photo of the children running, I’ve decided to share a few defining photos from my service in Uganda.
My first home at site was a hut in a family’s compound. We didn’t have running water or electricity. I would typically leave the door open when reading to let in enough light to see. One afternoon, I saw Barbara and Patience staring in at me, wondering what I was up to.
This was a defining moment because I realized the girls were just as curious about me as I was about learning and living among them and their community.
I have worked with sexually exploited individuals in the states, India, and Uganda. I’ve learned about injustice and violence from books but also by hearing the stories from the victims and seeing their physical scars.
A couple of Canadians decided to travel to Rwanda for a trip and one had studied genocides in school. I knew they would be great to travel and learn from. We visited the Kigali Memorial Centre to learn about the history of the Rwandan genocide and about what happened. We also visited Nyamata Memorial Site which is a church where around 2,500 people were killed and it has become emblematic of the barbaric treatment of women during the genocide. When we were there, the clothes of the victims covered the church pews as if the rapture had happened (but then you looked at the dirt and blood stained shirts and the holes in the ceiling from grenade shrapnel).
The defining moment for me was walking through Murambi Memorial Centre where 27,000 people were killed. Hundreds of corpses have been preserved and visitors are able to walk through the classrooms where just a small fraction of the bodies lay on tables. From sexual exploitation to genocides, a deep sadness and perplexity filled my soul as I tried to understand the brutality of mankind.
Looking back, I rarely had my camera with me when I was out in the village. I would make sure to bring it along on special occasions. This photo was taken during a Peace Club excursion where we helped clean up the grounds surrounding the local market. We sneaked in this photo after the official large group photo and before the traditional dancing and guest speaker.
To me, this photo depicts a defining moment or maybe more of a defining feeling. I felt connected to my students as we worked and played. I had been living in Pader for a year and a half and I truly felt a part of their world. We lived life together. I can’t fully explain how much I miss the conversations we would have on Saturday afternoons while sitting in their dorm rooms, playing with their kids, eating our posho and beans.
The night Ellen Degeneres took that famous Oscars selfie, I glanced over to my bookshelf. There stood my framed silly selfie with the girls I will always hold dear.