By Eunice Aber
There is a common saying among my Christian folks that one day we will reach heaven, look down at all the opportunities, the good things we had on earth, and regret that we did not enjoy them when we could have. We instead focused on chasing “non-existent’ demons and whining about how hard the journey is and how strong our enemies are.
Recently, I found a group of people that might join the Christians in this bench of regret once we are all in heaven. These are the people who are blessed with every good thing, but keep on looking at their neighbors and wishing they were like them. These are the people who have the best weather and climate but wish for a different season. These are the people who have soil that could grow mangoes with the least tending, but would rather have apple trees to tediously tend to. Finally and most importantly, these are people who never enjoy the beauty of where they are. These people are called Africans.
One day we will look down from heaven, miss the rivers we never swam in, the sunshine we never basked in, the mountains we never climbed and the forests we never camped in.
It breaks my heart to find that folks fly thousands of kilometers to come enjoy what we have access to on a daily basis, in our own backyard. Jinja, Uganda, for example, has one of the best bungee jumping site in the world, but it is mostly enjoyed by outsiders, rather than us, Ugandans. Many disregard the many beauties of their own country, but have no hesitation in taking an expensive trip across Europe.
Mount Rwenzori is a beautiful area of Uganda. The closest I have been to Mount Rwenzori is the foot of the mountain, for an educational trip for crying out loud! For me, and probably thousands of children that have grown and studied in Uganda, Mount Rwenzori is just another question in our end of the year examination, a stop point in our academic endeavors. I remember our tour guide recounting the people that had climbed and enjoyed the mountain climbing experience, and I still scratch my head to remember any Ugandan that had. So, like most students, I left the mountain, imagining it is another country, in my country, where only people from outside could afford the risk and cost …and not me.
Let’s look at the cost and forget, for a second, the fact that we are raised to admire all other areas but our own. Most Africans have left tourism and meaningful recreation to “old retired white fellas that have a lot of pension money to enjoy”. Forgive my language. This is what we have reduced our thinking to. We have lowered our recreation to alcohol, bars, and the sand (please note the sand) on our beaches. We have failed to enjoy the beauty of nature that Africa has. Some folks give the excuse that our countries are not beautiful enough. The heat compared to the winter cold, the pale blue color of the lakes in landlocked countries like Uganda compared to the deep blue color of the ocean. We all seem to think what is outside is better than what we have here.
The truth of the matter is that in every region of the world, there are negatives. The cold and snow in Europe and America is not always welcomed. Icy, frozen water is not as exciting to those experiencing it as it is to those observing from another continent.
So, the question I keep asking myself is, “when will the African heat become an admirable thing?” When will it push us forward instead of taking us back? When will my landlocked country enjoy all the beauty it has? When will we start seeing our nation, not as a tourism destination (for other people) but a tourism start point (for us)?
I look forward to a Uganda and an Africa where we enjoy our resources to the fullest. I want Lake Victoria to be known not just for good fishing or being the source of the Nile, but for good water recreation for Africans. I want the Nile River to be known not just as the longest river in Africa, but also the best recreational river water for Africans.
I want my children to grow up in that Africa. In an Africa, and in a Uganda where we exploit everything to its fullest. Where we do not risk sitting on the bench of regret up in heaven.