My time in USA, has been a time of self-discovery. I intend to have fun in this country. But not too much. I came to America to be part of a larger family and contribute to it as well. My sense of things was: engage myself in a re-education program; process and at the same time rebrand myself as a skilled bio-scientist. I knew then and I still know it is possible. Not so much because I had someone tell me but because I had read about what makes America what it is. Am originally from Uganda. Yes, the Uganda known for 10 things: Zika Forest; Source of the Nile; a small country with over 20 fresh water lakes; Luzira artefact that goes back in time; small nation with over 50 ethnicities; a state with a kingdom nation within its borders; pearl of Africa visited by Ted Roosevelt and Churchill; African martyrs; a country that showed political will combined with science helps drive back the ravages of HIV; and the country with a unique bio-eco-diversity.
American Flag. Source: Google Images
I came to the US when President Obama was the sitting president. I remember the earlier days of a black Senator who was vying for presidency in US. It was the continuous breaking news in Africa. I also remember when he made it to presidency. The euphoria that abounded in the communities I managed to travel to was almost palpable. Mosques, Churches, prayer spaces and traditional shrines filled up with faithfuls. I had been to Kisumu in Kenya as well as Nakuru and Nairobi and there the words delivered with pride were "our own was to become an American president." I also recall how it helped keep a patient of mine resilient. This patient eventually recuperated. Part of the reason was the mental contentment, my patient had, due to the ascendancy to the US Presidency by President Obama. I was 200 miles away from Kampala the City of Uganda, nursing a bedridden person when the news broke! It was a time that is still vivid up to now. A black president in America! My mind became a reel on which the following scenarios played out: the combination medications and nutritious foods that the US funding provided; the fact that the patient was adhering to all treatment requirements; and the fact that the patient prayed for Obama's presidency worked together to enable him heal. Today, this person is a post-test club leader in Uganda (the term "long sur-hiv-vivers" is yet to catch on in that small country in Africa). I reflected on the fact that a policy adopted by the US and other developed countries enabled ARVs to be present in Uganda. I might not have met this patient nor would I have become a healthcare provider. I chose to work in the sub-urban and rural areas until I left Uganda. I read about George Bernard Shaw's saying about active life. It rings true in my life. "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." I owe this to my work among people living with HIV in Uganda, Kenya, South Sudan, Congo, Tanzania and other countries. Whether as a healthcare provider or a trainer. But, I also knew that the policy of providing facilitation by US and other countries made this possible.
Ugandan Flag. Source: Africaspeak
When I came over here, I stayed in Washington DC next to the Catholic University of America and a National Shrine. I used to take solitary walks and ventured onto trains and buses whose destinations were so new to my ears. I got lost 80% of the time. I sought the help of the transport supervisors and police officers. At first this was with dread. But, all the officers turned out to be friendly and civil. I became street wise and that is when I went window shopping. My alimentary/culinary knowledge was average then (fortunately). At least I knew my poisons from the meats. I managed to order a la carte or otherwise. But, I mostly fed at home. I later left DC for LA and that added to my troubles at first. The sheer size of the boulevards and the city meant I had more re-learning to do. I had to recalibrate my navigation system. Fortunately, while I was there my host who had been in LA for over 20 years showed me the ropes willingly. In order for me to work on my documentation and schooling, I shifted to Massachusetts. I later had to take a train from Boston to come and live in San Francisco. I still make visits to Boston, LA and other American cities. I enjoy the travel. It broadens and one gets to see the stuff that makes US interesting.
I have had an opportunity to study at different American education institutes and also trained in an education-to-work 18 weeks program. I have given some of my time to do volunteer services from: serving foods, sorting clothes, community clean up, safety volunteer at different parades to enlisting as a member of different community organizations. I volunteer at a very big hospital. I admire the belief in systems that make one be a more productive member of society. I admire the values and principles at the different work places. I have seen a manager uphold a principle of fairness; I have seen a beneficiary demand equality and opportunity. I have seen what I thought remains in books turn out to be real. It is true that if one applied themselves, worked harder and played by the rules, one can make it. This is no matter what the circumstances of one's birth. I live in a very nice neighborhood in San Francisco, I have very friendly neighbors, a train and bus comes by my neighborhood, the parks are big and the air is clear. My house overlooks the Pacific Ocean. At night, I am able to see almost the entire bay gelded in sparkles of lamps. I grew up in a Kampala suburb to a father who was the government vehicle inspector until Amin realized he had better people to replace him. Someone tipped off my father that he was to be taken to the notorious State Research Bureau. He had to leave Uganda for two years during Amin's regime. But, a large family and working mothers saw us through those hard times until it was safe for him to return. He used the two years away from Uganda, to do a Master's degree in Engineering. For the few years, I have lived here I have no fear of eviction or regimes that will come and point me out because I happen not to be of the clan of a ruling president. I am sure if I apply myself, the country will support me in this project. It is already doing so indeed. I am guaranteed by this country that am safe at home now.
I chose to skill myself in the public health areas. It is so eye-opening, capacity building and uplifting. I found out a long time ago, I can also be useful as a medical comprehensivist. The US has very good training for such a medical specialty. Eventually, I may become a family medicine practitioner. But, that is in the future. Right now, I have seen how I can contribute however slight to such fields like:mental health care; well mother and child; nutrition; infectious diseases; gerontology; report writing; research to inform policy; medicine; human rights; poetry; Global health; and Computer science. I can be able to say I am at school, at work and I have a home. I have a store where I purchase all the foods that my body requires. I now shop like all other Americans do. Man! I love it. I have eight particular shopping malls I like frequenting. I do the elliptical and treadmill once a week. I see my primary care provider when necessary. Obama cares! That is the better world I live in now. I have the opportunity to make my life better. Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that I believe in myself. That I stand up for myself. I now know myself better, I have accepted responsibility to myself. I have also learnt to see this in others. I see a commitment to make a better life. I wake up earlier and see commuting automobiles, through my window, in a long line on a highway leading into San Francisco. I see the same vehicles going out at night and so on for days on end.
I see so many cars parked in the yards or parking areas every evening as I return home. Owners are assured that they will turn the ignition on the following morning to go to a destination of choice. The belief that there will be someone waiting to greet one at home, or that there will be a job to go to or a school to attend and that anyone can say prayers in their tongues. The fact that in this country when one believes enough, they can move mountains is what I admire most about the US. I intend to be part of a team that will help find the HIV Cure and that is possible.