January 12, 2014
I don’t know how I can even put it into words. There are times in life when the pain of missing something hurts so much, and there’s no remedy. It almost seems that the older I get, the more memories I have to look back on and reminisce. I have had the fortune of having a life with so many fond memories to look back upon. I think that that’s why Facebook has so much sway over us; it allows us to compartmentalize and look back on our past with others and remember the time that we spent with loved ones, friends, and nights that never ended. But we also are selective in our memory, and the bad ones tend to fade as the good ones become exaggerated to mythical proportions. Yet, if the good memories are all that we can remember, then we tend to want to return back to those “good old day”.
I was reminiscing hardcore a few hours ago when I was going through my friends’ Facebook profiles. I use a slightly modified version of Facebook that doesn’t use as many pictures so as to cut down on the data usage since I have to buy internet data per month since there is no free Wifi here.
Aside: For those of you who are interested, I am using one of the phone carriers’ modem, Orange, that plugs into my USB port on my laptop and allows me to access the internet anywhere in Uganda except for the Karamoja Region to the East. However, the internet signal varies greatly from site to site.
While I scrolled through my newsfeed, a picture popped up from my old Boston University A Cappella Group: Allegrettos. This sparked up a series of memories from hearkening back to my freshman year when I tried out and was accepted as a member of the Allegrettos. It’s hard to explain it to people who never joined an a cappella group, but a cappella represented a large part of my life in college. I became friends with my group members and bonded with them in ways that can only be made by relying on each other’s voices and talents to create a harmonious cacophony that recreates and reinvents a chosen song. I partied with these people, had adventures with them, busked on the streets of Boston with them, and had some of the craziest adventures in college with them. Memories of almost winning the BU Amazing Race hungover after our winter concert or spending two nights together on retreat in Cape Cod reminded me of how much I missed singing with this group.
And this memory led to other memories from college and the months spent between graduation and my departure to Uganda. I won’t try to explain what I did during those months, because they’ve been documented well enough in my Facebook photo albums and my other blog. And I suppose that those pictures that were taken and time spent writing down my experiences allowed me to have the gift of remembering those moments. If I close my eyes, I can sometimes re-imagine saying goodbye to one of my intern friends in Berlin during my internship, dancing my heart out at my friend’s birthday at a Dirty Phonics concert at Royale, or biking through the streets of Boston in search of an unexplored street.
These memories are important, because our history defines how we change and what we can become. Yesterday my language group’s Luganda teachers, Herbert and Dan, took the language class on a field trip to see a mass grave site of casualties of the Luwero War (Ugandan Bush War). This war was a guerilla was held from 1981-1986 in the Luwero District of Uganda between the NRA (National Resistance Army) led by the current president Yoweri Museveni and then president Milton Obote.
There was contested election fraud, and Museveni declared an armed rebellion against Obote and formed the NRA. Museveni was trained in bush/guerilla combat, and sought to bolster the opposition to Obote. He sought support from the Cental Region of Buganda, namely the Luwero District where I know reside. Obote’s government set up roadblocks, created prison camps, and decided to eradicate many of the civilians in the Luwero Triangle in order to oust the rebels and kill civilians and villagers who may have supported them.
Our guide at the mass grave explained how warnings were sent out before some of the attacks, and villagers had to quickly escape throughout the night and had to leave the sick and elderly behind. The next day, government forces swept through the villages of the Luwero District and shot anyone who lived there in order to eradicate support for the NRA rebels. Those who did not receive the warning in time to escape were also shot in their homes. In the years after the war, people’s skulls were collected in six mass graves throughout the Luwero District with the largest one being in Nakaseke. Our guide opened up a small door on top of a rectangular marble box, and through the metal bars we could easily make out hundreds of skulls. We were told that the skulls filled this mass grave in a volume of about 10 ft wide x 20 ft long x 15 ft deep.
These weren’t just statistics, but the skulls of people who used to live where we are living now and who had died as a result of the war. The graves did not discriminate between the rebels and the government soldiers who had died, because various acts of war were perpetrated by both sides, including the NRA who even armed children to fight as child soldiers against the Obote regime. The irony of this situation was that many of the people killing the communities of villagers who were allegedly supporting the NRA rebels were Acholi who were also victims of Idi Amin’s ethnic purges.
It almost seems impossible for us to actually believe in the phrase “never again”. I’ve heard it said and written many times after my friends visited the Holocaust museum in New York, watched Hotel Rwanda, saw a news special about Darfur, or saw the Kony 2012 video. Yet it seems as if history continues to repeat itself and not in a good way. The memories of the past concerning oppression continue to resurface again and again in cultures all over the world. And when I look at my life and memories in this way, I no longer feel the pangs of missing my old life as much anymore. At the very least, I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to make good memories. I guess it could be said that one of my personal goals as a Peace Corps volunteer is to allow others whom I meet to have a chance to create good memories of their own.