Waiting in the airport in Doha for the second leg of my flight home, I am startled by how familiar it looks. I was just here, wasn’t I? Here, at this very gate, waiting for my final leg to Kampala. It was six months ago, but it may as well have been last week.
My friends who have been through this tell me the “dream” feeling is a common aspect of reverse culture shock. The months passed by extraordinarily quickly, and the setting from Entebbe Airport to Doha was so drastically changed in 6 hours on a flight that its hard to adjust your mind to accept that the new surroundings are part of the same reality you were just a part of a short time ago. The entire experience suddenly exists as a complete set of events that are immediately relegated to long term memory, compartmentalized in that part of the brain called Uganda.
This is all false, of course. After a week at home, I begin thinking back on all the separate, unique experiences I had while I was there. Meeting my colleagues for the first time. The first workshop I went to where I was asked to forward my organizations priorities (this was one week in…who thought that was a good idea?), weeks of travelling across the country at Christmas. This was not a singular memory, but a series of fortunate events. This is how I adjust: Remembering the details, thinking about my own journey, and looking forward to the next.
The entire feeling is easier to deal with knowing that this is not the last experience I will have in the region. Having been offered a job in Malawi for the coming 12 months, I know I will be learning more, and making more memories. Perhaps this time I will be more intentional about documenting them and re-experiencing each moment, so next time I find myself in a major international hub, it won’t be a step back in time, but a step forward.