Much more than a trip to Uganda. PT1

I posted on Instagram a few weeks ago about my then upcoming trip, and how much I was looking forward to it. I had every thought running through my head about what this trip was going to be, what I was going to experience, and what would be some pitfalls. This was so much more than all of those thoughts.

I started my journey in LAX, at 11:30pm waiting to board a crowded flight to Ethiopia. Just waiting for the flight, in the Ethiopian Terminal was nerve wrecking! I never had so many heads look in this direction in a long time lol. I journal what I’m excited to see, and how I want this trip to go. I load my journal with meaningful sayings for manifesting my 2018. It’s all beautiful!

I board the plane, and settle in for the next 16 hours, and get a break when I land in Addis Abba for about 5 hours. I land in Uganda finally at 12:30p on Friday after flying since Wednesday night.

The feeling that overcomes me to realize that I landed here safely, was EVERYTHING. I look at all the greenery around me, have my “I’m in Disneyland” moment, and then realize that I still look like the cat that left the house in safe and cozy Long Beach California. I’m in Kampala Uganda. The country known for complete and open discrimination against the LGTQ community and even attempting to create a bill known as the “Kill the Gays” Act. I need to be smart. I need to know my surroundings, know what I came here for, and act accordingly.

I’m flagged down by a man, who instantly knows I’m not from the area, and asks if I need a ride. I kindly decline, but he persists. He has this look on his face like ” I’m gonna try and look pass the fact that to me you look like a 17 year old boy but have the voice of a 20 year woman.” I keep calm, and stay focused on the exit and I let him know I have a friend picking me up but I appreciate his help. he backs off, but I can see him leering behind me as I walk off. I stand in front of this tiny, hot, cramped, and crowded airport, luggage in hand, waiting for Jay Abang to pick me up. I stood to the side taking in everything around me.

There was a wedding procession taking place, and within 2 minutes of me standing there i here traditional praises of joy come from the women and girls in the group. Their dresses are as colorful and scenery in front of me.

The officers carry large machine guns that hang around their neck by a simple rope. The security of how this massive weapon is concealed is obviously comforting.

I see how the woman interact, and how the men converse with one another, and you can instantly understand this is a conservative place. I got more looks and glares, and stares than I think I could ever count. I wasn’t sure if I should smile or not. I’m a polite person. So my instinct told me to smile, but my instincts also said, “you might wanna rethink that.”

I’m finally greeted by Jay who approached me standing many inches taller than me, so instantly I feel safer lol. She says “Cat? Hi! It’s so good to finally meet you!!” I share the same sentiments and we walk to the car. Everything happened so fast, but I had a moment to really let that connection sink in.

I’m finally able to shake hands with the woman who I’ve heard so much about. The woman who has endured so much here, and continues to express herself just as she see’s fit.

She had a rainbow bracelet on, a few other human rights bracelets, proudly sported dreads, boot cut jeans, and a polo. I thought to myself, what would it look like for me to strip myself of my identity for safety purposes, when this person braves the streets of Uganda on a daily, not caring what anyone has to say about her appearance?

So I decided in that moment to keep my wedding band on, keep my earrings in, take my jacket off, bare my tattoos, be proud of my attire, and be free.
Bold move, But worth it.