Things Africa Taught Me

by andrewcagle

Today I hop on a little airplane that will take me from my home for the last year, Kajo Keji, South Sudan, to Kampala, Uganda. The next day another series of airplanes will deliver me from Kampala to Nairobi to London to Chicago and finally Houston. I have made the journey once this past year, but this time it will bring me home for good. As I wrap up my time in South Sudan these last couple days, I though I would share a few things that Africa taught me.

– Apparently, food has seasons.

-You can wear your shirt inside out all day and no one will say anything.

– My definition of a first world city is whether or not you can find peanut M&Ms there.

– White people are crazy.

– Sometimes, cultural gaps cannot be bridged. (See above)

– Chuck Norris films have left soldiers extremely wary of suspicious white men.

– Pit latrines may smell and have bugs, but they never have plumbing issues.

– Ants don’t taste like chicken.

– The finer points of plastic chair design.

– I will never be as popular with children as this past year.

– How to adapt.

– Church buildings can take all the fun out of church.

– Mango trees. Yes.

– For most of history, people did things like walk and wash clothes  by hand.

– There’s no better stress reliever than throwing rocks at chickens.

– I am convinced that mosquitos appeared after sin entered the world.

– We don’t use kerosene lamps and candles as much as we should in America.

– Man can live without a refrigerator. (I was shocked by this one as well)

– Mosquito nets provide a conflicting sense of security and entrapment while sleeping. Overall, they’re kinda cozy.

– No terrain is too impassable, and road is a relative term.

– How to take a live Turkey and turn it into Thanksgiving by dinner time.

– Tractors are possibly the greatest gift to American society. Yes, even more than anything Steve Jobs came up with.

– Obama is one of the great African leaders. It’s true. I saw it on a calendar.

– How to use everything, from the colon of a goat to an old tire tube.

– How to slow down and actually do nothing from time to time.

Overall, my time here has been unique and will continue to be, even after my future international travels. Living among a different culture, you learn the beautiful and ugly things about it. It is necessary in order to truly appreciate and necessary to truly progress positive change in a community. The one thing that will always continue to amaze me is the resilience of the South Sudanese. Experiencing this nation’s first year of freedom alongside them has been a wonderful time of learning. It only underscores the joy of this moment and the long road ahead for the country.

Most of all, this year has stretched my ability to work, communicate, and capture stories in a new and extremely different environment. It has matured my thinking and the way I approach facets of life across the spectrum of subjects and experiences. My perspective in areas of faith, personal growth, storytelling, poverty, development, and the human experience in general have widened and gained new depth. It is the kind of growth that comes only from stepping out of the world you know, or away from a world you think you know, for a time.

South Sudan is a place I never thought I would visit, much less one I would live in for a year. I am thankful for all the joy, challenges, failures, and successes I have experienced over the past year. I am excited to begin the journey home tomorrow, to my family and my soon-to-be wife. I am also excited to wrap up everything I began here, as well. I don’t know when I will be back, but I hope to return someday to see Kajo Keji in an even greater state of transformation. The best part about my work here is that I get to hear the stories of individual lives changed. The empowerment taking place is transformational and gives me hope for this community. It’s the vividness of the transformation that makes it so powerful, as well.