As we made the six-hour drive from the capital to Gulu, everything felt like it was falling into place. I had never been somewhere so entirely different from home that still felt so comfortable. Before leaving, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting myself into; I watched the news, did plenty of research, and chatted with friends who had volunteered elsewhere in Africa. I felt confident, knowledgeable, and prepared, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Every preconceived notion and first-world misconception I had of Africa was shattered. After living amidst conflict for so many years, I expected the survivors to be a broken and bitter people, but I have never felt so genuinely welcomed by a community. Irene, who worked at our hotel, hugged us every time we saw her. Joyce, a WGEF client and force to be reckoned with, invited us into her home and called us her daughters. The city I call home the rest of the year is big and cold, and people hardly smile at each other. This was culture shock in the very best way.