Much as I knew the US was the land of the free and it is free indeed, I also had heard stories of racism, gun violence and the like, which stuck in my mind. These raised not only mine but of my family and friends’ deepest fears. “How will you survive in such a country alone where people are so individualistic?” they asked.
You see, this is the danger of a single story that Chimamanda Ngozi talks about. We often get to believe what we read, watch and hear thinking it is the whole truth. Unlike those back in my home country, Uganda, these earlier fears I had have since disappeared. Each day, I never get tired of random politeness and nice gestures from the Humphrey Fellows and the American people.
I am amazed that strangers can smile at you and say, “Hello”. They open and hold the door for me to walk through. Everybody does this for anyone approaching the door. Words like “please”, “sorry” and “thank you” are part of the American DNA. They never scold you when you make a mistake and they are always ready to show you around when you feel lost.
As Fellows, we often joke among ourselves that even when you ask a very silly question, an American will say: “Oh! That’s a great question. It’s fantastic to hear you ask that.” My mentor, Dr Dawn Gilpin, is always concerned about my progress. She wishes and wants the best for me. These same gestures are replicated among the Global Initiatives administrative team and other Cronkite Faculty. The Humphrey Fellows are all made to feel like the superstars they are even in their own struggles; the positivity is immense.
And I have the most amazing global friends, Kort, Juan and Coca. They always make me feel loved, welcomed and very special. This reminds me of Ubuntu. Ubuntu, is an African word that simply means: “I am because we are and we are because I am.” It is the unity, compassion and kindness that make all of us human. These seemingly small gestures are just a sample of Ubuntu I am experiencing in the US so far.
Just like I had these racism and gun violence stories before coming here, you also may have watched, read and heard single stories that depict Africa as a shithole continent. How I wish you could change that. I invite you to visit us, especially Uganda, also known as the Pearl of Africa.
Indeed, we may have our own challenges, just like any other country, but we are more than what you know about us from a single story you have. We have the most hospitable people, beautiful cultures and a great weather that enables you to freely visit different national parks to enjoy thousands of wild species.
Forget the theories. Travel and experience the whole and real world. At the end of the day, you will discover that we are all humans living in Ubuntu despite our unique differences.