May 15th, 2015
My father, an avid traveler, always says that when you travel your body arrives in the place long before your soul can catch up. Although I’m sure this phenomenon was originally coined by a more reputable source, Urban Dictionary refers to it as “soul delay”. Akin to jet lag, soul delay occurs when you have physically arrived in a place but your body – or in this case your mind – is still elsewhere. It is still set to a different time zone, or influenced by a different set of thoughts. On your phone, you are able to change the clock to a new time zone in a matter of minutes. Similarly, airplanes allow us to cross oceans in the amount of time it takes to have a movie marathon (the highlights of which were ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘Big Eyes’). However, the soul is not able to travel as fast. In the past when journeys could take weeks or even months by boat or train, individuals would have time to prepare their souls for their arrival in the destination. But with the advent of modern technology the soul is now left in the dust – like the slowest contestant in a race that everyone cheers on anyways out of sympathy. As William Gibson aptly explains, this delay happens because “souls can’t move that quickly, and are left behind, and must be awaited, upon arrival, like lost luggage.”
Although it sounds cocky, I would like to think that I have arrived in Uganda with very little soul delay. I have two theories for why this might be: one, because of the weeks and weeks spent preparing for this trip. Because of that preparation time my soul was already partly here even before I’d stepped on the plane in Halifax. The second theory, which is probably more likely, is that I don’t feel as if I’m experiencing soul delay because I am still in the midst of it. Given a few more days this second theory may be proven right.
There is however a third theory. And yes, I know, I lied when I said I only had two (but didn’t it add dramatic affect?). And yes, as you’ve probably already guessed this third theory is the one I am most invested in. But bear with me and let me explain:
The notion of soul delay is hinged on the idea that the place you are traveling to is drastically different than the one you just left, which is why the soul takes longer to catch up. Now I’m not suggesting that Halifax is the same as Kampala, because believe me, it’s not. For one thing Halifax has a population of approximately 300,000, while Kampala sits at over a million. For another, Halifax’s traffic is mildly annoying at worst, but Kampala has the craziest traffic jams I have ever seen. People wait for hours in their cars just to move a few meters, while motorcycles (called boda bodas) whiz in and out and pedestrians cross at their own risk. Furthermore, Halifax is constantly doused in cold, miserable rain, while in Kampala the sun beats down constantly from high in the sky. Halifax is quiet and orderly, while Kampala is loud and vibrant. In Halifax food is sold in supermarkets for high prices, while here you can buy mangos and avocados on the streets for a mere few cents. And the list goes on. These differences are what make it interesting to visit a new place – to compare and contrast it with what you’re used to and to expand your comfort zone.
But it is equally as important to notice what makes all people everywhere the same, and that’s what has struck me in Kampala. People here are friendly, just like at home. They are happy to help you, and they like to laugh. For example after a night of horrible internet connection, despite having just bought the modems, we went to tech support to have it fixed. The man did so free of charge, joking with us the whole time. Later, after I had accidentally bypassed security entering a mall, the security guard laughed and asked whether I was trying to run away from her. When the car stopped working, two men at the gas station instantly came by and fixed it, and it was good to go in a matter of minutes. These are the things I’ve noticed so far about Ugandan people, and it makes me feel comfortable and welcomed.
So perhaps the reason why I don’t feel any soul delay is because despite the differences between Canada and Uganda, I have been instantly accepted as if it is as much my home as theirs. Upon our arrival, the first thing that our driver/tour guide said to us was that he wanted us to feel at home, and every moment since then he has made an effort to make us feel like we are. Maybe we just lucked out because of the people who have agreed to take care of us, but from what I’ve seen so far Ugandan people are inherently friendly and welcoming, and because of that the distance between our culture and theirs no longer seems insurmountable. Although every culture is different, I think fundamentally people are the same.