The Man with Answers (Volunteer Life Part V)

Welcome to the Gorilla Highlands archives. For fresh stories don't miss the Gorilla Highlands Experts Blog.

The end of the paddle, Lake Bunyonyi; photo by Miha Logar
The end of the paddle, Lake Bunyonyi; photo by Miha Logar

I only had three months… What can you even do with that amount of time? Some people who stay in great resorts and love spotless bathrooms with food service might have a hard time. The scrappy, adventurous and enduring backpacker will say that it just isn’t enough. It seems that I’ve been thrown to the sharks, with a weird limbo of time.

The last weeks of living full days and deep nights in southwestern Uganda showed me that I’d done more than just “scratch the surface” of experiencing the culture. I wondered how it would be like back home. It can keep you up, knowing that your adventure never has to end if you don’t want it to.

Lake Bunyonyi, the place of Hank Rugg's volunteering; photo by Miha Logar
Lake Bunyonyi, the place of Hank Rugg’s volunteering; photo by Miha Logar
Kabale town during the election fever that Hank Rugg experienced too; photo by Katharina Lahner
Kabale town during the election fever that Hank Rugg experienced too; photo by Katharina Lahner

When I walked on the streets of Kabale, the small town near where I worked, I ran into the people I knew, with their energetic, social ways that loved to embrace me. Canoeing across the lake, greeting the Bakiga when they paddled by me towards the market, and relaxing in the gorgeous light of the sunny day really showed me how good life could be. The important thing is to keep in mind that you can feel that even in places five months ago you wouldn’t even have thought of going to.

Eventually I was the man with answers. When guests came from all across the map and wanted to know where the best rolex was, how they should get to town, and what the best view spot was, I had the Gorilla Highlands encyclopaedia in my head to answer these questions to everyone’s benefit. I had got the place figured out. I used to be confused and intimidated when the kids would yell out and make funny faces at me driving by in a car. Now I just smiled and yelled out at that them “sowa sowa!” I was comfy with being silly around Ugandans, which I loved to do. I could make inside jokes with all of the staff and some of the long­term travellers that took rest at our place.

Then I flew through Amsterdam, Holland, to Edinburgh, Scotland. All of a sudden I was in the complete opposite of Uganda. Scotland carries some real cold, brutal weather, plus everyone is so white and pale… I was back in the west! Everyone looked like me… I was no longer a unicorn wandering around. East Africa can make you feel like someone special celebrity… it’s a surreal feeling. A friend showed me around the ancient city, full of castles and monuments. It was odd since this land was quite mystical and well taken care of.

Up next was Vienna, Austria! My dad grew up in this city when he was my age, so I am following some of his footsteps. It’s a feeling that I always look for and when I get it, hold on to as long as possible. The feeling of being in places that you can’t even believe you’re in. Filling my passport up with stamps, making friends and connections all over the world, finding new passions and interests by wandering around and meeting cool folks that can give you some great insight.

Hank Rugg's camera work; photo by Miha Logar

I found all of this as a Gorilla Highlands volunteer. I found myself inspired by the people, their culture, the landscape, the work I got to do, and the tons of nomads that motivated me to go out into the world. Staying in a certain place, getting to meet tons of people, learning from them as they learn from you is something beautiful, especially if you have a burning feeling in you to explore what the world has to offer. If you have this sensation in you, coming to East Africa is a must.

Thank you for a kickass three months in paradise.

Read more about: Gorilla Highlands volunteering

The Gorilla Highlands team including Hank Rugg visiting Mama Bena's; photo by Miha Logar
The Gorilla Highlands team including Hank Rugg visiting Mama Bena’s; photo by Miha Logar