The Unraveling

reddirtlattes/ February 16, 2018/ Gulf Islands, Canada, uganda/ 7 comments

Uganda was familiar yet so much had changed. It still remains running in my blood, when I look at my daughter I am there, she wraps the county around me so I can still smell it and feel it, even long for it. I see in her the people I knew for 4 years, the people on the street, in the shops, walking along the road. I see them all when I look at her. And miss them.

How lucky I am to have lived in the country my daughter is from for 4 years. To know that part of her.

The city is choking. Day after day I found myself unable to breathe. When the rains came it was perfection and I loved it and then the dry would come and with each minute, day, week, month, as the moisture left the air turned brown, then grey, then dark.

My daughter started to get asthma.

My son seemed pale.

The dry season slammed us.

I started to pull in, worry. Shut myself up. Wait for the rain.

And in that waiting…

…there was the horrible food poisoning that laid my son and I down for weeks.

…the middle of the night emergency room run where no doctor was available.

…the yellow fever outbreak running through the villages coming closer to the city.

And then the election.

The president of Uganda, Museveni, was running again, his  86th term (or there about) and word was his main competitor was not going to let the election be “stolen” again.

I was hanging on when I heard phones might be shut off. I was hanging on when I was assured the UN would evacuate us if need be. I was hanging on.

And then my dear English friend who raised her children all over Africa, my dear friend who thought nothing of being in a car in the worst neighborhood without a cell phone, my dear friend who seemed to have no fear said, “Oh no, but darling you must evacuate. It’s not going to be pretty.” And then she left.

That’s when I heard the opposition was planning to burn the city down.

By the day of the election, with most of my friends gone, I was no longer hanging on.

Me, to my husband, “But how will we get out if we need to?”

Husband, “Don’t worry, we will.”

Me, “But if the city is on fire how will we get to the airport?”

Husband, “The UN will get us to the airport.”


Now I know my husband would have never let us be in a dangerous situation, but I no longer heard him. I had let go and 8 years of wandering came flooding out of me….

And then we heard the gun shots.  The walkie talkie comes on to tell of riots. The government shuts off all social media. We hear the opposition has been arrested, the streets are filled with soldiers, more riots, an occasional yell pierces through the deep silence and I felt adrift and lost and terrified! I ran to my bedroom and crawled under the bed and called my neighbor who was thankfully still there. Through sobs I told her I needed to know there was a way out. She told me she had the Irish ambassadors helicopter as her escape plan and no matter what the children and I would be on it if need be. She promised not to leave me behind. I will never forget her kindness. Those words soothed me, saved me and buffered me as we stayed by the walkie talkie and listened to it all unfold, my heart pounding in my chest while I clung to my children.

There were no fires.

The riots were very small.

I can safely assume no one else crawled under their beds with fear.

But it was clear that I needed a break. It was clear there was something more going on. It was all too much, too wonderful, too scary, too full of adventure, too much chaos to find a new center after I’d left all I’d known so very long ago.

I needed a break. I needed to go home. I needed clean air, and good food, and to just catch my breath, to feel connected. I needed to rest.

I could have never imagined when we made that choice  for me to come back that I would end up not at home, but in another country, alone on a mountainside, on a tiny island with my 2 children and nothing else and it would be nothing like rest, there would be snowstorms and power outages, my husband a million continents away. I would be more cut off than I’d ever been, more isolated and more vulnerable than I thought possible, and that it would prove to be the best and most wonderful 2 years of my life.

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  1. A denouement and a teaser in one. What a story. More, please?

  2. Stunning. The last paragraph especially, amazingly powerful and captivating.

  3. Sabrina, first of all welcome back. You have been sorely missed. I am so sorry you have had to endure such fright and insecurities in Uganda. To overcome a mother and father’s instinct to protect their ‘yungins’ to run as faraway as you can under such a trying circumstance, shows a certain grit of determination. The take flight instinct is very powerful. For most parents, the safety of their children is more important than their own.
    Following your crisis of panic, with the help of your cool, calm, and collected husband Ross, both of you risk takers, you both decided to stick it out and for you and your children, in another location. While you may not feel courageous, grit is the right word to describe both of you.
    Through the lens of my own past, in another life as a young man, I faced dangers all around the world when I worked for a special unit imbedded in the Department of Defense during two wars, in Southeast Asia and the Cold War. But this was before I had a wife and children and grandchildren to worry about. While I was highly trained to act cool under danger, being inimical to my mission, I don’t know if I could have persisted if I had a family anywheres near to to my many assignments all over the world. I am impressed with both of you!
    Sabrina, you are such a fascinating and multi-talented person who doesn’t set her sails by the constraints and sometimes stupidity of conventionality. This is what I most admire about you. Ross is the luckiest man in the world to have you as his life-long partner. And vice versa.
    Anyways, I can’t wait with anticipation to read about your last two year adventures on a small island Particularly with your enigmatic ending of your post. I hope you continued to perfect your writing and can’t wait to see your photos.
    Fondly, Seymour J. Schwartz

    1. Seymour, thank you for such a lovely comment. I always enjoy reading your responses. And thank you for your service! And yes, having children changes everything.

  4. Sabrina!! You’re amazing! I hope you’re thinking about writing a book because that really just felt like the hugely compelling first chapter of a book I’d love to dig into!!!

  5. Having seen you play a strong intelligent woman facing unforeseen dangers on Sliders, which we all knew was fiction, but I loved the cooperation, determination, intellect, perseverance, ingenuity, creativity, and problem solving abilities of the characters! Having just found your blog, as I was curious what you were working on, and seeing the decisions you made prioritizing family relationships and time together, and time making a difference, in unfamiliar places around the world, living in real life adventures which would rival those of your character.

    I am in awe of the woman you are and of your writings here sharing your amazing strengths, but also the enexpected challenges you have encountered and are encountering, it is encouraging and powerful and suspense-filled, honest and vulnerable. The flowing beauty with which you weave a literary tapestry with your words is so amazing, and I find the style of your writing, brings a conclusion to a segment of your ongoing story but it ends in such a way as to create a hunger for more, for the next chapter/story/adventure. I noticed you said you are working on a book, have you ever considered writing a movie script encapsulating some of your experiences?

    Thank you for sharing your journeys with your readers. Many times we view people who have achieved a certain level of fame/success as having “arrived” having “an ideal life” or “a real handle on anything life throws their way”, but this reminds us that we are all human beings and each of us will need time for self-care and will have times where we are not all right or having it all together at some point in time, and that it is OK to say, “Right in this/that moment I am/was not OK.” I look forward to reading more of your writings.

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