Middle of Nowhere – Heart of Somewhere

middle of nowhereSsese Islands, Uganda

“The middle of nowhere to us is the heart of somewhere to someone else.”

Nowhere was that more true than during my travels in the Ssese islands.  Trudging with fellow travellers through a primitive village in the dark of night to catch a tramp steamer to take us to Entebbe, those words swirled around my mind like smoke from the huts, aglow with evening fires. Dust, firelight, and dark faces in dark spaces. The village’s residents waved goodbye. I recognized a man I met earlier in the day; crouched at the opening to his hut. “Jambo!” he called out. “Where you going?”

“To ship,” I said, looking back at him in the glow of the firelight.

“When you back?”

I turned around to face him and etched this scene into my mind. I took in the bare flesh, thick lips, flat nose, and deep lines scribbled on his face.

“Sometime. Maybe ten years!”


That was 20 years ago now, but the image of that scene is as firmly etched in my mind now as the lines on his forehead then.

Life there is probably going on much like it did and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Time marches on but places like that never change. There is no impetus to change, unless the demands of tourism bring about change.

All these little villages in the middle of nowhere are places that travellers flit through for a day or two and then depart, mostly never to return.

Some villages in nowheresville become victims of their own success and locals are forced out as big hotel chains move in.

Some are changed by this process so irrevocably that the initial reason why people came to the place becomes obliterated in a neon daze of lights, tawdry trinkets and barking hawkers.


Escape to the Middle of Nowhere

People love to escape to the middle of nowhere, but quickly move on somewhere else when the place is discovered by the masses, or ruined by its own popularity.

A young village man enjoys the quiet of his jungle home. Travellers arrive and bring opportunities to make a little money. Before he didn’t need money as the jungle provided everything he needed. Now he has Nike sneakers and a Liverpool football shirt and Western girlfriends. Life is good, for him, for now, but the genie can’t ever be put back in the bottle.

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