Georgia on my Mind!

Barbara Katende

Kampala, Uganda

Class of 1995-1996

It was flying thousands of miles and knowing I was going to be away from home for about a year. It was the anticipation, the anxiety, the fear and the uncertainty, not knowing what to expect. It was the hearty welcome and the pleasant surprise of finding smiling faces of Rotarians waiting for me and waving Ugandan flags. It was the excitement, the hugs, the smiles, the kind of welcome that makes you instantly feel at home.

It was the wonderful hospitality. I hope I’ll be given the privilege in the future to reciprocate. It was meeting and getting to know Rotarians both at home and at work. It was learning and constantly being inspired by distinguished experienced people at the top of their respective careers, yet still down-to-earth and easy to be with. It was experiencing first hand love and affection that crosses all barriers. It was discovering and appreciating why Georgia Rotarians are special individually and as a group.

It was going to college and daily learning more about the “American Way of Life.” It was appreciating the uniqueness of a country that allows for diversity, but still has very patriotic citizens. It was having an American roommate and making American friends I know I can rely on. It was attending lectures, doing mid-terms, finals, term papers and presentations. It was International Night and all the excitement that comes with living on a college campus.

It was learning a new and exciting way of life. It was speaking “Southern” with the wrong accent. It was eating grits every other day at breakfast. It was cheering the Atlanta Braves on television and learning to appreciate baseball. It was being around when the Braves won the World Series.

It was being in Atlanta at the right time of the decade and watching as the count down to the 1996 Olympic Games continues. It was seeing the preparations, the transformation and the renovations in progress. It is a memory that will long stay in my mind. It was all the fun of the unforgettable Rotary Weekends. It was appreciating the beauty of Georgia and seeing why it stands out. It was trips to Stone Mountain, the Carter Center, Six Flags, CNN Headquarters, the World of Coca-Cola, name it. It was the pleasure of being a tourist in an exciting place.

It was meeting with students from over 50 different countries. It was learning about different cultures and beliefs and knowing that the stereotypes we “hear” about a certain nation are often wrong. It was laughing about our differences and uniting in our similarities and realizing that what unites us is a lot more than what divides us. It was making lifetime friends and knowing that I will not be stranded if I travel the world in 80 days.

It will be a NEW ME gong home with a brighter vision, seeing the world in a wider and clearer perspective. It will be a story my grandchildren will get tired of hearing. A story of inspiration, love, challenge — a story that will always keep “GEORGIA ON MY MIND.”