This May, I spent time on a cross-cultural trip to Uganda, Africa, and had the time of my life. During the trip I worked a health clinic, visited a poverty struck village, played fútbol with hundreds of kids, roamed the big city, hiked up to waterfalls, and went on a three day safari; to name a few.
However, in Africa you start to miss some of the first-world concepts most of us Americans enjoy everyday. For instance, unlimited data and access to the Internet anytime and anywhere. Sure there were a few wireless modems around, but not the kind that allowed me to do the browsing and reading of articles that I am used to. So along with missing those closest to me, I missed keeping up with The University of Michigan, and all of the wonderful sporting news involving the Wolverines. Sure, I was able to see that Jabrill Peppers committed, but unable to watch how he rapped his decision, or check out his blazing 200-meter speed on YouTube. It was hard for me to keep up with the recruiting race for both basketball and football, and almost impossible to follow Denard in Jacksonville, and Hardaway Jr. and Burke as they prepare for the NBA Draft. Of course, these are all little problems, but sometimes I believe it’s the littlest problems that can be the most bothersome.
However, I realized all of these problems could be fixed with some work and some looking around. For me personally, bringing Michigan apparel to wear was enough to cover some of the bleeding. What I didn’t expect is to see a bunch of Michigan apparel (a lot of Nike gear), meet Michigan Grads, and have random conversations about Michigan teams. Heck, at one point of the trip, I even stayed at the same guesthouse as a mission’s team from “Ohio.” Talk about a bitter rivalry. My team made sure to grab all of the American beverages before the Buckeyes came down to eat, because they knew I would love to watch my rival suffer through bitter sodas. They must know me well. I met a guy at a café who came up to me and asked if I played basketball at Michigan (I guess my Adidas shoot around shirt was enough to convince him). I thought about saying yes, but told the truth and mentioned that I was just a passionate fan. He then asked me the name of the short guy with multiple tats that could shoot from mid court, and I kindly replied, “Trey Burke.” He mentioned watching the National Championship game and how many Ugandan’s pulled for the team whose jerseys were “flashy and yellow” just like the National Ugandan Fútbol team wore. At a resort in Northern Uganda I met a couple that graduated from Michigan, moved to the Netherlands, and still donate to the University today. In an airport in Brussels, Belgium I was asked if I knew “Shoelace” and if I thought he would make a National Team. I informed the young gentleman that I had only shaken Denard’s hand, and that the Jacksonville Jaguars had already drafted him. When we landed in Newark, New Jersey, I passed through customs wearing a Michigan football shirt, and the man who scanned my passport asked me how upset I was that the Michigan vs. Notre Dame rivalry was being discontinued. I mentioned being upset, but told him that Notre Dame will need a break after two more tough losses against the Wolverines. Go Blue.
You see, I learned a lot on this cross-cultural experience. Mostly about the culture and lifestyle of Uganda, which is why I enrolled on the trip. However, I learned a few other things as well. All of these conversations I had about Michigan, and sightings of Maize and Blue apparel, actually made me feel a little closer to home, as well as make up for everything thing I was missing with my lack of Wifi. I learned that even far away in a third world country, I could still reminisce about my favorite team. But most of all, it allowed me to realize that the Michigan Wolverines are much more then a National team, but a Team Known ‘Round The World.