It’s dark and gritty. It can also be dazzling and clear. The soil there is red, and it gets in between your teeth and your toes, and it stays on you even after a good, long shower. The hills are lush, the roads rutted and pitted. Sounds drift down from the villages, voices lifted in song now and then.

 

In Uganda, there is something sorrowful and achingly sad in the air, in the eyes of the orphaned children, in the dirty water they drink, in the torn clothing they wear, in the doomed future many of them face. There is also something completely beautiful and uplifting in the air, in the quiet way the sun rises up and gently lays back down, in the elegant and graceful stance of the women, in the impromptu games of the children, in the throbbing of the drums, in the gladness of a tender greeting from a perfect stranger.

 

There was a war there, and there is AIDS; both have devastated entire families with broad, sweeping strokes. Often children are left to fend for themselves. Sometimes they are taken in by aunts, often by grandmothers and in many cases by an orphanage or boarding school. There is comfort in that, and there is anguish, too.

 

Sometimes the faces of the children cloud over with something I have no way of recognizing. At other times, as a mother and fellow citizen of the world, the mixture of pain and joy is all too familiar. That combination, that contradiction, that fact of life is what I have tried to address with these pictures.