International spotlight: a joyous return home

On Dec. 18, 2009, Albert Kertho embarked on a journey to Masindi, Uganda, a trip that brought him home for the first time in two and a half years. His first stop was in Kampala, where he stayed until Dec. 23. That afternoon, he made the trip from the city to his village, where he was met by a large crowd.

Two thumbs up from Albert Kertho, who hails from Masindi, Uganda.

Two thumbs up from Albert Kertho, who hails from Masindi, Uganda.

“I arrived to a welcoming ceremony of over 200 people,” Kertho said. Neighbors and other villagers picked me up and carried me around, showing me off at all the houses. I received many hugs and was quiet for almost an hour because of how happy I was to be home.”

After the welcoming, Kertho was able to begin talking with family (his parents, 11 siblings and extended family) and villagers about how it feels to fly and how he survives in the cold Minnesota climate. He was happy to see people so genuinely happy, with huge smiles and loud laughter, which he had missed.

With his busy schedule, Kertho did not stay in one place for long. He went to Kampala to pick up friends from the University of St. Thomas. When he brought those friends back to the village, they arrived to an even larger gathering.

“We arrived late on purpose,” he said, “at six instead of two in the afternoon. Many came to see the Americans and give them a grand welcome. After celebrating our arrival, we ate great local food: sun-dried fish cooked with sesame, greens and eggs, byenda (cow intestines), molokony (the legs and feet of cows or sheep), and more.”

The feast led to dancing, which Kertho and his friends did until two in the morning. (Other villagers danced until seven, creating a great amount of dust, which killed some of the plants.) He was then off to Kampala again to renew his visa and visit with more friends and family.

“Every day was filled with dancing, eating and talking,” he said. “It was wonderful to experience, especially after being away for two and a half years. It was fulfilling for me to see the changes and to meet family for the first time.”

His return to Minnesota on Jan. 30, through an 80-degree temperature change, was a bit difficult. “I will miss the warmth and the freedom to always be dancing and having fun,” he said. "I am already busy with classes and getting back into my routine, but I will only go outside when necessary.”

Kertho is a junior biology major and chemistry minor. He is a member of ANSA, GMSA and also is a teacher’s laboratory assistant. After graduation, he is interested in attending graduate school for plant pathology. He plans to return to Uganda and use all that he has learned here to help his people.