My Uncle Christopher is a good man, the kind of man you would struggle to find these days anywhere in the world. He has good heart. And I dont just think that he has good heart: I know for a fact. After travelling in different parts of this world, I have come to understand that not only is he a good man, but he is also a very complicated man. It took me years to understand him, but finally I do understand him. I came to understand him when he became sick when he couldnt even recognize me, and he couldnt tell me anything useful anymore. I called someone last week to see if they could connect me with my uncle. I wanted to tell him just one sentence: one sentence that means a lot to me, one sentence to which I dont know what his reaction would be. I understand you now. Thats all. When I was young I always found myself in trouble with my parents. I dont know if I was a troublemaker, but one thing I know is that I demanded freedom all of the time especially freedom to speak my mind, which doesnt go over well with most African parents. Kids do what they are told to do; if you behave differently, you will find yourself in a war zone. My uncle was always there for me during this time. I left my parents house and went to live with him when I was really young. I remember on my first day of secondary school in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, my uncle escorted me to the bus stand. I still remember that day, and I think I will remember that day my whole life. That was the time when my uncle had just come back from London. My uncle is a very educated man. He has a Masters degree in economics from the London School of Economics. For those who know what Im talking about, the London School of Economics is no place to joke. He was one of the very first Tanzanians to hold a Masters degree from a prestigious university like that. He knew and breathed economics. If you woke him up at 2:00 am and asked him any question related to the economy, you would be sorry that you had started a lecture that would never end. The misunderstanding started with his family. He came back from London with his bag and his certificates and a radio. I used to love that radio I still remember that silver radio with a tape player. It was a good old radio. The whole family thought he was crazy. Why he didnt come back with a car? Or a refrigerator, a big television set, or something like that? Everyone came back with those things. What happened to him? I dont know how he responded to all those questions. I was young, and I didnt ask him that. But whenever I visited other relatives, I used to hear them discussing this issue all the time. One time I decided to ask him, Why didnt you come back with a car from London? My mom came back from the U.K. with a car, so why didnt you? He looked at me, smiled, and said politely, I didnt have money to buy a car. I wasnt satisfied with that answer, but for some reason I didnt ask that question again. But people were judging him; they didnt understand him at all. I try to imagine myself in his shoes, and I dont know how I could have handled that pressure. He accepted different jobs, and its fair to say that he was in demand. The biggest problem was keeping these jobs. My uncle always wanted to live with honesty and dignity. He wanted to change the organizations he worked for; he wanted them to keep pace with the modern world. But he didnt know that what he saw was not what others saw. They were on two different pages. He wanted to help his country, but couldnt understand why his country didnt understand him. That was the issue. There are two things that can happen when you go back to African countries after living in Europe or America for years: either you adjust and start living like everyone else, or you dont and you get frustrated. I have seen people who became alcoholics people with good education who could push Africa to reach its potential. Most of the time my uncle would get frustrated with these jobs and decide to quit. One time he told me, They sent me to Europe to get an education, and after getting that education and coming back, they dont want me to use my education. They see me as a threat instead of someone they can work with. They dont want to change at all. I used to see my uncle writing every day early in the morning. I didnt know what he was writing, and I didnt ask. And it seemed like no one else in the house cared. He was always writing and writing. It seemed like he was writing and smoking too much. He started teaching me economics. One time he showed me a layout of the structure of the Tanzanian economy and what needed to be changed. It was impressive. No matter how hard he was trying to explain it to me, I didnt understand a thing. He told me, I like to teach and talk to you, not because you understand everything, but because you listen. My uncle became my friend. He would take me to a bar and tell me stories while he had drinks. It was at this point that I realized that I was closer to him than his own kids. He would tell me about his writings, and that some of the newspapers in Tanzania used his writings without even paying him. He wanted people to read, and he didnt care if they paid him or not. Sometimes I would see all these cars parked in front of our house, so one time I asked, Who are these people? He replied, They are lazy journalists who have come to ask for help with writings. I didnt understand or bother about it at that time. He lived a simple life, not working for anyone most of the time. No one understood, and he was judged by everyone. Deep down I knew he was my good friend. He understood when I made mistakes, and it seemed like he was the only one who didnt give up on me. He didnt yell at me. We had a very serious conversation before I came to the United States, and he told me, I want you to travel. I want you to see the world. Be yourself and dont worry about other people. The most important thing in your life is to continue learning and improve in everything you do. The last time I saw my uncle, I cried. Seriously, I cried. He was struggling with some kind of brain disease, but he managed to remember me. But his family had told me that he was acting crazy at times. He was taking medicine, and they said he was improving. I didnt see him when he was in a bad condition, but I was very sad. We hugged, and I helped him to sit down. He asked me how I was doing, and I said fine. We laughed. He had lost a lot of weight. We didnt talk much, since he was falling asleep. I remember when I left that house that day, I was sad for at least a few days. I wanted to see my old uncle: a writer in good shape, a writer with lots of ideas. My uncle is one of those people for whom the country didnt provide a way to continue what he had started. The country had no plan for people like him. I can understand that it was tough for people who had studied and lived in Europe for years to adjust to being back in a poor country. It was tough for my uncle. He was judged based on his material wealth more than his education. It seems like his education wasnt enough for a lot of people. They wanted him to have cars, big houses, etc. but he wasnt that kind of person. He was a simple person who wanted to live a simple life. He was frustrated with his country and his people. I will go to visit my uncle if I get a chance to go home this year. One big mission that I have is to go through his writings. I now want to see what he was writing. I know for sure there is something in there, something that will amaze me. But I understand him now, and I want him to know that. I want to tell him that.