“Feet on ground, Heart in hand, Facing forward, Be yourself…”, Jann Arden’s beautiful lyrics from her song ‘Good Mother’ find me here, tucked very comfortably, back at home in Senior Quarters, Mbale, Uganda.
I am feeling most welcomed back with every step, and now on this beautiful Sunday morning, with the bright blue sky over-lighting, early morning gentle murmurs of neighbors seem to join in a lyrical greeting song with the chirping birds..
Smooth sailing through the air for a couple nights and I was back on African soil, arriving July 3rd early in the day. As it happened, our landing coincided with the first rains heralding dry season’s imminent departure, as I made my way from the airport in Entebbe into Kampala, and onward to Mbale, Tororo, Mutufu……….
Perhaps a little jarring the first time you hear it, “You are lost!”, is a typical greeting when you’ve “not been seen” for a time in these parts. Boda Boda and taxi drivers, shop keepers, street vendors, restaurant servers.. people who notice can surprise you, and their intent to take time to welcome you back, astound.
Ceasing whatever they are doing, turning all focus completely to the moment, they want to know “How is your life?”, where have you been, what have you been doing… which in my case leads to the almost inevitable question “How is Canada?” The answer desired often has most everything to do with the weather of the moment with regards to the growing season, along with the general mood and state of health of my family, friends, the people of my community. So beautiful really, and just one of the very enchanting ways of the delightfully warm and sincere people of Uganda, the jewels that make up this ‘Pearl of Africa’.
Yesterday as I sat in the taxi for close. to. two. hours. waiting for it to fill before we could depart, one such conversation began. And like many locals I’ve spoken with on the topic, the gentleman was beyond amazed to hear that, really, most people in Canada and in “the west”, regardless the weather, do not actually grow food, for themselves or anyone.
“Sh-ure?” he mused. A show stopper indeed to virtually all here whose lives and the lives of their children depend on such, sharing that fact usually leads to a great long conversation about how the general population “that way” tend to buy all their food from stores, often having little idea of where or how it is grown.
After many an “Oh, sorry sorry, oh wow..”, often a local’s reaction to the new understanding, the conversation usually hears me saying how I’d guess that just about every African alive could teach something of incredibly great value to most westerners, not the least of which would be about farming. Then, like yesterday, there can appear that very amused look.. the tilted head, pursed lips and furrowed brow that says.. “Really? Imagine that!” And then, the delicious laughter. Ahhh, welcome back.
On Saturday the 6th, after arriving home to Mbale Thursday before, I traveled with Bonny Mark, one of our local LITA reps extraordinaire to see our three Senior 1 boys in Tororo. A great reunion with I Love you’s, hugs, hand holding and laughter a-plenty, it was so fun to see one another and feel the trick of time that makes it seem like about yesterday since we’d last been together. It was parent/teacher day, so I visited with the boy’s home room teachers and received their mid term marks along with the report that all three are very disciplined and participatory in class. “They are good boys”, and while they are focused and doing well generally, I was told they need to study more to bring up their marks in some of the 13, yes, 13 subjects they are required to take.
I was very interested to learn.. Senior school students do not have to pass each subject or even the majority of subjects to pass the school year. What they do need to do is achieve a minimum of 60% average of all subjects combined. Presently all three boys are hovering in that range. They have just begun mid term exams last Friday, and will be writing them all week coming, so my next visit with them is planned for Saturday the 20th for a fun ‘out on the town day’ after all the pressure of these days has passed.
Had another awesome reunion with the children at ACIO a week ago today, and then a 2’nd visit with them all again yesterday. The children are very happy in their new home and send LOVE and gratitude to everyone who has helped make their comfort and safety possible.
Yesterday, we organized a few new initiatives for the kids, including a library scribbler for each child in which they are meant to record the title, author, and which character they enjoyed the most from every story they read. Their assignment is to read at least 3 stories and enter them into their personal library book by my next visit, this coming Friday.
We also began an English/Lumasaba (the children’s local language) dictionary. For every letter of the alphabet, we chose around three words and then a few of the children drew a picture of each of the words. We made it to the letter “m” and will continue on to “z” another day. Once I have pictures for all the words representing the alphabet, I will cut and paste and compile our first dictionary made by the children, for the children. We also talked about volleyball and designed a court that the kids are going to build by next Friday when I bring along a couple balls for them!
Taking care of myself and resting at odd times this past week while making my way through the ten hour time change, we’ve also been working on initial plans, estimates and a building schedule for the CCDO dorms, which are slated to begin, I’m thinking, sometime after the 21st or so.
And on and on the awesomeness goes…
I am joyed and grateful to be here, and very appreciating of the encouraging and inspiring messages of Love and support from all who join us here in heart.
Thank you so much everyone.
Be Blessed, Cath