Thursday, March 22, 2012

Oh what a day! What a happy day!

I’ve been reading from a daily devotions book that a dear friend of mine gave me before I left for Uganda. Today’s message encourages me to become more trusting of God by showing appreciation for good things in my life. 

This got me thinking about how I so often write about the cultural differences, the frustrations, and the despair that I experience while in Uganda. I want to make more of an effort to shine light on all of the great things I see here too! I won’t rob you of the other stuff, because I think those lessons are just as important…but I want to consciously make an effort to show my gratitude for the experiences I have in this great country. 

To begin, let me tell you about my wonderful, happy day! It started with the power being on. Then I ate a lovely breakfast of granola, with honey drizzled on top, and a splash of “long life” milk. Yum. Then I went to the school and waited for a 10:00 meeting to begin…I waited until 10:45, which normally would have made me frustrated and annoyed, but I spent the time getting to know some of the teachers and writing a blog entry about the differences between Mazungu and African time (I’ll post later). The meeting with the Agriculture and Sanitation Committee was a success, and I walked away feeling like we made a lot of progress. Then I was able to spend more time with teachers, get some of my paperwork done, and eat a delicious lunch of Matoke, sweet potatoes, and beans. 

In the afternoon, I experienced the moment I had been waiting for since I first heard I’d be coming back to Uganda. I met with Nurse Susan, Nurse Miriam, Teacher Grace, Teacher Charles, and 18 of Mustard Seed Academy’s bright shining students to kick off our Child to Child peer health education program. OH it was so fun. I am writing this entry over an hour after the meeting concluded, and my cheeks still hurt from smiling so much! 

I started the meeting by having the kids move their desks into a circle—explaining that while we are in this meeting, we are all equals, we can all equally share and learn from one another—then I congratulated them on being hand-picked by the Headmaster to participate in this program. I had each child stand up one by one to tell us their name and one talent they are proud of—some love to read, others love to dance or sing, one kid likes to run, a few are drummers…overall a very talented group! I made two rules, the first being that we always sit in this circle when we meet; the second being that we always clap and cheer after one of our peers has shared with the group. These rules led to roaring laughter, cheering, clapping, and an overall sense of unification.  After learning talents, I explained what we will be doing in the next several months. When I asked them if they were excited about the group, only a couple said anything in response…from my experience in Uganda, I knew this could be because of shyness, so I said to them, “Well, Joe and Elaine invited me to Uganda so that I could start this program…if you aren’t excited, maybe I’ll go home tomorrow??” (But, of course I said it with a smile and friendly tone)…They all erupted (some literally standing up) saying, “No, no, no! We are excited! Really, we are!!”  Now I’m thinking, excellent…great start!

To conclude the meeting, I decided they should practice getting over their nerves…Off the cuff, I came up with the idea of going around the circle one more time, but now they had to show everyone their favorite dance moves. I started the circle with a silly circa-1968 hippy dance move, and it was met with roars of laughter and a very loud round of applause (even though I hadn’t reminded them about rule number 2…quick learners!) As each of the children showed us their amazing moves—most were traditional Ugandan style by the way—I was filled with pride and joy to see them coming out of their shells. It was apparent, even to me as a newcomer, to see that some of these children are very shy and uncomfortable putting themselves outside of their “safe zone.” Seeing the other children cheering them on, encouraging one another, and laughing at each other’s silliness had to be the absolute highlight of my trip so far. There is something so rewarding for me to see children light up at the prospect of teaching each other about health education. When the meeting concluded, some of the children came to me looking worried and said, “But, we will meet again, right?” I reassured all of them that we will in fact be meeting twice a week for the duration of my trip. Relief swept over their faces—while an immense gratitude for the life I get to lead filled my heart.  

To quote the inside wrapper of the dark chocolate Dove candy I ate last night, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” Well, Dove, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for giving me a new bookmark for my book of devotions!  

With love,