This weekend has been wonderful. It is a four day weekend, since Easter is a big deal here. I’ve spent a lot of time with the kids next door. We watched the safari portion of my world traveler movies; they seemed enthralled. I went to market on Friday with Nurse Miriam and bought tomatoes, onions, garlic, green bell peppers, pineapples, lettuce, sugar cane, and sodas for Easter with the kids at SAC Family. (By the way, I haven’t talked about this yet, but SAC Family is a home where a group of 26 students from Mustard Seed Academy primary school live. These students are very special; they are either orphans or children who have been saved from a bad home life. It would be hard to identify these children as kids with a sad past, because they are all so incredibly cheerful all the time.)
On Saturday night, my new friend Megu Mi (a JICA worker from Japan; JICA is Japan’s Peace Corps equivalent) who lives in my apartment complex and I went to dinner with George in the next town over. They serve cold beer—our main motivation for going. While we were paying the bill, I realized their fridge was also full of at least 12 other beer varieties—Guinness was among them. This was a wonderful realization, because Megu Mi and I had just discussed how we miss dark frothy beers…so this was like the fates aligning for us! Keep in mind, when you live in a rural village in East Africa, things like cold Guinness hold the equivalent to winning the lottery. I’m hardly exaggerating. We asked if we could get two to go…the waitress said not unless we had two glass bottles to exchange…we did not, so we offered to pay double…she said no, sorry…we were devastated…she offered (probably out of pity for our forlorn faces) to pour the beer into plastic bottles….Megu Mi and I exchanged a look of mixed satisfaction, curiosity, and something that can only be described as, “Oh Uganda!” and said yes, please pour our cold Guinness into recycled plastic bottles. To be honest, until writing this down on paper, I hadn’t even thought about whether they were used bottles—I highly doubt she poured out perfectly good water for us…gross…glad I take daily multi-vitamins! Despite the potentially infectious consequences of this decision, we walked out of there pretty pleased with ourselves.
Early on Easter morning, I got dressed in my traditional Ugandan dress and a touch of mascara, both things I have reserved for special occasions. I went with George to drop the food at the SAC Family house. The plan was for me to go with some of the kids to the second mass as St. Jude’s church. When I got to the house, the only non-Muslim kid who didn’t go to church yet was Frank; one of the only kids who had yet to, “warm” to me. This worried me a little, because I had mentally been prepped for the older, chattier kids to be with me during mass—mostly for me to follow their lead seeing as I’ve never been to a Catholic service before. George assured me that when Frank and I arrived at the church, we could find the other kids and chances were high that they’d want to attend mass again just to sit with me. Phew. When we got to church, I found another SAC kid who stepped outside after communion, Geoffrey (I know him from the Luganda lessons he likes to give me after school) and I asked him if he was willing to attend the second mass with us. A nearby man (who was apparently listening) said, “No second. Only one for Easter. Many people at one. They go cook now.” Great, here I am all dressed up with nowhere to go! Even though we showed up for this apparently non-existent service on time, we still stood outside waiting for the first mass to end for an hour so that we could walk back with the other kids. I should mention that this entire time, I was trying to get Frank to talk to me…actually I was trying to get Frank to even look in my general direction. No luck. When the service finally ended, we met Lillian (the school’s social worker who lives in the SAC Family compound) and the rest of the Catholic SAC kids attending today’s service. As we began to walk together, one of the kids reached for my hand and Frank shoved him aside, grabbed my hand and gave me a, “okay, let’s go” look. Well…okay! From that moment on, he was literally glued to me for the rest of the day.
We were met with a very welcoming reception upon return to the house. I got to spend the rest of my morning and afternoon playing, talking, and doing chores with the children. They are so loving; to me, to each other, and to their pseudo-parents. But, I sort of had a panic rise inside me when I walked in to the house and realized that I would be spending an entire day with children who didn’t own a single game…what were we going to do? Silly Kristen…I have spent many a day babysitting and my instincts/experience jolted alive to bring us at least a dozen games to occupy our day. I taught them how to play rock, paper, scissors, we had a few rounds of eye-ball tag (thanks again little KP!), we taught each other different musical sounds (I introduced snapping to them with an awed reception), we played a few “slap the table” games, we danced, we sang, I washed dishes with the older girls, and of course, we took pictures. I’d like to repeat for emphasis that Frank either held my hand or sat/laid on my lap through all 6 hours of this.
The girls peeling Matooke before I left for church:
|Frank and I when he decided we should be attached for the day.|
The girls peeling Matooke before I left for church:
Our meal was wonderful—the soda was a huge success. As George says, “any meal with soda is a good meal!” It reminds me that the little things should be appreciated too. Around 3:00, George took me home (Frank was literally begging me to take him with me to, “live at your home forever!” Oh, I seriously considered it. I think he is at least 8 years old, which make me way too young to be his Mama….but oh I thought about it.)
George and I stopped at the nursery school campus to purchase eggs from the poultry project on the way home (I like to get eggs from here because the proceeds go to the school; they are also fresh and yummy.) My plan was to hard-boil them as soon as I got back, but the girls from next door wanted to spend time with me, since I was “lost all day,” so I sat with them on my veranda for a long time chatting. As I sat there, wedged between these three young ladies, I realized my skin was badly sun burned, every muscle in my body ached, and my mind was going blank while they talked….The SAC kids had exhausted me! I excused myself from my veranda-snuggle party, locked my door, and despite the fact that it wasn’t even 5:00 yet…I laid down to sleep….for almost two hours!
When I awoke, I finally boiled some eggs, peeled some “Irish” (aka potatoes,) and started peeling and cooking some fresh local beans. I got creative and mixed tomatoes, onions, Lawrey’s seasoning, and a dash of Cumin to the beans…and voila, my Easter feast was ready.
After I ate dinner with the company of my iTunes playlist, Megu Mi came over to watch The Help on my laptop and drink our well-earned water bottle Guinness from the night before. The movie preceded a long discussion about racism, our roles in Uganda, and general observations about life. We talked with the slight buzz of our drinks until well after midnight.
When I look at everything I did this Easter, I realize a better day could not have come if I had planned it.