Holy matooke- it’s a hot one!
We call today “africa hot” or “equater hot”- the locals laugh.
Everyday we wake to roosters, no alarm clock here-power is a luxury. In fact, right now, I am watching the water crew nap near an outlet waking to the sporadic noise of power coming back on only for seconds. If we get work done today, it will be a miracle. Today, we have already hiked a few kilometers through 3 villages to film water and economics of agriculture, water used in local liquor making, and had the standard trail of random adorable Ugandan children following our every move for each minute of the journey.
In our daily adventures the past two weeks, I have come to see through the children’s eyes in many small ways. I will watch a child staring into nothing (maybe hunger or sickness), but I am getting the feeling the gaze into nowhere is for hope. So much responsibility is put on children here, so when I catch their gaze – try to put a little hope back into their hearts. It’s all we can do until we figure out the water situation here.
My heart is hopeful but also in pain. The students smile through their hunger pains every time they see us. Coming to school sick with lesions, peeling skin, big stomachs, dirt covered bodies and tattered clothes leaves the day a challenge for the 15 teachers who each manage over 100 students all at once.
Over 25 students have HIV and “have not been told at the most tender of ages” says Father Gerald, who heads the HIV program for thousands of people in the diocese. The ones who are aware try to keep good spirits and attempt to stay in school as the sickness worsens with the love and support of the St. Bonaventure / St. Charles community. Unfortunately, the school buried 2 students last year to AIDS alone.
Other sickness affects this community regularly and is a part of life for now. Malaria is the most common “fever.” Two of the priests are coming down with it as we write; they also had it last month twice.
Typhiod is caused by dirty water and is very common. In fact, one of the teachers sons has this ‘fever’ right now.
Meds are hard to come by even if you can afford the ride on a boda boda to a clinic, which is many kilometers away through dusty-rocky roads. Even if you somehow manage to get there, the government-promised meds are not in stock a majority of the time. We learned this yesterday while speaking with the head doctor at a clinic who toured us through filthy rooms with open syringes, unfamiliar smells, and extremely sick people; it was a “slow” clinic day, but I saw enough.
I can’t help but wonder about so many problems that have infected this community. And somehow, we still see smiles everywhere we go because “the mzungas have come.”
Heck, the Minister of Education for the country emailed me today to join him for dinner this week. We are making waves and haven’t even brought the water yet. The mzungus mean some problems may go away. Even ate dinner and drank some local beer with the bishop of Luwero last night; he was thankful for our presence and our love.
That leads me into the love that resists to die with the people here. It is impolite to pass someone with asking how they are and listening. Women drop to their knees to great you and everyone invites you to their home and makes you leave with something. Today, I carried a large bag of tomatoes (that were picked for us as a gift) on my head without thinking twice.
Thinking of back home, I realize how much walking down the street will be different…I can’t even imagine what a CVS or Target is like. Heck, maybe I won’t ever see one again by choice and maybe I will be the crazy lady who talks with everyone and drops by for unexpected visits — you know, like the old days.
Everything is an adventure here. Taking a half day to find peanut butter so the team has variety and protein is exciting, not to mention seeing the joy once I enter a room and announce I found it for 5,000 shillings ($4)!
The quiet nights and star-filled sky beat any night on the planet. We laugh while sitting outside at night — every night. Trying to find a constellation we think we know in the sky is impossible, but the shooting stars are always there as part of the rural Ugandan night sky. It’s so beautiful in such a different way here. I can’t explain it, I can only feel it.
So, even though my skin is weathered, bitten and dirty, my clothes have seen better days, and my body has developed love/hate relationship with matooke, I’m not sure I want to be gone from here for long. There is such an amazing connection with everything — the kids, the community, the food, the water, the creative survival (adventuring for us westerners). I feel as if the learning and teaching (the sharing) would be endless.
The other night, after recording the orphans singing by generator-powered light (as a small favor to them so they can make cds) two of our favorites came to talk afterwards. Patricia and Gorette, (the cutest teenagers ever) came to sit on the back porch and cried telling us how much they would miss us. We barely communicate with words, but the little tears in their eyes broke my heart — it was a moment forever. I love them from the bottom of my heart.
The following day, Friday, the cow we bought fed both schools, some parents, police and others who enjoyed a party put on for us. The kids sang songs and danced all day! Patricia, Gorett, and friends sang a song saying goodbye to us with our names individually included…Gorett and I caught eyes and I had tears beneath my sunglasses — it was incredibly sweet.
All in all, I want people back home to understand that the people of Mulajje love you even though you have never met. My new African brother who is studying to be a preist, Gonzaga, told me he loved me before he knew I existed (as his sister from afar). The love here is powerful and the energy is contagious — the kids especially send hugs to everyone back home:)
I suppose my comments can end here, but I want to encourage everyone to ask questions, send love, get updates on Facebook, look at our pictures on flickr.com/photos/dldt, and donate if you wish though drinklocaldrinktap.org to help these children get better access to safe water and tell the world their story through film.
Webale nyo (thank you much) and
Have a beautiful week — see you in Clevland next Sunday!
Nalaquago Erin Huber
Director, Drink Local. Drink Tap.