Our days are beginning to form a loose order and rhythm which helps us feel productive but also remain carefree. It would be a shame to be in Africa for six weeks and not practice their “no worries” approach to life. I am always the first to rise and accomplish my writing before the inhabitants of the house begin to crawl out from under mosquito nets. We enjoy our breakfasts in the cool morning air with the doors wide open and the sheer curtains billowing from the breeze. Every new day promises new learning and the making of treasured memories and this knowledge is almost better than coffee for revving my engines…almost. If the Ugandan coffee, which I’ve seen growing in the country side, weren’t so perfectly rich and delicious I’d say it were true.
Kira is a good sleeper, except the past night was fitful with teething woes. She’s breaking the top two teeth and it’s given her a bout of the cranks, even so, she’s easy to console and it seems she prefers my arms. You can imagine how rewarding that is for me.
Breakfast includes stragglers from bed and then it’s straight to school for Jack and Kevin. Emily is more than I could hope for when it comes to running their work. They like having her for a teacher, and sometimes I must step in as principal and discipline the brotherly agitations. One reminder is all it takes. The chores here take much longer since the floor is mopped with a bucket and a rag using water that has to first be boiled, so they want to avoid that kind of a consequence. They have been keeping up with the important subjects for school in January. They are using the opportunity here to explore the culture and apply it to their learning. Each day they must learn two new words in Lugandan, and get caught practicing their new vocabulary. This has been a fun project for all of us. When I shop in the local food market with all the stalls displaying locally grown food it helps the local people accept me when I use their language in greeting, thank you and God bless you. We walk to the supermarket and local market every other day and buy just what we need for two days. We have to hand carry it all back which is a greater “expense” than the money. I enjoy the simplicity of this routine and wonder why I feel it is necessary to stock my pantry and fridge at home with so many selections and more food than I can really eat in a month. I hope when I get home I will be more careful with my food shopping and shop more frequently to use fresher ingredients, and buy only what I’m going to use so there isn’t any waste.
We try to do one outing or cultural project each day. We have to hire the car to get places, and then we have to endure “jams” in the traffic. To go a short distance can take an hour. To rent a small car just for me to do an errand costs us twenty dollars and we can have the car to do as much as I need to do in one outing. This helps me enjoy the day more knowing I don’t have to count hours. Here they don’t count time like we do, thank goodness, it’s a worry free way to live. To hire a van to fit all of us costs fifty dollars. This can add up quickly! We can walk to the baby home, to our shopping and to a Greek restaurant around the corner, but for everything else we have to hire a car. We’ve been to the mall, the embassy, to the medical examiner for our visa, church, and shopping in the African crafts village. We still plan to go to the botanical gardens so we can play with monkeys, to visit The Comforter Center, Rahab house and hopefully some of Watoto’s ministries. Some of the other hidden costs are buying minutes for the local phone and paying about $40 for the internet which will run out but I don’t yet know how long it lasts. Someone here at the house does the laundry at fifty cents per item! If it rains it will be days before they are dry. These laundry bills for a group like mine also pile up.
Because I have to carry so much cash with me Olive is constantly watching my bag and increasingly growing frustrated with how often I forget to zip it up. I never have to think about zipping up my bag at home because my card is always tucked deep into my purse. Here there are stacks of bills taking up all the room in my small bag and it’s easy picking for sticky fingers. I don’t exactly want to become paranoid about being robbed. But it is important to remember what a target I am, especially with my big camera around my neck all the time. At night we have to be sure all of our appliances are returned to our room and that we lock it behind us. The main floor is stark and bare except for the old tv with a wire pole as an antenna leaning against the wall, some leather furniture and a dining table and chairs.
I just returned from walking to the supermarket with my mom. We strolled Kira with us since the boys were having school. It’s a hot day, thankfully not humid, but hot enough to cause a sweat from just standing in the sun. I get stared down walking along the street with a black baby in my stroller, or arms. It’s unusual enough to see mzungu, but to also see her with one of their babies leaves them with all sorts of wonders. This is not a culture that is shy about staring, everyone does it, even the littlest toddlers at the baby home. One of the little guys looks so deeply into my eyes I know he is wondering why they are blue even though he doesn’t have a word for it yet. I suspect he has the same reason for staring at my red hair. I wonder if I am more conspicuous here or at home with a black baby in my arms. I honestly don’t know. I think it will be equal but I will experience it in different ways. Here they just stop, stand still, and stare. At home, I will be stopped and required to answer all the questions. I thought I would be more self-conscious but I don’t think about it at all. I am so enthralled with sharing my attention and time with Kira I hardly notice people reacting around me until my mom or the boys brings it to my attention. She’s such a curious attentive baby and responsive to what I am showing her that she gets my undivided attention.
There aren’t any mirrors at the baby home for the children to use so Kira continues to be enthralled with kissing herself in the mirror. The toddlers at the home gather around my aviator sunglasses to see themselves in there providing shrieks of joy and laughter. I wonder if Kira misses the children and familiarities of her baby home. I am sure she does. I walked up to the home this morning as school got going so the Aunties there could get their fill of her. They were so happy to see her. They quickly scooped her up and gave her endless hugs, kisses and cuddles. They passed her around from lap to lap. I was thanked over and over again for bringing her back. It is very hard for them to let her go. She was the first littlest baby they’ve been able to raise so they are all so attached to her. She was found with her umbilical cord still fresh and brought straight to this home. They have loved her well and separating causes them pain. I understand. I feel their pain too so I try to get to the home in the afternoons with the whole gang of us to play with the children there and to be a helping hand. I can imagine the afternoon time between naps and dinner are the most trying for everyone since the children are in full gear and the adults are beginning to fade after a long day. Adults should really take the wordless advice from children and take naps for energy and positive attitudes. For us, playing with the children at that time of day is our treat. We adore the personalities of each of these children and receive their hugs and greetings with mushy hearts.
When we return to the house from playing with the babies it’s time to make dinner and clean up. Showering in Uganda with hot water is a luxury that we’ve been given, if I can remember to flip the hot water heater switch two hours before I want to use it. At first I’d remember late and then wait til ten o’clock at night to get my shower. The dirt roads are so dusty that we are filthy from our hair to our toes at the end of the day and it feels like the best luxury ever to be clean. Kira gets her bath at night and she splashes with enthusiasm in the water, and tolerates the scrubbing without a sigh. I learned the hard way to feed her the baby food before the bath, as she’s fond of blowing baby food raspberries. All these “young” mom practices are a little rusty, but just like dressing for the cold when you’ve been living in a warm climate, the habits return quickly. After dinner I retire to my room and the others usually watch a movie on the personal dvd player we brought from home (thank goodness I tossed it in at the last minute) or they play a board game. Emily is great about keeping them involved in a variety of interesting activities that don’t involve the television. Kevin is working on writing his novel at night and Jack likes to listen to his ipod. Emily clicks away on her computer recording all her thoughts and learning, my mom slinks away with a novel for a quiet slip out of her day. Lights out happens long after I am asleep.