The boys couldn’t wait to go spend their shillings on African gifts, so we took them to our favorite crafts village in the morning. I promised them they would get overwhelmed by the variety and their desires if they did not make a list of who they wanted to bring African treasures. Jack was eager to show his brothers how the bargaining is done. We read in a book here called, “How to be a Ugandan”, that for shop keepers it is their “lucky” day when a mzungu walks into their shop because they can then raise their prices. It’s absolutely true. There’s no shame about discriminating and charging us much more. There’s an assumption that all mzungus have money so why not charge them more. In America it would be highly offensive to charge someone more money because of the color of their skin. But here, it is the way things are done. When I have Kira with me and I am shopping I tell the shopkeeper, “before you give me a mzungu price, please consider that I am here in your country to adopt one of your beautiful children, I am not just a tourist, please give me your best price”. It usually works, and if I don’t get the best price at least I make a new friend.
We all had fun shopping. Craig even bought something, which is rare, I usually do the buying for him. He chose some ebony bookends with elephants carved into them for his office. I have no idea how many weapons Jordan bought, he was in warrior heaven. Donny labored over the gifts he would bring for his friends and I don’t think he bought a single thing for himself. Jack played like it was Christmas again and went around buying small gifts for his whole family. I have a nice bangle bracelet to remember his sweetness. Emily also bought some weapons and a big cow horn. I am not sure if Kevin let go of his money this trip. I had to solve some wardrobe problems. I didn’t do my homework well enough and brought the wrong clothes with me. I’ve sent home most of the clothes that were meant to keep me warm because December and January are the hottest months in the year here near the equator. It is not anywhere near as bad as Phoenix or even Houston in the summer, but still, it’s hot weather. I bought three loose comfortable dresses in bold African prints.
We enjoyed a refreshing drink at 1000 cups coffee shop before going home for our day of cooking. The chicken slaughter was scheduled for three in the afternoon. We had invited many guests for dinner to enjoy the stew Emily and Jordan were preparing. Once we got home from our shopping trip Craig and I put Donny in charge of his baby sister and we slipped out for a lunch date at the Speke Resort. When we arrived there we couldn’t be convinced we were still in Kampala, we were sure we had returned to Scottsdale Arizona. The resort is on the shores of Lake Victoria, covered with acres of lush tropical landscape and quiet, clean, serene beauty. We ate in an Indian restaurant outside and enjoyed the fresh breeze as much as the food and conversation. It was hard for us to believe they would already leave the next day. It always goes too fast when we are together as a family. Despite the beauty of the resort we agreed we could never stay there because it is too much like our life at home. We love being involved with the people of Uganda, living like them, and becoming one of them. That would be impossible to do at a resort like Speke.
While we enjoyed the beauty of the resort the slaughter theater was happening back at home. David arrived to give chicken slaughter lessons to Emily and Jordan who did the deed. I am so glad I missed this event because once they chopped off the heads they let the poor things run around. They showed us the blood on their clothing like a trophy and forced us to watch the video they made. I generally don’t eat meat, preferring vegetable proteins for my diet, but occasionally I eat chicken. After this, I am sure I will never eat chicken again. I am one of the softies who tried to bond with the chickens in the yard. They were named dumpling and chicken finger. They entertained Kira and added life to the home. Apparently, so did their death scenes. Emily and Jordan were heroes of the day for preparing food like true Ugandans. She especially has left her mark here on the people and I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t become a legend, “the only pretty mzungu woman to slaughter a chicken like a true African”. They have begun to call her the “African Mzungu”. It’s aptly applied. Melissa, the other adopting mom in the house, said to me, “I have never met a woman like Emily”. She can cook, teach, write, play with kids, talk intelligently to adults, adapt seamlessly to a new culture, keep a sense of humor at all times, milk cows, and slaughter a chicken. She is indeed a most unique young woman. What Craig and I enjoy the most is her servant heart and the joy she gets from providing hospitality. I told him that there’s never been a person in my life before now who I could say I would partner in any endeavor but Emily is the one. We think alike, finish each other’s thoughts, flow in the same direction, and build on one another’s ideas. Having her here with me has been a significant gift from God because I would be stressed if I had to do all of the woman’s work by myself. Emily has convinced me that I’m going to aim at raising Kira to meet the sort of status Emily demonstrates as a young woman, daughter, sister and friend. I will bleed til I am weak when our adventure is finished and she and I must be separated. I can only imagine the pain her family is feeling with her absence. I do know that she and I have a future together doing missions, and I look forward to those reunions with an appetite like one who goes too long without food.
Craig and I walked to the vegetable market while the cooking filled the house with delicious aromas. Jordan spent the entire day at Emily’s side chopping, stirring and concocting new and more interesting ways to flavor this and that. He is a creative cook and loves to work in the kitchen. Kevin spent the day writing. Craig pushed the baby stroller the whole way and we agreed having a baby around again was going to keep us young because it’s an active lifestyle loving a baby who is ready to crawl and walk. At the market the women began to call, “Kirabo” for our Kira. They know us well by now and love to coo to her when we arrive. They love it that we gave her a Ugandan name. As we wind our way to the back corner through small closet sized shops where hair is braided, laundry is done, and essentials are sold they call out “mzungu” smile and wave at me. The shy ones wait until I make eye contact and respond to my smile with a bashful smile and head nod. I try to visit the market every day. I have set the goal to be accepted in this place where at first I was stared at and treated like a suspicious stranger.
After our incident with Jack and the camera the day before I had some mending to do today. I went straight to the woman who got testy with Jack and bought two pineapples. She recognized my effort immediately and smiled apologetically to me. I did not bargain with her. We silently without sharing a common language made a bridge over our previous problem and became friends. The women behind her asked, “muwala?” meaning baby girl, and I pointed to the end of the market, “my husband has her she is sleeping.” They all exchanged looks of approval, “husband” and smiled at me. Apparently they thought I was single. Before leaving I looked into the eyes of the woman who sold me pineapple and I told her in her language, “God bless you.” Everyone who could hear what I said smiled and returned the blessing to me. I am quite sure this day I have achieved the acceptance I have spent nearly a month working towards. Tomorrow I will return with Jack who will bring a bag of sweets to pass out to all the children who work beside their parents. He too will regain his favor.
As we walked home I told Craig how much I enjoy the sense of participating in the community here in Uganda. People gather together and do life out in the open. Simple transactions become relationship here. I look forward to it every day to mix with the people who are always seated in the same place selling the same wares. At home I rush into the same pharmacy I’ve been using for three years, get what I need, and leave. No one acts like they’ve seen me before and no one seems to care either. I so respect how the African’s have maintained human connection in a way that makes a community support one another.
We had a dinner party of sixteen and had great conversations about cultures. Everyone cheered the cooks who weren’t allowed to do one bit of the clean up. Julie and I took care of that task, and let me just say these cooks pulled out every item in the kitchen! Remember there are no dishwashers or hot water here!!! George Akena stayed to play scrabble with the kids. He was celebrating an incredible accomplishment this evening. I have to share this story with you. He works in the prison here, and before that he worked in the prison in Masindi, his home town. He’s nearly finished with his law degree. He’s a fine Christian man with a heart for the victim of the system. There is a man who was thrown in jail when he was eighteen for being a child soldier for the government. He has been waiting for nineteen years to have his trial. While you let that thought sink in understand many of the prisoners share the same circumstance. George has been working since July to get a hearing with a judge and today he finally brought this man’s case to the court and got him set free! He can tell this story without emotion because it is an average problem. I myself was stunned. I felt like we should be serving champagne and alerting the local newspaper about the amazing good deed. I sensed though that George was a little sad because it is overwhelming how many more cases there are just like it that need help. I pray this man who has been set free is having the best New Year celebration of his life and that all those waiting for the same kindness and attention will not lose hope.
At the close of our day we discussed how to spend our last day together. They could choose going to the botanical park and feed the monkeys or go to this orphanage outside of town that is in desperate need of our understanding and support. We have visited once before and the problems there have nagged me to a point of undeniable commitment to action. Everyone chose to go to the orphanage. I can’t wait to share what God has put on our hearts for these fifty kids who live in the worst imaginable conditions. I’ve never in all my travels seen so much need for help. We are going to prayerfully determine where we can start and hopefully set some long term plans for making an impact on these children’s futures.