I have not rushed into my life and responsibilities here at home because that would overwhelm me in same way the rainstorm yesterday drowned my pansies. I am faced in the right direction of assuming my normal activities and making strides towards full assimilation, but first I wait for the desire to do them to bubble up to the surface. If the desire doesn’t appear, I might reject the old ways for my new life. I am carefully taking inventory to simplify my life now, both because I have a baby to tend but also because I learned a new set of life skills in Uganda and I want some of them to translate into my American way. Taking slow natural steps into my life at home also makes me sad because it means I am simultaneously taking steps away from my experiences in Uganda. I’m not convinced I am ready to do that. At night I dream about the children in the Kyengera orphanage and when I wake up I have a brief undulation of disappointment because I cannot call George and arrange for him to drive me out there for a visit. I am like Kira when I’m holding her and I need to pass her to someone else, she turns away and clings to my shoulders with her baby grip and squeezes my waist with her fleshy thighs. She squawks when she’s pried away from me but once she’s been moved she accepts the new views and options. Only I know she’s counting minutes until I return to the room and answer her sign language request to take her back to her perch on my hip in the same way I am relieved June is not far away so I can return to Uganda. Separation anxiety is not only for infants and puppies, travelers get it too.
I have less and less amazement when I turn on the shower any time I please and there is hot water available. Just when I was beginning to remember to flip the red switch to the water heater it was time to pack for home. I can light my stove without a match and the luxury of this practice is slipping to the back of my mind. I don’t scramble to keep my electronics charged in case there’s a day or more without power. It doesn’t occur to me to boil my water here in this kitchen. I do not feel like M&M’s are such a special treat because no one has to bring them from across two continents and an ocean.
I will say though that I love doing laundry in my spacious laundry room. We used to make sure our clothes were really smelly and dirty before dropping them into the laundry bin because it was a laborious chore to get them clean in Uganda. And it took a couple days before they were folded in stiff piles and ready to wear again. The sound of my machines running makes me smile. It really does! This is announced by a girl who when first married loathed doing laundry. When the babies piled on so did the mountains of dirty clothes and to just look at the mess would plummet me into a foul mood. I don’t think I will ever complain about doing laundry here in America again. But here’s the best news, if we ever have a prolonged power outage like we did for Hurricane Ike, I won’t have to panic about the laundry backing up. I know how to move along the laundry by hand and boiled water if I have to, and having confidence with this skill is good insurance.
I am still surprised when I stop for an afternoon starbuck’s and it costs five dollars to get a soy latte. That’s ten thousand shillings in Uganda, and enough for someone to eat two full meals in a day. I think if I make my afternoon coffee at home and save twenty dollars a week, that’s eighty dollars a month and how much food would that buy my orphans in Kyengera? More than any of us would believe. Not a single morsel of anything in Uganda goes to waste, and it was a game I liked to play along with while I was there. Not a shilling, a food scrap, a plastic bag, an unwanted item, or a drop of water passes without utilizing every measure of potential good use. I watched Julie pull strips of bark off one banana tree and use it as rope to secure another leaning banana tree. We used to sterilize bottles in boiled water and then use the water for either Kira’s bath or to soak laundry or to make soapy dish water because we didn’t want the energy spent to boil it to go to waste. Julie has to haul in a gas tank and hook it up in the cabinet built into the oven. When they cook they use every part of the process to go back into the one pot meal, they don’t even toss out the water used to cook the beans, it goes back in as broth or cooking liquid. We didn’t use one single disposable item, except for napkins which were only offered to guests. There were no paper plates, food wraps, Ziploc bags, or paper towel. I brought two boxes of Ziploc bags and with the way Julie reuses these bags they will last her two years. To cover food they inverted another plate on top of the food and set that in the fridge for the next meal. The Ugandans eat green bananas with every meal. It is called matooke. They have to be peeled with a knife, steamed, mashed and covered with a creamy peanut sauce to taste good. They are as partial to their matooke with geenut sauce as the Italians are with their pasta and tomato sauce. When we visited the farm to milk the cows, guess what they were fed? Matooke peels.
Julie keeps a plastic bucket outside her kitchen door for food scraps. Each day she dumps these on the compost pile for her garden where she grows much of her own food. The trash that can be burned is separated from the plastics, cans and bottles. Once a week she lights a fire over the trash in the back corner of the garden. The ash is mixed in with the soil. Nothing goes to waste and no one acts like it’s beneath them to carefully use all their resources. Somehow my children learned quickly to put the food waste into that bucket. I have a compost bin here for my garden and I have had good intentions to use all the kitchen food scraps to feed my garden, but we haven’t yet placed a bucket for collection. I will feel less guilt if I go get a bucket today and get this started. Somehow this simple practice will keep alive many of the good habits we developed while living in Uganda.
The habits we developed there made order of the chaos. Something in me here wants those habits to live on in my American life. I imagine all the waste not practices are like the bundle the Grinch stole from the little town and pulling it with his pitiful suffering dog far away is me trying to get them into practice here in my life of comfort and luxury. Maybe I don’t want to be separated from what I experienced and learned in Uganda. I could be less wasteful here at home as I was there and translate that into more to offer the orphans in my care. That would help me forget how far away we are from eachother. Perhaps I’d get more photos in my mail box like these…