Last night Donny, Whitney and Andres hopped on their plane home to America. We had an easy going day wrapping up all the leftover business they wanted to do while here, which included lying around doing nothing. My boys are fairly good at that. Reading was high on their priority list and they enjoyed the opportunity to not rush. Imodium is still being passed around like a bowl of fruit, so I’m sure that had something to do with the slow nature of the day. I went into the downtown area of Kampala where the locals do their shopping. The prices are the best, but the atmosphere is chaotic! I didn’t dare use my camera there because I know it would get me some serious reprimands. My agenda was finding the fabric wholesalers. I have a project in mind for the beautiful African fabrics that I enjoy here so much. So my friend Melissa and I went into the depths of Kampala searching for the most beautiful prints. I love fabric shopping. I know what I like and I don’t need twelve women saying, “mama, see this one, or this, or this.” I finally had to say, “shh, let me think. I know what I like and I have a plan.” I am sorry if that was rude, but seriously, when my artistic gears are grinding I need my own imagination to oil them and other opinions are simply distractions.
So we loaded are arms with heavy cotton wax cloth and braved the streets of Kampala. Melissa has been living here for ten months waiting for her adoption to finalize with the visa. It’s a real mess for her. She’s made good use of her time here doing all sorts of ministry and she really knows how to get around. We passed through alley ways, crossed streets where there were buses moving in every direction and somehow we still made it through the maze to the other side without losing our lives, or having a foot crushed under a wheel. Thank goodness we left our toddlers at home with my boys, it would have been overwhelming for Kira and tiring to have her on my back with arms full of heavy fabric.
My husband would have thrown fits if he saw what we were doing. He’s not one for a crowd at all, and will go to great lengths to avoid the suggestion of a crowd, so this scene would have put him over the edge. I actually find it the most interesting place to go. Watching people is forever fascinating for me. I must be more of a sociologist by nature than psychologist than I ever thought.
The people are not threatening, unfriendly or aggressive. They have perfect manners calling me “madam, please you are welcome, have a look”. I receive smiles more than stares. But I also know what it means to be a mzungu on the streets of Kampala, and there were two of us. You can be a street person from New York City here and if you have white skin, you are automatically considered to have money. I don’t think Americans can fully comprehend the sort of desperate conditions people here live with every day of their lives. It is difficult to get a job, and unemployment is so high. People hawk anything they can find to sell hoping just to be able to scramble a few eggs to eat with some rice and maybe, hopefully, have a pile of beans to cook. It’s not uncommon for someone here to wake up in the morning and wonder how they will find a meal to eat, and often one meal is the achievable goal. The fact that they eat the same food every day of their lives here is confounding to our American palate. It’s humbling too. Here when someone grows skinny it is cause for concern, in America we celebrate. Oh, I hope eyes will open and see our own stomachs are not the guideposts for living.
So here we are on the streets of Kampala, from the land of plenty. We are the customer catch of the day. No wonder they smile to see us, the prices for their wares are doubling in their heads at the sight of us. But in the area where we were shopping it was the wholesalers market so even my mzungu skin didn’t double the price. I am sure I was treated fairly. I’m planning to have items sewn from this fabric so that I can sell them to help feed the children in our orphanage. I am even considering setting up a booth at outdoor markets to help spread their story and give me opportunity to tell about what God is doing for the orphans.
I sent home with Donny a suitcase loaded with extra items. It’s fun for me to plan what I can sell, where as last time the items were chosen for me, and some were harder to sell than others. I also know what things get a lot of compliments so I can stock up on those designs.
The children at the orphanage have been making their own paper beads. They taught Donny, Whitney and Andres how to make them on Sunday afternoon. They have piles of them now that have not been strung up. I’m going to buy them from the children. I’m going to make a quilt from the fabric scraps, and in the center design our Kirabo Seeds logo by sewing the beads into that form. This will hang on the wall in my office. I wonder what the children will decide to do with the money they earn from selling their first beads. I wonder if they will want to use it to go to the zoo, or if they have something in mind that they want. It will be interesting for them to vote and decide. It will be good for them to know they can generate income with their handiwork.
I have five days left here in Kampala. There is much work left to do, but I know it will be accomplished. And I will be able to return to America knowing how far we have come, and where we are headed next. It doesn’t overwhelm me, but the needs are greater than what I see in my regular life at home. This causes urgency in me, a concern, and a furrowed brow. I see far in the future where they are breathing fresh air, eating food they’ve grown, tending flocks, drinking good water, and sleeping in clean conditions. That drives me.
I know now after seeing this team of Americans fall in love with these children that it isn’t just me. Their purity, innocence, joy and peaceful ways wrap around anyone who has the pleasure of getting to know them and it holds on tight. They are impossible to resist, they are the reason I keep pressing forward. I hope to bring many teams in the future to come and serve these special children. I think the world would be a better place if these kids could rub a little of their hearts on everyone.