To watch an African finish a piece of chicken is observing an artist. The bone is so clean afterwards that I could put it in my hair and allow everyone to call me Pebbles. It’s embarrassing to be American here and just lift off the choice meat and leave the rest sticking to the bone. I’m no good at all at cleaning a piece of meat, so I tend to pass all together on having chicken, even though it is usually served as an offering of generosity. Something has transformed between us mzungus and our friends, we are familiar enough now that they don’t mind cleaning our plates for us! At the orphanage, the kids wait until we are finished, we apologize for leaving food on our plate, they say no problem, and gobble it up. There is never ever a grain of food gone to waste there. Poor Jack is finally relieved with this situation. He eats like a bird and is served like a fat king. And some people don’t mind telling him he needs to eat all of his food. It makes him worry when he is full, but now he has enough friends to say, “anyone want this?” And it is quickly gone.
Yesterday I was in desperate need of a walk to stretch my legs. I went to the supermarket and the dress shop to pick up some items and on the way the boda boda (motorcycle taxis) drivers beeped at me, pulled off in front of me and offered me rides. There were at least ten offers to get a ride when what I really wanted is to walk. I’m lunch for them, I know this. They can charge me more than anyone else, so of course they want me to be their customer. I have never rode a boda, and when I consider why it has two reasons. One, I think it’s dangerous. I wince every time I watch them weave in and around traffic. Secondly, I just can’t bring myself to sit so closely to someone I don’t know. It’s bad enough when I’m standing in line here that people breathe down my neck and I can nearly feel their pulse behind me. It’s such an automatic response for an American, who keeps a wide bubble around herself at all times, to feel someone stand too closely. There’s an instinctual response to look behind and suggest with a glance they ought to back up. But they have no idea, that look only works in America. So I stand there and fidget until I can get out of there.
As I walked I was so bothered by what I saw on the ground as I tried to avoid contact with the many offers for a ride. The ground was littered with both used and unopened condom packs. I have to wonder what in the world is going on behind the all night music in this area. I know there is a high concentration of prostitution in this part of town because there are so many night clubs on the main road. It makes me remember what I have learned from my friend Annette Kirabira who operates a safe house for rescued teenage prostitutes. There are women who turn a trick for two dollars so they can eat. She has rescued girls as young as ten years old from this life. Rehabilitating them is a long journey to where they have self worth, skills, and a way for a new life. I have hugged their necks before and listened to them sing, so while my stomach turned at what I saw littered around me, I looked beyond and said prayers for the women that they can be rescued from that life, and discover their beauty in God’s eyes and travel the road to their worthiness of a better life. But my stomach is still left feeling sour.
On Sunday we crossed town in a cramped hired car, sat in so many traffic jams that the driver just shuts off the engine and we bake in the hot African sun hoping a breeze will pass through the open windows. There’s entertainment all around on the streets for us to watch. People hawk everything from minutes for mobile phones, to peeled sugarcane in bags, to bras threaded with arms, maps, and bananas from a basket on a woman’s head. Unfortunately there are also the beggars. They come right to the window and put their hands inside, cupped open saying, “please madam some money”. We are told not to encourage this behavior because it is really a business. Children will say, “we are orphans” when in fact their mothers have sent them to the street to beg so the whole family can eat that night. And of course mzungus are the target. Elitia told me a story of how her family politely refused to support a begging man, and he walked away saying, “ughh, you mzungus are worthless these days”.
The traffic jams are exhausting. It’s increasingly difficult to sit in one and know I’m arriving forty minutes late for church because the car can’t get out of a jam. I have to refuse to look at my watch and tell my self two things: we’ll get there when we get there, and “this is Africa”. It can take two hours to cross town. They are so used to it here because they don’t know any other way to be in traffic. I tried to convince Phiona, who has never been to America, that this never happens except during rush hour in New York City or LA. She tried to be polite, but she doesn’t believe me because she’s got no reference for streets that move in systematic ways. I sat there in the jams thinking, “this is the last day to endure Kampala traffic, try to be happy about that.” With Kira on my lap trying to shift gears for the driver, and four of them squeezed in tight in the back seat, I couldn’t complain, I had to dig in deep and pull out the patience that was scraped from the bottom and endure.
Church with Pastor Robert and Rose is worth all the effort to get there. They have their new building and the people come to the country road to worship together. It’s a beautiful sight to see women walking the lane in long flowing African prints making their way to church. Robert gave a good message about two kinds of faith according to the story of Peter walking on water in the storm towards Jesus. There are those who prefer to stay in the boat and hold on to what they know and can feel, and there are those who get out of the boat and rely on God with all they’ve got. We were all challenged to get out of the boat. I am so thankful to call them my friends. I have written yesterday about the culture of many pastors in this area, and I want to make it clear Pastor Robert is not in that camp. He is a man of great integrity, wisdom and character that I admire. I count his counsel and wisdom as a gift to me while I struggle to understand this culture so I can help the children I love. So I hope it is clear Not All Pastors here are the same. And for those who disappoint and grieve the body of Christ, we can pray and hope they are restored.
After church we followed them to their home and enjoyed a feast in their family room together. It was so nice to sit together and share and talk about life. They are expecting a baby girl in August. I can’t wait to hold this child. Kira has finally warmed up to Robert and Rose allowing them to both hold her. When Kira first saw Rose yesterday she reached out her arms for her to pick her up. This was a big surprise. When we were saying goodbye, I was happy to see her perched comfortably in Robert’s arms. She’s a hard mean rock at first, but she quickly grows soft after a few visits. Here at the guest house, she is so happy to go from person to person now singing and dancing and playing. Ellen and I saw her in the kitchen yesterday learning a song from one of the girls, clapping her hands, eyes intent on learning the words, twirling and swaying. It was precious.
We are all amazed at how flexible and easy she has been to have here. She likes to have mama around, but she is making many friends. I had no idea what it would be like bringing a 15 month old on a mission trip. It never occurred to me not to include her. Many times while I was hard at work Phiona was a great help to me. But most of the time Kira could hold her own and let us know what she needed or otherwise entertain herself with all the new friends who look just like her.
Saying goodbye to Robert and Rose is never easy for me. I just feel so comfortable in our friendships and hearing her laugh is music for me. At least we could say perhaps I’ll return for a quick trip in December to see them, and hold the baby! We weren’t sad, we kept it a sweet see you later wish.
My face must be revealing that I am feeling homesick because everyone either asks me if I’m feeling alright, or if I am tired. I have fully recovered from my sickness, but there is a lot on my mind as we sort out the details of purchasing land and thinking about building for the future of the children. I feel that my work has been done for now and we have a vision for what can happen next, so I am ready to go home. I can now turn my attention to the preparations for moving my family to San Antonio. Somewhere in there we’ll squeeze in a family reunion at the beach. This is not the usual summer of play and relaxation. I think next summer I will take one of those. There are still so many stories left to tell about my visits here, I will continue to share each day until they are all told. Tomorrow morning though, I’ll be boarding the airplane when I might otherwise be writing my blog. I’ll have a long 22 hour layover in London where I’ll let you know the UK welcomed us in true British form, with tea and biscuits, big black taxis, the towering Big Ben and a walk across the tower bridge. I promised the boys a night on the town! I can’t wait to say hello to one of my favorite cities.