Posted by: tonyalatorre | January 30, 2014

“Desire” for learning…tales from Uganda

When I prepared to leave Uganda Daniel had the chicken pox. He spiked a high fever and his body was covered with a rash so we dashed off to the doctor. No one can determine the difference  between mumps, measles, or chicken pox! And we always have to rule out malaria. It’s difficult to diagnose because their skin doesn’t show any redness. It always surprises me when Kira gets angry that there’s no redness in her face, only globes of tears dropping like suicide bombers off her cheeks. The doctor required Daniel to smear himself with white calamine lotion. Poor fella looked scary to Rhonah. His face remained long while participating in all the household activities. He never complained once, and no one teased him, they felt his burden too.


Here's Daniel and Desire with their kitty, "pretty" she's a social kitty who spends all her time around the kids

Here’s Daniel and Desire with their kitty, “pretty” she’s a social kitty who spends all her time around the kids

Daniel recovered fine, but now two weeks later, Desire has developed the chicken pox. Today is the day the children will go for a three day camp with other children in the area. Robert was so excited about the children participating in this event! And now Desire will sit home with Christine who has malaria and he will feel sorry for himself. And he will sulk. He might think life is over because he has missed an opportunity to learn. Christine might recover in time to participate.


I need to share a bit about what I find so unique about this boy in our home, Desire. He has this beautiful little face and these big eyes that are constantly thinking deeply, observing and measuring his surroundings. He’s highly intelligent so if he’s bored he’s the first to get into trouble. His grandmother warned us that he was naughty and we should discipline him well. Turns out he isn’t naughty, he requires nonstop engagement for his mind. When we introduce something new Desire is the one asking all the questions until he understands it thoroughly. I can see his mind ticking as he takes in a new concept.

Jjajja Desire and Mama Tonya...she makes palm leaf mats for us to purchase and use for our outreaches.

Jjajja Desire and Mama Tonya…she makes palm leaf mats for us to purchase and use for our outreaches.

The puzzles, games, legos and books are in his hands whenever he is not doing his chores. He’s creative too! He has this little soul of an artist who lives out side the box and watches all the people who are happy in that box and he wonders how they can remain there without exploding to get out. (that’s the point where he and I are exactly alike.)


On our laundry day by the well Desire helped along with everyone until he became bored. He sat on a stump and mixed water with the soil until he had made a fine lump of clay. He began to make things with it. He fashioned a mobile phone that was an impressive replica. Activity swirled around him and his focus never altered. A herd of cows ran down the hill scattering all of us but there remained Desire on his stump with his clay while the cows divided to his left and right. They entertained him but not for one moment did he consider he should move. He was in his creating mode.


Desire was making his clay here while everyone did laundry

Desire was making his clay here while everyone did laundry

Once Desire asked me why he should obey a rule we had set about lying and stealing. He wasn’t being naughty he just wanted to understand what would motivate him to do other than what came naturally for him.  I explained that there are rewards for following rules. Perhaps when I returned and found that everyone followed the rules I would take them swimming. But if you had not followed the rule you would be left home and not allowed to swim.  It was just an example, not a promise. But if you could have seen his face, the boy nearly cried on the spot and he wouldn’t talk to me for two days because I was so mean with my boundaries around the rules.  That was a turning point for him however, he became a rule follower soon after our little talk. And he’s my best little friend. He understood sometimes it’s important to stay in the box.


All of the children have this reverence for “Mama Tonya” that makes me a little sad but I understand in their culture it is meant as an honor for me. Desire sees me the human when he looks at me, and he talks to me like my friends at the barn do, frank, honest, and fun. He and I have some great talks about America, traveling and animals. We are both artists so we can high five on that, but most importantly we are animal lovers. Of all the children in our home it is Desire who is devoted to the kitty, “pretty”, and our German Shephard, “Samson”.


Desire playing with Rhonah

Desire playing with Rhonah

I see parts of my private self when I watch Desire in a crowd. I’m so thankful God sent him to our home so we can feed his hunger to understand. I can’t wait to see what he chooses to do with his life. He was Kira’s first crush! Perhaps they’ll become best friends. For today I am feeling deeply sad for Desire because he’s home while all the other children have gone to a fun camp full of new experiences, socializing and learning. I can see his long sad face in my mind and I would do anything to turn it upside down into one of his brilliant smiles. He’ll resent his chicken pox and tell tales of the wicked disease that prevented him from all the fun he was meant to have.


Next time I travel I will put clear calamine lotion in my bag. I know when the time comes it will be greatly appreciated. For now I’ll say a little prayer that our Desire doesn’t get bored and find a heap of trouble. Perhaps he’ll teach Samson some tricks! I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s done something amazing with his free time.

Desire making friendship bracelets

Desire making friendship bracelets



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  1. Friendship bracelets, I can’t remember how many I made and the friends I made with the kids! Desire and all the children have such beautiful personalities, I can’t wait to see how God will use them in HIS plan for them.
    Mom L.

  2. So much fun to read a post filled with more details of “our” boy! Will be reading this with the fam at dinner tonight…and praying for him to get well too!

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