LOLAFRICA journey to Uganda

Glory to God, who's power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or Imagine....

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Location: Kalagala, Uganda

Monday, October 30, 2006

I woke up on a sunny morning, looked out the window...And found the air was filled with wings! As though millions of fairies had lost their wings as they disappeared into a dreamt...And now they were fluttering and flickering down to the ground on the morning breezes.
The answer to my many questions came quickly as I heard happy reports coming in from everyone that the "white ants had come!!"
The myriad of huge red mounds of earth that house the white ant colonies around the school, had expelled millions of their inhabitants during the night - sent our with temporary wings in search of new ground to colonize. Unfortunately for a vast number of these ants, they were lured by the lights of he school (yes, we had power that night!) and, intoxicated by the glory of the light - their wings fell off, leaving them trapped in the schoolyard...carpeting the ground waiting to be scooped up by happy students. And they were! Scooped up, grabbed up in handfuls, swept up!! Gathered and collected into bowls, pails, basins, and tubs...even pockets - by happy , gleeful, excited students!! Why all the joy over these ants?!?! These ants are a very special and anticipated delectable and tasty treat...and a feast would take place that night!!
Wings were removed and the ants carefully rinsed ...a handfull of salt..A diced onion or two...into the saucepan and fry to a crispy crisp!! Oh the joy!! Oh the feast!! Oh the munching and crunching that could be heard all evening. Each student was given their portion in cones made of paper....and so, laughing and talking, they enjoyed their savory treat that had fallen like manna from heaven!!
I know you are all wondering if I dared to partake in the ant = feast....the answer to your burning no! For those of you who know me...i could not bear to even have the ant on my little toe...nevermind put it in my mouth and chew...then swallow!
So, I left the feasting to those who would surely enjoy the morsels of salty goodness that are the white ants of Uganda. Crunch 'n Munch. :)

"Every day in a life...fills the whole life with expectation...and memories."
-C.S. Lewis

Last week we took some of our students on an Art Tour! Eighteen of us piled into a 14-seat Taxi-van and took off for the city. I'd tell you how fast we were going, but unfortunately the speedometer on the taxi was not working!
Our first destination was the Fine Art School at the Makerere University. A haven, on the campus, for any artist. The grounds are beautiful and feel like a tiny village. A village filled with Sculptures made of concrete, clay and bronze. They are hiding around every corner, standing in the grass, peeking out from behind trees and bushes...They are benches, and chairs and tables that are functional and students lounge, study and converse around and on them. Creativity hung on the air, to be breathed in, waiting to inspire....seeds of imagination floated around like dandelion fuzz - ready to drop into the fertile ground of the young minds of my student.
We toured the Gallery first and the students marveled at completed works of art - sculpture, batik, installation art, sketching and painting, as well as clothing deigns....Some of the work they puzzled at, some they thought was ugly, some beautiful, some precise and time consuming!
From there we were given tours and demonstrations in the pottery studio, painting studio, weaving studio and sculpture studio. Of course there were some students who didn't care about much, and were just along for the ride (there are some in every class!) But the others had eyes that were wide open...And I could see a new light shining there! New worlds were being open to them, new paths, possibilities and options for their futures. Their enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself doing some dreaming of my own!!
Next we whisked the students away to the Uganda Museum. Here they were exposed to the ancient arts of their homeland, and their culture. This included antique masks, pottery, jewelry , textiles and carvings....Some ancient inspiration for these new artists!
Then we were off for a quick lunch and to the Wildlife Park for some pure inspiration and exercise!! We gazed at the majestic Lion, we laughed at the monkeys , wart hogs, and hyenas. We marveled at gazelles, leopards, ostriches and white Rhinos...Until finally arriving at the refreshing shore of the vast lake Victoria. After some searching for shells and enjoying the breeze off the lake,...It was time to head home.
it was a full day of visual, physical and mental stimulation. The Taxi was filled with songs on the ride home....memories of the day lingered in our minds. Sculpture, painting, landscape, nature, ancient enduring artwork and modern puzzles. ...for some - a fork in the road....for all - a feast for the eyes...the soul.

"Develope interest in life as you see it; in people, art, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people." -Henry Miller

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Just outside the school compound are a few tiny home is made entirely of reeds and earth (mud). these homes are surrounded by matooke and banana trees, one huge pine tree(that seems odd and out of place) plants!! The coffee berries weigh the branches down as they accumulate and grow.
As I was walking I noticed a young boy spreading coffee berries on the ground. Upon further inspection and subsequent inquiries I find there are two large sections on the area has berries that are fresh from the plant...they are a splendid array of greens, reds, purples and yellows, and they look like candy from a distance! The second area has berries that have turned brown and when you pick them up they are dry and almost brittle. Break one open, and you will find a bright green coffee bean - ready for roasting. The boy is spreading the new berries out in the sun to dry, he uses a rectangular piece of wood as his level and skillfully lays the berries evenly out in the hot, hot sun. The dry berries he shifts around in the same manner, ensuring that all sides will be dried evenly.
Once the berries are dry they will go one of two ways....they may be sold as is, to a wholesaler by the kilo...or they will be fire roasted, then packaged in small pockets made from dry banana leaves, and sold as a tasty snack! When I am in the city, I see many boys and men, walking with hundreds of these little satchels bundled together...they weave in and out of the traffic jams selling the roasted treat to satisfy and calm impatient drivers.
All the way from the little homestead far off in the country to the large coffee processors or busy city traffic jams in the capital city...a testament to hard work.

"I have known them all already, have known them all. I have known the mornings, evenings and afternoons... I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." -T.S. Elliot

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sleep has been scarce lately, as our nights have been interrupted by the some strange sounds!!! Not only was there a "JuJu" ceremony at the village which included singing, drumming and hooting and hollaring all night long, but we have another regular can I describe it?
Imagine at about one in the morning you hear a child of about one year old crying, then bawling out there in the night. The child sounds maybe lost, maybe hungry, maybe even injured!! Just as you decide that you will run out into the blackness to find this child - the cry changes....and you realize...that is definately NOT a child!! But what is it then?!? As you lay there in the darkness, eyes wide, listening....your mind and imagination take it something other wordly??A gremlin, a monster? A demon? Something attempting to sound like a child in need, to lure unsuspecting do gooders out into the night??!! Whatever it is, the disguise isn't working, because it cannot master the true sound a human child makes.....the sound is is is right on the other side of the bedroom wall....

As I lay there with my mind racing trying to make sense of this sound, to rationalize it....somehow by the grace of God, i fell asleep.

In the morning i was asked if I heard the the thing crying last night. Yes I had. It was then explanied to me that the sound was made by a wildcat, that it is NOT the normal cry of the wildcat - instead, it is a bad omen in this culture to hear this in the night. It is said to fortell a death in the village. Very comforting.
We have heard this noise now for the past two nights, right on the other side of the wall. And, as creepy and bone-chilling as it is...we really, really. just want to get a good night's sleep!!!

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood." -Marie Curie

During my first week or so at the school, an invisible barrier existed between the students nd myself. I have a feeeling it was because I'm not just a visitor - i am their teacher. No matter what i said , or how I smiled, the students appeared to remain at a distance. Some students returned my greetings and smiles, but even these few were polite and distanced.
One day i decided to join some of my female students who were sitting under a tree in the schoolyard, talking. As I joined them, their energy was tangible - their eyes wide and gleaming. Smiles emerged and gigles erupted as we began to talk. They crowded round me, fidgety with excitement. They asked me many questions about my life, my family, my interests...all the while, the girls moved in closer and closer.
Suddenly I felt one finger touch my left arm, then a hand, then two, three, four....furtive, stolen touches. Like they thought i might not notice. I looked at the owners of those hands and a flurry og giggles ensued, the girls pulled back their hands quickly and covered their face as they laughed. I said" Would you like to feel my skin?" and, as I held out my arms, immediately thier were ten pairs of hands feeling the skin on my arms. "You're so smooth!" They cried! Soon I had hands touhing my clothing, my face, my hair. They buried their facesin my hair, "It smells good!" And shrieks of delight again! They wee all chattering, giggling, touching nd enjoying the freedom to satisfy their curiosity about me. "Even her hands are white!!"
i sat in the centre of this group, smiling. Truth is, thismoment ws equally as fascinating to me!! The smileon my face grew and grew until i felt it might burst the seams! I realized that this moment was full of the joy of life, the thrill of experience, the beauty of humanity. Crazy Joy. The walls were down, the barrier removed....Connection!!
As the thrill of themoment eased we talked. We talked about life, love, sex....we talked about highs and lows, failure and success. All the while these girls were holding my hands, braiding my hair, touching my arms, my neck, my feet. Their eagerness to know me touched my heart, then seized it...and before I knew what washappening they had stolen it forever! I am theirs. They are mine.
The moon came out bright and smiling overhead and the girls asked me if I have any children. I said no. They asked me why, nd I told them the same thing i tell all the children I work with, " You are my children." and now they were really smiling, their smiles grew and grew and shone at me in the darkness of this very special ugandan night....their eyes beaming.
Too soon it was time for them to settle for the evening and i had to say we dispersed, one of the girls spontaneously flung her arms around me and hugged me. When I responded by hugging her back, the other girls burst into another round of shrieks and lughter as they all lined up for their hugs!! Abundant Love.
As i walked back to my dwelling i could feel my heart growing and growing....the joy of the evening lingered lete into the night and, still smiling....I fell asleeep.
"The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience." -Emily Dickensen