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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

This past weekend, I travelled with my Ugandan Mom(Robinah) and her Sister(Rebecca - my roommate) deep into the village to the place where they grew up...a small area called GOMBA.

The journey was long, and felt even longer due to the impossible state of the red - earth road that we bumped along on n our little vehicle. Many times I thought the road impassable - but on we drove anyway, the little truck that could!!

The countryside was a feast for my eyes as we passed countless forest reserves, clusters of earthen houses and small trading centres consisting of stands loaded with fresh fruits, veggies and handmade goods such as baskets, stools, drums and matts.

The green hills of Uganda rose around us on all sides, lush with vines, papyrus and flowering trees: red, yellow, fushia, violet. Everywhere walking paths of packed red earth weaving in and out and over...everywhere - children fetching water, woman carrying bundles on their heads and babies on their backs, men pushing or riding bicycles heavy laden with elephant grass, banana leaves and bunches of matooke.
The smell of dew drenched vegetation hung on the air an mingled with the dust of the road and the occasional aroma of grass freshly cut with machete.

My kidneys were rejoicing when we finally pulled off the road onto the grass in front of a small homestead....small stone house, cookhouse and a few small out buildings...the yard was full of children. We had arrived at the home of Margaret Tamale (pronounced Ta-ma-lay).
When you meet Margaret it is easy to feel intimidated and there is deep and immediate respect for this regal woman. Her face is that of wisdom and her eyes sparkle with all the joy and sorrow of her life... she has worked hard in her life and has raised her 12 children, some of their children, and now has taken in her great grandchildren to raise and care for in the absence of their parents. Any intimidation one may feel dissipates almost immediately as the look of love is in her eyes and she is welcoming and a generous and a gracious host.
We were greeted and welcomed by Margaret and her sister-in-law and a neighbour friend...the three older women embraced me warmly, smiles beaming, ancient eyes glittering as they chattered and took my hands and lead me into the house, where they sang a song of worship and blessing for me.

The day was beautiful, we sat outside on mattes and enjoyed Mango fresh off the tree, we went to church and had prayers with the local villagers, Rebecca and I walked through the banana and coffee plantations and sweet potato plots down to the well where children were busy fetching water. In the afternoon we had a huge feast of Matooke, rice, G-nuts sauce, greens and pumpkin. The food was savoury and delicious with the taste of the fire.

News had come to the house that a young girl of 7 years old had been "knocked" by a vehicle the night before and had died from her injuries. The burial would be that same afternoon. So, around 2pm we all prepared to attend the burial.
Before leaving the house Margaret took out a papyrus matte, beautifully woven with purple and beige strands...she laid it on the floor and asked Rebecca and I to kneel with her on the matte. As we knelt there, Margaret told me that in their culture they always kneel when they talk to, she was presenting me with this matte to take with me back to Canada, that I might kneel on it as i say my prayers. Tears were in all of our eyes as we embraced and I thanked her for this most precious gift.

And so, we piled into the truck - cab and box full of people, and made our way down the road and up a hill to attend the burial of the lost child.
We gathered at the paternal grandparents home, everyone seated among the trees on mattes on the sloping ground leading into the homestead. Slowly the yard filled with people, coming from all directions through the trees. Every available space was filled with friends, family and neighbour's come to pay their respects. A vehicle arrived and a small beautifully carved and polished wooden casket was carried out and placed in front of the parents of the lost little girl. Hymns were sung, tears were shed, condolences were read and more singing...then the tiny casket was hoisted high above the heads of about six strong men and boys...everyone rose to their feet, singing...All feet and voices followed that precious casket through the trees and into the forest to the final resting place. Final rights will be held in the months to time to prepare and plan and give proper homage to this sweet child.
Our hearts heavy, we left them there weeping and wondering how to Begin life without their daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, friend. our truck bumped along quietly now, along the rough path back to Margaret's home. After some rearranging, piling out, good-byes and hopes to meet again, we were on our way back through the green hills.

The heaviness in my heart lifted like morning fog as we passed people busy with the work of the living...preparing the evening meals, sweeping the yard, collecting firewood, fetching the evening water and many, many children playing. As we passed these children, they would see me and cry out "muzungu!!" and the shrieks and giggles and jumping and waving was the stuff of pure joy. When I'd smile and wave back the frenzy of glee was amazing and my heart soared with the beauty of life.

We stopped at a tiny trading centre where women and children flow to the car like a river, carrying baskets FULL of every fruit and veggie you can the hopes that you will buy something. Robbinah was busy buying passion fruit at her window, and i was busy smiling and talking to the multitude of people outside my window..Then - they all began to sneak touches on my arm, and hand which was resting on the window ledge...when i noticed they shrieked and laughted and looked slightly guilty but pleased at being caught! I realized that they were curious about my I held out my arm, full-length, and smiled, giving them freedom to touch...ALL of them, laughing and giggling with delight, began touching, rubbing and feeling my arm, my hand, my fingers...the total fascination and wonder that they expressed made me smile and smile and the JOY of that moment was shared between us. They no longer cared if we bought anything - the moment was ours to enjoy. Still smiling and waving and with happiness now overflowing - we drove away from them, smiling for miles.

We arrived back at the school late and exhausted. Some coffee and a bit of food and we dropped into our beds...the day was abundantly full of the awareness of the joy and precious gift that is LIFE...and the beauty that is Uganda...the pearl of Africa.

"God scatters beauty
as he scatters flowers,
o'er the wide earth
and tells us all are ours."

-Walter Savage Landor