by Abbott Bailey with Elaine Baur
As I write this, Elaine and I are on the flight home from Kampala. We’ve said our “goodbyes” to the children and the Bbaale family and are now thinking about re-entry into the day to day of our lives back home. It has been an incredible two weeks – an experience we will never forget. We’ve loved and been loved, given and received, taught and been taught by just about everyone from the youngest to the oldest. The trip and those we’ve come to call “family” have left an indelible mark on our lives.
As I was leaving, I said that this family, the children and all the folks at Peace School are truly among the most generous I have ever met. I have already shared the story of Florence, who gave us one of her roosters as we were leaving Kyaggwe village. Irene is another great example. She is an orphan the Bbaale family took in when she was a small child (somewhere around two years old). She was left with no other family (not even extended family) after her parents died of AIDS. Each day, Irene would make small gifts for Elaine and me from just about anything she could find. A few strands of string would become a braided bracelet (that was usually so small we had to double wind it around one of our fingers and wear it as a ring instead). A flowering weed would become a decoration for us to put in our hair. My favorite is a necklace that I’ve not taken off since I received it. She made it from a long piece of yarn and a small silver heart- shaped pendant she found or that was left over from a broken piece of jewelry she’d received as a gift from someone else.
Elaine and I have been joking with the family that we may be the only Mzungu to have come to Uganda, a land filled with many people who don’t have adequate food and nutrition on a regular basis, and gained weight. If true (our scales back home will soon tell us), it is absolutely shameful (if a joke the family takes great pride in). Yet, it speaks to the incredible hospitality and welcome we have received. Lunch and dinner included dish after dish of rice, beans, matooka (mashed plantains – my personal favorite), greens, potatoes, and occasionally chicken or beef followed by fresh cut pineapple, jack fruit, sugar cane, or watermelon. This outpouring also meant many hours in the kitchen, seated on stools stopped over pots of food on open fires (there is no stove or oven as we have them), and more than a fair share of dishes to hand wash.* The men of the family say that they lament our departure because they won’t see meals like this when we are gone! (They typically eat one main meal a day in the afternoon, with a small breakfast in the morning and evening tea at night). Even so, Mum Amina worried we were not getting enough to eat (or that we might not like it, though it was DELICIOUS)!
As if welcoming us into the family home for two weeks and embracing (not just tolerating) the significant disruption to their daily lives wasn’t enough, the family showered us with gifts on the day of our departure – hand woven purses and baskets, carved wooden bowls, and traditional dresses. It was almost overwhelming.
A couple of days ago, as I was thinking of writing the last blog about our trip to Uganda, I asked Elaine where she sees hope when she looks around. She said, “When I think of hope, my first thought is of income coming in. I think of the projects they are getting started, like the chicken farm, and Abraham’s intensity, focus and determination to make it work and to raise money.”
“I see hope in the eyes of the children. They want to stay here and finish school. Simply being here at the school learning, gives them hope. I have seen their understanding and intelligence when they are being taught, and I know this gives them hope to overcome obstacles in front of them. Also, when they see us, they know that the word is spreading [about the school] and there is hope that things will be better.”
Elaine went on to say, “I have never seen a group of people who have so very little, and yet are some of the most loving, giving, kind-hearted people. [They have so little], yet they are happy. They are quick to smile, quick to share with each other, and quick to thank. I have seen children quite literally taking from their own mouths to make sure that someone else has something. The other day, I saw Priscilla take some of the flavored ice they receive as a snack and share it with one of the children in the nursery. That child had already finished hers, but she wanted more and Priscilla gave it to her. They do this like breathing air, simply because someone else is in need of something. Their happiness and joy is pure and genuine and spontaneous, based on nothing – not on what they have – but based on something deep inside them.”
That is generosity and joy, pure and simple!
Uganda National Anthem
1) Oh Uganda! May God uphold thee,
We lay our future in thy hand.
United, free; for liberty
Together we’ll always stand.
2) Oh Uganda! The land of freedom
our love and labour we give
And with neighbours all
At our country’s call
In peace and friendship will live.
3) Oh Uganda! The land that feeds us
By sun and fertile soil grown
for our own dear land
We’ll always stand
The Pearl of Africa’s Crown.
The National School Anthem: Marching Song
We young women and men of Uganda
Are marching along the path of education
Singing and dancing with joy together
Uniting for a better Uganda.
We are the pillars of tomorrow’s Uganda
Let’s rise now and embrace true knowledge
Yielding discipline, resourcefulness
to rebuild the Great Great Pearl. Chorus.
We know the way into the land of enlightenment
Has thorns, creepers, vales and mountains
Come what may, we shall overcome
for the glorious times to come. Chorus.
Parents and teachers and youth of this Nation
Rise with us, support our endeavors
Led by God who’s the source of Life
To uplift our Motherland. Chorus.
* We obviously helped cover our expenses while there, but this does not diminish the family’s incredible outpouring.