So I’ve been a little absent from the blog… many apologies! Let me catch you up to speed…
Christmas: Amazing, incredible experience. The four of us left in Uganda (after Matt and Damian peaced back out to America) went to the Holy Cross Novitiate (the fourth year of formation in East Africa) in a beautiful place called Lake Saaka, Fort Portal, Uganda. It’s on the western side of Uganda (so I felt just THAT much closer to home!) where the rains come often and I actually got to wear a sweatshirt because I needed it. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t still wearing only a shirt and skirt for our outdoor Christmas party, but still. We got to hike around the surrounding mountains, pray in an amazingly faith-filled place, be around some incredible people doing some serious soul searching, go swimming and have meaningful conversations. Pretty much I had a typical Christmas day… had a Christmas eve mass set to African music and drumming after teaching East Africans how to make paper snowflakes (anyone who remembers my adventures in my section last year… apparently my calling in life is to teach people how to make paper snowflakes then almost immediately be shown up), have my Christmas morning mass at the local prison, twice, for both the men and the women, my typical Christmas lake swim, my typical Christmas social filled with religious, my typical Christmas dinner of matooke (mashed banana), millet bread (not actually bread), rice, beans, chicken, pork, etc. etc. followed finally by my typical after Christmas dinner dance party. So… pretty not typical. But pretty amazing!
MOM VISITS EAST AFRICA!: My mom came out to East Africa with the wonderful Susan to check out Tanzania for a couple of weeks. We had an amazingly warm reception, being met at the airport by Sr. Sabina and friends with beautiful bouquets of roses. We had the incredible opportunity of driving all over the north part of Tanzania, visiting schools, families, churches, and game parks. For those people who are safari-wise, they say that the Serengeti is “the New York of game parks.” If that’s true, then the Ngoro Ngoro Crater is the food court for the lions that live inside. Seriously… there are SO many animals EVERYWHERE. It’s an amazing experience to go there—you drive down this beautiful slope that looks like Jurassic Park (or so I’ve heard… let’s face it, I’ve never ACTUALLY seen the movie), and then the trees break into this breathtaking panorama of the 19 kilometer wide caldera which holds literally THOUSANDS if not more, animals. Zebras, lions, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants, flamingos, ostrich, birds of ALL types, warthogs, and… RHINOS!!! The only place where rhinos are naturally still found in the wild without being tracked, or so I was told anyways. And also? Listening to Toto’s Africa while driving through the Serengeti? Not sure life gets much better than that (leaving aside the geographical incorrectness of the song… Can’t actually see Kilimanjaro rising like Olympus out of the Serengeti. Womp). Then visiting a parish in a place called Bunda, where the priest has at least 25 outstations he reaches in a rusty old pickup (inspiring, inspiring man) and being welcomed by all the altar boys singing and dancing and then being given a chicken by the house? The generosity, welcome, and love? My life is unreal… But it IS real, which continues to astound me.
Then mom came to Uganda, where we got to experience the beautiful Lake Bunyoni, a lake in the southwestern part of Uganda (near to where they track gorillas, but don’t worry, we didn’t have too many encounters with them… or any for that matter). It’s one of the only lakes in Uganda which is safe to swim in, so I got to go swimming on my birthday! Also, we perfected what the employees lovingly call “The Mzungu Corkscrew.” This is a highly sophisticated and impressive canoe move whereby mzungus take a canoe out in the lake and perform graceful spirals in the boat (read: cannot manage anything except going in circles). A stop in Jinja was a whirlwind of adventure and dust and good times, being able to catch up and have two of my worlds collide a bit. I have to say, it was truly eye opening to see my mom adapting to the life here, and understanding a bit of how far I’ve come in learning my way around both geographically and culturally.
The School Year Begins: And so the academic year began, with me fighting to get more classes than I had last year, as they didn’t totally trust me, since I don’t actually have a teaching degree. This quickly morphed into me taking a very large number of classes since two of our teachers have quit this term, without replacements. If this isn’t a blatant case of “Be careful what you wish for,” I don’t know what is. That’s ok though, I’m enjoying it!
Emily comes to visit!: A literally warp-speed paced week of safari, Jinja, Bugembe, St. Jude’s, Kimasa Crèche, Kakira, Sports Day, Nile Whitewater Rafting, and Holy Week all rolled into one was a once in a lifetime experience for us. It’s truly amazing for me to get to see people coming here and discovering this wonderful life which exists here. As Emily put it, “I just want to show this place to everyone.” Fact. That’s exactly what I want. I have to say though, it proved to me how different life can be here from America… I think I’ll need a full class on how to be American when I come back again. All this newfangled technology I’ve heard about… smart phones being so popular? Yeah, my phone doesn’t even have t9 capabilities.
Lent and Holy Week: People here take their fasting and their sacrifices seriously. This has been such a thought-provoking experience for me to see—to see the people with already so little, to see those who can barely scrape together enough food for one day, to intentionally fast away from their little food. I can’t say that I understand it, but I can say it’s impressive. Palm Sunday mass (although unfortunately I wasn’t here for it) apparently had a large procession which went all the way around the neighborhood and beyond, people waving their palm BRANCHES (because everyone has to bring their own, so why not just chop it off the nearest tree?) Then Holy Thursday grew a whole new meaning for me, as people were called to have their feet washed, and I looked down at my own filthy feet, covered in the dust from walking all day. It made me think of the potential discomfort and confusion felt among the disciples when Jesus said he was just going to wash people’s feet. Because let me tell you, feet can get GROSS, and in this culture at least, having dirty feet is embarrassing. So it showed me an entirely different idea of what Jesus was doing. Good Friday is a poignant day. (Duh, Anna). But seeing the responses of the people to the day, observing the way they looked at the cross, watching the procession for veneration last for at least an hour… It brings a whole new understanding to the idea of suffering, and then also compassion. I remember being taught in Peace and Justice in high school that “Compassion” literally means “to suffer with” and watching people here process the Passion, even in showing the film to the entire elementary school, nursery up to seventh grade, makes me feel like I’m on the edge of a new understanding of Jesus. If this place does anything, it certainly challenges my idea of faith and who I think God is. And then Easter? Could there BE a happier day in Uganda? Easter vigil night I was in a car heading down to Entebbe to take Emily to the airport, and the roadside was spotted everywhere with fires for the Vigil Mass. Then Sunday morning, everyone is decked out in their finest clothes, which include the traditional dress of the gomesse in shimmering colors like the really crinkly wrapping paper, and small children in dress suits wearing regular t-shirts underneath. The singing can be heard no matter where you are, in a car, walking, in your house, coming from ALL the Christian denomination churches. A true joy. Every emotion here just feels so unguarded and so vivacious. I wish I could share THAT with everybody!
Now, life is just kind of onto a bit of normal before the end of the school term and beginning of the first term holidays!
So, after this kinda long catch up, I hope that everyone is doing well, and had an incredibly merry Christmas and a blessed Easter! (Just kind of shoving all the holidays together here).
Miss all of you!
Love from Uganda.