Time to say good-bye

I slept pretty well on my last night under my mosquito net (pronounced mo-skwee-toe here). The woman who has been giving me excellent service, a young mom named Harriet, wanted to take photos together so we did that. We joined up with Kato, a young maintenance man who worked here last time I stayed here and remembered me, to take some photos on the terrace. Harriet was looking at all of them and only choosing the ones she looked the best in. J

After the photos, she said she wanted to show me something she was having trouble with. I am ashamed to say I rolled my eyes, thinking she was going to ask for school fees or something of the like. She took me into my room and opened up her blouse to show me a huge lump in her breast. She said it has been getting bigger for the past months and I was very concerned. She promised to go to the doctor as soon as she had enough money but was not sure when that would be. I prayed with her and we said our goodbyes. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how that must feel for her to have a young boy and to have her very life (possibly) dependent on if she could make enough (working from 7 am to midnight every day) to get herself to Kampala and to a clinic. I needed to help her. I only gave the equivalent of about $10 USD, but she was overwhelmed with tears, went down on her knees and sobbed, hugging me around the legs and wiping her tears on my pants. I don’t relay this story to make myself look good. I hope you all know that. I tell Harriet’s story because she became my friend and I care about what happens to her. She works her butt off for so little (and always with a smile, mind you) and it’s striking to me how much I take our healthcare for granted. We in Canada and the US (myself included) complain about that more than we should. Next time I am tempted to get frustrated about how long I have to wait for an appointment, or how slowly things move, I will think of Harriet and the gratitude she showed from such a tiny gesture when she might be facing breast cancer and not even know it.

Vincent called the hotel and left the message that he would be there to ‘pick me’ in about 20 American minutes (the term we both use when we are serious about the time). So, about 35 minutes later (J), he drove up, which gave me enough time to buy one last chipati and scarf it down. The hired van had been cleaned in anticipation of taking me (something they always do which is so nice and so unnecessary) to the airport and Mama Jane (Vincent’s mom) was inside along with Nelson and Jacob. They insist I sit in the front seat (which I really appreciate because I get carsick) and off we went. We stopped one last time at Kassanda Seed School and the kids went crazy, happy to see me again one last time. There were some new faces so I know the kids are slowly rolling in just as Vincent has said they would.

We had an uneventful journey to Jacob’s house near Kampala and I took in the familiar scenery and reminisced about our bike trip as my friends conversed in a language I don’t think I will ever master. I got to meet all of his children this time and my 18-year-old friend, Vicky was there to greet me, donning some fantastic extensions she didn’t have before. Jacob sadly had to head away quickly to bury a man he considered his father. I could tell that this was weighing heavily on him for the days leading up to now so I was happy to see him go.

Vicky really really really really wanted to show me her church and so she, her brother Sam and I walked the mile(ish) to get there. They asked questions about Canada, my family and shared about life in Uganda and the possibility of them ‘shifting’ (moving) to Kassanda. Like typical teens, they asked what there was to do there and were concerned about leaving their friends and the other opportunities that a larger city can offer.

After the youth pastor gave Vicky a hard time for not being in church for the last two Sundays, we headed home. It looked like it was going to rain, but I thought we could make it. We didn’t. It started pouring and my main concern was that I had intentionally chosen my most comfortable clothes for the long trip home and it all got soaked. We tried to run, but our shoes were so slippery and the roads so pitted with ruts and rocks, that we had to just walk. We were literally dripping wet by the time we arrived, and her mom was so worried and so sorry that I had gotten so wet. “Tewali buzibu, nnyabo” (no problem, madam) I tried to tell her. All Vincent could do was to laugh and say he was sorry. At least I had my bags in the van so I could change. So, with my hair dripping wet and sweating like a pig from the run up the hill, I climbed into the back of the van and found some clothes to change into. You know what it’s like when your skin is wet and you’re trying to get dressed? Yeah, that was happening. I burst out the van with dry clothes to, of course, find it had stopped raining. I’m sure if anyone had walked by to see a muzungu half-naked in a van, I would have been the talk of the town. Good thing for me that Ugandans hate the rain.

I was concerned that Mama Florence would want us back earlier because she was preparing a lunch for us of, you guess it….rice, matoke, and beef soup (a broth they pour over everything that has some chunks of beef with it). My friends here know by now that I don’t like matoke (saagala matoke), but they never fail to give me such large portions of that along with the other foods that I have to tell them to cut it in quarters and that would be enough for me. I still always have to give about half of it to someone else I’m eating with. I am amazed at how much Vincent can eat. He is a pretty small guy and he just told me that he first fills up his legs, then his arms torso and neck. By the time he finished his own meal and half of mine, he said he was full up to his eyes. J

They dropped me at the airport around 6 and although I knew they were in a hurry to leave to try to make it home in the most daylight possible (the potholes can take out your car in a heartbeat and they are hard to see at night), they all insisted on pushing my bags all the way up to the departure door and we said our good-byes there. I don’t know when I will come back, but I know I will see them again. I am now deeply invested in this country and it’s comforting to know I have friends all over the nation. As a side note of awesome, I happened to be on the same flight as the African Children’s Choir, the children whom we had met in Entebbe on Sunday last week. They remembered me and I was able to encourage their leaders and spend time with the kids before we boarded. I was seated right behind them on the flight and they even got up and sang a song to the plane. How great is that?