Sunday, July 1, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012: 
Today we arrived  in the village of Mbiriizi and had the honor of going to church with the
village and some children from the school.  It is a Pentecostal service lasting from 9:00 AM
until 12:30 PM.  The electricity went out after @2 ½ hours and we thought for sure the
service would have to end.  But they pushed through this tiny bit of inconvenience…and,
when the power returned, I am certain they saw it as a sign from higher powers that the
service was not over simply because the power was missing.  Perhaps it was one of those
tests from above.
The church was packed with children who sat patiently during this entire service and treated
us to a performance of songs and dance, including a short play about the advantages of
keeping G*d in one’s life.  This performance reinforced the fact that children are the same
everywhere regardless of continent, color, or belief.  They were excited to present to us the
gift of their performance and unabashedly sang with pride and commitment through quick
and unrestricted smiles and bright, shining eyes.  Giggles were a part of this, as well, as they
directed each other and made some errors in the name of theater, always looking to us for
approval.   It was a joy to be a part of this and to witness the similarities of a child's
perspective of the world.  This was clear evidence of the pure innocence of children. 

The congregation could not have been more welcoming.  Sylvia is obviously an important
influence in their lives and is much loved by these people.  Not only the school population
came out but also the village of Mbiriizi, dressed in their finest clothes, anxious to see Sylvia
and her "entourage" of mzungus!    Aside from the children from the school who came in
a bus that was donated by a generous American friend, the villagers walked to church along
dusty, red dirt roads in their best outfits to worship with Sylvia and to honor her arrival.  It
is going to be an amazing week. 

But the picture that says it all, the picture that illustrates the connection Sylvia has made with these gentle people of Mbiriizi, is the one of a child spontaneously running up to Sylvia to give her an all encompassing hug of love - the kind of hug that you can feel all the way to your heart, whether you are the recipient or the observer.  You decide how these two individuals from opposite sides of the globe and from decidedly contrasting social and financial positions feel about each other.  This is a scene that would be repeated often.

We proceeded to the village with a quiet arrival and unpacked the suitcases we brought
filled with supplies.  We brought a total of  @500 lbs. of medical supplies, candy and beanie
babies, toothbrushes and toothpaste, crayons and pencils, “knickers” and lingerie for the
girls, and other assorted necessities.  Sylvia is in constant contact with Geofrey, the school’s
director, and he keeps her posted on what is needed.  We already have a list of more to bring
next time and I am certain this list will grow.  With @240 orphans and 800 other children
here, the needs are vast and never-ending.  The most basic things we take for granted and
that are in all of our homes are simply not available here due to supply or the ability to
purchase.   But, the smiles on the faces of these children does not divulge a lack of anything
 - anything at all.  They are well cared for in the Mbiriizi school and happy to be  a part of
 this loving and nurturing community.

            One of the treats we brought for the children were those squishy, little brightly colored marshmallow wonders, most often associated with Easter:  Peeps!  As you can imagine, even the adults have never tasted a Peep  and were much more suspicious and reluctant to experiment than the children.  But, we did convince both Geofrey, the school's director, and Yahaya, his assistant, to try them.  They were a success with both of them coming back for more and happily commandeering the remainder of the package for later!

At lunchtime we were treated to a generous lunch of goat, matoke (mashed bananas),
chapati, beans, watermelon, potatoes, cabbage slaw, fruit, soda and water and it was all
delicious.  Betty is the cook and once you see what she is cooking on and what tools she has
available this meal becomes even more of a wonder!  Betty wears a constant smile and, while
she does not speak a word of English, her message is clear:  "Welcome to Mbiriizi!  I am so
happy to serve you as our guests!  Eat hearty and enjoy!"

           We also visited the chickens, who conveniently live near the kitchen...just sayin'!  The purpose of raising chickens is to provide an egg a week for each child, for food, and chicks to sell.  They are a skittish bunch of fowl, which I suppose I understand considering their location and uncertain futures!

            Incidentally, the school grounds are immaculate.  There is no trash, as the children clean it up, the inside of buildings are neat and organized and even discarded shoes are in a pile.  Sylvia did find some trash outside of the grounds and immediately had Geofrey organize some children to clean it up.  Keeping their immediate and surrounding environment clean is one of their goals for the future.  Pride in themselves and their surroundings is constantly encouraged.
It was laundry day when we arrived.  Clothing is washed by hand @once a week and either
hung on a line or arranged on bushes and grass to dry in the sun.  The "easy" part of this task
is that most children only have 2 outfits of clothing: their school uniform and one other
option.  Some children have just their uniform.

            Aside from walking, a most popular form of transportation, many, many people use are boda-bodas for getting from one place to another.   A boda-boda is a small motorbike meant for two passengers, including the driver. Most do not own one but pay for a ride to those who do. You will see groups of boda-bodas and their male drivers everywhere just waiting for customers and people waiting on the side of the road for the next available seat to come along.   By available seat, I mean a space between two people that doesn’t’ seem to exist until another person needs it.   We have seen as many as 6 people on one of these things, including small children and infants. Women generally ride side saddle and may be holding an infant  or have one in a sling on her back with another child between them and the next passenger. Quite often, you will see people on their cell phones, including … you guessed it, the driver, too! Sound familiar?! Small cars are also used as taxis packing as many as 12 into a 4 passenger car whose bottom is just about dragging on the road, chugging along up and down the hills of the Kampala road delivering their passengers.  Apparently, claustrophobia in this country is a real handicap.

            We returned to our hotel for dinner.  My favorite part is still the pineapple!  Below is the tilapia - the whole tilapia - which I did not choose.  Rather, I had broiled tilapia in small filets - quite delicious and less assaulting on the eyes but those who had the whole tilapia continually ordered it and loved every bite!

Good night, my friends!

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