Friday, July 23, 2010

A lot to Take In

I have been trying to find the best way to describe my experiences in Uganda thus far. I have been taking so much each day, visually, physically, mentally, emotionally and even smelling…oh my god. The smells (oh yes, even I can smell it!). It’s hard to come together and put it all into words, but I will try. A lot has happened in the last 2 days. Monday night after finishing up my last post we went to a MID-EVIL themed restaurant. Yes, in Africa. Swords on the wall, the waitresses in neon green costumes and an xbox game room….it was wonderful! We started Tuesday back at TAOST, our last day with them. We finished putting together their new library, had Physical Education lessons (SO MUCH FUN!) and did a lot of reading with the kids. These children were incredible. It is so amazing to come to a country and find children with the spirits that these children have. Never in America could you experience this at the drop of a hat. All the children run to hug, greet and shake your hand. They say “Ole-o-toe” (how are you?) and we hug and embrace everyone. These children have nothing and are in a constant state of suffering and loss and yet they are the happiest and most loving people I have ever met in my life. It a mystery to me, but probably the most magical and amazing thing I have ever experienced. You can see and feel the love oozing out of them! However, this is where my story turns sad. My second day in Uganda I learned a true to Africa life lesson. Joshua, one of our students whom we were playing with on Monday, collapsed at home while playing with his brother after school. There is so little good medical care here, and transportation in emergencies is virtually non-existent that Joshua died. Within being in Uganda for 2 days, I meet and then lost a student. Francis the director of TAOST took the older children of the school to view the body. It was a real lesson, and a hard one to hear. We will never know the real reason Joshua died. His single mother was told he had malaria and was being treated for that. However from what I have learned in Uganda, doctors have a “treat or die” policy. They have no way of knowing what is truly wrong with their patience due to lack of proper medical advances, that they treat anyone sick for malaria. They assume if they have malaria it will be treated, and if they don’t: well, they were going to die anyways. This was a difficult thing to hear. We are so sad for this loss. But needless to say, this was a quick insight into the troubling aspects of life here. I spent my first day in Uganda amazed at my ability to hold myself together. I didn’t cry despite all the devastation I was seeing. I realized later that night when we spoke of our “lows & highs” of the day that I was blocking out everything. I can’t describe to you how hard it is to absorb everything; to let it in is to acknowledge suffering on levels we could never experience ourselves. When it came my turn to say my low, I let it in. I couldn’t even put into words what my low was, it was the life that I was blessed enough due to location to avoid. It was the hundreds of children I was seeing in classes on the street and everywhere. Tears fell from my eyes as I acknowledged all of the things I saw. Letting this into my heart was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I ended on the high note however by having my high as the fact that I am surrounded my people that are trying to change my low. And that is all you can do. Acknowledge the pain and suffering and then do whatever you can to change it, in whatever small way we can. It was a good release. And to be honest, I woke in the middle of the night, just crying and crying. This is beyond anything I ever knew or imagined. But anyways, back to Tuesday…We finished that day off by paying a quick visit to another group “Care & Share”. A group of 104 widows who have gathered to learn vocational skills to help the earn income for themselves and their adoptive children. We observed a meeting, with one of our translators Julius in tow. Since these are all older and elders, aside from 2, none of this woman speak English. The meeting was an hour and from what I saw and had translated, these women are feisty! Which is a treat to see in Uganda! Woman are considered below men here, they often must bow before serving men, and they aren’t necessary accustomed to speaking in group situations, so this was amazing to see these woman shouting and laughing and having fun! They each greeted us with their names, told us how grateful they were to have us and even sang and danced for us! We are headed back to work with these woman later this week. My 3rd day was on my much happier level. We headed to another organization, HODASSU to work with our deaf class. I was nervous at first, what can I teach a deaf child in Africa? Eustace picked us up (the director and true advocate for disabled children here in Uganda, an AMAZING PERSON!) and we headed to the school at 10am (a late day for us). I just have to say, these children are amazing! By far my favorite experience yet. All of the children signed us their name and then us to them. These children also have sign names and even gave each of us our own name, based on our looks! Mine was tapping the right side of my neck in two spots, where I have 2 “beauty marks”. After all of this the children asked if they could “give hugs” we all said yes and within seconds we had 24 children throwing themselves onto us. These were no, whatever hugs, these were some of the most heartfelt hugs I have ever received. Talk about making a person feel special! From what we heard of the principle this children rarely if ever get visitors. They are secluded from the rest of the school and generally abandoned or in some cases treated horribly at home because of their disabilities. I can honestly say these were the most well behaved and bright children I have met yet. We started our class outside where Carly, our music teacher had the children work on some stretching, yoga and then breathing. The kids were so receptive and incredibly well behaved, and of all ages. Next she went around and had all the children feel the vibrations of sound. She would have a loud noise, putting their hands to her belly and throat, and in return the children would make noises themselves. For some of these children, this was the first time they were acknowledging the vibrations of noises coming from them! Every child was able to do this, and they seemed so free and excited by this new discovery, it was beautiful. We danced and sang and played sports, duck duck goose, and soccer. It was so much fun, and I finally felt like I had settled into a good spot here. We read to the children and I acted out all the words in the book with movements and pictures. The children mimicked all of my moves and laughed and hugged me. I will never forget that moment, ever. We are spending Wednesday with these children as well, and I cannot wait. I already feel attached to them, inspired and in love with these spirits. I wish everyone in the world could meet these kids, and I wish I could express to them just how amazing they are. It breaks my heart to know they are shunned for their disabilities, when it’s their disabilities that have made them the amazing children they are. It was amazing. We left the school to a huge rainstorm. Rain generally seems to just last a few moments here, since it’s not their rainy season. But when it comes down, it really pours. Michelle, Vanessa, Carly and myself embraced this moment like little schoolgirls. We threw off our shoes and socks and ran and played in the rain in Lori’s front yard. The guards look at us like we were crazy. Within seconds of being outside we were drenched. We jumped in muddy puddles, practiced yoga and rubbed all the dirt from the day off our arms and hands. I haven’t played in the rain since I was a child. It was a good feeling to forget general rationality and play in the rain. I really love these girls. Lots of love, michelle

Posted by Michelle J

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