Today we drove out to the MOHM organization, where we've been this week, to work with the women. There is a group of women who are a part of Fount of Mercy's program, Sewing Hope. They congregate mostly on Saturdays to sew clothing for the children of MOHM, and several other organizations. These women are amazing. They are strong, fun, loving, powerful women, with a vivacious love for life! We worked on breathing exercises and some yoga movements today, which was most certainly 'out-of-the-box' for these women. The idea behind the 2 hour work class was for the women to feel empowerment with their bodies by strengthening them with breath. Because their culture is to kneel when serving food or water to men, I was contemplating whether or not to ask the women to lie on their backs and breath. It turned out, after much laughing, giggling, and embarrassment, they finally relaxed enough to lie down and breath on their backs. I went around to each woman to straighten her spine and relax her shoulders; one woman even asked me to work on her legs. Now, I realize this may seem like my work is extending beyond music, but in reality, to relax and breath is the very first step to a full, free, and resonant voice. My primary goal was to help them breathing deeply and connecting to their bodies. After the exercise, the women sat up and were conversing. Julius told me later that they were saying their lower backs no longer ached and that they wanted to do this together every day.
Amazing. In America, we often (or the kids that I teach often) don't want to try new things. If it is something that scares us or pushes our envelopes, we opt-out. These women are different- they tried YOGA!? and continued past the point of their optimum comfort to lie on the ground and they surprised themselves by not only enjoying the experience, but bettering their bodies! I couldn't have been more happy- they are so appreciative of every single thing someone does for them. And when Julius tells me that the women have brought local drummers to dance and sing for us as a 'Thank You' for our work, he follows up the translation by telling me that they would like me to dance with them.
For me to dance with these incredible women with hips from the Gods is slightly intimidating! But I decide to push my envelope and accept. Everything begins so quickly around me that I feel swung into motion. The drums begin, the eldest woman in the group ties her sheer, jeweled scarf around my hips (a tradition of the dancers so they can watch their hips move!) and I spend the next 45 minutes trying my best to move in the way the woman and girls around me are moving!! It's incredible. The dancing celebration begins with the women of the group and children from MOHM, and ends with most of the local villagers traveling to the sound of the drums to join in the party, A local woman I've never met comes into the dancing circle to show me a new move, and then she studies me and takes a move I am (subconsciously) doing with my shoulders. We laugh and clap and celebrate together ...for life?...for the ability to dance and sing? I'm not quite sure, I just know that I love this kind of celebration.
Yesterday the kids that write in english wrote their names all over my hands and arms asking me 'not to forget them'. Today the woman I have danced with take my hand afterwards and ask me to please travel safely, send love to my family, and please don't forget them'. They teach me to say 'Thank you very much' in their local language- which is mostly Lugandan, with a mixture of several other influences- Weebalenyi [Wee-ba-lon-jee].
I say it back to them over and over as I absorb their spirits into my hands.
Julius tells me that the children really love me, and all I can do is cry because in all of my life experiences, I have never been more submerged in such strong, beautiful energy.