Sunday, December 28, 2008

Village Christmas

Being apart from friends and family around the holidays can be emotionally arduous but I claim an evolved freeloader instinct. No matter what the distance from home or how little I have to offer potential hosts, I always end up around those transformative families whose love and openhandedness towards wanders calls to me. Christmas in Lyantonde was nothing unfamiliar. Jackie and Olivia – sisters among the brightest and most outspoken students a Prince Primary School – invited Jonathon St. Clause and me to their home for Christmas lunch in the village of Kalegero. The experience was pure. We carried gifts of huge jackfruits by motorcycle to Prince to meet Jackie and followed her the rest of the way on foot. We arrived and greeted the younger Olivia, Jajja (grandma), grandpa, little brother Henry, and uncle Mark. They welcomed us with fresh mangos and watermelon and we chatted about their land, Mark’s med-school studies, American life, Prince Primary, and how we love food. Jonathon and I tried to pepper the conversation with our limited Luganda but most of the day we communicated with Jajja via Mark’s translation. The family packed us full of every vegetarian dish in the Ugandan cookbook, introduced us to their alpha-piggybank (his promiscuity puts the girls through school), and gave us a tour of their gardens. The girls shared with me Akon lyrics, their top-secret solutions for high-level government corruption, some family history and career aspirations: Jackie – lawyer, Olivia - doctor.

Jajja is a tough woman. I met her a few days back when she agreed to sit down with me and discuss some of her opinions for the school’s improvements. I had gotten the impression that she was the mother of the girls because they call her maama, but deeper into our conversation she allowed some details of their situation. Their family history is complex but sadly typical. I am gathering it now for an audio piece on Prince Primary that will feature the girls’ story – so watch for it. For now lets just say… the fact that the girls still possess that kind of drive to educate themselves and give back speaks directly to Jajja’s influence in their lives. Watching them in action together at their home made it clear. The peeling and matted turquoise walls of their living room - lit by the pre-rain afternoon sky - suggested an almost meditative mood in which the girls and jajja floated around effortlessly anticipating each other’s needs.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have these kinds of experiences on a daily basis, and I’m truly grateful. My affinity for Lyantonde, and Ugandan in general seems to be at a perpetual apex, and it’s difficult to even consider the spectrum of things I am learning about. The work has been slow but encouraging, and I want thank the folks in Project Focus for being my surrogate family and reminding me to step back every so often to take it all in.
Remember to be happy.

(pics will not load on thecomputer I type from but they are coming)


david said...

thanks for the update, grant. can't wait to hear your new piece & share it with the kiddies.

you're missed- though things sound wonderful in uganda and im happy for that.

rhea vitalis said...

sounds like a beautiful christmas brother. miss you! much love :)