Sunday, November 29, 2009

the final days...

Well…I’m writing this in the Amsterdam airport, so obviously I’m on my way home. But I didn’t get a chance to update over the past few days, so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet…(TRY being the key word…)

NOV 24

I spent most of the morning and afternoon working on a newsletter for the parents, students, and graduation ceremony. Tonight we had the “Last Supper” celebration, which is an annual event that they have a couple of nights prior to graduation. They have a meal for the faculty, students, and “graduands” (as they call them here). They girls are all invited to wear a “gomezi” that they’ve made in their tailoring class. Gomezi are these traditional African dresses that have super high-cut shoulders and huge sashes that tie in a big knot in front. And the fancier the fabric, the better. Amy and I found out that the girls also wanted us to wear a gomezi tonight, and of course we couldn’t refuse! When we came out of Amy’s room with those things on, everyone had a crazy fit. And boy when we got a look at ourselves in the mirror, there was definitely a good amount of laughter. Of course to us, we looked completely ridiculous…and here’s why:

…but not to a Ugandan. To a Ugandan, these dresses are a thing of beauty. (Who says “beauty” isn’t defined by your culture?!)

Meanwhile the guys had gotten all dressed up nice and when everyone was ready, the guys all lined up in two lines and the girls all came out of the house and walked through the lines while everyone sang. Adorable…

We had a big meal and then there was a program that included songs from the choir, songs and messages from the graduands, messages from the faculty, and awards given to each graduand. The program didn’t end until around 11:00, but it was so great to be a part of it!

NOV 25

Graduation Preparation Day!

I basically worked on the newsletter and on making a video for graduation all morning and all afternoon. The students and teachers have been working all day on food preparations for tomorrow. They are expecting a lot of people and they serve lunch after the ceremony, so there was much to prepare. I cannot fathom the amount of potatoes and bananas that I have seen today.

WARNING VEGETARIANS: Don’t read the next two paragraphs.

Another interesting thing I saw was a butchered cow out in the field being destroyed by some of the guys for tomorrow’s lunch. Now it’s one thing to see meat hanging in a shop. It’s a whole other thing seeing the full body of a dead cow laying on the ground with men all around it pulling out meat and intestines…and poop. Yes, I actually watched a guy stick half his arm up in there and pull out cow dung. Wonder how someone ends up with that job...

I also did not see but did HEAR the death of more than one chicken today…it truly is a horrible noise. Literally sounds like screams. Anyway, made for a disconcerting yet equally interesting afternoon.

We were working until after midnight printing programs and ironing flags. We later found out that there were some teachers and staff who never went to bed because they were working on food preparation alllll night long. Tomorrow will be quite a production!

NOV 26

Graduation Day!

Today started with quite a stressful morning trying to get everything ready for the day. The ceremony was supposed to start at 10:00 and we still had quite a few “graduands” putting on their caps and gown at 10:30.

Interesting African culture note: Their concept of time is so very different than ours. When someone says, “Let’s meet at 8:00”, it could mean 7:30 or it could mean 9:00, depending on when all of the parties arrive. So when they said graduation was supposed to start at 10:00, it really wasn’t a big deal that we didn’t start until 11:30 because most people didn’t arrive until around noon and some people didn’t even show up until 2:00. It’s so bizarre to me.

By the time everyone got there, I’d say there were a good 250 – 300 people there. The service literally went from 11:30 – 3:30…longest graduation ceremony I’ve ever been too! There was a ton of singing, a ton of talking, and I loved how the certificate presentation went. It wasn’t like in the states where they call a name, someone walks across a stage, and a few people clap (maybe with a whistle or two). No…when they called a graduate’s name, they would start playing music, the student would literally DANCE to the front, receive their certificate, then people would come give the student gifts and hugs. It was amazing.

When the ceremony ended, we all walked back up to the courtyard for lunch. There were massive amounts of food prepared. Of course Matt, Amy, and I had to eat in the house with all of the “important” people, which we always have to do. To be honest, we often just wish we could just eat with everyone else outside, but culture is culture. And in this culture, the “mizungus” are always honored guests, so they always have to be in the seats of honor.

The party then moved back down to the tents. They had rented a sound system and deejay and boy was it a par-tay…I think the whole village showed up! There was dancing for a good 4-5 hours straight…so much fun. There was a little girl and a little boy who each grabbed one of my hands and we spent at least half an hour dancing, with them never once letting go of my hands. I taught them how to twirl and they loved it…one of those special moments that I’ll never forget.

I skyped in to the Robinson Thanksgiving feast tonight and got to speak to the Robinsons, the Minchews AND cousin Ross! It was short but sweet because my connection was lost after a few minutes, but so wonderful to see their faces!

I started packing tonight…and started getting really sad about it.

NOV 27

Today was a day of wrapping things up. This morning we had the Final Assemble with the first and second year students. Each of the teachers had a chance to say some final words to the students and they gave Matt, Amy and me an opportunity to talk. I unexpectedly got really emotional and don’t know if I’ve had to ever fight that hard to keep it together (usually I just let the tears flow, but they’re not super emotional like that in this culture, so I fought like crazy to hold myself together so as to not freak them all out). But it was a great opportunity to tell the students how proud I was of them that they are working so hard for a better life and then get to encourage the teachers and thank them for investing in the lives of the youth of Uganda, then to be able to publicly acknowledge Reverend James, Bob and Brenda for the amazing sacrifices they make for Kibbuse, the students, and the staff. We sang the national anthem one last time, and I couldn’t contain the tears. Then all the mizungus taught them “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”…can’t say I’ve ever sung that song under the hot sun before until today.

This afternoon Matt, Amy and I went out and played some with the village kids (I needed one more good quality afternoon with them). We brought out some candy, played with tennis balls, took pictures (which they LOVE).... then I sat down and about 10 kids came and sat around me, and for about 15 minutes, we just sang songs. We sang some together, they sang some for me, I taught them “Deep and Wide” and “Father Abraham”...another magical moment to add to the books. These children have my heart.

Timothy taught me how to make what has become my favorite African food item – chapati. It’s like this tortilla-type bread thing…delish. And now I can hopefully make it for people back home.

After dinner, we went out to the courtyard area and hung out with some of the teachers and the students that are still here. We taught them “Mighty to Save” and “Hosanna” and we looked at graduation pictures and videos. We had such a great time. It’s amazing how connected you can grow to people after only a short month…especially people with whom it can be very difficult to communicate.

Matt, Amy, and I went on a late-night walk in the field behind the school and had another time of just airing out some of our frustrations and struggles and had a chance to just do some debriefing about the month and praying together. It was a sweet night. I’m not ready to go home.

NOV 28

Travel day. If I have learned anything, it is that traveling in this country is NOT easy. So we went into today expecting a very long day. With Matt, Reverend, and Brenda sharing the back seat of the truck and Amy and me sharing the passenger seat, we didn’t have the most comfortable drive, but what do you expect…it’s Uganda. We had to make what felt like a hundred different stops for various errands on the way, go to meet Reverend’s daughter, Norah, in Mityana, and then took a taxi from there to Kampala (while the truck has some repairs done…).

We ate at an amazing Thai restaurant in Kampala for dinner and then headed to bed…traveling days can really wear you out!

NOV 29

Well…this is it. Last day in country. I’m so not ready for this to be over. In worship during church this morning, I started getting really emotional. We’d be singing and my mind would start replaying an image from this past month and my eyes would immediately well up with tears and I’d have to stop singing and re-gain control. Then I’d start singing and it would happen all over again. I literally thought I was going to have to leave at one point. There’s just so much to think about, so much to process, so much I’ve grown to love, so much I’m going to miss…

After church, Matt, Amy, and I headed to the Garden City mall for some final shopping. We did a sufficient amount of damage…I finished Christmas shopping which I’m very happy about!

We had dinner at a delicious Indian restaurant then had a taxi come pick us up and take us to the airport in Entebbe. It was so special to have everyone there to send me off. I had a very tearful goodbye…so hard to leave.

These people have become so precious to me, and the new level of relationship that I have with Matt and Amy is truly priceless. They are more like brother and sister to me now than ever before. What an amazing thing to have been able to experience this month with them.

Now I’m sitting on the airplane on my way to Amsterdam then on to Detroit and Nashville. I must honestly say that I’m excited to go home and see everyone, but I’m not ready to leave. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that I was sitting in this same position on the plane, awaiting the month ahead with so much anticipation. I had no idea what it would entail. But this month truly has been more than I could have ever asked or imagined. I have learned an unbelievable amount. My worldview has been shattered. My position on missions has been changed. My view of Africans ahs been altered while my love for them has grown exponentially. There’s so much to process and so much to think about. But I have much to bring home.

Now that I have seen, I am responsible.


Abbey said...

hi melonie! remember me from quaker avenue? abbey langford? i just got a blog! missing u! my blog is make a comment some time!

Abbey said...

sorry melonie.)= i told u the wrong blog it is whoooooops!