The afternoon sun streams down on me as I trudge through the bush with Christine, on our way to visit Sidonia. I've missed these two ladies who became such a part of our lives in the first house we stayed in.(Christine was our inside worker and Sidonia helped with laundry). Christine is still surprised that I'm able to walk this distance and tells me, "Aunt you are a serious walker!" I laugh and try to keep from stumbling over vines and rocks along the path. There's a boggy part and I do my best to follow Christine's footsteps but the inevitable happens and I sink ankle deep in wet muck. Never mind it actually feels rather refreshing.
We often come upon small thatched houses, their inhabitats puzzled by my sudden arrival in their neighbourhood. Christine shouts out explanations to the curious as we go along and stops occasionally to make introductions.
At one point we meet a young girl in a torn dress clutching a small bundle wrapped in a blanket. She shyly holds out the bundle and I see a tiny face not a week old. "The mother...?"
"I think," answers Christine.
I can't helping thinking of the baby born over two thousand years ago to a mother in circumstances not unlike these.
We finally emerge through a clearing in the bush and catch sight of Sidonia's house. Her oldest daughter catches a glimpse of us and comes running her face beaming. She then disappears in a flash in the opposite direction calling for Sidonia. We are finally all ushered into the tiny home with its dirt floor and wooden bench carefully covered by a woven mat. "You are welcome Auntie!" .
Smiles and laughs all round as we settle down to admire baby Lydia and share what's been happening in our lives. Christine and Sidonia chatter happily back and forth in Luganda and then Christine translates for me. As I watch them interact I'm struck again by their joy. Their lives are tough: beyond anything I can even imagine and yet they face their circumstances with courage. I share some Christmas gifts I brought and watch the excitement as clothes are examined and then carefully folded away. The children climb up on my lap to say thank you.
I walk home along the main road my backpack heavy with the papaya, collards and lemons which Christine insisted I take home with me. A truck roars past and I'm showered with dust but it doesn't really matter. I'm remembering the greater joy of giving and how the friendship of these women has enriched my life.
Quiet has come to the New Hope site as many children and staff have headed off to visit relatives for Christmas. It's especially quiet on the secondary school site where we live. The shutters in the school are tightly closed and many of our closest neighbours are away. On Tuesday I did drop by to visit Aunt Jessica, one of the teachers at the primary school, who is awaiting the arrival of her fourth baby any day now. We chatted about this and that as she sat with her wash basin between her legs handwashing her children's clothes. She'd been to her garden earlier in the day as well. Life goes on even when you're nine months pregnant. I also met her sister's daughter who has come to help her over the holidays. Susan was working on a hand woven mat. The vibrant colours of these dyed papyrus reeds are beautiful. The weaving is done in long strips which are then sewn together. It all takes time of course but that leaves plenty of opportunity for conversation and that is one of the things I'm learning to treasure about life here.
This week I got a chance to enjoy some time with some the littlest children at New Hope. As you may know from the girls blogs, Hope Family is a present home to 8 babies and toddlers. They are lovingly cared for by Stu and Sarah Dendy from England and their team of Ugandan house mothers. Jabez who is pictured here arrived when we were here last summer. This tiny, little, abandoned baby is now a happy toddler who was thrilled to get out of his stroller and chase me down the road!
Mary is the oldest member of Hope Family and a nature lover. On the walk today she eagerly pointed out bananas, jack fruit, flowers, birds and many other things that caught her eye.
One of the house mothers gives a cuddle to little Hosea. Living at New Hope definitely helps you brush up on the names of all the minor prophets!
Another wedding this past Saturday. Both Stella and Bizimungu Charles grew up at New Hope and are well loved. Stella is a part of David family but works as a nurse in Kampala so last week was the first time we had met her. Weddings at New Hope are not unlike those in North America; white dress, bridesmaids, best man, groomsmen and speeches - lots of speeches. One interesting difference is that the bride and groom change into different outfits for the reception. Here are a few of my favourite pictures from the day.
One of the pleasures of being here for a longer time is being able to celebrate some of the special events in the lives of our family group kids. Such was the case last week as the S4 banquet took place at the secondary school. Emma, on the far left, loves basketball. Aziza is gifted in mathematics. Ivan is interested in computers. Nabukeera loves Sherlock Holmes and Joshua enjoys poetry. We know only a little bit of the challenges they have overcome to reach this point but we rejoice with them in a job well done!
Look out Tim Hortons! The Mortons have begun coffee production! Well that may be a little premature but we have discovered that we have coffee trees growing in our yard. Moses, the boy who works on our compound, showed David and John how to pick coffee beans and we've been drying them out in the sun for the past week. Not sure what the next step in the production is going to be but we'll keep you posted.