The following was submitted by Lindsey. It's a great account of their past two days at SMK.
Everyone is so kind and joyful here. It seems to me that the people, at least who I have met in Kajjansi live not by their circumstances, but by their hearts. In each simple hello, they seem to give their heart to you in their smile and their handshake. We met “Mama Rosemary” and her daughter Joan Faith and they were so happy to have us here. The opportunity of violin has been something they have looked forward to for many months, according to them both. Every person we have met makes a point to say, “You are welcome in Uganda” after they say, “It is nice to meet you” and repeat our names back to us. Even the children have such high regard for the adults in their lives, especially those that they view as teachers. The children don’t ever just “barge” in someone’s home, they always ask to come in or wait to be invited in. Any time they see another person, they greet them, instead of just walk by. At school when they all meet together, the older kids help out the younger kids in a natural way, not forced by teachers. The culture seems to encourage each person to be helpful to their community and to those who visit them. Even after a couple of days, it has become easy for us to walk up the road and buy eggs, Chabat and vegetables for breakfast. The people in this village welcome others with an open heart and a smile, even if we are “Muzungus” (Lugandan for white person).
Melissa has been so gracious with her hospitality. I have been able to have so many conversations with her while she prepares lunch, and while the group is teaching. I always missed having conversations with her when we worked together, always struggling to find time to really get to know each other. I am so grateful I get to spend time with her now, during a time where she is in such a state of joy while living here in Uganda. She is truly invested in her work here at St Mary Kevin and her love spills into each child’s heart when they see her. I feel very lucky to know Melissa.
Today I did laundry. I used some Tide packets that I brought along on the trip to wash our towels and after washing just 5 towels kneeling down in the basins of water my back filled with pain. The women I saw on Sunday doing laundry at the water banks made it look easy, as they washed several pieces of clothing and I couldn’t wait to get those 5 towels on the line so I could sit down again. It was in that moment I was thankful for my washer at home, but also truly amazed at the strength of the women at the water banks who devote their time every Saturday and Sunday to washing clothes for their families.
Nick, Amaya and Hannah are on their 2nd day of teaching. The first day was hard on Amaya because she walked each group (a total of 10-approximately 70 kids total) back and forth from the orphanage to the room where we are teaching (right off of Melissa’s house). She was very tired and hungry by the end of the day. Also, since there were only P3 and P4 grades taking lessons formally in the school day, other kids expressed interest in taking lessons after the school day. One kid came and asked Nick if they could come and receive a lesson, but as Nick walked out of St. Mary Kevin’s 7 more kids followed him back to the room. It was a bit overwhelming, especially for Amaya who was ready for the day to be over, and dinner to begin. Today is a new day for her, she had a full night’s sleep and a big breakfast this morning, followed by a large lunch of pasta and seems much happier than she did yesterday.
I did my next round of laundry today. I planned to do more than towels yesterday, after resting my back…but I luckily was saved by a downpour of rain. So this morning after breakfast I went back at it. I washed about 12 things and hung them on the line. Luckily, it’s very sunny and warm today so they all dried by lunch time. The boys that live next door were waiting so they could do more of their laundry, but of course never were pushy about it. Everyone is so patient here. No one wear’s a watch here and there are no clocks posted in the school rooms. The kids operate from breaks to school work by a bell, often rang by an older child during the day. The first day of Nick, Hannah and Amaya teaching started an hour late because it had been raining all morning, which delayed them making breakfast. By lunch time they were all caught up. The children learn 10 subjects in primary school at St. Mary Kevin and all the teachers have are textbooks (often times not enough for each child to have) and a chalkboard for each lesson. The teachers fill up each inch of the board. Amaya still is wondering how this is possible, without resources to maps, globes, pictures and other visual aids. Melissa was telling me that the kids learn about only a few states in the US, but they don’t have any idea what the states really look like, where they are located within the United States, only given a little direction through hand drawn maps and the small amount of information in their textbooks.
The children are also disciplined through caning here, all the way through secondary school. Not following a simple direction or not having your textbook can get you several thumps with the cane. One girl, who has become a friend of Amaya’s, Queen was hit today and the teacher missed her back and hit her arm. She came to the clinic and got a pain reliever pill and then laid down for a minute in Melissa’s house. Amaya asked why she was laying in there really upset and so I told her what had happened. Amaya said, “What? Why can’t they just give her more homework? More homework sucks, you can’t do fun stuff after school because you have all this extra homework.” I laughed and said, “Well maybe you are right…you should get into educational reform for Africa when you are older.” She responded, “Maybe I will, maybe I will.” Grass is always greener on the other side right? As long as you have an idea what that other side looks like….
Today was the third day of teaching for Nick, Amaya and Hannah. They have 4 groups come from 11-1 and then 6 groups come between 2 and 5. Often though, the students don’t start until 15 minutes after the start time because they forget or the bell is a little late each day. We are learning that things do not start on time. Today they are putting the bow to the strings and trying out the strings. There are several children who seem to really enjoy taking lessons, and then others who may just be doing it because they get to get out of class and their other classmates are doing it. There are over 70 students, which by Friday will most likely dwindle down to 15-20 or at least a more manageable number.