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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sarah's story - welcoming new members of the family, riots, insects and Operation ARK

Hellooooooo everyone!!! I hope that you are doing well! Life here is good, and the last month has been great!

One of the highlights of the last month was welcoming 2 new residents into the girls’ home: Hope, who is 16 years old, and her son Isaiah, who is 1 year old. We were all soooooooo excited to see them, and are loving getting to know them! Kitibwa, in particular, is overjoyed to have a little friend to play with, and spends all his time hugging and kissing Isaiah... although he tends to smother Isaiah a bit at times with all his affection!!!

But they play together a lot (see photo – Kitibwa is in blue, and Isaiah is in grey and yellow), and whenever Isaiah cries, Kitibwa comes over and says “Sorry” and strokes him. On the first day that they arrived, Kitibwa took Isaiah by the hand and led him from his room and into the sitting room to where everyone else was - he was really looking after him and it was soooooooo cute!!! Hope is lovely! She is very tall (Isaiah takes after her – he’s almost a year younger than Kitibwa, but nearly as tall), very gentle and kind, and wonderful with Isaiah. She’s getting on particularly well with Kitibwa’s Mum, Kellen.

Another noteworthy event of the last month has been the riot that we had.... in fact, there were 3, but the first was particularly severe. People in Uganda, and particularly in Kampala, have been doing “Walk to work protests” that have often escalated into riots, and people in Nyendo (where I live) started to riot too one day 3 weeks ago. They were dragging people out of cars and off motorbikes, and trying to burn and destroy their vehicles, and setting up road blockages with burning tyres. The police came with guns and tear gas, and then the army came with their guns too, so there was a lot of gunfire for a few hours. I was safely locked inside the girls’ home, but most of our kids had just gone down to the boys’ home. Although they were safely locked in, they got tear-gassed, because, when the police came, many of the rioters ran and hid behind our church (just by the boy’s home), so when the police tear-gassed them, our kids got tear-gassed in the process, because the wind blew the gas straight into the boy’s home! They were all crying and coughing, and their skin stung for some time, but no one was badly hurt.

The whole thing lasted about 4 and a half hours, and initially, I was watching proceedings from the balcony of the lady who lives above the girls’ home, but when they started firing shots, I beat a hasty retreat, just in case a bullet went astray!!! There were quite a few injured that day, but most tragically of all, a little 2 year old girl who lives not far from church got killed during the riot, when a member of the reserve army entered her house and blindly opened fire because he thought one of the rioters was hiding in there. That resulted in tensions being rather high in Nyendo, and there have been 2 further riots since the bad one (but they only lasted for 3 hours and 2 hours, and there were much fewer shots and a lot less tear-gas). Since then, there have been police patrolling Nyendo every single day, dressed in riot gear and gas masks – they look like navy-coloured Storm Troopers from Star Wars, and are quite scary-looking when they’re all dressed up!!! They seem to have taken up 2 bases in Nyendo – the first is in the church grounds (by the boys’ home), and the other place they sometimes go is just outside the girls’ home – I don’t know whether they think we’re a particularly dodgy lot, and likely to start a riot!!! Anyway, we’ve decided that we’ll be particularly safe in the event of another riot, since they’re camping out just by us!!! The surprising thing (for me) is that the riots didn’t leave me feeling scared, and it wasn’t scary during it either, and I had thought that something like that would be!

The last month has also been a month of insects.... first of all it was “White Ant Season”, when all the ants come flying out of their nests, and are promptly caught by all the local kids, to be eaten either straight away (i.e. alive), or saved for later to be fried. (White ants are a local delicacy.) I wasn’t brave enough to try them alive (I kept imagining them running round my mouth!), but I did try them fried, and they were very nice, to my surprise! Then, it’s also “Grasshopper Season” again, although there don’t seem to be as many as last season, so we’ve not been eating them much. And then, lastly, we’re eating lots of insects in our beans.... but that one is not intentional or planned! The problem is that we’re growing our own beans at the White Eagle Project farm in order to save money, but they didn’t spray them with chemicals (like they do with the ones we usually buy), so the beans are infested with weevils!!! They’re horrible – they float in the sauce, so I try to remove them when I see them, but they’re also hidden inside some beans, so as you’re eating you suddenly feel your teeth crunching on something like grit, and you realise that you’ve just chewed a bean weevil!!! It reeeeeeally puts me off my food, which is a shame as beans are my favourite food over here, and we have them 5 days a week!!! Unfortunately the sack is huge, so we’ve another month or so of eating weevils and beans still to go! (And you can’t waste food over here by throwing it away, just because it’s infested with weevils!)

Last week, we had Operation ARK (Acts of Random Kindness). It was great fun!!! We (the youth and youth leaders from the churches in Masaka) spent the week clearing rubbish from the streets and market places of Nyendo and Masaka town, clearing drains, and generally blessing the community.

Everyone worked soooooooo hard, and got ridiculously dirty and grimy in the process, but there was such a good atmosphere the whole week, and there was a lot of joking and good fun!!! We also had lots of singing and dancing and good food (-apart from the bean weevils!) each day! Here are some photos below showing sludge from a blocked drain, someone clearing said blocked drain, and someone clearing rubbish from the street...

And there’s also a photos I took of the hundreds of chickens that arrived packed in the back of a truck, ready to be sold at the market that day, because it looked funny!

Anyway, that’s my news. Life continues to be interesting, and full of new experiences!!! I’m also busy running the holiday programme with our kids, doing my homework and assignments for the “Celebrating Children” course I did last month (they have to be done before I go back for part 2 of the course in 2 weeks’ time), and doing various other things at church and with the project.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter and are enjoying Spring!!!

Lots of love,