So, how’s it going? Um, good. Intense. I’m living on the compound, in my own room in the dorm. I have my own bathroom. And there is a big communal kitchen I can use, but it’s generally always bustling with the 3 Ugandan ladies who cook for the people living at the guesthouse here and the staff for lunch. So, good. Bearable, but not for an extended period of time. I love the idea of communal living, but I really love (need) quiet space/privacy/solitude. It’s fine for now. But I think it’s going to be difficult to create and maintain boundaries and also be here and not feel like I need to be on or working or available to work. I foresee difficulties with not having separate spaces for work and home but I keep reminded myself that this is a season, that I’m not settling in long term, and so it seems doable. [Even as I’m writing this post even though I’m ‘off’
two three four girls have come to my room to help me fix threads and give needles for their craft projects. Which is fine…just…tiring.]
All that said, I’m enjoying my time with the girls. Getting to know them and teaching them one at time about bead-weaving and soon other things too. I’m one of their “aunties” now and I jump on the trampoline with them and help serve up posho and beans for lunch and tell them to stop feeding the monkey and plead with them to do their chores.
I don’t know many of their personal stories. I’m curious of course, but I don’t think I really want to know. I’m happy enough to know them without knowing their painful histories. One of the girls ran away on Saturday and came back Monday night. I was listening as some of the staff members spoke about her. She’s about 14 and has friends in the brothels and they know that’s where she stayed the nights she was gone. She has a history of prostituting herself. I look at her hard lined face and believe it, but I watch her laugh and play and sing and wonder how it can be true.
Some of the girls here (who are so young!) were forced to marry and that’s why they’re here. Some are victims of FGM/female circumcision. Some are HIV+. One girl who is six years old has Syphilis. And unless there is a cure in her lifetime and she can afford it, she will have it her whole life. These girls have experienced rape, beatings. One girls mother held her hand in the fire to discipline her. She said she could smell her hand burning. And her mother refused to treat it, wanting it to get infected and fall off. There is a tiny girl here of about seven who does this beautiful quiet prance when she walks, who was so traumatized when she got here that she didn’t speak a word to anyone for six weeks.
So they whine and don’t listen and fight and have misplaced anger. And I get it. I can’t believe they’re able to face life at all, much less obey the rules here and exude joy.
Some of them opened up to me right away and some are hard as stone. And that’s fine. I am not a permanent fixture in their lives and I respect the high walls they put up to keep themselves guarded. I’m not here to be liked and loved and hugged. (Though I do like that part.) I’m here to love them as best I can while I’m here and hopefully do some good and in some small way make their lives better. I feel like I’ve been thrown in the deep end a bit, already working a lot and taking in more responsibility that I probably should in 2 weeks, but that’s ok.
Today as I taught one girl how to use a bead loom she said “I am learning so many things! I can make hats and bags and now this!” and verbally gave herself a pat on the back. Self-esteem, hope, and useful skills for the future. Redemption from despair. This is why I came to this continent.