5:30 PM

Date: July 3, 2014
Location: Nkozi, Uganda (St. Mugagga's Primary School)

Last Wednesday, David and I spent most of the day travelling to Kampala (the capital city) to pick up his miraculously now-functioning computer (both of our laptops crashed within three weeks of being here in Uganda). The drive to Kampala is usually about two hours (depending on how quickly the mutatu/taxi driver drives). If you’ve been to Kampala before, you’ll understand why I am about to say (or write, I guess) what I am going to say. Kampala is one of the psycho-est (is that a word?) cities I’ve ever encountered. David, Fiona, Lily, and I go to Kampala at least once or twice every week because that’s where we catch the bus that goes to Fort Portal, Mbale, Jinja, and all the other places we’ve visited/planning on visiting on the weekends. So as hard as we try, it’s pretty impossible to avoid going to Kampala.

David said it best when he mentioned on the way back home that last Wednesday was our smoothest Kampala trip yet, which is pretty pathetic considering the fact that we probably paid three times more than the regular price for most things that day, and not to mention we almost got kidnapped by a taxi driver (don’t worry Mom, I’m still alive…I’ll explain later).

Needless to say, I’m always pretty relieved when each Kampala day trip finally comes to an end, thanking God on the way home that we actually made it out alive. I’m not being dramatic peeps; come to Kampala and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Anyway, last Wednesday, I spent most of the ride home from Kampala in prayer. Two hours in prayer; nothin’ better. In those quiet moments, in a taxi crammed with 15-plus people travelling on a very unpaved road (okay, maybe not so quiet), I spoke to my Jesus. I mentally laid out the three and a half weeks left of my trip and asked God, “What do You ask of me? What do You want me to do with my last three weeks in Uganda?”

I sat in silence for what felt like only a second or two when I received my answer.

One simple word in my head. “Rose.”

If you’ve been keeping up with my blogs (shout out to my girl G-ma and the oh-so-faithful reader Pops), then you may remember who Rose is. Remember my post called, “Sekka?” In that post I wrote about the first few times I hung out with the kids who study and live at the primary/boarding school right next door to Uganda Martyrs University (UMU), where I have been living these past five weeks. If you remember, Rose is my little twelve-year-old friend who loves to sing and dance and whom I met the very first day I visited the primary school, St. Mukagga’s.

“Rose.”

Since that very first week and that “Sekka” blog post, I had visited the primary school only a handful of times. Each time I visited, I would take just a few steps inside the primary school’s campus and INSTANTLY Rose would coming running, smiling, and screaming my name with glee. “Haley! Haley! Haley! You came back!” “Of course,” I said with a smile. “Of course.”

Yet on that two-hour taxi ride home from Kampala last Wednesday, when Jesus so gently reminded me of my sweet Rose, I realized it had been weeks since I’d last visited St. Mukagga’s.

“Rose.”

I kept hearing her name in my head over and over again. Of course, Jesus. Of course that’s what you want me to do with the remainder of my time here. Love Rose and love that sweet girl well.

In that moment, I made a promise to myself and Jesus. Everyday for the remainder of my time in Uganda, I will visit Rose and the other children at St. Mukagga’s. And in typical Ugandan fashion, I cannot break this promise. Ugandans never break their promises (remember what I said in my previous post?), and neither will I.

As soon as the taxi reached Kayabwe two hours later, David and I grabbed a boda (the motorcycle taxis here), and headed back to Nkozi/UMU. As soon as we reached campus, I headed over to St. Mukagga’s, exhausted from a long day in Kampala but so so excited to see Rose and all the kiddos.

And in typical Rose fashion, the minute I stepped on St. Mukagga’s campus, she came running, smiling, and screaming all over again. Others joined her, and all of the children started smiling and shouting, “Muzungu! Muzungu! Muzungu! You’re back!”

It was good to be “home” again.

Everyday since then, I have kept my promise (besides on the weekends when I am travelling to Fort Portal or anywhere else to visit the other ND students around Uganda). And everyday for the rest of this experience, I will continue to keep my promise.

5:30 PM is my favorite time of the day. I stop whatever research I am working on (and by that I mean, “The 30 Hottest World Cup Players,” and other similar articles…thank you Sarah Finke), and head over to the primary school. And every single day, at 5:30 PM, there’s Rose once again, running, smiling, and screaming my name. “You came back! You came back!”

What began as a dynamic duo of just Rose and me, and the next week a trio including us and Miri, has now turned into a beautiful little family. Today, it’s not just Rose and Miri who greet me with smiles and hugs. It’s Brenda and Topista (Topi) and Lillian and Christine and Clare and Harriet and…the list goes on and on.
Yesterday was one of my favorite memories with the girls. Rose has been asking me for about a month now if I can show her around UMU. She has lived right next door for years, and she’s never even stepped on UMU’s campus. I asked Brother Bob (who helps run the primary school) if I could take a few of the girls over, and thankfully he said yes. I brought my usual group of four with me – Rose (12), Miri (12), Brenda (10), and Topi (8). Words can’t even begin to describe how excited the girls were to see UMU. I showed them the simplest things, like the restaurant, the bank, the dining hall, my dorm room, the library, the basketball court, the chapel, etc., yet they acted like they were at Disneyland or something. It is so apparent how little these children have, but that makes my job of making them smile a whole lot easier. It is so easy to make them happy. The littlest thing make them light up with joy.

I ended the short UMU tour by taking the girls to the campus store and letting them each pick two things. And in typical Ugandan fashion, they each chose cookies (which they call “biscuits” here and are basically just plain crackers) and a small bottle of Coke. WAIT. Hold up. I just realized four cokes and four pretty big packages of crackers only cost $5.60. I will never get used to how cheap things are here. One of many reasons why I am never leaving Uganda.

ANYWAY, today was also one of my favorite moments with the girls. Every day, I usually bring the kids some peanut butter, Nutella, cookies, or anything else I can find in my suitcase that I haven’t devoured yet. The kids even go crazy over clif bars…which is why I now have one clif bar left to last me for three weeks. Oops. Today, I brought them some packs of to-go peanut butter and the last Chips Ahoy package I have left. The five of us – Rose, Miri, Brenda, Topi, and I – sat in a circle and ate the food together. I usually try not to have any of it when I bring it for the girls, but every time without a doubt Rose is always sure to say, “And what about for yourself?” What a cutie. She’s so selfless and sweet. She has so little, yet she shares every single thing she has with everyone in her life. Speaking of selflessness, remember the cookies and cokes I bought these four girls yesterday at UMU? Well, I found out today that they shared all of their food with the girls in their dorm at the primary school and each only had one cookie for themselves.

“You caught us right when we were about to start washing dishes,” Rose said after we scarfed down the treats, every one licking their peanut butter covered fingers. Typical Ugandan children wanting to get right back to their chores immediately after snack time.

“Can I help you?”

“Sure,” she said with a smile. “I’ll teach you.” Side note, I love how all of my kiddos here think just because I’m a muzungu I have no idea how to wash dishes.

Yet with that being said, a pack of children still surrounded me as I helped Rose wash the dishes (by hand of course…be proud of me, Mom) and kept laughing and laughing hysterically because I wasn’t washing “African enough.” No need to worry, Rose suppressed her laughter for a few seconds to teach me how to wash like a true African. I’m a pro now (although I still see no difference between what I do now and what I was doing before…I think they just like to laugh at me).

After the dishes were clean, Rose said she had to cook dinner for her uncle who lives and works at the primary school. Of course, a 12-year-old cooking dinner for an adult. Total African move.
“Can I help you again?”

“Sure,” she giggled. “I’ll teach you.”

Okay scratch that, not only do they think muzungus are incapable of washing dishes, they also think we are incapable of cooking. I swear we look like the most pathetic, lazy wimps in their eyes. But I guess in comparison to them, we totally are.

I stayed at the primary school for about an hour and a half, until the girls of course grew worried and told me I needed to go back to UMU so I wouldn’t miss dinner. They are always so concerned about me; it’s adorable. I love them so much…my best friends are 12-year-olds; no shame, no shame.

AHHHH okay sorry this post is getting pretty long. You know how I get when I talk about children! I could write for days and days and DAYS about how obsessed I am with these kids and how much joy they bring me!

But enough for now. Time for another oh-so-scrumptious plate of rice and beans! And just so you know, in the time that I’ve written this post, my body has gained five new mosquito bites, three VERY old Ugandan men have approached me and asked me if they can come back to America with me, AND I just realized I have exactly 17 bug bites on my right hand from an unknown creature (all I know is they are not mosquito bites). Typical Africa.

All my love,
Hayhoy

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