Let me introduce you to some of my newest friends, P-1 students at Kikongo Primary School:
When I spoke with Godfrey, the pastor at the school, I mentioned hearing someone say that it was a hardship to live on the island. The toilets are pit latrines; the water comes in dirty jugs from the lake; to use internet, residents go to Jinja–a 90 minute boat ride away. He said, “Ah, yes! It is true. But still I like it very much.”
After spending three days and two nights on the island, I think I can appreciate to a small extent what he means. When the children crowd close, you can see many of their faces crusted with grime, many of their hands reaching out scabbed and peeling, but those hands want to shake yours in greeting, and those faces smile so beautifully.
The children below are from Kikongo village, directly next to the school. When Beth and I walked back to the school’s gate, we each had about seven or eight children in tow, holding on to our hands and arms. At one point, I had four children holding one hand, sharing my fingers among themselves.
Back at the school, some of the children love when the Muzungu points the camera in their direction.
Others are not so sure.
This is six-year-old Simon (as in Simon Peter, as he told me) displaying the hot lunch served every day–beans and ugali, a boiled maize porridge kind of like corn mush:
Simon is also here, on my left. It took some time for the children to learn that, when you take a group photo like this, everyone needs to get very close together:
During their tea and lunch breaks, the boys would almost always play football. It’s a very different game than anything I’ve seen in the States. They’re quick and talented with their feet, but it’s very rough-and-tumble, and the ball seems to hop around the field like a rabbit. The second afternoon, some of the boys cut and put up their own goal posts:
And then immediately afterwards, they of course put the posts to good use:
This first visit to the island has given me a lot to think about. The pace and style of life there is so different, and in many ways it is much simpler than what I am used to. It raises the question, though, of how much we should accept as simply different versus how much we need to see as an opportunity for improvement. Where is the line between what western culture sees as necessary for contentment, and what is truly a universal human need?
For now, I have two entire days–imagine that!–to settle down and think in Kampala before I’ll pack my bags again and head back to Murchison Falls for another safari. Life is good!