…..the dedication of children

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Last Saturday, I received a text from my neighbour, Samalie, informing me that her two youngest children, Ethan who is 1 1/2 years old and Julia who is 5 months old were going to be dedicated. But I had many questions… in what church was the ceremony going to take place? And was the text an invitation to the ceremony? And if so what was I expected to do or bring? The person I usually go to for information on Ugandan culture has been Samalie … so do I ask her these questions? I first spoke to the staff at the clinic and was given a variety of answers from the text was not an invitation to yes it was and I was expected to attend and give a gift of money.

I presented myself at the home of Samalie and was greeted with “Can you come?” So that answered my first question and then she told me the children were going to be dedicated by her husband in the remove village of Kamuli (came-moo-lee). I just learned that the word kamuli is the name of a type of small flower….Anyway, PJ, Samalie’s husband has been working in the village to build a church and a school for a number of years. I remember hearing stories of the road and how it has been impassable during the rainy season … and we are in the rainy season but the rains have not been too terrible and in fact the weather has been hot and dry most of the time. I was hoping that meant the road was good.

Samalie told me that they were going out that afternoon and I was welcome to come…. but if I wanted to I could come on Sunday and she would check and see if Mugabi would go with me. Finally, she told me that I did not need to bring a single thing….. Late that afternoon a vehicle was loaded up with them all including a goat. They did not return so had to assume the road was O.K…….

On Sunday morning, I was up and ready by 8:30 am…. and it was not until 10:45 that Mugabi arrived at my door with his two children all ready to depart. It took us just under one hour to follow the winding red dirt road with ruts or potholes so deep that you could destroy your undercarriage, your shocks and have a wheel disappear forever. It was a slow trip but the scenery was breathtaking…. rolls hills with one garden of matoke or Irish potatoes after another… It seemed like every square foot of ground was under cultivation. We arrived at 11:55 to the sound of singing. The service had begun.

Of course, Mugabi and I were guests of honour and we were directed by a lovely young man to seats at the front of the church. The building was constructed of locally made bricks with opening for future additions of windows and doors. The place was filled with smartly dressed young men and women, old men and women and lots and lots of children. I quickly learned that it was not just the dedication of Ethan and Julia but it was opportunity for each and every parent to dedicate their child or children. There were at least three choirs who sang praises…. one of them had on red T-shirts with the Canadian flag on the back. I could not help but smile……

I was exciting to hear PJ when he spoke about how children are a gift from God and they are not to be used or abused but treated as a very precious gift….treated well, given every opportunity for learning and education. The teaching was translated into two languages as well as English. The teaching, praise and worship, dedication of more than 20 infants and children was a very exciting and emotional time for me ……the service ended with lots of singing and praise just after 3 pm.

As this was a very special day there was food served afterwards. As a guest of honour, I was seated at a table at the front of the church and served some of the best food I have ever had in Uganda. They handed me a plate of rice with beef, greens, goat and cabbage. The beef and goat had been roasted and were positively delicious. The greens are some leafy plant they pan fry and the cabbage is wonderful…. I could not believe the amount of food I eat…… but it was truly a significant party when sodas are provided and I got a bottle of my favourite called Stoney.

After the service was over many members of the congregation found someone to translate and asked me numerous questions including how old I was …. they thought I was 70 (I was not sure that was a compliment) and did I have extensions in my hair… they wanted to touch it. They asked about Canada and my work in Kibaale with Samalie. It was very interesting to hear the sort of questions they were asking…. It was very clear that they did not know anything about Canada nor the fact I was the only white person living in Kibaale.

This little village is situated on top of a hill facing south towards Tanzania which is only a few miles away. It was a nice comfortable sunny day and an amazing opportunity to experience some more of Ugandan culture and see more of true rural Uganda. I was blessed.

……. my safari to give vaccinations on Sept 12, 2012

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Three times a month a few members of the clinic staff travel out to one of three villages to do vaccinations for babies and toddlers 6 weeks old up to three years of age. Last Wednesday, like usual I did the driving and we were heading for a very small village called Kisomole (kiss-omh-oo-lee). We hold the vaccination clinic under a giant tree and you can see it immediately you take that last turn in the road. On Wednesday, the rains came and it rained most of the late morning and early afternoon…. it was not a shower but a deluge. I was wondering if the road would be passable or would the mother bring their babies out….. 

At 3:30 we headed out with the sun shining. The first section of road is the main road going to Rakai. It is a dirt road and not well maintained… the ruts are deep and you can see the route water takes down the road….. but this is concerned a fairly good road. After a few minutes, we turned off on to a road wide enough for my land cruiser to travel down…. I have in the passed meet a vehicle coming the other direction and unfortunately, I was the small of the two so had to back up. I do a terrible job of backing up…. I dislike doing it in Canada and would prefer to never had to do it. i guess, in Uganda I am going to have to learn.

Well, today the road was wet and slippery… so I traveled  slowly and carefully. We had traveled a few miles when we came upon an old pickup truck. The only thing I could see was the back end and it was rusted and the frame bend or sagging to one side. The bed was filled with people and things… there were by my count 7 adults and one child, plus a large plastic bucket which looked filled with something, a few suitcases. The very end of the truck was laden with ten or more pieces of trees branches and large sticks and we had to wait while a few more pieces of fire wood we piled on the back….. there was no place to pass…. so I waited and waited and finally, I honked my horn.


The man putting the fire wood in the truck jumped at the blast of my horn and moved quicker …. the last of the wood was in and away they left. I had no option but to follow them….. and wonder if they were going all the way to Kisomole. The truck was so loaded that it was almost touching the ground at the back end so it was not a big surprise that when they hit a large rut and the truck bounce so did all the fire wood bounce right out of the truck and on to the road in front of me…. one piece at a time…. and now the road was blocked with fire wood….. I had to use my horn once again to catch their attention.   

The truck stopped and the man who owned the fire wood ran back and collected one piece of fire wood at a time… you could see that the wood was heavy…and he was tired. It was a slow process …. and we waited and waited and watched.

Once the fire wood was back on the truck and much more secure…. the truck moved off down a narrow part of the road…. less than a mile late, on the left side of the road was a very large bull with horns at least 2-3 feet long. A young boy was tending the bull and he was attempting to move him off the road before the truck passed but ……… the horns of bull ripped the mirror off the side of the truck. The truck stopped, the driver got out and so did two of the passenger … they spoken to the young boy while waved the mirror back and forth…. It was very clear from the behaviour that the driver and passengers were upset, even angry at the young boy…. in the meantime, the bull was standing beside the truck and his horns were continuing to knock off a few more things like a suitcase and a couple of pieces of the fire wood…… finally, they had the boy drive off the bull so no more damage could be done.  

I could not help but think that this was a comedy of errors…. I just wanted to get to Kisomole. Time was getting later and later…. we had to complete the vaccination clinic and be gone by 6 pm. I am not permitted to travel after dark which is 7 pm because it is too dangerous…. people walk on the road as well as animals. It is next to impossible to see them. 

The truck driver must have sensed my frustration and amusement so the next thing I know is that he is going faster ….. and then he comes to a large mud patch or a mud hole. He speeds up and then fish flops back and forth through the mud and almost does a 360 while flinging suitcase and the fire wood off in every direction. Of course, the truck stops once again and this time everyone gets out and runs in every direction to grab their belongings…… the staff are laughing aloud at the antics…… I think we all needed a good laugh!!!!!

A few minutes later…. the truck turned off up a path…. not even a road and disappeared. 

We, finally arrived at the tree where the clinic was held to find a few women and babies waiting for us. That day we only vaccinated a total of 23 babies…… but there were three newborns, one of whose mother needed some teaching and support for her breastfeeding because the baby looks poorly nourished. The trip was worth it.