Today is Corpus Cristi. I would never have known, had I not been in Uganda. Church started at 7:00 AM (midnight in NYC). It is 11:30 now and they are still singing songs of praise. When I entered the church with Deborah’s children at 10, a woman in a beautiful dress quickly insisted that I have her seat. I saw Sister Angel, the kooky Kenyan nun, enter the church holding something gold up in the air with her head bowed. She wears pale stockings that make her dark legs a pinkish color. She wears a long blue nun outfit with a matching head piece (I don’t know the technical terms when it comes to the wardrobe of a nun.) A small pair of spectacles sits delicately on her nose and it seems odd when she isn’t smiling. Sister Angel is a holy bunch of fun. She loves being photographed. When I bring my camera out, she leans on walls and props her hand on her waste, insisting that I take a dozen pictures. Then she lays on the floor with her head resting on her hand and smiles saying, “take anothah pictah.” After she delivered the gold object to the front of the church, which I later found out was meant to symbolize Jesus, she came and squeezed in next to me on the already crowded bench. She gave me another one of those handshakes which led to her dragging me outside to gossip about all the things that went down in the past few days. She wanted to know what I had been up to, why I hadn’t visited her in the last few days, and whether or not I wanted to help with preparations for the ceremony. Before I could answer, she dragged me into the church house where we filled a bucket with flour. She said the flour was meant to feed the poor children in the village, but assured me that Jesus would be happy with our use of the flour for decorations and would reward her later. I don’t understand Sister Angel’s logic behind blessings from God. She says that God blessed her with a tiled bathroom floor and a flushing toilet (a rarity around here), but then she asks me for money that I don’t have so she could buy a stove to cook for herself and for the children. There is a framed photograph of a white, German man that donated a lot of money to the church framed on the kitchen wall. Are rich foreigners blessing her with a luxurious house, or is God?
We went outside and used the flour to write the word “Jesus” all over the roads. Sister Angel kept misspelling the name, writing “Jusus” over and over again in huge, floury letters. Other people trailed behind her, using a branch to discretely brush the unnecessary “U” away and replace it with its rightful “E”. I obnoxiously pointed out her mistake each time and enjoyed rolling the word, “Jew-sus” around in my mouth. Sister Angel and I decided that God was speaking to her, telling her the true spelling of his son’s name.
Once the poor children’s food was dropped onto the roads in the name of God, the entire community in Sanjai followed the gold Jesus around the property, singing songs and saying prayers. I snuck away to pack for my trip to Kampala. On the way back to Sabina, a girl stopped me on the path. Her name is Claire and she is at the secondary school (High School) just down the road. She said that she had wanted to talk to me for a while now, but was too shy to say hello. Claire walked me down the path, into Sabina, and up to my banda. Along the way she stared at me, examining my every move. She asked me questions about myself and I responded, then asking questions about her. It felt like a first date. I told her that Adam was coming and she said with great excitement, “Oh! Is he…like you?” I asked her to clarify, “you mean, white?” She nodded her head. “Yes, he’s white.” She gleamed at the idea of making two white friends in the same week.
A few days later, Claire came to visit me. Adam had arrived by then and Auntie Deborah and I were busy sorting through the donations he had brought over in his second checked luggage piece. There were a LOT of clothes (thank you Susanne Windland.) Claire helped us sort through the clothes; I could tell she was waiting for something. When I ran back to my room to put on some chapstick (still highly addicted to that stuff) Claire followed me in and said she had to talk to me. She asked if I had gotten her letter. I had not. She said that she is going home to Masaka tomorrow to visit her mother and that she would really love for me to go with her. I apologized, telling her that I had music lessons to teach at Sabina all day every day, but that I send her mother my love. This destroyed Claire, at least she acted as if it did. She said that she had already told her mother that I was coming and that her mother was so looking forward to it. She continued to express her disappointment as I put on my chapstick and waited anxiously for the moment to end. I gave Claire a picture of me, upon her request, before she left to get back to school. Encounters like this happen at least once each time I come to Uganda. People are so friendly and present with each other here, but I think this exchange with Claire was a little more than her just wanting to get to know me as a person. She wanted to get to know me as a white person. I do not judge her for this, because I understand how rare it is for many people out in Rakai, Uganda, to get to know someone of my complexion. Sabina is so welcoming, so warm, and so homey. So it still comes as a shock when someone outside of the Sabina community sees me as an object, full of mystery and possibility. Being a white American from a privileged home in a colorfully diverse city such as NYC, I am grateful to have some minor experience with what it is to be the minority.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s