Will I see these girls again?
Today we said goodbye to Nsumba Orpahange, and it wasn’t fun. I’ve been in a bad mood for a coule days now, dreading exactly this moment.
Thinking of all the things I wanted to accomplish, all the conversations I wanted to have, all the meaningful moments I wanted to share with the kids who mean so much to me. Also, trying to think of what to write in a letter to each of the girls, and what token of a gift I could possibly come up with to express the tiniest bit of how much they mean to me. To express my love for the children of Nsumba.
Looking around the van on our sullent and silent drive back to town, I know everyone else feels the same. A few cry, some just sit and stare, but the question on most of their minds is the same – “Will I ever see them again?”
I could talk about the projects we completed today, the mosquito nets, the tree project, or even the amazing amount of clothing, shoes, and bags we were able to gift to the children, but for me, today was all about goodbye. And I hate goodbyes. I learned how to say Jakuda Omwaka Ogujia, which means “I will return next year.” There’s no way I can accept that this was goodbye. For me, the friendships are as real as any that I have in America. Considering the age of the children, they’re actually much more real. They’re so mature. The things these children have seen and deal with on a day to day basis must shape them that way. I guess it’d be hard to be immature and care for the survival of you and your siblings at the same time.
And for Rose, Jacky, Kevin, Cassie, and Stellah, it’s more than friendship. I love them as if they are my own children. Were it possible, I think the would be. I’m not a father, but I feel utterly responsible for them, and imagine that this love is only comparable to the love between a parent and child.
In the letters I gave to each of those girls, I thanked them so much for their friendship, and let them know that I care so much about them. Along with my contact information, I let them know that I will do whatever I can to support their health and education. If they study hard, I will make sure that finances are not the limitation to them achieving their career goals, whatever they may end up being. Maybe they can even come to university in America.
It seems funny when I remember that Stellah is only 10 years old, and I’m basically telling her that I’ll help her pay for college. How many 10 year olds in America even worry about that sort of thing? I think Stellah recognizes the significance, but I’m not sure. I love her mix of playfulness and maturity, but I hope she works hard in school. I wish I would be around to support her in person.
Our departure from Nsumba was almost a disaster. For me at least. A group of children were surrounding our vans as we gave our departure gift to Sr. Sylivia and thanked her for letting us come to Nsumba. Earlier I had sat with Cassie on a section of wall as she cried. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing for the women of Uganda, but they try very hard to hide crying as well as blushing from me, turning their faces away, but Cassie’s tears were falling to her lap. My reassurance that I would return, and that I would not forget her helped only slightly. I’m not much of a crier. I run out of things to say when other people cry. But hopefully, it was enough my sitting there with her.
As the departure speech concluded, I went around and got hugs from most of the children there. Hugs and goodbyes from Cassie multiple times, from Kevin, and from Rose. From Isaac, and Waswa, and Lala. Several goodbyes from Robin. But not from Stellah. I couldn’t find her. I shook hands with the younger boys, John Paul, another hug to Cassie, Patricia, a friendly goodbye and see you next year from Mugisha, Dempa, Josephine, Rachel. But still no Stellah. We were being herded into the vans, and I managed to see Jacky and give her a big hug. Out the back window of the van, I continued to grasp hands and say goodbyes. Robin again, Cassie again, Rose again. John Paul and Isaac. Then, behind several other students.. Stellah appeared. There’s something about Stellah and dramatic goodbyes. She squeezed through the others, grasped by hand once, and said goodbye, immediately turning away to hide the tears. Through watery eyes, she watched as our van pulled away and I waved with my hand out the window.
I’m such a sap. I’m sorry that this is such a personal post, but it’s the only thing that’s really on my mind. And though this was just my viewpoint, I believe most the others in the group feel the same way with similar stories about the kids they grew to know and love. It’s incredible the strength of bond we form with the children at Nsumba after only a week or so (two for me).
I’ve skipped ahead a few days of posts, but felt this post was important to get online. Tomorrow morning we head north to Gulu (ex-KONY territory) where we will get a chance to see a different side of Uganda. We’ll also be going on a safari along the Nile River up to Murchison Falls and through the game park. Internet will be unavailable though, so will have to update upon our return to Kampala.
There’s an indescribable confidence that I’ve found in Africa. Being so absolute in my certainty that what we are doing is good, and that I so utterly love the children we are helping.
I love Africa.
I love the man it’s helping me to become.
I love you all,