Saturday, December 31, 2005

African Christmas

by Holly

On Christmas Eve we were on an overnight bus from MCCs annual regional meeting in Nairobe. It was a wild night beginning with the bus leaving about 5 hours late and the ticket office taking pity on us and giving us yummy samosas. On the bus we went from huddling together to stay warm, to sweating, sticking to our seats. We were stopped at police checkpoints so many times. I had an upset stomach so for most of the night I concentrated to make it from one pit stop to the next which was usually several hours. At one of the police checkpoints in the middle of the night a semi inebriated officer pulled a fellow MCC worker off the bus. Ben elbowed me and whispered “put your seat belt on now—they kicked Esther off the bus.” I was quite groggy so none of this made any sense. Apparently, all those without seatbelts were outside with the bus driver and the drunk Kenyan cop arguing about who should pay fines. After half an hour they agreed and the 20 some passengers got back on the bus and we lurched our way on down the road. At one of the pit stops I was taking too long and Ben came to check on me. We were almost left behind but fortunately, Ben went back out just in time to chase the bus down as it pulled out down the street. We got into Kampala and met up with CPA colleagues who were running last minute Christmas errands. In the end we got home to Lira 8 hours after we intended to, hadn’t slept or eaten in what seemed like forever and we felt horrible with a migraine and stomach aches. The house was a mess and there were bugs everywhere. I went to take a shower and a spider crawled up my naked inner thigh. It startled me and I screamed and smacked it really hard. I still have a hand shaped bruise on my leg. Then just as we discovered we were almost out of Toilet paper and candles I dropped the last bit of toilet paper in the toilet and the electricity went out. There was nothing to do but pray so Ben did and asked for electricity. 10 minutes later it came back on.

Christmas was as perfectly memorable as Christmas Eve was unfortunate. Our morning was so “normal” with Christmas carols, little presents and a yummy breakfast complete with our first real coffee (we brought a coffee maker home from Kampala) since we’ve come that we almost forgot we were in Africa. Then we looked out our window. We spent our afternoon baking star shaped Christmas cookies and then taking them to delighted neighbors and friends. We were ambitious, thinking we could visit 7 homes in one afternoon. At the first neighbors house we spent over 2 hours. They gave us soda, and then after we tried to refuse a second round they told us we had bad manners so we agreed to stay. We had to rush the rest of our visits. Each of them fully intended for us to spend the rest of the day with them. When we had delivered most of them the sun was sinking low and had turned everything red. In front of most homes there were children playing, women cooking and huddles of up to 30 men blasting African dance music and sipping from the same bucket of local brew from 6 foot long straws. One of the huddles next to the huts behind our house invited us to join them and cleared two chairs. I was the only woman and they all waited to see how I’d react as they handed me the massive straw in the bucket of what looks like mud. Of course I told them in Lango it was very good (even though it was warm and chunky—definitely the first beer I’ve had to chew). Our last stop was to our favorite boys who play soccer in the yard. I got the smiles I hoped for. In the evening we cooked and ate together and got calls from our family. It was a good Christmas.

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