The two girls aren’t able to catch the hen, so they go up the hill out back with Annet to pick beans for our lunch.
I finish my laundry, hang the clothes on the bushes to dry and join them when they return in the task of shelling the beans.
We sit on the stone ledge of the house facing the valley. The girls sit between us, talking in the ways teenagers do, about anything and everything, nonstop.
As I pick up the bean pods one after the other, breaking them open to scoop out their contents (some beans are soft white-green, others maroon with white spots) I reflect on what I’d written earlier.
It’s easy to romanticize this place. I’m here temporarily, over the holidays. Everyone is in a happy, festive mood. All the different ways of doing things are fun and make me appreciate the little and not so little differences between life here and in Kampala and the States.
I’ll leave here soon and return to Kampala where we have running water, electricity, porcelain raised toilets instead of squatters… and yet I’ll still take cold showers and all meals will be made from scratch and cooked over charcoal.
And in about 6+ weeks I’ll return to the States, where really, I have access to anything I desire. I’m more aware than ever of my wealth and privileges.
There are hardships here that are also very much part of the daily life of these folks. Poverty, hard labor, early marriage instead of continued education, gender inequality.
There’s always digging, planting and harvesting to do to feed and sustain their families. On a drive the other day we passed a quarry where women, men and even children were using small hand tools to break up the stones into different sizes to earn money. I see women carrying babes on their backs and hoes in their hands as they head to the gardens to dig. Water has to be carried from the village tap every day, often for miles each way.
Children might not go to school at all or stop after P7 (middle school). If they are able to raise money for secondary school and college, they still might wind up back in the village, unable to find a job in the city.
A man might amass a great deal of land and wealth for his family, yet when he dies, his brothers can demand that the widowed wife hand over the keys to the house and claim the land and wealth for themselves.
Now as I write this, I hear the voices of the women outside who, at least when I left them, were preparing small mushrooms, just picked today, for dinner, by tearing off the bottoms covered with dirt. The teenage girls are in the other room taking tea. The sound of a baby’s crying is getting louder as she’s brought up the hill to one of the mamas outside. The baby goats start echoing her cries too, calling out for their mama who has been taken out to graze.
Life moves forward. More children are gathering outside. Soon, if I don’t go out to say hello, they’ll come in and find me and my writing will be paused for the moment.
So I’m aware of romanticizing life here in the village. That lives hand in hand with my desire to hear the many different stories of what life is really like for people.
Being here with my Ugandan family has given me a unique experience of village life. It’s been a privilege to step into their lives and homes in a more intimate way. And it’s been a beautiful luxury of timelessness that has filled me up, not unlike the beans and rice we had for lunch.