Well faithful blog readers, this is where our expedition diverges. Barbara, Wayne, Johanna, Pam, Steve, and Cort remained behind and bid a surprisingly sad good-bye to our colleagues who are doing the gorilla trek. Our paths shall not cross again until Thursday, the day before departure! I can only speak for myself in saying that getting to know my own WPS colleagues (and spouses) better than ever has been a wonderful by-product of this trip; I know that in September, as I encounter a fellow traveler in the hallway of a school or at a district-wide meeting, I'll exchange a hug, a bit of Rutooro language, recall an anecdote, in short, experience a brief return to Uganda. It is comforting to know that revisiting Uganda is not so hard after all. What a great group of people!
We're not sure when we'll be able to update the blog…in fact, this may be the final entry. But please, keep checking as we love to know that as we track chimps and gorillas, you are tracking us. Your comments have been much appreciated; we regret that, due to the sheer volume of incredible experiences, we perhaps have not sufficiently responded to your questions. Great experiences await in the magnificent national parks of Uganda! Rest assured that if we are silent over the next week, it is in no way any indication of boredom or idleness.
Enduring Memories from the Kabarole Experience:
Cindy Mahr - children, crazy jumping up and down and shouting "How are yooou???!!!" as we would ride by.
Stephen Shaw - The opening ceremony at Kasiisi, especially the parade where we were engulfed by the kids.
Wayne Lobb - speeches almost as an art form, speakers not worried by meditative pauses.
Barbara Stevens - overwhelmed by the generosity and warmth of the entire community. Dominic's mother walked 7 miles to meet us bearing a gift basket filled with eggs! (editor's note: Barbara's son Steven sponsors Dominic's education)
Chris Thurston - The bear went over the mountain" in Rutooro! Also, the time she came through the high tea shrubs and surprised a group of children who gasped and scattered, undoubtedly thinking she was some white tea goddess.
Debra Dunn - resiliency of the children, and loving heartfelt gratitude expressed by children parents and teachers, which bring tears to our eyes
Linda Silberberg - running into two people on Steve's and my walk from Kanyawara to Kasiisi that recognized us and greeted us.
Kate Brewer - the lush green landscape, varied shades of rolling hills, and different textures
Johanna Sweet - the universal intimacy acceptance and warmth by students
Cort Mathers - without a shred of doubt, the 7/2 surprise welcome at Fort Portal Secondary School
Pam Bator - being enveloped by a sea of blue Kasiisi uniformed children as we begin to "interact." Also, the intimacy - hands touching hands.
Happy Fourth of July!!! All day we have been contemplating what our families and friends have been doing in preparation for their cookouts as we teach classes and tour schools. The seven hour difference requires a bit of arithmetic (e.g. "four o'clock minus seven hours equals nine a.m…. I bet they're packing the cooler.").
The teachers that attended the Kasiisi School's normal Friday school meeting reported a moving scene of lump-in-the-throat tributes to us, their welcome guests. Lydia, the headmistress of Kasiisi whom we all know from her visit last year, had to cut short delivery of her farewell address. Her wisdom prevailed in the face of emotion, as it would not have been prudent to display such sadness before the kids. Students sang and danced while they wiped their eyes. American teachers turned away to compose themselves. We will try to post a video of the good-bye dance/song. We were dispersed as usual among the various schools, so we each had similar stories of good-byes. :(
Fortunately though, evening came and we were feted one final time by the regional brass, this time here at the Field Station. Joshua Kagaba, our friend and visitor from last year, contributed a bull for the feast - no joke, although he did so in absentia, as he was away at a track meet for his athletes. Barbara, Steve, Cindy, and Debra delivered fine farewell speeches, with Pam and Cort closing the formal segment of the evening by offering a surprise rendition of the Tooro anthem. The locals were touched. For the less formal segement, as we danced to pop music under cover, fireworks of thunder and lightning resonated throughout the evening. The sounds of music, laughter, and dancing continued well into the late evening.
Today was gift giving day at the primary schools. Our teachers report cupped hands receiving our tokens of pencils, calculators, hand-made dolls so as not to drop anything. We have seen that even a gift as simple as a simple pencil is treasured. Each pupil made clear eye-contact with a slight bow while receiving; non-verbal language that conveyed true appreciation. Doll recipients quickly wrapped their gifts in their sweaters, like swaddling clothes, to protect them from the elements. As for us, we have reached the conclusion that to give is far more rewarding than to receive. We have gone to great lengths to convince our hosts that we consider this relationship a reciprocal one, that our children will derive enormous benefit as well as we continue to develop the concept of enhancing our two curricula through collaboration and communication. We have stressed this from the beginning, usually in response to a very public and earnest thanks delivered in a regretful tone, as they feel they have nothing to offer in return. But they do, and we have reminded this whenever possible. They have taught us adults that we have much to be grateful for, and that we should not be bitter or covet that which we do not have. The Kasiisi Project Schools (and we have discussed a new name for the project as it encompasses more than just Kasiisi) are sorely lacking in supplies, but they are rich in spirit.