Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Wednesday, 7/2

Today the most incredible thing happened. But let's start at the beginning.

We began at the Fort Portal area local outdoor market where thousands of vendors sit on the ground and thousands of customers amble by inspecting the wares and haggling over cost. Many of us purchased beautiful fabric (there goes that surprise), some bought bongos for about $3, and others paid 80 cents for two great beach baskets. It's enough to make one feel guilty; in fact some of us waived any return change as it seemed petty. We then proceeded to a hotel for lunch - Mountains on the Moon, a luxurious hotel with a familiar menu. The afternoon was basically free with the exception of a couple of us who had promised to go to Joshua's Fort Portal Secondary School. But wait, we had seen Joshua at the market where he explained he had to leave town, but would we please go by his school nonetheless? "Of course we would" we replied, although only two of us were firmly committed. Fortunately, those two convinced 7 more to attend, so we pulled up in the van in front of the school right on time at 3:00.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the moment we have been waiting for has finally arrived! Please welcome our American visitors!"

The cast iron solid gate swung open and seven of us (two had gone to run an errand w/a promise to catch up afterward) faced down thousands, yes 1000s of students, admins, dignitaries, et al. We were quickly ushered forward into the courtyard as the gate swung shut and the students behind us closed ranks. We were now surrounded! :)

"Rest assured that you are now secure!" the emcee boomed through the microphone. Many of us looked at each other wondering if our security was something we ought to henceforth be concerned about.

Music blared, people cheered and applauded - it was something out of a movie, like Chevy Chase and his family on an African vacation, suddenly stumbling into his own swearing-in as mayor of the town! We could only look at each other, smile, shake our heads, and accept again this adulation that has showered down on us since our arrival. We were treated to more dancing, although this time a bit more comical and risque. We were presented with gifts (it seemed to go unnoticed that several of our party were absent), and asked to sing our national anthem (again!). As we were singing, our two errand runners from several blocks away were asking themselves what all the noise up ahead was about. Students in the look-out tower (yes, they have a look-out tower) spotted our own Debra Dunn and Cindy Mahr and called for the gate to be opened, and they processed in to their own celebratory welcome! To say they were wide-eyed is a vast understatement. There is so much more here to say but time commitments preclude more detail. It is important to note that celebrations of this scale can pop up at any time in this country, so have your speech ready, make sure you know the lyrics to "A Star Spangled Banner," don't hesitate to show your dance moves (any questions, direct comments to Pam Bator), and be ready to be moved almost to tears and to incredible inspiration from moment to moment

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