Greetings on a cloudy cool day of rest in Kampala! Yesterday’s boda boda expedition was loads of fun! Riding sideways on the back of a motorcycle in a skirt while squeezing in between cars, matatus, and other boda drivers making their way through congested, uncontrolled streets proved nothing short of an amusement park ride! What a blast! For approximately 1.50$, I made my way through town, sun hat blowing in the wind, backpack in tow. I had planned to visit the two local malls in the downtown area, however after a quick walk through one, I craved a bit of a “local connection”. I saw the Kibuli – pronounced chibuli – mosque atop of one of the many hills in Kampala. As locals are very friendly, I asked how I could walk there for a visit. They suggested I take another boda- as it was quite far and up a series of steep hills. Perfect, I thought to myself, just what I love! A long walk! Ask my husband- he will tell you I will walk all day every day from morning till night!
I started up the winding red path past many beautiful locals gathering groceries from small fruit and vegetable stands. The sights and smells of Kampala were all around me….. Women washing up laundry in small plastic basins bent over in front of their humble homes. Young girls ages 7-9 with babies strapped to their backs helping out while mom was tending to cooking or fetching water. I inhaled the comforting smell of matoke ( local plantains) steaming in banana leaves and water in a pot over charcoals. As houses are so small and confined families are outside all day! Kibuli village was bustling with people heading to and fro. It is so lovely to see communities outside talking to each other every day!
After a visit to Kibuli mosque, and a climb up one of the minarets for a birds eye view of Kampala, I made my way back down the hill through town. To my left was the most beautiful market where women were selling large bundles of matoke- as well as chickens and heaping piles of coal. I hesitated to enter, knowing it was not my intention to buy 25lbs of the freshly chopped tree. I followed my gut and entered into this little space to have a look and met the loveliest woman named Zaina, with her mother Naigaga. They had just purchased a bundle for less than the price of .80$ – this would feed her family of 5 for four days if consumed for lunch and supper. We exchanged pleasantries, and Zaina insisted I walk back up the hill to her home. “It’s just across from Shell Kibuli”, she said. See, in Uganda, as there are no street signs, people use landmarks like a petrol station or food stall to mark a location. Hesitant to accept her offer, I politely declined. She continued to insist, “please come to my home for just a short visit! “. I remembered my pre- departure promise to say “yes” to any reasonable invitation before me while on this journey. Zaina and I walked hand in hand around the bend past roaming goats and pecking chickens with chicklets in tow. The matoke was strapped to a bicycle seat and a man pushed the bicycle up the hill to her home to complete the purchase.
Upon arrival, she welcomed me on her front step, pulled out a chair and said “you are most welcome here!” Soon, I was joined by her sister Namaganda- Amina, her daughter Sarah, as well as Zaina’s son Mosa. Both children were nibbling on a pancake made from simple mashed matoke and maize flour- fried with the most inexpensive oil available. Our experience was deeply engaged, and I promised I would return to share a meal with her at her home one day soon. I left feeling so refreshed, and renewed, making this new connection in the Muslim quarter that is called Kibuli. What a blessing it was to have this experience! God is so amazing!
…… Today I celebrated in a mass in a neighborhood called Mbuya. The service was in English, and I praised and worshipped with such a full and grateful heart! I was the only Muzungu in the parish with the exception of a couple of nuns. I loved how the choir was integrated into the congregation- all facing same direction as the focus was not to be on them, but rather on God- as reminded by the priest. We sang jubilantly in English and at times in Luganda. We clapped after the gospel, and clapped again after one prayer- so thankful! I can’t wait to visit in other churches while I am here. It’s such a raw, truly heartfelt experience to sit inside of this place, steaming hot, and see people dressed in their finest attire. I noticed a young girl aged 4-5 walking in her mothers high heeled shoes, or maybe they were just hers- and the only shoes available at the market for her mother to buy for her. She teetered in those oversized shoes, but was presenting her very best to God that day. The need is so great everywhere, all you have to do is be present and look around. I am asked daily when walking around where I am working and if I am able to find him or her a job. Last night on the way to dinner, I was asked by a young woman if she could wash my clothes or clean my house in exchange for a little money as she has two children and her husband has just left her. There are too many more stories to share on this subject and my experience in the past 4 days since I’ve been here.
Attached is a photo of me with Zaina (left), Mosa her son on my lap, and Namaganda Amina- her sister on my right. This was taken on her front step.
Muslim quarter to Catholic Church —Kibuli to Mbuya— God has shown great love and acceptance!
Tomorrow is Bead sale #1 at the office! Will share the happenings soon!
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The funds will help scale BeadforLife’s Street Business School program here in Uganda and will be multiplied in countries worldwide!
With love and gratitude, Jennifer