One of those “good” days

One of the things that I’ve learned since being here is that some of the most meaningful moments can come out of experiences that I could have easily passed on.  Today was one of those days.  I woke up this morning planning to have a productive day working on my deliverable document and washing my clothes.  At about 9am, Shwenkuru (Grandfather) Kaguri showed up at the guesthouse and asked if I wanted to join him at church.  Now, I have to admit that my mind immediately went to the work that needed to get done and the dusty clothes that needed to be washed.  And, after spending about five hours in church yesterday with teachers and students, I wasn’t exactly pining to go to another service.  However, as I said already, I’ve learned that these are the kind of invitations not to pass up. 

So, about an hour later, Emmanuel, one of my P-6 students, showed up at the guesthouse.  He was coming along as my translator.  And so, Emmanuel, Shwenkuru, and I (a fairly unlikely trio if there was one), set off across the hills and through the banana plantations until we finally arrived at the bamboo-made, tarp-covered structure that was acting as the church today. 

The service itself was fairly similar to the others I’ve attended this summer.  I don’t understand anything that is being said, but I enjoy listening and clapping to the sounds of the songs being sung.  I’m fairly used to children gathering around me now; when I’m not looking, I’ll often feel a soft brush against my leg or my arm, and I know that it’s just a curious child wanting to touch the muzungu visitor. 

After several hours of the service, the church leaders began to “auction” off the various commodities that their patrons had brought as a way to fundraise for the church.  At this point, Shwenkuru suggested (through Emmanuel) that I go home for lunch, seeing as though this process can take hours.  After already having experienced these auctions, I took him up on the offer.  So, Emmanuel and I set off for the school, while Shwenkuru stayed and basked in the limelight of being in the front row with his friends.

On the way back, Emmanuel and I talked.  At his young age, he’s already lost both of his parents and the grandmother who took him in following his parents’ deaths.  Today, he lives with another grandmother (not his own) and children who are not his own brothers and sisters.  Though he’d love to turn his love for football (soccer) into a profession, he knows that if he was to ever make it to the Premiere League, he’d probably have to be in one of their reserve camps by now.  So, now he’s determined to focus on his studies and become a doctor.  And, I have no doubt that he’ll do it because despite all the obstacles that have faced him, Emmanuel stands near the very top of his class and he’s masterful with his English.

As we neared the school, I could feel my stomach growl.  I knew that I had a meal waiting for me at the guesthouse, but at the late-lunch hour, I wasn’t sure if the same was true for Emmanuel.  So, before parting ways, I suggested that we walk up the hill to one of the handful of stores in the village so that I could treat him to a snack for helping me today.  When we got there, Emmanuel got a grape Miranda soda and I got a Mountain Dew, and together, we sat on a bench outside the store, shared a bunch of bananas, and talked some more.

After our snack, we walked back down the hill.  I gave him the extra bunch of bananas that the woman at the store had given to me for free.  Before he took off on the path towards his home, Emmanuel turned to me and said, “Surely, you’re doing a good thing, Madame.”  I don’t know if he was referring to me buying the snack or sharing the free bananas with him.  I don’t know if he was talking about my teaching or just being here in general.  Whatever the reason, his words stopped me in mid-stride and made me smile.  More than anything else I’ve heard or seen or experienced, his words assured me that I came to the right place this summer. 

Again, I was reminded of how lucky I am to be here, of how much I’ve learned from this experience.  And, even if the one “good thing” I did today was treat a helpful, young boy to a soda and a few bananas, then I’m glad that I was here to do it.  So, even though there is still work to be done on my deliverable, and even though my dusty clothes still wait for me in the plastic bin, I’m so glad that I took Shwenkuru up on his invitation to go to church.  Today was just one of those good days.

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Comments
2 Responses to “One of those “good” days”
  1. Mom says:

    You Did Good !

    Love Mom

  2. Heather Simon says:

    Ali,

    This was a touching story. Thank you for sharing it. I am in complete agreement, “You’re doing a good thing…”

    May your last couple of days be as remarkable as your first couple of months. I cannot imagine how difficult it will be for you to leave.

    With appreciation for you and your blog,
    Heather Simon

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