Repeatedly during my time here in Uganda I have pondered upon time, as a transient and inconsistent concept that spans out across moments like lifetimes, and makes others fly past so fast that I have to pinch myself to know whether or not it was real or imagined. With my recent injury and some other hecticness of life and its practicalities, time and I have been embroiled in deep conversation once more.It became clear that I needed to play with it somewhat, in order to celebrate the arrival of christmas in one of the ways I had been wanting; to be with some of my beautiful new (yet old – our souls have known each other for eons) friends, I had to recalibrate the calendar and bring yueltide forwards. Change was yet again on the horizon, as has become the most constant of happenings in my living breath and I was no longer set to be returning to Uganda after December. My heart was aching, yet it was not the time for sadness.
Months before, I had visited the Milechild foundation and embarked on a journey of connection and commitment to the cause and the children there. It was dear to my heart that I also honoured my promise to them, that I would return before the year ended. Whilst we had been together on a tour of Lake Mburu, we had stopped off at the specatular Rwakobo rock and I had promised myself that I would someday return here for a stay, when the time was right and the occasion worthy enough of the cost. (It is not for the backpacking budget let us say, though it is really quite reasonable depending on your point of comparison).
Thus, in order to make these two intentions meet, I set about plans to ensure that myself and my dear friends would be able to comfortably arrive at the school, visit with the family of my sponsored child, go on a safari, and then lose sense of time by the poolside of Rwakobo rock, to celebrate christmas together, according to our own calendar.
My damaged leg did not enjoy the drive much at all, swelling up and pulsing with some anger at being restricted in movement. However, the joy that the weekend brought to my heart far surpassed this and forgiveness was granted as I allowed my whole body complete stillness during most of the Sunday.
On Saturday we were blessed with time with Jude and his family, wherein we were taught how to weave the beautiful baskets that are in abundance around Uganda. It was quite a humbling experience for me, as I really did not know how much time and effort goes into them, given that they proliferate the stalls everywhere that you go. I soaked up the teachings and dived straight in to the creative process. Meanwhile we were brought various foods and darling Jude presented “his mzungu” with a dance…though to be fair he got a little struck by stagefright and it was more of a one-step movement for quite some time, God bless him!
It wasn’t an easy walk through the village whilst on crutches and walking amongst some slippery mud, but I was once again thrilled by the abundance of the land and the amazement of how paradise really does mean such a vastly different thing to so many; herein was an incredibly poor village if I compared it to many of the wealthy suburbs of Kampala or even more starkly, to places I know back in the UK, yet it is also a tropical paradise, filled to the brim with luscious fertile soils and plants/trees in abundance. Perspective is such a powerful thing – I know many people back in the West who dream of being able to leave the rat-race and live amidst land like this. Yet here I was, sat in the one-roomed hut of a large family, with a raffeta roof full of holes that were no match whatsoever for the heavy rains of the wet season, with a family who were thanking me over and over for my kindness of supporting Jude to access education. Whilst in fact it was me who felt the blessing. That they would welcome me into their home and pass on their skills to me, surround me with love and share in food together. The gift of their hearts took my breath away. I wear the Om symbol tattooed on my wrist because I truly believe there is no separation between one heart and another, and I was almost embarassed that through my “status” I was being seen as the one who needed thanking…
My friends and I then journeyed across to Lake Mburu and settled into our beautiful Hornbill cottage. At which point we all marvelled at the serendipity of one being situated in the treetops across from our veranda, almost as if he had been especially planted there for our requirements!
It was my wish that I spend some special times with my two friends, as my christmas gift to us all, so I arranged for this beautiful accomodation and also for a sunset safari; my friends had never been on one before and it had been my hope that by going out in the dark, we would also be treated to a sighting of a leopard. This is my spirit/totem animal, that has guided me along some difficult times in my life and it is my heart’s desire to see one in my real/waking life also. Alas, there were some practical issues that interrupted these plans though we were eventually able to drive through the park through the approaching dusk.We lapped up the sights of pumbas, African owls, multitudes of zebra, different bucks, many birds, and some rather grumpy hippos…but no sign of my desired cat. It was glorious to soak it all up however and feel the wildness of it all, when in reality it was on our doorstep, in the scale of things. And as christmas presents go, watching my friends enjoy themselves and laugh freely was a divine gift to my heart. I have many many souls in my heart and the more I meet and welcome in, the more my heart sings and simultaneously weeps; they are all within me, but can never always be physically beside me.
(Spot us in the sunglasses!)
Later we enjoyed time beside the fire and I was enthralled by the discovery that we were sitting beneath a halo around the moon – I have never witnessed this before and for me, it was a magical sign. The sky surrounding the moon was deepest black, the moon shone brightly, and there was a thick white halo of cloud some way apart from it. It felt like a blessing and that we were surrounded by magic. And in all honesty, we were. I have not once failed to be mesmerised by all that I have experienced in Uganda and though it has greatly pained me to be away from other loved ones (a discomfort that somehow never goes away yet must be embraced if I am to continue to honour my wandering spirit’s needs too), I am beyond words for other such magical beings as Ivan and Zoe to step into my story. They have each told me how happy they feel by being in my presence and this feels like a wonderful gift that I have to offer.
Sunday was planned as a graceful day of rest for my injured leg, though I felt frustation at not being able to go and explore the park and frolic in the pool with ease and playfulness. I dedicated myself instead to working steadfastly on the basket weaving, whilst my friends fooled around and I quashed my jealousy at not being able to be as footloose and fancy-free!
We later returned to the school, to pass on christmas gifts from one of the other sponsors and it was once again a deeply humbling experience for me. The simplicity of gratitude and excitement that the children exhibiited was powerful. It was also moving for me that a young teenage girl whom I had met many months before, had been told of my arrival and had manged to travel from afar to come and see me for a simple hug together. She had cried when we parted last time around, as she had fallen in love with me and wanted me for an aunt. She feels to me like an incredibly fragile soul and I passed on all the strength that I could, within that embrace.Sharing hugs with each of the children was also moving, as there was such a divide of experience and life that was crossed through this connection.
Our journey home took us past the Equator once more and though I once again failed to check out the experiment of water going straight down the drain, I was moved by a sense that I have felt each time I have been there; of something bigger than words and simpler than thoughts, the wonder of mother earth and her spirit.
When I come back to source, I acknowledge that all I have ever wanted is to love, to embrace it in all ways, to express it in abundance and to feel it rain over me like the most powerful of waterfalls. Pain can mask this for me at times, especially through separation in various forms. Wandering is not for all, and embodiment of love does not always require that we leave behind what we know as a sacrifice for inviting in what is not yet seen. However, my eyes shine in a way that they have never done before, through the embracement of Uganda and all that is has brought to me, and I to it. I do not chose a life of solo wanders or wondering, but I do choose a life that allows my expansion, the opportunity for me to share the gift of my heart, and the embracing of magic. Uganda, thank you for this. It pains me to leave you soon, but if I have learnt anything at all in my older years, it is that love does not fade because of interruption of physical connection. You, and all that is part of you, go with me. So, I do not leave at all.