It’s so hard to write this and I have been putting it off because I want to pretend like it never happened. But these last several days did happen, they were challenging, full of tears and laughs, and will always be remembered.
So let’s start with Monday. On Monday evening we had a discussion with the uncles about the children being disrespectful towards Julia and I. Two new volunteers arrived on Sunday morning and the children were blaming us for taking them to town on Monday to exchange money. They repeatedly told me that I was telling the new volunteers to not give them anything and keep things in the room, etc. Anyways, during the meeting we decided that it would be best to have a family meeting that night and discuss it. I was afraid that the children would not open up, but OH was I wrong. We heard everything from “they don’t wash their hands before they give us toothpaste.” To “They are the reason our language is bad cause they showed us the movie Hitch which (apparently) has bad language and kissing scenes.” To “they are the worst volunteers that we have ever had.” So the meeting did not really make me feel better…but at least I got some answers.
Wednesday was the next meeting. It was to be a new volunteer orientation. So the 4 of us volunteers were there and the 3 uncles. This meeting ended in the head uncle getting extremely heated, agitated, and his voice was raised. The main concern that was brought up was Julia and I wanting to take the children out of the house for a simple, chap dinner with 1 or a few children at a time. This was to be a special day for the child that would be fun, provide a way to give that child our full attention, to show them the culture around them, and for us to get to know them on a different level. Well long story short we are not allowed to do that because “What if we would have had those children out at the restaurant where the bombings were last year?! We are accountable for each of the children.” The meeting ended by my leaving the office in tears when the head uncle said’ “Jolene and Julia why don’t you take your money and spend it at another orphanage!” Minutes later the other three came to the room where we were crying wondering what just happened. The head uncle knocked on our door and asked me to come out in the hall where he proceeded to hand me the rent money that Julia and I paid that morning. WHAT!!? At this point numerous phone calls were made to friends in Uganda and to our parents. We decided that we should pack our bags and move out of the home temporarily.
Thursday afternoon our friends arrived with their car and took us to their house where we would be staying. That morning the secondary students arrived home from boarding school excited to see us and exclaiming how much fun we were going to have over holiday. Of course we had to share that we were leaving for a few days to sort things out. That morning I also received a phone call from a friend’s sister who was in shock saying that my friend (her brother, Ronald) had passed away that morning and that I had to come to their home in Kisenyi immediately. So after many questions about death in Uganda and how the grieving process worked I decided that I did in fact have to go to the family’s home that day. So Julia and I dropped our bags in our new room, grabbed a cheap lunch at a local joint and then headed out. I walked in to an outside room of mourners. The boys father greeted me whispering with tears coming to his eyes,”Your friend is no longer among us. He has died.” We sat down in chairs was told that food that Ronald ate was poisoned and he was very sick for 3 days. The doctors did all that they could. And then came the words, ‘Do you want to go see the body?” We followed him up the stairs to the home. People were crying all around. Halfway up my eyes locked with a sisters and she ran to me “Jolene!, He’s dead! Ronald’s dead! I call out to him, but he doesn’t hear me!” Into the house I walked not knowing what lied ahead with the arms of two women wrapped around me, heads on my shoulders, wailing. The room was full of women crying and the casket in the middle of the room. We probably stood there for 3 minutes, but it felt like forever! We went back outside to sit and reflect.
Friday we visited a friend’s school where he teaches at. They had a special day where the children presented to family what they learned that year. Came back home around 5 and hung out at the house for the evening. Around 11 Julia fell asleep on the couch. James told me to wake her and tell her to go to bed. I did but she refused at first. So James brought the candle (did I mention there is never electricity here) back to the room and set on some speakers beside the bed. The 3 of us joked for a few minutes and then James and I left the room to allow Julia to sleep. About 2 hours later one of the guys said “there looks like fire” and he walked to the door and looked out. He saw a reflection in the car parked right outside our bedroom window. Seconds later 2 guys were running down the hall to my bedroom. Julia was awaken and she came out through billowing smoke and laid on the couch again to fall right back to sleep after telling me that it was a legit fire. We slept on a mattress in the living room that night.
The next morning the guys immediately began scrubbing down our entire room. Luckily we had not unpacked much of our stuff so it was safe inside our suitcases. It was later confirmed that my laundry bag had caught fire and I lost several shirts and pants. Some were saved with minor damage that may get cleaned enough (fingers crossed).
The challenge of whether to go back or not continues. I shall keep you updated with what happens in the coming days… Otherwise continue to pray for us and Ronald's family. I am honestly safe and doing well. I know that I am facing these challenges for a reason and I am excited to see what happens this coming week.