The Kiwi takes flight!

It’s raining outside which puts us under a strange kind of KAASO house arrest – leaving is at your peril as the dry earth turns to lethal slippery mud and you are saturated within seconds. Trying to get into town is impossible, the boda boda (our only way out of here) drivers won’t risk the roads in the rain and the whole place just kind of comes to a stop. So I sit under my mosquito net listening to Kiwi music and waiting for the rains to clear and the scorching sun to dry the earth once more. At least it’s good for the plants…

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As always, I feel as though the last week has flown, even more so when I open my diary to see written on tomorrow’s page: “One week”. Six months is fast coming to a close. The days are frantic in an African kind of way which means that while you feel busy you’re not often getting a lot done but still end up exhausted by the end of the day. You learn to live that way. It’s going to be a shock to the system to get back to the ‘real world’ where you’re expected to actually tick off everything on your day’s list and not just be satisfied with one out of ten…

Last Sunday was a day of epic proportions. School visiting day saw what felt like hundreds of parents and relatives flooding through the school gates in their colourful gomesis to be met by children who raced to greet them then hung off their arms in delirious excitement. It was wonderful to see so many reunited with their families and to confirm that some did, in fact, have families.

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You can never be sure here. I was proudly introduced to numerous mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters and had many hilarious conversations in Luganda – needless to say, they were short conversations! This joy was undercut by the the children who stood waiting at the gate all day for parents who never came, leaving them in tears of disappointment.

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The day began with an 8am two-hour mass which Cherie and I somehow managed to dodge – it was our job to decorate Kiwi House for the official opening and we, of course, took our job very seriously. Unfortunately the moment that we chose to begin decorating was not exactly ideal. We’d tried to wait until the mass was over to avoid causing a commotion outside the window hanging our paper chains and fans that we’d made with the children but eventually mass dragged on a little too long and we decided to just begin. So I was balancing bare foot on a chair trying desperately not to fall off in the scorching heat as I tried to thread the paper chains through the rafters, Cherie was laughing at me and trying to help at the same time when the entire congregation came outside. To our horror, the priest began to bless Kiwi House, half dressed as it was with us standing covered in paper chains. Not quite how we’d pictured it. The crowd watched us with amusement as we tried desperately to get it done but we gave up and stopped as they started to take photos of Kiwi house half-draped with paper chains and boxes all over the veranda. It was hilarious.

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Luckily the official opening came later in the day and by then we were fully prepared. John Mpagi, a Rotarian from Kampala who has done much for KAASO over the years, gave a moving speech about how incredible it was that these three Kiwi girls all the way from NZ had managed to raise such a phenomenal amount by appealing to family and friends around the world. It was unanimously agreed that Kiwi House was by far the most impressive building at KAASO and that it ‘raised the standard’ of the school as a whole. Ah, Kiwi girls bringing class to a little village in Uganda, I had to smile. He cut the ribbon to rapturous applause from parents and children and then, to our surprise, the entire crowd entered the building behind us – no mean feat considering the number of triple-decker bunks inside. But everyone got to see the new dorm and we received many heartfelt congratulations and thanks from parents and guardians.

 

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So thank you, thank you, thank you – webale nyo as they say in Luganda. Without your incredible generosity and support, this dream would never have become a reality and we are so thrilled to know that we leave a small piece of us Kiwis (and honorary Kiwis!) in Kabira. I have never felt such appreciation or gratitude and I wish to extend it to all those who have helped us – both financially and with messages of support and encouragement.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, it was also the opening ‘night’ (afternoon!) of The Wizard of Mwanza. I was strangely nervous but couldn’t help but be swept away by the children’s contagious enthusiasm; many of those in the play had family in the audience and they were buzzing with excitement. I drew the curtains (two mismatching sheets hung from a piece of rope across the classroom!) and got the children into their places ‘backstage’. I took my seat in the front row – i.e. the orchestra pit where my guitar and I were to provide the accompaniment. The first drama of the play unfolded immediately after I clapped my hands to signal the curtains to open when I realised that the children sitting beside my guitar had decided to play with the tuning pegs – my guitar was completely out of tune!! I spent the first scene in a mad panic trying to frantically tune it, knowing it was only a matter of minutes before Dorothy would start singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and it would all dissolve into chaos. I managed to get it vaguely in tune and cringed for the rest of the play as I strummed dischordently, silently cursing the cheeky faces sitting next to me.

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In the end, I couldn’t help but smile as the children danced and sang and whirled their way around the stage, loving every minute and performing better than I ever could have hoped. It was a crazy dream to actually pull off a school show in a small Ugandan village, even more so when I found out that it had never been done before – never mind in English! It was one of the greatest senses of achievement I’ve experienced when the girls drew the curtain for the last time after a slightly hilarious curtain call (I don’t think anyone here had seen one before so the audience didn’t know they were actually meant to clap).

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I know that the next week is going to pass in a crazy whirlwind and soon I will be sitting on a plane wondering if all this ever really happened. Luckily I have 10,000 photos and 17 diaries to remind me that it did! I don’t want the journey to end and yet at the same time I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again – although the prospect of ever trying to explain this roller coaster of life is daunting to say the least…

Thank you so much for sharing the adventure and offering so much encouragement along the way – it means the world.

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