August 6, 2010

We angled the car into a space under the dappled shade of a tree. The dust settling along the dirt road we’d traveled. A cluster of women rose to their feet and began ululating and dancing – voices and hips raising and lowering in circuits of joy.

We had arrived.

The village was well off the main road and the path we drove wove us past modest mud brick homes surrounded by cassava and coffee plants, and roving goats and chickens. And of course children singing “mzungo” in our wake.

Today we commissioned a shallow well.

It is the culmination of the Uganda Village Project, Iganga district, and the community. Work done, water successfully flowing, the commissioning is all about celebration. And so we were met by the women singing and dancing. The hypnotic undulation of hips, cloth tied around them to accent the movements, up down around. Isolated movements that never touch the stationary torso, the joy magically skipping from hips to face where they smiled open mouthed with teeth prominently displayed.

The singing and drumming, sans dancing, followed us down the narrow path traversing more coffee and more cassava until it delivered us, downhill, to the new pump. Ceremonial pumping for our benefit, cupped hands beneath the clear stream of water brought water to a waiting mouth. Success, the whole entourage in reverse returned to the 85-family village.

The indecisive sun alternated between bright brutal heat and soothing shade, the breeze blowing the tarp we sat under into cresting waves of blue.

These occasions call for lots of ceremonies. Guests come. Musicians play. Dancers dance. Politicians talk. And so speech after speech extolled the virtues of the partnerships that made the well possible and the well itself- in Lusoga. Eventually, it was my turn. And so with nothing to say I opened with a laugh.

“Oly otiya.” Good day.

Racous laughter, because mzungos, even brown ones, speaking Lusoga is funny.

We finished with a meal of matoke (boiled mashed bananas), rice, goat, and chicken. A meal redundant to the contents of our car, which held a chicken and goat as tokens of appreciation.

People waved as the car wound back the way we’d come. Women ululating and dancing, our goat shrieking protest, and children screaming mzungo (just in case we missed  it the first time). The tires kicked up red dust and we headed for home.

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