Bends

Today I gave 20,000 Ugandan Schillings to the granddaughter of Idi Amin, for a project she’s working on with her leadership class.

Today I listened to a young woman — Angel — talk about being an empowered voice as a youth living with HIV, as a “young positive,” was inspired by her story, her openness about how she was infected, her insights about stigma. Started wondering if this was the young woman Jess had told me to meet in Kampala, surreptitiously texted her. And then Angel’s story turned into a denouncement of her young lesbian friend, the demons inside her, her fake homosexuality so she could be like celebrities. Went on blithely talking about stigma.

Today I went to pull open the door of the van we just bought for the project, and the handle came off in my hand. Lost my shoe in the process.

handle
(1.18 #18)

We turned on the AC in the van and clouds of road dust billowed into the car.

“The bends in the river are many,” I said to Rachel yesterday (Ugandan in syntax even after one day), “but you have to know the river you’re on.”

Africa begins with Kampala, polluted and jostling and noisy, drums from the nightclub outside the hotel at 3 am. We’re here for longer than usual, and i’s a reacquaintance with my river, this project’s river, our river, a reminder of its bends.

“We thought we would change the world” – “Did we not?”

Brief, affectionate exchange between the married couple who founded the Kibo Foundation, who we’ve partnered with in the last year. Their mission is to help young Ugandans develop the life, leadership, visionary strengths that set them up to work, to give back to their communities. Our older kids did the program this year, completely bloomed.

Lisa made and nurtured this connection last year, a chance conversation in the dressing room at hockey leading to so many unforeseen possibilities. Complex systems. The Director and I spark, repeating each other’s ideas back and forth, basking at each other. A program to expand the global awareness of our younger kids, maybe an expansion of the Kibo alumni program to identify change agents a few years into their work and help nurture them. Advice to each other.

We brought them blackberries scavenged from contacts in the last three days before we left, treasures.

blackberries

I think about how the people show up when we need them. Moments show up when I need them, when I’m wearying of the operational and frictional sides of the project, remind me of the impact, the people, the kids, the complex, dusty, polluted, vibrant, powerful space we’ve touched down in.

I’d lost track of my river a bit over the past few months, couldn’t remember the river I was standing in. Am reminded, with Kibo, of the way that optimism and focusing on the possibilities for what we achieve flare into energy. Listening to Abraham make meaning of facts that seem dire, interpret them in a way that lets people move forward — reminds me that we can do something meaningful here. Reminds me of my deep gratitude for all of our supporters, for Lisa and Blair, my partners here, for Danny’s stalwart support, for Rachel and Steph and their willingness to wade into the river. For being open to making meaning together.

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