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Friday, March 21, 2008

A good Friday

Lucy asked for a sign for her stall on Friday. I love her smile. Good Friday in Gulu. I felt a slowness enter my bones when I woke up. Breakfast was slow. I walked slowly. We got to Lucy’s stall and I sat down and watched her work. She was starting to cut fabric for the reversible bag my mom bought as a sample at Wal-Mart. She was teaching Kevin how to cut oven mitts, watching with a discerning eye over her shoulder, remarking quietly in Luo while she held the pattern (pineapple explosion) and cut oven mitts into the large swath of blue guinea fowl. I wanted to sit there all day on the reed mat and just exist as a fly on the wall – to try and understand/feel what a day is like there. Eventually the three of us (Lucy, Kate and I) left the stall behind and went to Pamela’s office to talk about the grant. Lucy walked us through Oweno’s food market, passing by row after row of smoked fish from Lake Albert – stinking and dry and covered in flies. Lucy patted backs and exchanged greetings throughout the market until we emerged on the other side, adjacent to Pamela’s office.

At our last meeting, I’d asked Pamela to explain our project and the grant to Lucy in Luo so that nothing would be lost in translation. I was worried that she wouldn’t want to go out to the camps. We sat there in Pamela’s office, listening to the Luo conversation between two women, unable to glean anything from their tone or dialogue, until Lucy smiled her big smile and Pamela explained that Lucy was really excited about the project. She asked for a sign for her stall to show that she, too, is One Mango Tree.

After the meeting and a round of fabric shopping, I sat again on the reed mat, propping myself up against the rough wooden post holding up the porch roof. Lucy sat next to me as she finished cutting the pieces for ten reversible bags in cherry blossom print. Holding and cutting and eyeing and cutting and pausing and cutting. Every now and then an Acholi would stop by and greet her, occasionally pulling up the small wooden bench I’d been resting my elbow on and having a conversation while Lucy continued to cut.

A church mother came by and taunted the girls about their singing in choir, urging them to be prompt at practice that evening. From inside the stall I heard one of them singing.

Prisca moved her sewing machine onto the porch and hunched over it, sewing aprons and apron strings.

I sat partially in the setting sun, as it filtered in between the small break in the rooftops, shining gold on the red dirt and reed mat. Threads and scraps of fsabric covered everything. Whirring sewing machines, Lucy’s quick and quiet Luo. The sound of Kevin’s scissors on the kitchen fabrics. Francis sewing on Lucy’s machine, assembling the remaining lunch bags. Cutting sponge for the oven mitts. A couple of hours passed without my even realizing it, and I gathered the completed items and said goodnight and a Happy Easter, with the huge blue plastic London bag thrown over my shoulder.

2 comments:

Bia said...

I stumbled upon your blog while Googling "Gulu, Uganda". I will be spending about 6.5 weeks there this summer from May 1 to the middle of June, and am beside myself with excitement as it will be the first time I am traveling to Africa. While there, I will be working with an HIV NGO: NAFOPHANU. Your blog entries make me feel so blessed to have this opportunity. I was wondering, if you could blog about some specific things to do or locations to go within Gulu so as to keep myself busy this summer?

Bianca Nguyen
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

hmb said...

Things to do in Gulu - coming soon. Congrats on your upcoming opportunity. I can promise it will be a life-changing summer.
Halle