In Uganda, children will chase after you down long, red dirt roads and shout “Mzungu, mzungu!” until you are out of sight. Mzungu means white person but more accurately translated it means aimless wanderer. They were all fascinated by my white skin, my spectacles, my watch (I’m describing myself like an old person)…there’s not many blonde hair, blue eyed women in that part of the woods.
After the conference where I danced in the middle of three hundred women in swirling burqas and traditional, colorful floor length busuutis, I went to a nearby school for the remaining three weeks. When I received the invitation to speak at the conference, one of my ultimatums with God was that He find me a place I could stay for an additional week or so to make the trip worth it. I met a priest by pure chance at a youth retreat in February 2015 who founded a school not just in Africa, not just in Uganda, but ten miles down the road from the conference. He told me I could live with his mom who spoke as much English as I spoke Lugandan.
I was hoping that between the traveling and working each day with the kids, I wouldn’t have any time to think about what I left behind. I didn’t want to dwell on mistakes, but what all the guidebooks failed to mention was how much time there is in Africa. Every night for hours on end, I would have nothing at all to do.
Because of the mice that slept with me and the massive rats that would dine with me, I preferred to stay outside as much as possible. The rodents were way scarier on a night when the electricity wasn’t working, which was, well, nearly every night.
So for nearly a month, from five to six in the afternoon I would sit on one side of my house. Then at six I would switch to the other side of the house, watch the sun set in the valley and the stars rise until eight-thirty. Sometimes my village girls would find me. I would teach them how to whistle and dance, and they would always giggle and sometimes leave me to chase after the baby goats.
A few times they would fall asleep curled on my lap as I leaned against the brick pillar, and I would hold them gently because each day I witnessed the abuse in the schools. I came to know what their childhood was like, so foreign to mine. The teachers would whip the kids with birch rods, even when they were on the ground crying and bleeding. But they would find me, and they would lay their head in my lap and I would scratch their back, and we would just be still together until one of us fell asleep.
Though more often than not, I was alone. It was in these hours that our Holy would speak tenderly to me, taught me to be still, and made me dwell.
The thing was, for months I knew that my best friend didn’t love me back, and I knew if I could only stop feeling so deeply for him, then our relationship would be less complicated. Thousands of women want this as well—if love is a choice, then why can’t we choose to no longer love him? Countless break ups are writhing in this desire. “Things would be easier if I could just choose to not feel this way for him anymore,” many of us have once cried.
It took a month of stargazing at foreign constellations with a sleeping child on my lap, and our Holy murmuring softly, to understand why.
Ready for this?
Ready for that truth?
Find out what He whispered in Volume II: Insights for theYoungCatholicWoman, available here. We ship next day!
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