Sunday, November 29, 2015

I have found a precious jewel indeed

Our final night looms. As I type this, there are four of us sitting in a cafe in Kampala, each peering down at our communication device of choice. (For the record, there are three android users and me, the solitary Apple customer. It has become a running joke as we banter about which has the best features, which is the easiest to use and so on...But I digress!)

Today (Sunday) has been a huge day, involving a Catholic Mass, a tour of a Muslim mosque, shopping at an inner-city craft market and then, on the cusp of twilight, a visit to the Apostolic Nuncio of Uganda, Archbishop Michael Blume.

Of all of those, I am not sure which is most responsible for the fatigue I am experiencing: the protracted drive to 8.30am Mass; the 308-stair climb to the top of the minaret, at the mosque; the haggling with two sales girls at the markets; or the interview I conducted His Grace, just before we left. Or perhaps it's the combination of them all, coupled with the adrenaline rush of yesterday's close encounter with Pope well as several hundred thousand Ugandans and other Africans.

I do know that I have not slept well on this trip. Some nights, that's been due to external factors - music playing loudly, football coverage provoking shouting, storm clouds unleashing their load or rehearsals late into the night on the of the Papal Mass. Other times, however, I have simply woken up.

But as I look across the table, or glance over my shoulder, I take heart from those with whom I have shared the journey:

* Sue has come to Uganda with several serious health challenges - her persistence and gracious outlook, coupled with a huge heart for all she encounters, has made her a constant source of encouragement;

* If Sue is the heart of Uganda Kids, and this trip, Paul - her husband - is the legs, arms and broad shoulders. He has shaped the schedule, cajoled the locals, amused our hosts and stepped into the driver's seat - literally and also figuratively - when the need arose. Without his affable, strong presence, I think I would have felt more unsafe and less secure.

* Aloysius and Lucy have opened their hearts, home and souls to me. They didn't know me at all but they accepted me with the same grace and generosity they continue to extend to Paul and Sue. I am the richer for it.

This blog was never intended to be a travelogue, offering a day-by-day account of where we went and what we did. My intention was to give some sense of how the trip was impacting on me and what insights I was acquiring along the way. Most of what I gained has been from the people I have met, seen, spoken to, sat with, broken bread with, hugged and shaken hands.

This brief tribute to those I have been accompanying is yet another page in yet another chapter of my life. When the time comes, I will simply call that chapter 'The Pearl of Africa'. It is something precious, something that is created from friction and the abrasion of elements like sand and water. It also has a biblical significance: the owner of the pearl knows what he has found and wants to do all he can to protect it and preserve its value.

Paul and Sue found it back in 2008. I have been fortunate, and blessed,  that they have now shared this gem with me. 

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