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Sunday, March 01, 2009

A weekend of life

The weekend was full, and I am very grateful for the way Caleb's 14 fire-cracker sparkling candles matched the renewed sparkle in spirit that accompanied the love extended to him on his special day. He missed Luke being here, for the first time ever. A lot. But Luke made a creative collage of photos they had taken together photo-booth style using a computer cam, and emailed it in. The whole team descended as a light evening rain tapered, and we cooked pasties (meat and veggie pies) in the outdoor oven, made home made ice cream, opened presents ranging from just-like-new jeans from the used clothes piles in the crazy Saturday market, to a David Pierce sarcastic take-off on Monopoly geared to Bundibugyo with cards like "Pass go, take another wife and get another child" or "Your National Social Security Fund matured. Wait four turns to collect." Caleb was quick with the one- liners and kept us all laughing late into the night, as he allowed us to try out the new hammock made from a bright red woven African cloth that the singles brought him.

And this morning, we took the Elijah advice. We escaped, to the closest bit of wilderness available, for a nearly-all-day hike in the Semliki forest. This is a lowland tropical rainforest with more than 300 species of trees and more than 400 species of birds . . . and NO PEOPLE. We hiked for probably about 10-12 km, through sun-speckled high-canopy areas of ironwood and low scrub, through dense jungly palms and vines, through sulfurous vents steaming with hot springs, through sucking mud. We saw chimp nests (2) high in the trees, the temporary leafy structures they build for napping in the day. An empty aardvark hole. An intersecting trail stomped with elephant prints and littered with their dung. Five different monkey species crashed through the canopy above us: Grey-cheeked mangaby, black-and- white colobus, blue monkeys, red-tails, and baboons. The baboons are the boldest, and there was an amazing moment when Jack imitated their throaty call, and had a conversation. Really. This huge baboon was right over our heads in a palm tree staring at us, and he and Jack were calling back and forth. Hornbills and palm-nut vultures and bee- eaters and ibis flew into view. We glimpsed a rare monitor lizard scuttling through dry leaves across the path, and the elusively shy sitatunga antelope. One of the bizarre moments: Sarah's cell phone (which never rings) got a call from her family which was all together to celebrate her grandmother's 80th Birthday just as we were on a rotting-log bridge that broke with Nathan on it (a short fall) and we all ended up in a swarm of biting ants, running and trying to get out of the bog and the insects, and I heard Sarah saying "happy birthday grandma but I have to go we're being attacked by biting ants in the forest". Probably the most unusual conversation her grandmother had that day. We ended up at the "female" hot spring, a clearing of crusty rock and marshy grass where boiling water bubbles to the surface, and reeking steam lifts slowly into the hot air. It is believed to be the place where the spirits of women who die roam, and local women come to make sacrifices there. We came to boil eggs, very entertaining to drop eggs into the pools of bubbling mineral-laden water and cook and eat them. Home to hot soup and family time, all in all a day of complete break from routine and normal life, of being temporarily unavailable to anyone else's crises, of walking through untouched wilderness thinking about life from God's perspective.

Which means that Monday comes tomorrow morning, inevitably, and without much preparation other than the rest of soul that accompanies a good weekend break.

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