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Saturday, May 09, 2009

J and J's NFTA part 4: Coming Home

After our last game, I treated the girls to cold sodas as they shared their last lunch of posho and beans. They rolled up the mattresses, collected the cleats and balls, crammed their sheets and skirts into their small suitcases. And then, incredibly, in an intricate process involving a lot of twine, 27 people (team, chaperones, coach, cook, driver, and conductor), stock for someone's business including 50 kg bags of flour and 20 L jerry cans of oil, 10 mattresses, and everything else, piled onto a very small pick-up truck. Eunice and I, as the only two over 40, were given the honor of sitting in the cab. And the responsibility to hold everyone's bags of bread, tomatoes, bananas, extra coats, the soccer balls donated to the team, a thermos, and who knows what else. We were packed, which was good because then the jostle of the road did not bounce us too far out of place, we were so weighed down. We had a personable and careful driver, Sam, and I only felt real concern when we stopped to rearrange once and the horrible smokey acrid odor of burning brakes floated in the window. This is a steep and winding no-guard-rails kind of road, not one to be undertaken without the ability to stop.

Usually, when we drive into Bundibugyo, our kids pave a way of good will. They wave to any and all, and most people wave back. They anticipate seeing their dog and their friends. They are happy, and it is contagious.

So it was very striking to me to enter the district disguised among the CSB team. Though the girls were in uniform, and singing, almost NO ONE greeted them. I expected the same smiles and waves my kids get. I hoped for a sense that these girls had represented the district, and were appreciated. Instead I saw only glares or indifference. The spirit of jealousy was palpable. The people on the road side were not glad for these girls, they were envious. Then it got worse: we ran into a mob. Men who had done a minimal work to fill a pot-hole had barricaded the road. As we rolled to a stop they aggressively rolled large boulders right up under the bumper of the truck, and shouted for money, waving a panga and pick-axe. One even wore a CSB t-shirt . . but did they care this was the team? No, they wanted money. A couple of dozen onlookers merely watched the drama, not offering any help. The driver of our truck refused to pay, and the mood became tense and ugly, until Eunice decided that we were in danger of being stoned, and paid them off herself. The driver told us later that he spends 20,000 shillings each way paying off the traffic police at every road block, and had no more money to pay this impromptu group of thugs! I was shocked. Our status has protected us, and if we had been in our recognizable truck we would have been waved on through. But this time I got to see the hostility that people pour out on each other.

Envy and aggression, the further we went the more heavy-hearted I became for our home. Bundibugyo is a place of spiritual darkness, still. Glimpses of glory, yes, in the girls and their opportunity, but these are flickers in a sea of shadow. Lord have mercy.

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