My Christmas holiday this year was magical; the kind I always wanted but could not find in America because of all the commercialism.
Wednesday night I had a house full of guests. My friend, Fred Mbilinyi, the supervisor of the orphanage construction, came by bus with his four children ages 10, 12, 14 and 18. They had been asking their father if they could please spend Christmas in Uhekule at Bibi Kay’s house. Also my orphan children, Shukuru , 21, and Noeli, 10, Immanuel (age 22 orphaned since he was 8), my house daughter, Leida, age 18 orphaned since she was 12. Plus I had an 11 year old named Goodluck.
We had a dinner of ugali (ugh!), beans, salad and fruit. Then I asked them if they knew about Santa Claus. None of these children had ever heard of him. So I told them that Santa usually brings gifts to good children in America but he doesn’t know how to get to Africa. I confided that I had asked Santa to come on Christmas Day and gave him directions to my house. Now these children, young and older, sat wide-eyed and expressed nervous giggles as I told them about Santa and then I read the “Night Before Christmas” to them. Fred helped interpret in Swahili as only two understand English. I know half of the story by heart and in our fabulous library, I found A Little Golden Book with the story. What fun I had! Imagine children never having heard of Santa. There are no gifts given in my village. It is simply church, lots of singing and a special meal. That is all…..so refreshing.
I had people sleeping four in my spare bedroom bed and two on the sofa, but these people never complain about anything. First, all the girls start working in my house, sweeping , mopping, feed the chickens and cats, etc. So we then prepared for church. Church started at 10:30 instead of 10:00 because a lady had died the day before, and the evangelist was at the burial. (Remember bodies are buried within 24 hours and hers had to come from the hospital first 70k. away) As we were leaving my house, I told them I needed to run back home to get my umbrella.
The night before I had wrapped everyone a present. My wonderful golfing friends in Minnesota had made absolutely beautiful book bags out of lovely prints and stuffed them with crayons, scissors, glue, pencils, books, etc. I quickly placed them on my table where I had this 18” Christmas tree left by Rachael for me to use. She was the first Peace Corps Vol. in Uhekule. Then I joined the group walking to church.
The service was nice but all in Kiswahili and two hours long sitting on hard benches, but the music was grand….many choirs sang and the children did several numbers. I know some Swahili, but really not savvy on religious words. Then there was the auction. People that can’t afford to give money will bring a small sack of wheat, corn or potatoes. Some bring two eggs, an onion or some green leaf vegetable. This Sunday someone brought a chicken. I heard it squawking thru the service under a bench.
I bought some corn and wheat for my chickens as a treat.
Then we headed in the rain back to the house which is about a 3 block walk. I opened the door first and exclaimed “Santa has been here”! They were half laughing and half confused. It was great! All of us were in the sitting room around the table. (note pictures) Everyone had one gift and the youngest was the first to open his. These children opened their gift so carefully not to tear the paper. There were many exclamations of joy and happiness. What a great time had by all.
Dinner was prepared by all the young women/girls with my supervision. There was rice pilau, a little beef and pork, a green leaf vegetable, fresh fruit dish and banana cake that I taught the girls how to make the day before. Baking a cake here without electricity on charcoal is rather tricky, but I have it down pat now. Shukuru had made a huge round bread from wheat flour, and I cooked carrots and taught the girls how to make a white sauce. Then we baked the carrots with bread crumbs on top. Everything was so good. By 5:00 p.m. the dishes were washed and we just sat and visited.
Fredy and family left on the 7:00 a.m. bus for Njombe as his 14 year old had to be at her boarding school that same day in Mbeye which is a three hour bus ride from Njombe. I thought it strange, but that particular school starts the new year early.
That day I had nine for dinner. It was mostly left-overs. Of the nine, only two were not orphans.
Saturday I had invited the District Commissioner for chai (tea at 10:00a.m.) She is a good friend and holds the highest political position in Njombe. We had a delightful two hours together discussing many issues. She once said to me “Bibi Kay, Uhekule will look like New York City when you finish all your projects.” She was impressed with the dispensary, library, large classroom and now the orphanage.
To bring you up-to-date, the site has been staked out for the admin. Building. Today a lori delivered sand, the rocks have been collected and I have hired a good mason. So, the foundation will start soon, but the building with bricks may not take place until the rainy season is over come May…..sorry, but I want this construction to last, and these 40,000 dirt bricks may start to dissolve with all this rain. The committee will need to convince me otherwise.
That’s all folks! Thanks for your support, always.
Peace and love,
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