Red is the colour of the day – red in my hair, red on my clothes, red on my feet, red in the water going down the shower drain… and if that wasn’t enough to satisfy the red theme Uganda currently has going on, there’s some of the team sporting bright red skin.
We began a little earlier than yesterday, meeting at 7:30am for breakfast; but it was well worth it. If there was anyone harbouring resentment over the wake up call, it quickly disappeared - along with the feast our cooks laid out for us. We were served a traditional Ugandan breakfast; a type of flat, fried dough called chapatis that appear to be related to roti and naan bread, sometimes wrapped up with omelettes in a combination known as a “rolex”. There was also, as usual, plenty of pineapple and bananas. Fruit seems to be a staple here with every meal, although I’m definitely not complaining since it tastes so much sweeter and fresher than the fruit we have back in Australia.
After breakfast we had devotions led by Loren, continuing on with our systematic reading of Mark. We looked at chapter three where Jesus healed a man with a shrivelled hand on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, who were like the religious elite back in the day, heavily disapproved of Jesus doing such work on the Sabbath since they viewed it as a violation of holy law. It reminded many of us of the times we have stopped ourselves from doing the right thing for the sake of reputation or man-made conventions which are ultimately less important.
We then all got changed into working clothes (which would end up a different colour by the end of the day) and set off for the new site of Youth Support Uganda (YSU), which was about a ten or fifteen minute drive from Suubi House. There we met Luke, an Australian man who originally came to Uganda to film a documentary and ended up falling in love with the people. He and his wife, Agnes, now work with a lot of the youth from the surrounding area in an effort to equip them with skills that will help them forge a better future for themselves.
And then began building!
Our task was to dig the outline of the foundations for the new youth building, which involved breaking up the grass with a pick axe and then shovelling the dirt out of the way. Ugandan dirt is not like our loose, brown soil back in Victoria. It’s a deep, rusty red that settles over your skin and then stubbornly refuses to come off without some hospital grade scrubbing. We worked hard until 4:00pm, forming small groups and swapping tools so we could take it in turns taking breaks. It wasn’t easy work, especially in the heat (hence, the sunburn among a few of us) and we’ll undoubtedly be nursing a few sore muscles when we head back tomorrow. There were a few other Ugandans working alongside us who wielded the tools with such grace and ease that it made us seem like we’d never seen a shovel before; I often caught one of them watching my efforts with amusement.
Dinner was rice, matoke (a Ugandan savoury banana dish) and a type of chicken with sauce, which sounds simple but is some of the best-tasting stuff I’ve ever eaten (sorry Mum). Afterwards we had our first debriefing with the team. It was a time for all of us to be open about the things that had challenged, surprised and impacted us so far, and it was super encouraging seeing everyone be so honest about what had been going through their heads since we arrived.
It was hard work, but rewarding work, and I have no doubt that everyone will be sleeping like the dead tonight.
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