Our group of University Bound Girls of 2013 are learning and growing in more ways than one. They are learning essential skills of the workplace and how to interact with a wide variety of people at the workshop. And they are learning life skills by leaps and bounds as they share a home and their daily lives with one another. I went to their home on a sunny Sunday, and spent the afternoon with them, laughing and eating and just spending time together.
All eleven of the girls stay in a small two room house near the Sseko workshop, and they’ve managed to make these two rooms feel like a home. Each girl has arranged her personal belongings on and around her bunk, with mosquito nets draped around the room. When I arrived and slipped my shoes off at the door, I was greeted with squeals of delight and hugs all around. We welcomed the afternoon breeze blowing through the open door, with a curtain blocking the hot sun.
Knowing my favorite Ugandan meal is rice, they had it boiling away on their charcoal stove. We sat around the room cutting up eggplant and tomatoes, and Lillian and Robinah spearheaded the lunchtime cooking, sauteing the vegetables in a small pan and mixing it with the rice. During the week, they explained to me, that groups of 2 or 3 of them will cook dinner each night, making a variety of rice, pocho, matooke, and cassava, so everyone gets their preferred meal at least once a week. Unlike most college age girls their age in the western world, these girls get their weekly groceries at the market spread on the docks of Lake Victoria.
We popped open a few liters of soda, a favored treat here, and savored our lunch. There’s nothing quite like sharing time and food together that develops relationships and makes memories. Each girl was overflowing with excitement to show me their photo albums. They each had one or two albums of a variety of pictures from their families to their friends to their past school time activities. And they explained each and every picture to me, as I asked questions about their modeling poses, why they describe their friends as ‘humble’ or ‘stubborn’, and the ages of their family members. First of all, I have yet to find a Ugandan lady that doesn’t like to pose. When a camera appears, they break out their best poses. Secondly, they taught me that when they describe their friends as ‘humble’, they mean quiet and reserved, and by ‘stubborn’, they mean extroverted and friendly. And lastly, I think that African’s age extremely well and it’s rather difficult telling their ages, so the picture I pointed to asking if that was one of the girls brother’s, brought on tears of laughter, as she explained that it was her father.
We chatted about their anticipation for receiving their secondary school exam scores. We soberly discussed the International Women’s Day 2013 theme of ending violence against women as they opened their hearts, telling me stories as well as dreams. And we ended the afternoon with a round of pictures and laughter. All of the girls decided to walk me down the road to buy some avocado’s and catch a taxi. They explained that it is customary to escort your guest to their mode of transport in Uganda, and not doing so is considered extremely rude. I was glad for the company, appreciated the love they were showing, and hopped on a taxi with all the girls eagerly looking on, excited by the prospect of watching me take public transportation in Uganda.