[ Uganda, Africa Mission Journal â€“ Entry 7 ]
JINJA, UGANDA – MARCH 15, 2012 – The first half of the day was all work. The second half, all play. Jack is not a dull boy.
We got to the village early to finish the playground. We still had a lot of work to do, and the children were coming at two. Everyone was working hard right through the morning and into the early afternoon. I didn’t see how we were going to finish in time. The older children from Peter’s Primary School were scheduled to come at two o’clock. As two rolled around, the sand arrived and the Bobcat leveled the playground area. The kids were late, but it gave us time to finish. African time, we’ve learned, is approximate and the children came walking up the path in their school uniforms just before three.
We had lots of activities planned for them – games, crafts, snacks, and, of course, the playground. Jill and I were in charge of the snacks, fresh, bottled water and cookies. We greeted the kids with hugs and love, told them what we had planned for them, and separated them into groups for each activity. After we had served our first group of kids their snack, which they received with a bow or a curtsey and a thank you, a second wave of children arrived on a bus from the school. It was that second wave that made our well ordered plan more of a guideline. The games became an impromptu soccer match, the lines for the temporary tattoos and friendship bracelets became burgeoning groups trying to be next, and the snack bar was inundated with thirsty children. There was never not a line for another cup of water. Most of them wanted more cookies, too, but the crumbs at the corners of their mouths told us they had already had their snack.
But everyone was having fun, even the overtaxed Elevare crew, and the smiles on the children’s faces as they ran through the playground to climb the rock wall or swing or attempt the monkey bars made it all a joyous time. We asked the kids before the festivities started if they had ever been on a swing set before. None of them had. So, they lined up to take their turns in the swings, their eyes wide with wonder. They all had the kind of smiles only children have. And the squeals of exhilaration as they flew into the air and back again lifted up through the village.
I finally got a chance to escape the snack stand (sorry Jill, but they asked me to go over there) and watch the children play. When I got there one of the boys was standing off from the others. I went up to him and asked if he wanted to swing. He nodded that he did, so I held his hand and led him over to one the lines for the swings.
“You can go next, after this girl,” I told him. He nodded quietly, but he was nervous.
Before his turn, he pulled on my arm and I bent down to listen to him whisper, “I don’t know how to do it.”
“That’s okay,” I whispered back, “I’ll help you.”
I gave him a little push and in the seconds it took for his legs to reach up to the sky and tuck back under him as he cam back down, he was an expert. And I could tell he thought he was flying from the shear look of amazement on his face.