The two Somali girls whose names I cannot remember gave me a phone to call my mum to let her know that I had reached Washington. And they helped me check in my luggage to get to Ohio. Such nice young ladies with beautiful hearts! To the naysayers, Somalis are not all terrorists! There are good people with good hearts so let’s not judge all of them because of a few rotten eggs.
So, anyway, the stop-over in Washington was pretty draining. I just wanted to get home and sleep! I met an elderly lady from Togo called Grace who told me she has lived in Ohio for almost 20years now. We engaged in light-hearted banter and boarded the same plane to Columbus. When I was coming to the US, I imagined that there would be tall skyscrapers shooting out of the sky, glitzy lights and long lines of traffic but from the sky, the Ohio landscape defied my expectations. The land was flat with occasional tree cover springing up, the ponds and rivers seemed to be frozen like a plastic bag wrapped over fresh produce and I couldn’t see any tall buildings for miles on end! That was a mood-dampener for sure! On arrival at Columbus airport, I was hit with a blast of cold air. I knew I had arrived for sure. I hate cold weather. On rainy days in Uganda you find me clothed in a sweater and socks and huddled up under some warm shawl or blanket. Winter, it seems has come with a bang; to test my patience I presume. This is supposedly one of the coldest winters ever in Ohio. And I arrive in its throes, inappropriately dressed in jeans, pumps and a light sweater while rolling my hand-luggage out of the arrivals corridor. Thank goodness Patty, Melanie and Mike had already arrived to pick me up. I don’t think I would have handled waiting for another two hours. A 26-hour journey surely makes you cranky and fatigued.
Patty and Mike then drove me around down-town Columbus so I could cheer up a bit and to also get me acquainted with my surroundings. And then I saw the high rise buildings! There we go! The America I imagined! The Ohio State University campus is amazing too! And the architecture of the churches blows my mind. They look just like beautiful relics gleaming in the distance! The roads are intact too, with lots of traffic lights. Kampala’s roads are so pot-holed you could turn some into fish ponds. I am sure some unfortunate 2-year-old, if unsupervised can drown in one! Also, there are probably only three working sets of traffic lights in my dusty city of Kampala.
Another piece of culture shock for me that night was having soup for dinner. Make no mistake, it was amazing soup! Well prepared and delicious, but I was used to having my posho/ “kwon” or rice, matooke,irish potatoes, pumpkin and groundnut paste, fish, malakwang,beef, boo, beans, egglpants and the like for my meals. So soup and crackers were very new to me! Now, I’ve gotten used to it and I absolutely love it! Also back home in Kampala, for some reason, we are always eating even if we are not hungry. Katogo, bread, chai(tea),cassava, porridge, lunch, roasted maize, more chai(tea), supper and so on. But now, I’ve become conditioned to eating only and only when I am hungry. Which is a major plus for me I must add!
My second day was interesting. The wonderful staff at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church had a luncheon to welcome me. That was pretty awesome. Then I went with Patty and Mike to the Social Security Office to get my social security card. There were some very interesting characters there. One in particular made us break into fits of laughter. A young man, in the guise of having “swagg” was sagging his pants almost at the knees, commonly known as “balancing” in Uganda. (Un)fortunately, his pants fell down exposing his checkered underpants.He hurriedly picked them up and broke into a run down the hallway. Also, we saw the movie “Philomena” at the Drexel theatre. That was a lovely movie! And then we had to brave the cold on our way back home!
Saturday was pretty much spent at my first Zumba class with Patty who amazes me with her love for exercise and healthy living. It’s something I aspire to inculcate into my day-to-day lifestyle. Dancing to Pitbull’s music at Zumba was such fun! . Naturally as an African girl, I would be (stereotypically) expected to have natural moves for this kind of thing but on the contrary, my dancing skills left a lot to be desired. Patty is good at it and keeps in tune with the music. The instructors are so flexible. They remind me of the dancers from the movie “Save the Last Dance”. Sunday was lovely; catching up with Patty’s mum, Mike, Patty and Uncle Bob at Panera’s. Panera’s has the most amazing soup ever! I think I am going to become the Ugandan spokesperson for American soup now! (I love soup!)
Monday was fruitfully spent at The King Arts Centre celebrating Martin Luther King holiday and getting to know more about the Civil Rights Movement and Black History. I got to meet Penny; Patty’s amazing sister! Also, seeing actual the yokes and chains that were used to tie slaves brought across the Atlantic from West Africa reminded me how lucky I am to live free and to have this amazing God-given life where my country’s leader will not wake up one day and trade me over to some random people in exchange for a mirror or a rifle! Sometimes, we take our lives for granted! The presentations also evoked memories of the sense of community that we have back home, that we have a reference point and a sense of identity as a people! That, for me, was deeply profound!
On Tuesday night, our electricity went out for over five hours. Obviously, you cannot have heating in the house without electricity on. It reminded me of the load shedding situation we have back at home when UMEME (the power company) just cuts off people’s electricity for no particular reason. It was freezing cold as a result but God in his mercies knew what a coward I am in regards to facing certain hurdles(in this case the bitter cold in a dark house) so he let me sleep through the whole ordeal. I woke up and had just enough water to brush my teeth before the water tank run dry. Thankfully, it came back on a few minutes after that.
I also had my second Zumba class. There were more attendees than the first time. Also, I am getting my groove on now (African girl style). It was so much fun! And the moves; my God the moves! I could even be hired as a back-up dancer for a music video now(This is a complete hyperbole of the situation but you get the point!!)
The rest of the week has passed by so fast for me! It’s almost like I am in a daze! I started work on Tuesday. I have an amazing team that I am part of. I am still trying to find my way around and to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I can from those around me. Ashley and Nathan make me laugh. They are wonderful people. Melanie is an amazing supervisor. Dustin is really funny and his wife Holly is so sweet. Laura is nice; she is busy organizing the Hula Holiday event that’s taking place at the church tomorrow. Lynette is so sweet. She is so kind and she reminds me of my mother and my friend Amanda/Mundy (who I miss and I should Skype soon), Denis loves his worship ministry and that passion for work is rubbing off on me, Tyler shows me everyday that it does not matter what age you are; in life you need/have to work hard, Sonya has such a big heart,Maxine is always cheerful, Kevin is friendly and Renee is Renee(lovely, enthusiastic young lady;ball of energy with a passion for the youth ministry!). I am blessed to be in the midst of such wonderful human beings! That, I certainly do not take for granted! I am still getting to know all of them and I hope to write about a few of my experiences with them.
On the home front, Mike and Patty have been such amazing parents to me. They have believed in this even when many times a few months ago, I had given inwardly given up on myself. They take me to work and pick me up, they provide for me. They tell me stories and they stimulate me to think. Mike is my encyclopedia; he is all-knowing; one of the most intelligent people I’ve met in my life! He makes me think of things around me in new ways and he also teaches me. Patty encourages me, she believes in me. She counsels me. They check on me and they try to make sure I am as comfortable as possible. They have loved me beyond measure. They are my second set of parents that God in his mercy deemed fit to send in my life. That, I do not take for granted as well. Also, my mother, who I am sure is finding it hard to adjust to my absence has called me thrice this week to tell me “to wear many sweaters and not get sick.” The hidden truth is she misses me. I’ve never been so far away from her and I’ve never been away from home. But she understands that I have to build a life for myself and that soon, I will fly out of her nest. I know she is happy and proud of me for getting this far in life.
Mike is teaching me to play the guitar. I’ve already forgotten the G,C and D chords and I can’t start on strumming patterns without doing that. Also, I am an ardent reader and there are so many books for me to read here. I feel like I am in literary heaven! I am combing through all the books(time-allowing) from Philosophy to Religion to Crime and all those other genres that greatly intrigue me.
Today, we had Mexican food for dinner. It was my first experience with Mexican food. It was delicious food; yummy in every sense of the word. I also got a flu-shot! We checked out a pet-store where they were selling rats for $2. In Uganda we are trying to get rid of rats from our houses. Why would anybody want to buy a rat as a pet? That baffled me. That was a moment of culture shock. Maybe with time I will understand this pet situation in a new light. Speaking of pets, everybody here seems to own a pet. Mike and Patty have two pets; a lovely black dog Edison(we call him “Eddie”) and Lucy the cat. Eddie is a nice lovely dog. Lucy scares me. I don’t know why but she freaks me out. Maybe it’s because of the experience I’ve had with her. A few nights ago, I woke up from my sleep because I felt something crawling on my chest. I opened my eyes and there in front of my face were the deepest, most-glowing yellow eyes staring right into my skull. Frightened to death, I jumped out of bed and scurried to look for the nearest light bulb. Upon switching on the lights, I realized it was Lucy. I have never quite gotten over my fright all week! And she loves to hide under my bed!
Tomorrow, I have Zumba. I am sure it will be super awesome! Also, I have a luncheon that’s been organized by Emily one of Patty’s friends. Sunday is the mission festival at church so it’s a pretty busy weekend. I have just remembered that Francesco asked me to send him an email when he was departing in Rome last Friday but a week later, I still haven’t. The adventures continue in a few hours!!….