The last few days that we have had here in Shilongo have been very bittersweet. Timoth has already begun to complain about how he will have nothing to do when we leave and it’s difficult thinking about how little time we have left with the community.
We recently found out about a gravity tap system that should supply Shilongo with clean water through various taps throughout the community. Thursday morning, we went into Mbale to speak with district officials about our organization and the potential directions we are interested in moving. They were very receptive and encouraging and we received a lot of useful information.
After returning back to Nyondo after the meetings, we went into Shilongo to share the water manual that the Community Health group put together all of last semester. We provided several community members with pre-addressed envelopes so they can make notes at their leisure and send us feedback. Already, they have shown an interest, laughing about the various faces they recognize throughout the publication. On a more serious note, they also expressed interest in a lot of the health concerns that are caused by contaminated drinking water.
On our way throughout the village, we ran into Justine who invited us to visit her father who was staying at the clinic in Katwelatwela. Although Misaki and Justine are close, it was touching that she invited all of us. At best, communities in the United States are friendly, but Shilongo has accepted us as part of their family and, in my opinion, that is something rare and valuable.
On Friday, we trooped up to Busano to follow the previously mentioned gravity flow system. It was a good hike and we learned a lot about the complications and extent of the system. Misaki even drank water from the source of the system – you should ask her how her stomach’s doing! After the hike, we held a community meeting at Muswema and learned more of their perspective on the issues that had been brought up by other community members. Afterwards, we had to rush off for dinner at Father John’s house. Everything was extremely delicious, he even fed us chicken!
Saturday was our last day in the community and it was by far our busiest. Everyone wanted to meet with us before we left. We started the morning in Shilongo Lower at a community meeting there and then we moved to the prunyende where people were beginning to gather for the second meeting. Misaki and I started a game of Duck Duck Goose that we ended up calling Imbwa Imbwa Ipusi (Dog Dog Cat) that the kids loved playing.
Following all of the meetings, we moved around the community saying goodbye to some of the individual community members that had really made an impact on us. In particular, Matt, Misaki, and I spent a long time at Florence and Timoth’s house. Sitting there, I couldn’t really recall the moment I realized I didn’t want to leave Shilongo. It could have been when I was reminded of the winter weather that was waiting for me in the United States but I think it was when I saw the night sky. I saw more stars in the Ugandan night sky than I have ever seen in my whole life. I even got to see a shooting star! Timoth was intrigued by my fascination with the sky, he told me he sees it pretty much every night. And in that moment I thought, “He’s so lucky. I can’t believe he gets to see this every night.”
Looking back, I realize that I was the lucky one. Lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to travel to Shilongo, lucky enough to have made such a giving friend and to meet such a vibrant community, and lucky enough to have seen that night sky at least once in my life. I hope that Timoth and the rest of the community of Shilongo never forget how fortunate they are to live in such a beautiful and unadulterated place. Thank you for being so welcoming and hospitable to us. Khuli mungo. (We are family)