|Cissy, Anne, Jane, Father Ronnie and I with our gifts|
Merry Christmas from Kyarusozi, Uganda! Today Sister Jane, Cissy, Anne and I went with Father Ronnie to Kigoyera, a village about twenty minutes away from Kyarusozi for mass. We all dressed up in our African dresses and piled in the car. Village outreach masses are usually very long because a priest is not there every weekend so when one does come they offer confession, perform baptisms, and bless water as well as plant trees in honor of the year of faith. Today I was told mass would be quick so I expected to be home by early afternoon since mass was supposed to start at ten thirty, but then again this is Christmas and we’re in Africa. We arrived at 10:30am for a 10:30am mass (according to Father Ronnie we were right on time…keep in mind he still had to put on his vestments) and there were few people in the church. As we entered the church we were quickly escorted to the front pew. Two young girls quickly found their way into our pew next to the “mzungus” along with a 5 month old baby who Anne, Cissy, Jane and I passed back and forth during mass (I am still not sure who or where the mother was during mass.) The church was decorated for Christmas, but not in the way I am used to. It looked very festive and nice despite the fact that banana leaves and drappings of toilet paper covered the church… who knew TP could be used for such?!
As mass began the church slowly began to fill up and as each new person entered the heat increased. There were four small windows in the church which offered little airflow for the masses of parishioners. During the mass they ended up having two baptisms and about ten different offerings. Now this was not just your typical offering of money. Although some people brought up money others offered up a live chicken, a live goat that was walked in on a string, eggs, onions, baskets, cooking utensils, and pineapple. I had never attended mass where a live chicken jumped around the alter (its feet were tied) shaking its feathers and making the occasional squawk, but it sure made things entertaining. At the end of mass they auctioned off all of the food items to other parishioners so they could use the money for the church. One of the catechists purchased the goat for Father Ronnie and the four of us got excited about the idea of eating a goat for dinner that night. As the auction continued parishioners began to purchase things for us as well. One of the catechists purchased the live chicken and said it was for Abwooli. As the auctioneer and parishioners turned to look at our pew I realized he was talking about me! I took the chicken under my arm and held it high in the air for all to see before sitting it on my lap. Soon I had acquired a bundle of onions and a stalk of sugarcane while my companions received more onions, several eggs, a pumpkin, and a box to put all our goods in. We were going to eat good tonight! After introducing ourselves and thaking the parish for their generosity we ate a lunch of matoke, rice, and chicken that they had prepared for us before heading home.
We arrived home around 5pm and Jane, Anne, Cissy and I quickly put ourselves to work cooking chapatti, pizza, oatmeal cookies, and millet for dinner in two hours. After our random Christmas feast mixture of African and American food (chicken, pork, pizza, millet, chapatti, banana bread, brownies, cakes, mashed potatoes, greens, etc) we all gathered for Secret Santa. We each tried miserably to guess who had drawn our names before we opened each of our gifts. Ironically enough both Jane and Cissy received the exact same fabric that I was wearing (Jane had purchased the fabric for me two weeks prior for me to have a dress made.) Edith had drawn my name and purchased a beautiful purple scarf with flowers for me. After presents and viewing a short video collage I had made for the sisters I called home and was able to wish my family a Merry Christmas. Although I cannot remember the exact quotation to my family members who are reading this this is for you…may you remember this holiday season that although we may be miles apart, know that we will always and forever be close in heart. So wherever you are be it Africa, America or somewhere in between may you have a very blessed Christmas full of love, laughter, and family.