There is a chill in Karamoja that creeps up the sheets from your toes to your nose. It tingles and delights in the surprise of its mere existence. It makes me smile every time, and then, almost without fail, I wonder if I put enough clothes on Carmel since when I put her to bed it was still stifling. But she sleeps on and I soon forget my worry. When she wakes, she has a smile on her face and eagerly grabs my hand asking me to “come” see the kittens.
There are five of them. Two mostly black and white, one with long grey fur, one white with a black ear and one striped like their mother. They have just emerged from infancy and onto our back doorstep where their mother feeds them in the warming sun. Carmel will sit for hours just watching them play. When we finally go on our morning walk, the world expands into terrorizing six-inch grasshoppers, chasing goats, catching butterflies and collecting flowers. Once we found a monitor lizard stuck in a hole. It hissed its forked blue tongue in and out as we watched it struggle to escape. Another day, we found a bright green chameleon climbing high in the papaya tree, a yellow stripe running down its side. Some days we watch the vested crows, starlings and black kites dance in the air swooping, circling and collecting knick-knacks for their homes. Other days we pick avocados, oranges and lemons from the trees near our house. Our employees knock the fruit down with a hooked stick, while Carmel and I gather God’s gifts into our waiting buckets. She will even help me gather tamarind pods no matter their state of decay, sticky and fresh or black and dry. Some days we stay inside with balloons, blocks and books, but most days a “walk” is our special treat.
Carmel puts on her own shoes and even opens the door for me as I bend and reach around my expanding belly. Some days we venture off the compound to a nearby village to visit a newborn baby and its mother. We bring some soap, sugar and a piece of colorful cloth. Carmel immediately makes herself at home exploring, eating or playing with the older children. She knows what “baby” means and even has a doll of her own. Other days we visit the preschool, where she alternately ignores the other children or steals their toys. She already knows words like cow (aate) and cat (ipus) in both languages. A recent field trip was to visit a house being built by a rich Ugandan from down country. The style is entirely different from the local mud and thatch huts. The workers encouraged me to come back every week to check on the progress.
Without parks or zoos or local libraries, sometimes I get a little stir crazy. Then I remember these everyday blessings, and wonder at God’s generosity.