Feel at Home in Bungatira

Laura and I rode boda bodas into the bush of Bungatira yesterday. I never tire of the feeling of wind in my face and the contrast of the red dirt against the lush, green landscape. There is a saying in Uganda when you visit someone’s home. They will say, “Feel at home,” which means you should feel free to be yourself there. Of all the places I love in Uganda, Bungatira, the home of my boda driver Denis and his family, is where I feel most at home.

My African Mama, Maria, greeted us, ever with a song in her heart and light in her eyes. She is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She is the embodiment of joy and love and generosity and strength.

Mama doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak enough Luo to carry on a conversation well, but there’s a simple and divine beauty in being able to sit hand in hand with another human when the only words you know are, “How are you?” “Thank you.” “Me, too.” and “I love you very much.”

I think it’s that same kind of simplicity that made me love this visit to Bungatira. It was just a day of regular life in Bungatira. Many times when I visit, I have community business to attend to, elders to meet with, groups to speak with, projects to discuss. Many times I’m seated with or in front of a group of fifty or more and while I appreciate each and every one of those times it makes the times when I can just sit on the papyrus mat with the mamas and their babies that much more precious. I truly feel like one of the family then.

Days like those are rare so I soaked up every detail. The banana tree leaves rustled in the. The roosters strutted about the compound calling out to the hens. A gloriously fat pig napped in the sun. A mother goat gave birth to her kid. Maize dried in the sun and we walked through the farms, our dresses and skirts prickled with black jerk.

Mamas strung paper beads into bracelets and necklaces while babies nursed, and cooed, and toddled nearby on the mat. The squeals and laughter of children, who are much taller than when I last saw them, playing after school was the soundtrack to our visit. Babies found swaths of sunshine for reading books. And beautiful Mama Maria tossed and sifted the corn in such a way that it made a rhythmic shushing sound almost like the sound of distant waves.

When it came time for lunch, Denis’ wife, Vickie, served us traditional Acoli food in the cool dark of their hut. It was delicious and when the meal was over we attended to our small business of buying paper bead jewelry, giving them another supply of magazines, and handing over half of the solar lights, which will be useful when the ladies are making paper bead jewelry inside at night.

When it was time to return to Gulu, we all hugged each other a million times and then Laura and I climbed back onto our boda bodies and rode back to Gulu, feeling the complete peace and ease of spirit that comes with feeling completely at home.

Thank you for supporting our Paper Bead Project so that the children of Bungatira can go to school. It means a lot to me that you love my loved ones in Uganda so well. If you’re lucky enough to buy some of the beautiful jewelry created by these artisans, it’s my hope that when you wear it you’ll smile and feel just a little more at home.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Paper Beads & Paintings Now For Sale Online!

jewelry & paintings for VK website-8

Dearest, patient online Vigilantes, the long-awaited day for you to purchase paper bead jewelry online is finally here. In case you simply can’t wait another moment, pop on over to our store to shop. I’ll wait here.

Because of seed money donated by Vigilantes prior to my last trip to Uganda,  Vigilante Kindness was able to purchase 1,000ish gorgeous paper bead necklaces and bracelets. I bought up every bit the women of Bungatira created and I thought surely 1,000ish pieces would be enough to last us for sales for a year.

I was wrong.

So very wrong.

I brought them to one local speaking engagement and had 2 small jewelry parties and POOF! all but a few pieces were snatched up before I could even breathe, let alone get the pieces loaded vigilantekindness.com to sell.

Honestly, it was a great problem to have. Once again, Vigilantes, you completely knocked my socks off with your generosity and support for the people we’ve come to love in Uganda.

The good news is that there are a few lovely pieces remaining and the even better news is that this year’s jewelry sales have guaranteed that this project is now self-sustaining. It makes me want to jump up and down a teensy bit. Okay, more than a teensy bit.

Before you head over to buy some beautiful paper bead jewelry, please take 2 minutes to see how the paper bead jewelry is made.

Loving you with all my liver,

Alicia

P.S. While you’re there you can check out the three remaining painting we have for sale by Ugandan artists Calvin & Seddrick.

Vigilante Kindness: Paper Poem Beads

Yesterday I wrote about how God makes beautiful, new things out of old, wrecked things.  What got me to thinking about this in the first place is this little Vigilante Kindness Paper Bead Jewelry Project that’s in the very baby stages.

This project started with a conversation with my friend Denis about his wife, Vickie, and how she wants to be a businesswoman.

Vickie and some other women in Te Okot know how to make paper bead jewelry.  In fact, some of the men, including Denis, know how to make beads, too.  I wanted to bring Vickie a gift the next time I went to Te Okot, so I bought her some jewelry making tools and supplies.

The one thing that had me stumped was where to get the paper.  Slick, shiny, colorful magazine paper would work best, but it’s not like there’s a magazine stand on the corner in or anywhere near Te Okot.  I can think of two bookstores in Gulu.  They carry textbooks, dictionaries and Bibles.

Earlier in my trip, I’d stopped at the stationery store and picked up two blank sheets of poster paper to use in the poetry workshops I was teaching.  The posters were baby blue because that’s the only color the stationery store had and I bought their last two sheets.

I penned George Ella Lyon’s earthen poem Where I’m From on the posters, my handwriting slanting perilously downward as I wrote the words in pungent, permanent black ink.

I took these posters back and forth with me to class, rolled up in my backpack as I rode on the back of a boda to school, then taped with duct tape on the makeshift blackboard and finally rolled back up into my backpack at the end of each class.

By the time the writing workshops came to an end, my posters were covered in chalkdust from all the notes we added on the board around the poems.  The edges of the posters were red with the dust that blew into the classroom and also kicked up underneath the tires of the boda.  They were splattered with mud from puddles of fresh rain and polka-dotted with water spots from the rain itself.

My tattered posters were destined for the trash, that is until I found out that Vickie needed paper for jewelry making.  The posters weren’t the slick, colorful magazine paper that’s best for bead making, but they were what I had.

This seems like a lesson I have to learn over and over again.  What I’ve got to offer is enough, even when it’s tattered and splotched with mud.  It’s enough.

I passed off my poster to Denis who took it home and made beads with Vickie.  By the time I returned home, my mud stained, used up poster had been made into beautiful beads.

paper beadsI love these beads because they’re proof that stained, wrecked things can be made new.  Broken, wrecked people like me can be made new.  That’s another lesson that I have to keep learning.  Maybe the broken, wrecked parts of you need that whispered in the cracks, too.

I love these beads because poetry is tucked into them.  The black parts of the beads are my lopsided scribblings of George Ella Lyon’s gorgeous words.

I love these beads because the lighter parts of the beads are the water spots from a day when I was caught in a rainstorm, drenched down through all the layers of myself.

Most of all, I love these beads because they mean that Vickie and the women of Te Okot get the opportunity to be a businesswomen who are able to earn money and feed and clothe their children.

When I return to Te Okot in July, I’m bringing Vickie a suitcase full of magazines.  Your magazines and my magazines, once destined for the trash, or the recycle bin at best, will be made into jewelry. Second chances never looked so beautiful.

magazines