Little Norman’s Big day

Friday 16/17 January – Just woken, with ‘the day after the night before’ feeling though not due to too many Nile Beers, just from the memories of a wonderful occasion I have never experienced the like of before. I can hear lots of activity outside my window and many still very excited voices probably busy clearing up! I’ll stay here and have my early cuppa as I know I won’t be much use out there!

Getting back to yesterday when I came out of my room after my rest, as I had expected many more people had arrived for the party and everywhere I turned I was the one being greeted ‘Good morning Madam Gerry ‘, How are you Madam Gerry?’ ‘Webalie Madam.’ I was introduced to so many, some who said to me ‘Do you remember me Madam Gerry?’ My reply was mainly an untruthful ‘Oh yes, how are you?’ But to be honest my memory back home in the UK is bad enough these days, but here in Uganda when I might have only met a person once or twice and then with years in between there’s not a chance! But everyone was really nice, friendly and welcoming and only a couple of toddlers looked at my white face in horror and ran away screaming! Even those little ones were happy with me when I handed Haribou sweets round! In fact I was being dragged up to dance by many of these children later on!

It was only 20 minutes before the Priest and Catechist were due to arrive and the Mass begin but I was the only one amongst those who live here and the early arrivals who had been helping with the preparations to be dressed up. Ugandan people have a reputation of being two or more hours late with everything so this wasn’t a surprise to me. Innocent was still fitting up the speakers for the microphone and music, and the cooking was still going on with an increase of pans bubbling away some ‘cooks’ having spread into the cow shed using charcoal stoves!

Then suddenly the laidback atmosphere changed ‘The Priest is here’ a whisper went round. I’m not kidding you, within five minutes 20+ people had changed from their dust covered working clothes to their Sunday best, many in brightly coloured African outfits. Innocent had had a matching outfit made for himself, Betty, Norman and Alex that looked so lovely. These and all the arrangements for this special day had been made in only five days, the invitations, the arrangements with the Catholic Church, the food and cooking pots, the tent, tables, chairs and plates, etc. amazing! And most surprising of all is that Mass started on time, 2.30 precisely!!

Innocent had asked me to sit with him, Betty and Norman, Norman’s God parents under the tent beside the ‘alter’ table but i started to cook! The tent was made of plastic so though it gave shade and shelter from the rain it generated a lot of heat! Innocent also asked me to sing with choir who were sitting there too but I had to retreat to a cooler shady tree. The only hymn I knew was God Be The Glory and was looking forward to singing it and I did but joined in from a distance under the tree!!

Mass was I imagine the same as any Catholic Mass with a bit of humour which did surprise me though I couldn’t tell what in the sermon had made everyone laugh but never mind. I did hear the Mzungu and UK with applause following though. Norman was baptised along with John Baptist’s youngest and the children of two other relatives. Innocent had asked when he invited them if they had young children they wanted baptised too. It was a lovely family time.

After the main service both Innocent, and John Baptist who I have known since I first came to Uganda in 2002, gave a heartwarming speech both in the local language and in English. It had me close to tears. This was followed by some very lively songs by the choir with drum accompaniment and traditional dancing. Innocent proved himself both a good drummer and dancer!

Then priestly robes off, any sign that there had been a Mass gone, the party began! I was asked to go with the Priest and the Catechist, and Innocents father also a church leader, inside for my meal rather than sit with the hoards and it was a bit ‘stuffy’! I’m glad to say though that conversation flowed, in English, and included asking me if I had enjoyed Mass, about my own faith which I’m pleased they seem to listen and accept and, about the party Innocent is planning for my next visit to celebrate 100 years, 70 for me and 30 for him! Sounds good to me! I even got them to agree to make it an English speaking  party! That’s for those who are able as I don’t want to leave out my friends who don’t speak any English!

Outside the food had been transferred from the massive cooking pots to any buckets and large plastic basins available (like the ones we would use in the UK to wash up, only round) and was still being served long after we had finished ours. It was an AMAZING FEAST!

Then the music became a sort of Karaoke but a couple of the ‘artist’ only turned up for that, they weren’t party guests as such. There were some interesting characters and styles!

As darkness fell many left for their journeys home, some from a distance but here the party went on til late with a group of us sitting chatting and the families with loads of young children were happily playing though it must have been well passed their bedtime and I assumed they had still to travel home. I decided to stay up and enjoy a second Nile and wait for them to depart. They didn’t seem to be making any movement to go so, as I was feeling very tired (the Nile probably didn’t help but hey I’m on holiday!!) I said my good nights. Then I realised that no one was going home, they were all waiting for me before they went to bed. There must have been three extra families staying in an already crowded room, though I did learn that the men went and used the ‘lodged’ behind Innocents bar.  And of course, everyone was here to help with the clearing up!

The event, as well as the importance of the baptisms,  and a great fun party, it had been a time of reunion where some relatives had not seen others for years, lots of hugs and chatter. Most importantly it had been a time of healing as, just like families everywhere, this family had disputes that Innocent with his big heart wanted to heal. Of course time will tell but.

Just in case you’re wondering, I did eat pork and it was delicious!!

To do my post without young Norman pressing the wrong buttons I’m sat outside under a sky crowded with stars and I’ve just seen the fireflies. Like shooting stars but literally just in front on me. How I love Uganda!

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