Tonight I laughed so hard, Arafat (Mama Ali’s son, i.e. my brother) told me to stop or else I would have a stomach ache or hurt myself.
After a nice sunset yoga session overlooking the River Nile, we headed to dinner at Abiolya and Shameem’s house. They are the most modern family in the village in the sense that Shameem is Abiolya’s only wife, they have only one child at the moment and their home has electricity (SOULar powered of course). Shameem is a teacher at S.O.U.L.’s preprimary school and Abiolya is heavily involved with the programs and one of Brooke’s more trusted friends in the village.
The night started off with some talk of Ugandan superstition pertaining to something or someone they call Oomlogo. At first an outsider might think this is the Boogie Man of Uganda, but after a careful listen, it is clear that they truly believe in Oomlogo’s existence. There is a kid, Emma, that runs from the S.O.U.L. Shack after dark in fear that Oomlogo will get him. Oko remarked that he can come in the night and shave all your hair off. He is always naked and travels in the night. Abiolya said that his training in the navy prepared him to take on Oomlogo and that he is no longer scared. Fear is what brings on the presence of Oomlogo and one who is ‘concrete’ or strong will be able to ward him off. This translated to Brooke and I as being a spirit. Depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer of what Oomlogo is capable of but their conviction of his existence made Brooke and I laugh hysterically. For those of you who know Ryan Snyder, he has been honored with the name, Oomlogo.
The night’s conversation was seamless in flow but completely jagged in content. But then again I guess some of the best conversations are. We somehow started talking about a villager who has 28 kids. Although he has three wives, he is only thirty-two and he plans to have kids for another decade. We thought it would be interesting to try and figure out how many kids he could feasibly have. The night prior Najeeb had asked me to go over some math problems with him that he had completed for an interview. Since I had not practiced math since high school I knew I would be little help, but I discovered that Najeeb is quite smart; he is also very literal and a little socially awkward. I turned to him to see if he could solve the riddle of how many kids this villager could have. With this man’s ‘productiveness’ and his three wives, he could end up with 3 kids per year and 42 kids by the time he decides to quit. Bob aka Mustafa, Abiolya’s brother, is on his way there with ten kids. As the attention turned to Bob, he got quite bashful, putting a pillow in front of his face as we all joked about is strong producing skills.
From there, intrigue arose about how Abiolya and Shameem had met. They both were serving in the army at the time. Abiolya says he say Shameem and knew that he wanted her to be his wife, which was unique for him since he says very few women peak his interest. Conversely, it is quite common for a Ugandan man to see a women and know that he wants to marry her. Shameem denied him at first, which is customary if the woman is empowered. But Abiolya knew this was not a concrete ‘no’. He explained that when women say ‘no’ this means one of two things. There is strong NO indicating that there is not a chance and the other ‘no’ which is meant to imply otherwise, meaning they either don’t mean it or there is much for to be revealed about what they are feeling or want. I thought to myself that this is pretty much universal for all women around the planet. Suddenly, Bob interjected in Lasoga. Due to his lack of understanding english, he must have decided it was time for him to pipe up again. He ask brooke about starting another chicken group.
Abioyla soon continued but amidst a brief pause, Bob started narrating a story in Lasoga. He started saying how there was a lovely girl who entered the village. He is such an animated story teller that Brooke and I were immediately enthralled. As Abiolya translated, Bob continued his story by saying that everyone noticed that she was different and they wondered what she was doing there. Some villagers started talking to her and news traveled fast that all should get to know her. It wasn’t before long that they saw how much good she was doing. This girl was able to bring light to the darkness of the village. For theatrical effect, Bob stands up and points at the light and starts to back out of the room in his departure for the night. Brooke and I are assuming this is some random story perhaps pertaining to Abiolya and Shameem. It is not after too long, but after Bob leaves that it clicks…we realize that the beautiful story is about Brooke. Caught so off guard we try to convince Abiolya to retrace the story for us line by line. But as Abiolya explains, Bob meant for it to give us something to ponder.
Next we drifted to my Lasoga name which Bob had given me a few nights earlier. In 2009, Bob had given Brooke her name, Nabirye, meaning mother. It has since been changed to Mother of many. Three years later he added on Naikonto meaning bore hole because she is like the water or life of S.O.U.L. and the village. Bob has also given other volunteers and key S.O.U.L. members their names. He has taken it upon himself to be the name giver, a rite of passage for the mzungu (white people) who give their time to S.O.U.L. Takoba is my given name and as soon as Najeeb heard it, he told us that he thinks it’s an awful name since he had a terrible teacher with the same name. We had to convince him that the meaning of the name has nothing to do with the person and that he should give Takoba another shot. With much resistance he said he would try and I told him he has a bit under seven months to accept the name.
Takoba translates to ‘be silent’ or don’t speak, which might not sound all too exciting. Arafat and Oko said it should be changed to the opposite, Alikoba, ‘one who speaks a lot.” Abiolya, in his jolly and insightful manner, enlightened us in why it is a great name. Abiolya said that Bob always thinks about the names he gives others and there is much more to the name that its literal translation to English. Although Takoba means one who doesn’t speak, it also infers that actions speaks much louder words. Through action and wisdom, one is able to bring out the gifts and abilities of others.
The night passed by much like this past week. I felt like I couldn’t quite keep up because things were happening so fast and before I knew it, it was over and I was tired.
It’s nights like these that I wish I could transport friends and family to join in or at least be a fly on the wall so they could witness my life over here. It’s nights like these that are hard to translate and make relatable back home. When people ask, “what are you doing over there?” I would love to share this story, but I cannot. I hope I have allowed you to feel a part of tonight. There are so many moments that pass that I think of someone in my life and I think to myself, I wish they were here to have experienced that with me. But then again, this is one of the gems of life and traveling; moments are meant to be enjoyed as they are. As much as I would love to share every detail with those close to me, they are really my memories to keep. So much greatness and it is only the second week.
I’ll leave you with a song by Little Dragon…it’s been a theme song of sorts since arriving. Great band to check out too!
coming my way
some call it coincidence,
but I like to call it fate…”
If the video doesn’t load check it out on youtube, “Constant Surprises” by Little Dragon