Report of Fall 2016 Trip:

James runs after the new football we brought for the school.

James runs after the new football we brought for the school. (UPDATE: I forgot to tell you he is the one in the orange shirt in my original post.)

This last Saturday we were able to visit James, our little twelve year old deaf boy that we have placed in a deaf school in Mbale (See previous posts under the menu “James”). It was encouraging to see the children who were playing on the football field run to get James as soon as the car came into view along the little dirt road leading from the main highway. They have come to recognize the car and know it is us even though we only show up once every four months or so. I don’t think they get that many visitors. As last time, James greeted both Alfred and me with a big hug.

a-james-and-bed

James bounces on his new mattress. His was torn and so we brought a new one for him at the headmaster’s request. That’s Hope in the foreground.

His school report? The wild boy is finally settling into classes and staying through the class periods. He is beginning to write. The headmaster says he has changed greatly in the last few months. He has relaxed and become one of the group. One day, the director tells us, he will be a leader in the school. I would say that he tells all the visiting parents that except I have seen the same quality in James – he is a natural leader; other children easily follow him, and he has that independent style of interacting that shows he knows it without being arrogant – it is just the way he carries himself.

The little girl, Hope, who seems always to be near James, was also overjoyed to see us. She seems to have adopted us as significant “somethings.” Who can tell, really, what is going on inside her. We can’t talk to her in any depth, though Gail has sign language and made a valiant effort to spend time with her and love on her. We have to be careful, though. The last trip, I was a little too friendly to Hope and James became immediately jealous. The very least thing we want to do in our visits is create problems between James and the other children. So Gail made a point to separate with Hope and get to know her a little. This is no problem for James because he doesn’t really know Gail, and he seems to have no idea what to do with her. His relationship has always been with Alfred and me. When we first brought Gail to the school, he was sort of polite, but very stand-offish; this trip he was “tolerant” of Gail, but that’s all he was ready to give.

“Hope” is the name the school has given this sweet little girl. She is a bottomless pit of need for love. We just wanted to scoop her up and tell her she is loved, but of course, that was not possible because all the children are equally needy. She is very responsive to hugs, though. She was rescued from a village where no one wanted her because of her deafness. I don’t think anyone knows her real name, and she certainly doesn’t, since she has been deaf since birth, we assume.

We also brought the teacher, Catherine, whom James bonded with so well at the first school to visit with him. She prepared some special food for him, and they shared it with Hope, the two of them sitting in the Headmaster’s area eating and making signs at each other all through their lunch. Perhaps, having been abandoned by his own mother at five, he can only handle one adult female relationship at a time, and to be honest, the musungu woman may just be too much at this time.

The little girl in the black dress at the very center had never seen and musungu before and was horrified and worried that we had been in some terrible accident. We allow them to rub our skin to see that we were not in pain.

The little girl in the black dress at the very center had never seen and musungu before and was horrified and worried that we had been in some terrible accident. We allow them to rub our skin to see that we were not in pain.

 

We forget that what we see when we travel around, meeting so many different Ugandans, is not necessarily what the children see. One of the little girls brought us to this reality very quickly, and showed us even why the small babies often react to us with fear and crying when they see us (see Gail’s earlier post). We were standing with a group of them, talking through Gail’s interpretation. By the horrified and agonized expression of sympathy and compassion on this child’s face, and her frantic signs, we realized she thought we had both been in some terrible accident where our skin had been removed, and this white skin was what was left from the injuries. She was afraid we were in great pain; she was almost in tears. It was touching, and we realized that this child had no experience at all with musungus.

Hope and James waving good-bye. James is smiling...Hope not so much.

Hope and James waving good-bye. James is smiling…Hope not so much.

We tried to explain our differences to the children, but the concept of, “No, we were born this way, we are just different,” was pretty hard to get across. So we allowed them to touch the skin of our arms, and rub it to see that we were not in pain or injured. This girl was amazed to touch our skin and see that it was healthy. When I took off my hat to show that I even had this weird white stuff on my head, they all insisted on rubbing my head to make sure I was not in pain.

When we left, both Hope and James waved, James smiling and Hope with that look that made us want to turn the vehicle around and stay forever just to prevent her experiencing more abandonment. But they are happy children. They are safe. And we are satisfied for now. But since James is partially hearing, we must figure out when and how to transport him to Kampala and have his hearing tested. We are praying about this important piece that has yet to fit into the puzzle of our James.

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