Monday, April 7, 2008

Tales from the Office: An Important Meeting!

Life in Africa held an important meeting on Friday for its members up in the Acholi Quarters. Their children’s program was about to go under because people weren’t paying the weekly fee of 250 shillings (about 15 cents) for their children’s lunch that was included. So at the Tuesday staff meeting, Grace announced that they should have a meeting and talk about this important issue. They decided on Friday at 2:00. But the meeting was so important that they decided they should announce the meeting was at 1:00 so that everybody would be there by 2:00.

I asked if I should go, and they said sure. They were holding it at Alex Opoka’s place. I had been there before so I imagined I could find it again. (Now, don’t think you know where this story is going because you don’t!) On Friday, I went home for lunch and told Peter and Jessica, still laboring over their plans, that I would meet them there.

I left a little after 1 and took matatu #1 to Spear Motors, and then matatu #2 to the Banda stage. I walked through the marketplace and up the hill, across the railroad tracks and over the street, and up the further hill. It was about 10 minutes to 2 when I reached the Acholi Quarters, and by a decent memory and some luck I made it to Opoka’s place right at 2.

There was nobody there. Well, there was a girl and a small boy there. They knew nothing about a meeting. I called Peter; no answer. I called Grace and told her where I was. She said that she would tell them what to do. I wasn’t sure if this meant the girl or my colleagues. I handed the phone to the girl, but Grace had hung up.

At this point Alex Opoka came back. I told him that I was here for the meeting. He hadn’t heard about any meeting, but seemed agreeable about it. He started off to get more benches. Then Jessica called me and I told her where I was. She told me to go to the meeting place (a pavilion near where one first enters the Acholi Quarters). Alex came back with a bench and I told him what Jessica had said. Alex walked me over to the meeting place, he limping. I asked what happened. He said an animal like a leopard had come to get one of his pigs and as he was chasing it off, he had fallen. Yeah, don’t you hate that?

I got to the meeting place and sat down on a bench in the shade, feeling comfortable and quiet. At this point, a woman shows up wearing a Life in Africa T-shirt and says I need to go to Esther’s place. Oh, OK. So I follow this woman to Esther’s place. I go inside, where it’s very warm, and sit on a chair while two other women sit on mats on the floor and a small boy plays with a stuffed animal. They speak in Acholi and so I sit quietly, for the most part, sweating.

Eventually, Esther arrives. She’s an energetic woman who speaks fluent English and welcomes me to her home. She decides it’s too hot in the house for me and brings me out to sit in a more open shelter next door to the house, which is much better. I sit quietly in my chair, not sweating.

At about a quarter to 3, Peter arrives. He and Esther determine that Esther is going to bring me to the place where they are having the meeting. Peter leaves. Esther tells me she will take me to the meeting place…

…after she bathes. Which is very sensible, you know. If all you have is cold water, makes far more sense to bathe in the middle of the hot afternoon. So Esther gets a basin of water and her soap and her washcloth and troops off to wash. She comes back and goes into the house to dry off, and finally comes back and says OK. And so we leave for the meeting place.

We get there a little after three. It’s a classroom in the middle of a field, as you pictured here, and it is full of women, all making beads from slips of paper. Esther and I walk in and there is applause and ululation from the women assembled. Peter gets out his agenda. Now, at last, since the mazungu has finally arrived, they can get started. Those dang mazungus! They never show up on time!

[The other picture is of Peter and Grace, leading the meeting.]

1 comment:

qoe said...

I, Ms. Punctuality, vow now to never in my life again worry about being 10 minutes late to a meeting I have struggled to get to on time!