Six weeks into the beginning crochet class, things are going well. My students are eager to learn and I have found that I love teaching. The yarn I had shipped is running out too quickly, but that is a good thing because it means that my students are practicing morning, noon and night. Some of the students have invested in battery-operated night lights so they can crochet after dark. Their willingness to learn this skill and their hope it will bring them and their families a better life weighs on my mind in a way that gives me vision for what to teach each day.
My students have become a family. They help each other, they love each other, they support each other. And I love each woman. I respect their strength, their openness, their hardships. Every class meeting starts with shaking one another’s hand around our circle. Most of them follow Ugandan tradition of kneeling when they shake my hand. I kneel to them in spirit, because if I knelt to even one of them, I can’t guarantee that I could get up. I have told them as much and they laugh with understanding.
Beatrice and Agnes #3 have left their families to come just to take this course. Beatrice has two small daughters that she brought with her, Purity and Esther. As a mother, she is experiencing the heartbreak that Purity (age 5) has sickle cell. In rural Uganda the only treatments available for Purity are folic acid and pain killers to help her with the pain. She gets sick easily, but mercifully she is very resistant to malaria. Her younger sister Esther (age 18 months) is very healthy and a sweet, sweet child. Beatrice has two other children that remain at home. Agnes #3 has three children, the youngest is 3 years old. I know that these women are sacrificing so much to take this class and it is humbling.
Ann Okurut has 4 children, the youngest is about to finish high school. Christine (Toto #1 – Toto is Ateso for mother) has 10 children and is expecting her 11th. She is due in September. Irene has one daughter, Mercy, and she is expecting her second child, due in early October. Teddy #1 is a nurse and the office manager of the clinic here at PACODET. Teddy #2 is not yet married, but the class jokes about taking her on market day to Abilla (a village close by) and finding her a boyfriend. Agnes #2 is also unmarried and she is completing her nursing training here at PACODET. And there is also Benna, Florence (Toto #2), Phoebe, and Dinnah.
Most of the class has perfect attendance. Phoebe and Dinnah aren’t coming now because they are newly pregnant and have terrible morning sickness that seems to last the whole day. They can get caught up when they are feeling better.
But then there is the Other Ann, Ann Apadet. She is pretty and she is very reserved. I know from my boss Stanley that she has a very hard life. She has one daughter, Sharon, and she has said she is expecting again. She said in the last class she attended that she was one month along. A few weeks ago I learned that Sharon was born very early, weighing a few ounces at most. Sharon was hospitalized for the first few weeks of her life and kept in an incubator. Ann’s attendance in class has been spotty at best and as a result she struggles to keep up with the class. Her grades are so low at this point that she will not be able to advance to the Intermediate class.
This week I found out that Ann had run away from her home here in Kapuwai. Her husband has been in Kampala for some time now looking for work. Apparently, her husband called her and his brother answered her phone. Customs for visiting married women are different in Uganda. Her husband asked his brother what he was doing in their home. Words were exchanged. Ann left in fear of what her husband would do when he came home. If Ann is actually pregnant, she is in great danger of severe abuse or worse. Ann went to her family home several hours away. Not many people have considered that Ann may not have had a choice regarding participation in the sex that led to her latest pregnancy.
She is lost to many things now, not the least of which is the program. If her husband catches up with her, she will most certainly lose Sharon. In Uganda, children are the possession of the father. I pray her husband will never catch up with her.
You might win some, but you just lost one.