By Andrea Costa
I woke up hearing the wonderful bird songs just outside of my room. The nature has been amazing at Mweya Lodge in Queen Elizabeth Natuonal Park... some people had a hippo grazing outside their room last night, a warthog just wanders around scoffing down the grass, there are hundreds of birds and bats that zip all around us, and we have a stunning view of the lake where so many animals come to cool off and drink. I exited my room and walked leisurely towards the pool, where I relaxed at the edge by gently merging my feet In the cool water. Other people from the team arrived and similarly relaxed, or perhaps read a book on the sun loungers. It was very unusual to have a lot of time to relax because in the village there was always something that needed to be done, or always kids to play with. There certainly wasn't time to relax like this. I had been missing the village and its lifestyles. I had been missing the people from The Peace Centre, I had also been missing the work that always made me exhausted and normally ended with me being covered in brown dust. I guess it was very surprising to me to realise just how much I miss the hard work in Bukinda.
In the late afternoon our team went down for an exciting boat ride to admire the beauty of the channel that was set next to our resort which offered many animals to watch, explore and love. During the course of the boat ride we encountered buffaloes lying down on grass, mud or refreshing themselves in the chilly water; we saw crocodiles of different dimensions - some small ones just under a meter, others were over 2 meters long - who would lie on the short hot grass to sunbathe, keeping their mouths open to release body heat; there were also many hippos just cooling in the muddy eater's edge too, including a protective mama and her small and rather cute baby; and mixed in with all of these were many different types of birds such as kingfishers, African eagles, egrets and maribu storks. The boat ride was a wonderful way to relax for a couple of hours as we gently cruised through this natural habitat and got to experience Ugandan wildlife in its own home.
As we took our bus back to the hotel I found myself reflecting back to The Peace Centre. I am genuinely suprised how I have made really strong bonds with the staff and childen at The Peace Centre in only 2 weeks. Two weeks. Think about it, it's really not that long and yet I felt so attached to some of the people there. It's hard to explain how this happened. I had gotten particularly close to one boy at The Peace Centre, a boy called Alex. Alex and I were made to be together. He had chosen me for any reading or writing activity that Bright, the friendly and excellent teacher that helps at TPC in the evening, did with us at night. I felt honoured that he always chose me for these activities. I'm not sure why he chose me, but I guess it meant he felt relaxed and comfortable with me, and we came to be very close during those times we spent together. I'm not really sure of Alex's background, but I did wonder if he had had the chance to relax and just make a good friend before, enjoying time reading, colouring and making t-shirts together.
As I walked up the steep slope that ran from Peace and Golden's home up to the main road on that last morning in the village, a rush of emotions ran through my body. We had loaded the bus, we were ready to go and we were saying our final goodbyes to The Peace Centre and its amazing people. I did not think of the staff or the children at The Peace Centre as my friends, I thought of them as my family. Peace and Golden as my Uncle and Aunt, and the children as my brothers and sisters - especially Alex. The thing that made me cry just as I was going to enter the bus, was when Alex came and gave me a huge hug, and then looked at me in the eyes with sorrow in his and said, "Costa, please come back". I did not know what to say. I just hugged him, hugged him very hard and told him "I will try my best Alex."
The truth is that I don't know when I will be back in Uganda, but I really hope it will be soon. I know I'll miss my friend, and that he'll miss me. I hope I can get to be a part of his life, and that he can always be a part of mine such was the strength of the bond that was made. Two weeks! It's amazing what can happen in such a short time.
Who are we?
A team working alongside Golden Magezi in Bukinda, Uganda, running an orphanage that provides kids with love, family and an education.