Ours was a friendship that started on shaky grounds. I had arrived with trauma from boot camp observation of Wandegeya Primary School. The fear of not being understood was hidden within. For they spoke a language alien to that of mine and mine too fell on deaf ears.
I greeted them with a wide smile, and when I spoke further, they replied with ice-cold silence. A reminder echoed in my mind, you must live through it to get to them. We ended our conversation for the day on greetings.
I jumped out of my bed the next day more energized. Another opportunity to give it a try. The remedy was a cocktail of the little ‘Luganda’ I had gathered over the years, simple English with a topping of hand gestures and a bit of dancing. If all failed, the smile would take over.
Soon we picked up and now the shyness of the learners came into play. At the mention of a name, trembles, and face-covering was the response I got. I decided to share a desk with a team each day during group work to get closer. Escorting them home, sharing my cup of porridge and pancakes.
When I played with them and fell, they would giggle for the rest of the day. I smiled or laughed along to make them comfortable. Today it’s a different story altogether. My little twisted Lusoga trickles them hard.
They are aware of my favorite fruit, avocado. If I don’t get a random one on my desk, it finds me wherever I am. My slippers one-time cut and I would drag them on as I went to bath. One night I left them out because I believed no one could steal a pair of slippers in that state.
I awoke to prepare and leave for our daily sessions as usual. I was ready to drag my slippers on and I was surprised they had been mended. Wow, she had kept it a secret. I was so happy that I infected every child I attended to that day.
On International Friendship Day, we exchanged bouquets and sat down as friends and enjoyed guessing answers to the riddles in their native language. I didn’t understand many of them but the few that I understood sent me into roars of laughter.
It was a beautiful day, no books, no teacher, no learner but friends sharing moments of joy and laughter. It’s the little things we do that bring us the greatest of joy. Our friendship is priceless. One without a proper spoken language but we are fluent in the language of friendship.
Written by Laker Winnie (Teach For Uganda Fellow 2020–2021)