Banana trees are very utilitarian. Today I made a skirt, a hat, and a backpack rain cover from the leaves. I ate 3 lovely banana fruits (fruits, but ha'adama nonetheless). And after a good lunch of pb&j, while sitting by a spectacular waterfall, I enjoyed the shade from the entire banana tree.
I am in love with
And this is why I have avoided emailing for so long--because as soon as I attempt to describe how utterly perfect my life is these days, how my heart is perpetually swollen from being so happy, I begin spewing bad lyrical prose (case in point); and it's not even worth it because it still does not measure up to how I actually feel.
But a very wise man once told me that if you cannot express the way you feel about everything, then you should at least try and express how you feel about something so that your friends know what is going on in your life, and so that you do not burst. So here I go. I will tell you something. I'll tell you about my week.
The beginning of last week was filled with the hustle and bustle of preparing for Purim. There were songs to be sung (and written) and plays to be prepared. And there was a ridiculous amount of hamantaschen to be cooked. And by cooked, I mean fried.
The Abayudaya had never had hamantaschen before and the Abayudaya do not have ovens. And so for for hours and hours and hours we folded jelly into little balls of dough into the triangular shape of wicked Haman's hat (or ears, depending on whom you ask) and then threw them, one by one (there were hundreds) into the hot pot of oil that was cooking on the charcoal.
After reading Megillat Esther on Thursday night (which was after my grand entrance doing the dance of the Sarah-flower and after my totally unprepared but successful reading of perakim bet and yud of the Megilla) the hundreds of people gathered in the Moses Synagogue on Nabugoye Hill, ate their first hamantaschen.
The next day was filled with more singing and more dancing and lots of happiness.
And that's when I realized it: Besides the fact that there were more people and besides the fact that it was a holiday, there was really very little different from that day than any other of my days spent with the Abayudaya. I spend a good chunk of every day singing and dancing, and I spend the entirety of every day being happy.
For Shabbat we went to Nasenyi, which is a very small section of the Jewish community about 10 km from Nabugoye Hill (the headquarters of it all). There were 3 mazungus and 3 Abayudaya high school students who joined this community for Shabbat. It's amazing where 10 km can bring you. Going to Nasenyi from Nabagoye is like going from
About 25 people gathered into the small synagogue for a service where there were few prayer books and no light to view whatever books were there. There was more time spent thanking the visitors for coming there was spent on praying or on our own prepared speeches (I speak every shabbat!). On Shabbat afternoon we sat with the women of the community and, with a translator, spoke about the differences between
They are hopefull, they tell us. They say that there is a bright future. They look at the youth in the community who are so strong and so active and who are getting Jewish educations and who are able to live freely among there non-Jewish neighbors, and they tell us that they know that Judaism is able to thrive. It was not always so easy for these women, when they were growing up.
The year was 1919 and Semei Kakungulu had had enough with the British and with their coercive religious preaching. In a dramatic and defiant act, as the story goes, Kakungulu took his Holy Bible and ripped out, literally, the New Testament section. He fell in love with the Torah--it's stories and laws--not really knowing anything about the world religion of Judaism. He took with him close to 3,000 followers. Over the years he and his people were blessed with visitors who taught them about Judaism, about rabbinic Judaism and about the traditions. With Amin's reign of terror, however, the numbers dropped to mere hundreds. Jews were not allowed to practice and were persecuted for doing so. Many converted back to Christianity, many intermarried, and many just disappeared.
And many continued to pray in caves and to study in secret. They were stubborn and devoted. Like the pioneers in
In 1987 a decree came out which enforced the prohibition of intermarriage. In 2000 a Jewish primary school opened. Statistically, these Jews will make it.
On Easter Sunday of 2005 a group of 35 young members, all of whom have officially converted to Judaism over the past 5 years, organize a hike to the cliff that's been screaming my name all month,
And when we got back, the children at Hadassah were waiting for me, as usual, and I began chasing them around the compound, as usual, kissing them and counting to ten in Luganda (I haven't progressed much in the language area).
And just as I thought things couldn't get any better, Ben and Bethami had a baby girl who is healthy and stunning, and I'm not just saying that cuz she's my niece and cuz she looks just like me.
Must go. Much love.