Joyce Meng's Blog

Day #3 - Christmas Eve at the Peace School

December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve today! I woke up early at 8:30 AM and ate some Ugandan brown bread with bananas and dry roasted peanuts. Rather than go to town, we spent a complete day at the Peace School, playing with the kids and taking more photos and videos.

One of the favorite games the children play is called “cigarette”. Basically, you go around a circle and chant, “cigarette, cigarette, how many cigarettes does your father smoke in one day?” Then, a number is named and a count-down to elimination, until the last remaining child chases all the others in a game of tag.

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[Photo of the children playing “lost message from pocket”. Courtesy: Jiashan Wu]

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[Photo of the children playing “cigarette”. Courtesy: Jiashan Wu]

Today was a rather cool day in temperature, so I enjoyed running around and playing with the children. Jia, ever the professional, recorded a lot of great footage of the school and the students.

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[Photo of Jia and Irene playing on the porch]

Early afternoon, a man from Ugandan Solar came to discuss an upgrade of the current system. I’m happy to see how powerful and useful solar energy can be – a reliable source of energy to generate light in all the classrooms. The solar man showed us the different components – inverter to convert DC to AC for use, the control system to prevent discharging and overcharging, the batteries to store up to 14V (for future net metering), and of course, the solar panels, designed to last a minimum of 25 years. As a form of pre-paid energy, Solar requires a rather substantial up-front cost.

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[Photo of the solar control box. Courtesy: Jiashan Wu]

Afterward, we had lunch around 3 PM and watched a video of the school, taken during the summer with the University of Richmond volunteers worked as volunteers. One serious conversation Joanita and I had was about AIDS. Evidently Irene is HIV positive, which I completely didn’t know about, especially since she appeared very energetic and lively. When she stopped taking her ARVs (her grandmother would give them to her, but she would hide them and refuse to eat them), she became very sick. Bother of her parents passed away from AIDS, and she was born with the condition. She’s such a sweet, kind girl – a little bit of a natural born performer. This morning, she made me a fan and a friendship bracelet.

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[Picture of Irene braiding a friendship bracelet. She didn't have any tape to hold the string still, so she comissioned the help of little Farook]

I wouldn’t have been able to tell at all that she was sick. I guess a lot of experience here has been just that – all the kids smile a lot and play, but each face a lot of difficulties that they courageously surmount, hardships that many kids in other countries can’t even imagine! One astounding realization is that sickness and death play much more of a role in daily life than in ours – in many ways, this epiphany is truly humbling.

I guess jet lag finally caught up with me, so I took a much needed nap. Joanita, Jia, Iria, and I then took inventory of all the assets at the Upper Campus, as needed by the lawyer. We walked around the campus and discussed was to expand the school and best utilize the space.

Christmas Eve here is all about family and being together – spiritual celebration, no material exchange. We had a special meal of rice and chicken for dinner, and then afterward, I helped Joanita sort through all the clothing, supplies, and gifts that we bought for the children of the school and for the children of the village that we’ll soon be visiting in a couple of days!

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