“tell Varina we’re ready,” I hear josh yell from his house. before crissy has time to turn from the door, I grab my bag & nalgene & run past her. today I am shadowing josh, our water engineer.
josh is a florida boy with a doctorate in environmental engineering. after a push from God at a passion conference, josh began to pursue water engineering in missions. his pursuit & prayers brought him to bundibugyo. (where he also met his fiance!)
I hop into the front seat & strap in for the brain rattling roads of the district. justice, a ugandan engineer, sits in the back seat clothed in his official blue bodysuit & tall black boots. we start our short journey with musical talents from mumford & sons, fun., and lastly, my favorite, edward sharpe & the magnetic zeros. I’m not sure how our ugandan friend enjoyed the stereo concerts.
the truck turns off the main road onto a narrow pass leading to a tiny village. men & women slow their work to watch the majungus arrive. for these conganese men & women, we are as spectacular as a yearly circus, coming to perform our fine act of being white. tickets for sale!
the truck pulls to a stop at the bottom of a shamba. scattered cocoa trees cover the earth of the large garden. as I step out of the truck, my nose reaches for the sent of fermenting cocoa seeds drying on tarps in the sun. was it only 2 weeks ago that this smell made me sick? now as the smell fills my nostrils, I slightly enjoy this small part of uganda.
we grab the tools & begin the short trek to the waterfall. the majungu circus has wrought attention & a line of little boys follow from a distance. just like the pide piper with his flute, we lure them by the curiosity of white people in the jungle. a show is guaranteed.
the acrobats are first. josh & justice prepare for their steep climb up the falls, pulling on harnesses & securing ropes. I take my lofty position as “keeper of the bags” & begin praying as they ascend. there are 3 main pipes that run up to the middle cascade of the falls. gravity carries water from the top of the falls, through the pipes, to the people down below. water stopped flowing into one of the pipes at the falls, so josh suspects there is a leak.
the men reach their destination, & with awestruck faces below, they cross the top of the falls braving roaring white waters & a 20 foot fall. sharp rocks at the bottom? most likely. bring it on.
josh lowers himself into the powerful forces to examine the pipes. he finds the unexpected: 2 holes in the pipe allow the water to go straight through but no plug for the bottom hole, therefore water is gushing in & back out. to temporarily fix the problem, he inserts a sandbag near the pipe, redirecting the flow of water to go into & down the pipe. (if this doesn’t make sense, I’m sorry. my engineering understanding is limited.)
as the men continued to perform their spectacular feats, I began my portion of the show. I call it (drum roll….)
I pulled out my ipod touch from inside my bag to take a picture of the beauty engulfing me. the sun shown through the bows of jungle trees & vines, creating divinely inspired layers of light. leaves 6-7 feet long fabricated staggered canopies of shade. the falls were surrounded by trees & bush of every kind. birds flew from the tops sweeping down to rest upon rocks in still water, dipping their tail feathers in for a dainty rinse. to my right, rose a part of the rwenzori mountains. covered in tall grass releasing shades of yellow, tan, & dark green. I half expected a lion to walk down & display his authority through a fear-striking roar.
however, as I was off gazing in the distance, the little village troop had cautiously made their way over to my stage. they had never seen this small rectangular object before. what does it do? I tapped the corner of the screen to reverse the camera so that the boys could see themselves. I held the ipod out to the inquisitive faces & waited for their reactions.
my act won the show. josh & justice were left atop the waterfall to get down by their own self-talk & encouragement, while the circus continued on with the new marvel.
we continued to film & take pictures for the next hour. several times I narrowly escaped an unwanted bath as the boys swarmed around the rock on which I was precariously perched in a skirt. the performers of the group stuck out like an annoying splinter as they continuously pushed their faces to the front or jumped into the water, drawing attention with their splashes, doing anything to get the magic box moved in their direction. my favorite was a small boy with eyes too far apart & teeth too big for his mouth. dressed in girl’s pink pajama pants & a holey orange t-shirt, he represented the slow & dysfunctional one who somehow always manages to come along. the boys repeatedly teased him to the outside of the ring, but he would find his way back to my rock to sit next to me & laugh at all the pictures.
by the time josh returned to the bottom, I had won the crowd, as well as a love note on a banana leaf:
“I love you I love you I love you my sweet.” how nice.
we collected the tools, waited another 10 minutes as justice took a last minute bath, then began the hike down to the vehicle. as perfectly enchanted children, our assembly followed behind josh shadowing his every turn & duck under the cocoa roots & branches.
as we returned to the truck & packed up all the excitement- all good things must come to an end- I tilted my head back one last time to behold the nearness of the renzwori mountains, hoping my lion might reveal himself at last. the beauty around such poverty amazes me every time. it is one of the ugandan paradoxes. death & disease in a place that nature daily declares the power & majesty of the Lord. I do not understand this. I don’t know if I ever will.