"Slowly slowly," our guard Peter says to me every time I leave our compound in the car. Teacher Florence says it to me as I babble my way through Luganda lessons. "Slowly slowly" in Luganda is "mpola mpola". Life in Uganda is mpola mpola. Cooking in Uganda is mpola mpola. Church in Uganda is gloriously mpola mpola. And my favorite thing: conversations in Uganda are mpola mpola. Relationships here take center stage so there is always time to talk. In fact, we spent an entire week in Luganda classes learning formal and informal greetings just because there are so many! A few times a week I walk up the hill to buy produce from my new friend Elizabeth. It should only take me 15 minutes to walk there, purchase what I need and walk back. It often takes me triple that amount of time. :)
In all honestly, adjusting to my new mpola mpola life has not always been easy. I came here with an American frame of reference where everything was "quickly, quickly" and convenient. When my American expectations meet my new "mpola mpola reality" it feels like I am being flicked by a rubber band. Twanged. Ouch! While preparing to come to Uganda I received valuable advice from my mentors and fellow missionaries to do what I could to make sure our house here felt like home. I was encouraged to make our home feel like a safe haven, a refuge. As soon as we arrived I began nesting. Often the children would tell me, "this is starting to feel like home now that you have put your touches on things Mommy." Life often feels like chaos for all of us right now so knowing this space is bringing everyone some comfort does my heart good.
A recent twang happened when I wanted to make pillows. I bought some fabric in America with the idea that I would quickly whip out some pillows. Ha! Here's how it went...
Step One: Find a Seamstress. I don't have a sewing machine here so I asked some fellow missionaries who I could hire to help me make some. After a week or so of asking around I was directed to a sweet Ugandan woman who had a great reputation. We met and discussed what I wanted done. I was so excited to get the call a week later that my pillows were done. She did a fabulous job! What I didn't realize though was that I was supposed to tell her to stuff the pillows.
Step Two: Find stuffing. Oh bless my heart! With my American frame of reference I thought I would just pop into a place like Jo-Ann Fabrics and purchase exactly what I needed. So after Luganda class I buckled myself into the drivers seat of our Land Cruiser, told myself that I was the fiercest driver in Kampala and drove myself to a supermarket. No stuffing. A couple days later after Luganda class I did the same thing. No stuffing. But they had pillows! Unfortunately they were very expensive pillows that I would have to cut up into smaller pillows. I couldn't rationalize spending that kind of money so I walked back to the car and had a good cry. It wasn't just the stuffing that brought me to tears. It's my idea of 'normal' being changed. A week later this fiercest driver in Kampala drove to the grocery store and BOOM. On the way I spotted a man walking down the road selling cheap pillows! I felt like I would burst with excitement! I called him over to my car and bought them. I waited for him to walk away before I rolled up my window and shouted with excitement! You should have seen me!
Step 3: Stuff pillows. On Saturday afternoon I sat on our front porch and happily stuffed my pillows. :)
Step 4: Enjoy these labors of love that took 5 weeks to make!
I'm learning more about mpola mpola living everyday. Here are a few take-aways:
- Fast living is usually not conducive to relationship building.
- Slow is only too slow when I'm too fast.
- Productivity is less about the hustle/bustle and more about healthy priorities.
Next time you feel yourself speeding up just pause, take a breath and whisper "mpola mpola".