Friday, 21 August 2009

The International Language

The lads on our team were challenged to a football match yesterday by the builders so we began the day with an International Football game. Our team went out all guns blazing and fairly quickly scored a goal. The opposition soon followed it, but this was quickly disallowed as it was off-side. Now, I have little understanding of football, but I am pretty sure you are not allowed to score a goal if you are standing next to it when the ball is passed to you. However the heat soon sapped the strength of the English but they battled on to achieve a 3-3 draw. Tim, our spiritual leader, quickly progressed from yesterday's nicknames of 'Timmy No-Trowels' and 'Timmy No-Trousers' (due to a mishearing of his first nickname and not to any inappropriate behaviour on his part) to 'Timmy No-Goals' as he failed to score on any of his opportunities.
The conversation revolved around football for most of the day and I was quickly written off due to my lack of fervent support for any Premiership Club. It is not the first time I have failed to speak the language of football and, as I saw how it enabled English and Ugandan to converse freely, I wondered if I would be better applying myself to learning to understand the game and culture better. Perhaps I should chose a club to follow? However, as the guys got to know each other better they began to discuss the merits of various players whose names were wholly unfamiliar to me and I realized how out of my depth I would be.
Later in the day a rubber snake, brought along by the man who is now exaggeratedly infamous for wrestling a mamba on the last St Saviours' mission to Uganda, was placed carefully by a pile of bricks. A member of our team then feigned discovery, battered the unwitting, if unreal, reptile over the head and threw it away. The builders were genuinely terrified, a couple running to a safe distance and they were only tempted out when the snake was stretched to double its length by two giggling Brits. Still cautious, a few were willing to hold it and, as it was accepted as a child's toy, peals of laughter followed and they all gathered for a closer look. 'It looks just like a snake,' commented the supervisor, 'a real one.' Exactly.
My Acholi pronunciation is good enough now for me to say 'How are you?' with confidence and usually to receive a grin and an Acholi response. After greeting Mama Margaret this morning and asking how she was, she returned the question. 'Oh,' I grimaced, 'I am too hot!' Instantly I was convicted of the utter wrongness of my reply. How could I stand there, in this woman's home, she who had so little, was bringing up eight homeless children, had strangers traipsing through her house to use the toilet for three days, was enduring the same heat and was still smiling and welcoming, how could I stand there and complain that I was hot. 'I am good,' I grinned. Life is good and I would do well to remember that.

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