reflections upon returning home

it’s hard to believe i’ve been back home for 2 days now.  (also this post may be slightly incohernet b/c it’s about 20 minutes before teh end of tisha b’av.  so i apoligze in advance).  sometimes, it seems like the past month didnt happen.   but then i have all the photos, stories and memories to prove that it did.  this morning, i went to hear rabbi jacob j. schachter speak about tisha b’av in my shul.  he spoke for many, many hours (quite a feat), but at one point he spoke about how tisha b’av is one of the only days in the year when we have the license to challenge the way god has allowed events in the world to occur.  it’s the day when we are allowed to ask “eicha” about all of the tragedies that have happened.  he spoke about the tragedy of the 8 young men who were killed at yeshivat mercaz harav, about the jews in france who have been victimized.  but i couldnt help thinking about putti.  about how my friends are suffering because of a terrible drought, and about how actions here in america play into that (those of you who know me know that i’m a hardcore environmentalist.  but everyone in uganda who is somewhat educated speaks about climate change and its direct effect on their country).  and how one of the babies in the community was terribly sick w/ malaria before we left (i don’t know how he’s doing now).  now of course the difference b/w putti and the exampels that rabbi schachter cited is that the jews in putti are not being targetted b/c they are jews, but that they are merely suffering teh same calamities as others in uganda.  that doesnt mean that we can’t challenge god for the way the world is today.

we said goodbye to putti village on sunday.  it really felt like leaving home.  i will truly miss everyone in the commmunity.  it’s hard to say that i will see many of the people in putti again, though i sincerely hope and pray to see some of them in israel one day, which is their dream. it was also hard to leave b/c in many ways, it felt like we had just scratched the surface.  the kids literally just started reading hebrew a week ago, adn now we have left.  many of them experienced a huge breakthrough  when they finally started reading words and short sentences.  the boys promised us that they would continue teaching them, and i really hope that they do.

our last day in putti was a  busy and exciting one.  in the morning, we organized and labelled the library.  we all brought a lot of books, so we wanted to make sure that everything will be utilized.  we realized that they probably dont use 90% of the books in their library (donated by people around the wrold) because they dont even know what they have.  so we created labels like “beginner’s chumashim,” “learning hebrew,” “jewish philosophy,” etc.  everyone was very excited about all the organizing.  the room looked great by the end, especially when we hung up our aleph bet chart and other posters.  it felt like quite an accomplishment.

we then had a “community meeting” with uri, the community chairman, enosh, his wife shira, and the boys.  it was cute how seriously they took themselves.  uri gave us a complete briefing of the community’s projects (poultry farm, coffee fields, electric water pump), and then everyone took a few minutes to personally thank us for all that we did for them.  moshe galandi, who is usually quiet, was unusually expressive, said, “we have a saying in uganda that in order to really know a person, you have to eat with him, live with him and work with him.  that’s what you’ve come here to do, and we are truly grateful for that.”  it was gratifying to hear all them express their thanks to us.

we spetn the rest of the day hanging out, and then as our taxi pulled up bru and i planted some beans.  the whole community then gathered together in a big circle to sing “shalom aleichem” (really “shalom chaverim,” but the sentiment was cute).  we hugged everyone, expressed our thanks and gratitude, got in the car and drove away.  it was a hard goodbye, but as bru said in her post, its not the end of our relationship with putti.

ok time to break the fast.  keep checking the blog for photos and videos.  i promise to upload some soon!


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