Monday, 23 March 2015

Julia Korban: A Homestay Experience

My siblings!
The driver turned right down a rocky, dusty road as the sun began to set behind the hills of Mukono. The car continued down a hill until we pulled up to a walled-in house, enclosed with a large, iron gate. The car came to a stop as the gates began to open. I clutched my bag as my heart began to beat so quickly; to this day I cannot pinpoint whether it was nervousness or excitement making my adrenaline pump. This was the moment I had been anticipating ever since I had been accepted into the Uganda Studies Program, three months earlier. We had already dropped three girls off at their semester-long homestays, and we had finally arrived at my home. There in the driveway stood women, children, and toddlers, all anticipating my arrival. I stepped out of the car and was immediately welcomed with open arms from all who were standing there. The two young boys grabbed my belongings to take to my room as I gazed around in bewilderment. Once inside, introductions began. “I am Janice, this is Fidel, Charis, Lucy, Auntie Bettie, Auntie Matilda, Auntie Mariam, Auntie Martha, and the twins are Treasure and Favor. Mom and Dad are away this weekend for work, but they will be back on Sunday.” I was overwhelmed in that moment, to say the least. Janice, my 13-year old sister, led me to our room, where she and Auntie Bettie began to set up my sheets and hang my mosquito net around my bed. My 11-year old and 10-year old brothers, Fidel and Charis, showed me around the rest of the house, and the yard. After my tour of their property, I went to begin to unpack my things. Janice and I had our first awkward conversation while I unpacked, and the boys marvelled at all the American things I had brought along, especially my M&M’s. At about 9:30 pm, I had my first Ugandan dinner with my family. Beans, rice, and meat piled the plates of everyone in the house. As Fidel covered his meal with ketchup, he ignored the optional forks set on the table, and dug in shamelessly with both hands. I sat there, uncomfortably trying to make small talk and bond with my new family. That night, I climbed under my mosquito net and laid in bed for hours, thinking of how this would be my home, and my family, for the next four months.
Carrying my twin siblings!

Washing clothes


Popcorn time with the family!
As time has gone on, being placed with this family for the semester has been the best experience of my life. I have grown so close to each and every one of my family members. My host Dad has unfortunately been away in Israel for the past six weeks for work, but is returning this week! One of the many things that I absolutely adore about Ugandan culture is their sense of family and their sense of community. Families live with their extended family members frequently; someone who is family, is always welcomed in another family member’s home. This is why the family that I stay with has so many aunties! They are a family of fun, and a family of love. My host mom constantly reminds me how often she prays for me, and my 2-year old twin siblings sing songs about how they love Jesus every day. When I arrive home from school, I am greeted with giggling children, running up to me, jumping into my arms, and all my family members greeting me by saying “welcome back!” Many nights we all sit around a tray filled with bags of popcorn that mommy has brought home, all of us children in the same place, at the same time. Sometimes we tell riddles, or tell scary stories under the stars with Auntie Bettie and Auntie Matilda as they cook dinner outside. Last week, my brothers and I made American pancakes over the coal stove outside. We ate them with peanut butter and syrup, and everybody loved them! They have taught me how to mingle posho and atap, and how to make my absolute favorite Ugandan food: Chapati. Janice and Matilda spent much time teaching me to properly hand wash my clothes, wash the dishes, and sort rice. The boys love to come into my bedroom while I am trying to do homework and ask my questions about my life in America. “In America, does everyone have a toaster oven? In America, do you wear uniforms to school? In America, do you have a vacuum cleaner? In America, do you have to work to get money?” As we sit and talk, we find out that we have so many similarities, and we love to learn about each other’s differences. Each day brings something new, especially as we have had to face the changes that life always brings. Janice has gone off to boarding school, leaving me alone in my room, and without one of my sisters. The boys have started up their school year again, and come home every night after I am asleep, and leave before I am even awake (how they do it, I have no idea). Weekends are the prime time for seeing my brothers, but I enjoy every night spending time with Auntie Miriam, Auntie Bettie, Auntie Matilda, Mom, and the twins, as we laugh and talk, and sit together.
My family finds it quite comical that I fear cockroaches so intensely. One night, at dinner, the entire family was all crammed around the kitchen table, when, of course, I spotted a giant cockroach dashing  across the wall. As I screamed bloody murder, the entire family’s eyes widened. I put my feet up under mom's legs on her chair, as I pointed at the horrendous bug. My brave little Charis ran to get a shoe, smashed in, and carried it outside, to dispose of it. The entire family laughed, laughed, and laughed for about 5 minutes as I sat there, traumatised. From that day on, I put my feet up while I eat dinner, just to make sure no cockroach has the chance to scare the life out of me by touching my bare skin. 

Making pancakes!
It is a family just like any other in this world: there are arguments, laughter, tears, singing, cooking, cleaning, playing, yelling, good times, and bad. Each day, as I become more comfortable with my family, I become more comfortable as an American in Uganda. They love me, they accept me, and they teach me so much. Sometimes I get confused as to why I am so amazed that I can feel so at home with people of a different culture, skin color, history, lifestyle, and continent. It makes sense: humans are created to love and to be loved. We are created to celebrate life, all life, and to embrace one another in our alikeness and our differences. We are commanded by God’s Word to be hospitable, to open our homes to one another, and to relish all parts of the body of Christ. Together, we become one in Jesus. We share the joy, the peace that surpasses understanding, the mercy, the struggles, the tears, the pain, the hope, and the unconditional love of being a Christian when we come together as one. It does not matter our social status, our race, our ethnicity, our material possessions, or our nationality. In Christ, we are the same, and together we can be united in a beautiful community. And this community, this love that I have come to know through my homestay so far this semester, has been the most joyful, inspiring, and incredible experience in my life. For this I am so grateful and will continually thank God for this family that has taken me in as their own, and has loved me without restraint.​
Hugs from my host Mom

1 comment:

  1. loved reading glad you can have this experience!