Saturday, June 12, 2010

500 Words or Less

Dear Family, Friends and Michelle,

Webaleyo! ("Welcome back!"... to this you answer "Ndugireyo!" ["I am back from there!"])

At the beginning of May, I was asked to write a column for the Peace Corps Uganda Newsletter. "Me Time" is a section where volunteers share stories and photographs from the field, so the content was up to me. The only stipulation was that the piece had to come in at 500 words or less. Well, I wrote it up, obsessed over the grammar for a week and finally submitted what I felt was that elusive perfect essay (Kel knows what I am talking about). A couple weeks later, I received the PDF newsletter in the email and excitedly I scrolled to my page... and there it was.

"Me Time" By: Devon Patrick Murphy, CHED

My O.C.D. sirens started to blare. CHED?? (Community Health and Economic Development) I'm education, bitches!

Hwhatever! I got over it.

I figured you all ("y'all!" Oh, it feels so good to say that!) would like to read it.

So, without further ado...

"Me Time"

By: Devon Patrick Murphy, **EDUCATION**

"I’m a big guy: six-foot-three and 200 lbs on the average day. I’ve got big bones and a big head (though I’m told it’s proportional). In Uganda, kids under age five will observe me from a distance and sprint away at my approach. I’ve been harassed by only the drunkest of adults, and I’ve been called both intense and intimidating amongst other things. All of this has given rise to a certain confidence, a confidence which accounts for my confusion at this moment… because I’m being jumped.

I’d just made my way back into Kyenjojo, after one of my long meandering walks through the villages, my mouth dry and stomach screaming for dinner. The sun was quickly setting, and I was in one of those I will give anything to avoid cooking tonight-moods. So I stopped at my favorite chapatti stand…

“They are over,” says the man as I approach.

Dejected but not down for the count, I ask, “you are making more?”

“Yes. You sit.” He indicates the opposite side of the stand. Success!

My eyes catch the sky; it is a forest fire. Horizontal slashes of blazing red and orange are descending upon the Rwenzoris. The alien cloud in the center of it all, thick with rain and muddy yellow, provides a dimming lantern glow around us. Awed, I move to sit. My guard is down for the attack.

She is three - four tops - and no taller than my waste. Pretty all in pink, her sweater is stretched and worn backwards, and her dress stops just above her tiny bare feet. She has fully wrapped herself in my arms before I am seated.

Shocked I say, “Hi!You’renotshyatALL!” which comes out sounding like one word.

I try a bit of Rutooro. Giggling, she buries her face in the soft crook of my arm. The laughter that breaks out among the three of us is spontaneous and fills me. I have forgotten my thirst. My hunger is gone. I want nothing more in this moment.

The sky cools as the sun drops further into the Congo. Blues, silvers and grays appear. My new friend and I play a game of, What have you got in this hand?… ok, what have you got in THIS hand?... I could swear you had SOMETHING in at least ONE of your hands!! She returns her face into my arm and hums happily. My dinner sizzles a few feet away…

As dictated by relativity, it is the quintessential moments that pass the fastest, and this was no exception. By the time I was handed my bag of delicious oily goodness, Akiiki had been called back to her grandmother’s shop and the sky had succumbed to the steady advance of night.

Walking home, I contrasted my infinite morning of missing my life of three months ago with what I had just experienced. It’s harder to let loneliness get the best of you when moments like these are just around the corner. True story."

Thanks for reading!

I love you all! (But especially you Michelle!)


1 comment:

  1. Hey, great stories. Thanks for writing them. You are a great writer Dev. I'm sure more people are reading these than you think. I'll be calling my kids unotshyatall for the next week.