I was called by an African name last year: Mama Apio. Fitting because it means elder twin, which I am. And an honor to be recognized in that way.
My African name has been repeated often this year and the connection the name makes with people in Uganda is extraordinary. In many of the times we’ve been introduced at the extravagant welcomes we receive, nods and smiles greet the announcement of the name.
An elder of the tribe embraced me as his daughter has the same name, a string that also connects the elder and an American from far away.
We watched the Lira Cathedral choice rehearse on Saturday — the lovely smiling women and men and the young girl dancers, singing and dancing out under a tree in front of the cathedral. One older woman in the choir smiled even wider when she heard my African name: “My daughter has that name,” she said as we gripped hands.
Milling about ensued after the rehearsal as we packed up cameras and talked to our new friends. We gravitated to the church steps for a group picture. My new friend and one of our Uganda coordinators found me in the melee.
“Can you take a baby chick home? Will they let you?” the coordinator asked as my new friend looked on anxiously. She cupped her hands and held them up to show me the size of the baby chick she wanted to give me.
I explained it would be impossible to bring the chick back to the USA. I was overcome. What a lovely gesture. I hope I was able to convey my regret at not being able to accept such a gift.
Now I have a responsibility – to keep giving that baby chick, to give of myself unselfishly and warmly. I need to pass along that baby chick.