dispatch from uganda / by Lauren Steele

I am in Uganda now, writing this.

Today I stopped by the roadside of a small village school. It was around 730am and all of the kids were walking down the red dirt road and across the large dried-up grass lawn to their brick school. I waved to a few little girls walking, and their mouths dropped. I asked our driver to pull over. He did. When I opened the car door the little girls shrieked and ran the opposite direction. 

"They think the muzungo (foreigner) will eat them!" laughed my driver. 

I laughed too at the thought of it. But I didn't want the school kids to be afraid. So I walked across the lawn. I smiled, waved, sat on the ground. My driver showed the kids how to give a high five. He touched my hand to prove it was safe. One girl started to walk towards me but shied away. I took a step closer and they scattered. Then, a little boy came out of the group and with a big smile and a lot of courage firmly slapped his hand into mine and let it rest there for a second. We both laughed. Then it was like the kids couldn't high five me fast enough. I showed them how to take a selfie. They were in awe of Zach's big camera. We danced. We played tag. We took more selfies. 

The headmaster of the school came out and said hello. He was a gentleman in his 50s with salt and pepper hair, a torn and ratty shirt with crayola-colored striped, and no shoes. He thanked us for stopping by and said it was a pleasure to meet us. He and I did not make eye contact, as that is seen as rude here in the rural areas. 

The school bell was rung from inside the brick walls and the swarm of kids that was encircling me with smiles and little giggles vanished. They ran as fast as their little legs could get them across that dead grass to go learn their morning lessons. 

I can't help but hope that if their parents ask them "How was school today?" that each of them will talk about the mizungo who danced and smiled and didn't eat them. 

I hope it was magical for them. Because it was for me.