July 23rd.

Tomorrow is our first free day! It still isn’t entirely free, because we’re having the research committee that has been put together at Lira Integrated School over to our hotel for dinner, but tomorrow is the first day that we can sleep in. I can’t WAIT to get more than 6 hours of sleep! Our plan is to get breakfast at the hotel in the morning and then explore the town’s market in the afternoon.

On top of getting to sleep in, breakfast is always a treat here because of the African tea. African tea is black tea steeped in hot milk and heavily infused with ginger. It’s wonderful and a new favorite that I’m determined to bring back to the US!

I spent most of the day observing classrooms in the primary school today. While I was in one classroom, the headmistress of the school, Beatrice, came in and announced that she had a letter for me. She handed me a piece of notebook paper that was folded into an envelope, and inside was a page-long letter in very neat handwriting. It was from a primary school student, 13 years old, named Mercy Akello. I have never met her in person, but she has seen me standing in front of the students and speaking at assemblies and workshops, and sitting in on her classes.

This is the letter.

I found out some more information about her, like she also lost her brother to AIDS and she has two younger brothers also attending school at Lira Integrated. I was told that her father has struggled to pay the fees for all three of his children, and I know that when families cannot pay fees, the children are sent home from school. I am going to find her in class this week and talk to her more on my own, but my plan is to pay the fee for her upcoming trimester. For them school costs about 290,000 shillings per trimester, which equals about $50, so the cost is $150 for the year for a boarder, including all of her meals. It’s amazing to think that in the US we spend $50 on a pair of shoes, and the same amount of money feeds, clothes, and educates a child for 4 months.

I’m at the point in my trip where everything around me has sunk in and I’m really starting to gain some perspective. It is a lot of information to handle, and spending time with the children has really given me a lot to think about. I’m glad that I have some time to myself tonight to write this, and to wind down.

Luckily for me, I made an impulsive Target run before I left and splurged on 2 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy…I’m really looking forward to some mindless entertainment and a little dose of America.

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