Saturday, June 30, 2018

Our Grandfather Next Door

by Alexandria Van Dall and the Naluko Village Team

Naluko intern Gloria interviews David.
"Our landlord's name is David. He's very nice and speaks some English, we should introduce ourselves as soon as we arrive. Also, he's disabled, so don't be shocked." My team leader said this to me upon arrival in our village and I was unsure what to expect. I couldn't help but think, "How exactly do people with disabilities live in the villages?" The first time I met David he sat on a low wooden bench, one leg crossed over the other, under a mango tree in our front yard. Most of the time when I see him, he's in this exact position, as if he is always waiting and willing for visitors. I make it a point to speak with him whenever I see him out on his bench -- not just out of respect, but out of genuine affection for him. David is the personification of perseverance and grace.

He has seven children, 18 years between his youngest and oldest. None of them live with him, however they do make a point to visit when they can. His first wife passed away, and his second left him after he retired. In spite of this, he speaks of them all affectionately. David has a warm stoicism about him. Often times his responses to questions are single syllables mumbled behind a wide and knowing smile. He's an archetypal wise, grandfatherly figure.

His disability is hidden when he's sitting, but when he's out tending to his pigs or in his garden the damages left by untreated polio in his childhood become obvious. Incredibly, David's relaxed demeanor doesn't shift when he's away from his front yard perch. He expertly maneuvers the yard, rhythmically switching crutches and one-handedly completing everyday village tasks that I find myself struggling with. David explained that for most of his life disabled persons in Uganda weren't granted much extra consideration, so he had to adapt to less than hospitable living, transportation, and work arrangements. He had a successful career as a clerical officer, and is now an important figure in village politics. David largely attributes his accomplishments to good fortune -- "I'm lucky my parents could afford an education for me" is his standard remark on the matter.

From left to right: Derrick, Amanda, David, and Gloria
in Naluko village.
Now that he's retired, David is a counselor for those in the village with disabilities. His opinion on various matters is held in high regard, though.  He's been a much needed, vehement advocate of our locally controversial family planning initiatives. Our friends and neighbors love and respect him, and for good reason. It is obvious to anyone who knows David that he is much more than the physical disability than passersby see -- he is an intelligent, patient, and kind person. In the short time I've been in his home, I've grown quite fond of him, and I've learned so much about the relativity of hardships.