As I drove closer and closer to the ChildVoice center in Lukome, I could barely contain my excitement. I was going to see the girls and kids again for the first time since I’d been gone, and I didn’t know what to expect. As the car turned into the driveway, I saw Concy drop her jerican at the borehole and start running toward the gate. Soon the children were yelling and running too. The Bead Project women and the girls wooped and hollered, surrounding me with hugs and laughter. I thought for sure it would soon result in a massive pileup with me on the bottom. Before I knew it, they were carrying me through the gates into the center and singing. Talk about a warm welcome! True to Acholi style.

I spent the rest of the day catching up with everyone, asking them about their family, about school, about the harvest, everything. I was surprised that the children even remembered me and embraced me rather than shying away like they often do with unfamiliar people. I am  ‘Aunty Natalie’ to many of the little ones. I was happy to have remembered most of my Acholi so I was able to tell the girls about home and they even asked about my family members and friends by name. I remember thinking they didn’t listen to me, but I guess they did after all.

Things eventually calmed down a little and I was able to visit with other people individually. I went to Lily’s hut where she was playing with her daughter, Hope. As I used to always do with Hope’s sister, I sang the rhyme that my dad teased me with when I was little: “There was a little mouse that lived right there, and when he got scared, he went allllll the way up there.” This always ends in lots of tickles.

Lily watched and then proceeded to sing a song with very similar gestures and the same rhythm as mine. Hers also resulted in tickles. I was surprised to see that the Acholi had the very same song that my dad taught me more than 20 years ago; one that was not even very popular among Americans.

As I watched Lily play with her daughter, I was again reminded of how very much alike we all really are, even if we are world’s apart. Everyone at ChildVoice welcomed me back as if I had never left, and I quickly fell into stride, helping prepare dinner and having tea time under the mango tree. It felt good to be “home” again.