The Wonder in all of us

Charlotte Hill O’Neal

reprinted from ARUSHA TIMES newspaper   January, 2006


We had gathered as we do every year, in the Red Onion Activities Hall at the UAACC campus, to celebrate the New Year that was approaching fast and furious. 

Ten…nine…eight…seven…six…we were all in synch, counting with anticipation and intensity as our watches ticked (well, digital watches don’t really tick) out the time we had been waiting on. MIDNIGHT…the NEW YEAR…2006!

We jammed the new year in!!

Some of the crowd of artists who celebrated the new year 2006
 with their UAACC Family included
Fatha and Nelly of XPlastaz:  JCB and Alwatan Kwele
of Watengwa;  Sister Kekou; Lwanda Magere  MC Blak,
 Bro. Ice P

Our drumming and pot beating,
our tambourine tapping
 and shameless screaming
united us in the joy of welcoming a new year!

I could feel the electricity in the air as the powerful vibe that we all shared became hotly tangible within our unified shouts, our drumming and pot beating, our tambourine tapping and shameless screaming. I was shouting too, but somehow at the same time, I felt almost apart from it all, simultaneously both a participant and an observer. I felt like an island of calm wonder enveloped by the happy chaos surrounding me. I observed that everybody’s face, bar none, was lit up with unabashed, wide opened, spit-flying, open mouthed laughter and sloppy, naked joy!  At that moment, the differences in race and tribes and nationalities and different incomes and skills and knowledge ceased to mean one darn thing.  We were just plain, happy people and not ashamed and not shy about the group hug that we felt compelled to share.  We had made it through another year of grief and joy, accomplishments and failures and we were all looking toward the wonder of another chance to get it right.

Since then, I have continued to reflect on that New Year’s night, thinking about the raw, unadulterated capacity for wonder that we all have as human beings, however I had begun to doubt that six letter word could ever accurately describe what we had all shared.  I figured it best to get another opinion and pulled out my trusty dictionary just to make sure. I read that ol’ man Webster describes the word thusly:  a phenomenon or an emotion that arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, admiration, a marvel.

So perhaps wonder, a rather over used word, will suffice afterall, to describe what every little child among us (and hopefully still within us) felt at the beginning of our lives, when every experience was mind blowing new, but simultaneously, thoroughly natural to our individual experiences.

I began considering the things in life that can touch one person’s wonder switch but not even begin to activate another’s awe.  Like, for instance, during the recent visit to UAACC by the accomplished Hollywood actor, Jude Law and his family and how the natural friendliness and openness of everyone they met, wherever we took them, was a cause for wonder.  The artificiality and epaulets of ego worn by most people in western cities was nowhere to be found in our village community and even stops in Arusha to enjoy cold juices and spicy samosas without prying eyes of paparazzi and crowds of autograph seeking fans must have emoted a most refreshing and welcome sense of relaxation and wonder for their family. But the thrill of being in the wide open spaces of the Serengeti in the midst of migrating wildebeest; of being inches away (albeit in the confines of their vehicle) from satiated, bloody faced, big bellied lions and the luxurious simplicity of being able to stretch out and relax under the canopy of a star filled sky without a single electric light bulb for miles around, was also high on their list of the delightful wonders experienced in Tanzania.

Award winning actor, Jude Law and Sadie enjoyed the peace at UAACC and the beauty of Tanzania!

While the Law family appreciated a break from the high tech western society that they normally live in, conversely, a few days later, some of our UAACC family had the opportunity to revel in a technological experience that enabled them to make history!  They got a chance courtesy of Captain Steve Cunningham of Northern Airlines, to be the first young people in Imbaseni Village to have flown in an airplane (heck, Sister Mwajabu was even co-piloting the plane!) getting an unforgettable aerial view of our village!

As I watched the little prop plane circle above the UAACC campus, I waved and waved my arms like a mad woman hoping they could spot me among the bushy tree branches swallowing me in their leafy cover.  I found out later that they actually did see me waving and shouting, and they were able to see and identify their parent’s homes and cows and our rocky twisting roads and blue walled duka’s and everything else down on earth, in good ol’ Imbaseni Village! 

Sister Mwajabu was flying the plane above the UAACC campus!

What an adventure the UAACC crew had!  Joining Mzee Pete for the flight courtesy of Captain Steve Cunningham of Northern Airlines, are Sis. Mwajabu, Sister Dina, Mary and Kundaeli

After they landed and caught their breath and wiped the heady sweat of excitement from their still astonished brows, Mzee Pete O’Neal, who had arranged and accompanied them on their maiden flight, urged them to pack the experience tightly in the luggage of their memories.

“Think of the tales you’ll tell your grandchildren” he said. “Think about the absolute wonder of it all!” 



back to news!