How & Why?
First the How: How the heck did a non-church-going, middle-aged Texas database programmer who has never seen Africa end up with a Ugandan ‘daughter’? Well, it involves a French Horn, a Scotsman, and Beijing, China…..honestly!
Here’s the story. My son Alan is half-Chinese due to my Taiwanese Chinese wife Catherine. Alan decided on the French Horn as his instrument in middle school band, based to some degree on the uniqueness of it. It turns out there is more need for French Horns than there are decent players and this is particularly true in Asian orchestras, which as very heavy on strings but light on brass. Alan was recruited very early on by the Dallas Area Asian Youth Orchestra (DAAYO) and played for them for several years. During that time, I’d noticed a blond-headed fellow scurrying around during their concerts obviously recording the performance and I was told he was the source of the CDs of the concert that were available for sale.
In 2002, DAAYO arranged a big trip; a cultural exchange effort with a group in Beijing. As we were boarding the flight, I was introduced to the audio technician, Gordon Nicol. Gordon’s classical Scottish accent and pleasant demeanor made good company for one of the few non-Chinese fluent on the trip. Gordon and I had several adventures in Beijing and became friends. (Although in his 50s, Gordie’s Scottish accent drew young, attractive Chinese women in hordes. Don’t ask me how that works. But Gordon, as a hopeless romantic but very proper gentleman, certainly didn’t complain.)
It turns out that Gordon does a lot of ethnic recording, including a Ugandan children’s group sponsored by UCCF since 1996. He had traveled to Uganda and had a number of remarkable recordings from this trip. We discussed it at length and the fact that he was getting ready to go back. The stories of AIDs, civil wars, atrocities and the incredible indomitable spirit of these young people are amazing. He had an orphan adopt him on his first trip; a beautiful Rwandan young lady name Karigirwa Sandra, whose world-class singing voice and sweet personality belie her personal history, which included having her parents butchered before her eyes at the age of 11.
Sandra made friends with Winnie at the Tender Talents Art Magnet school (Winnie is also an excellent singer; just not up to Sandra’s level). When Winnie’s was suddenly without the resources for school, Sandra turned to Gordon, who turned to me. Gordon had about 6-8 minutes of taped interview with Winnie that sold me on making Winnie my project. I just didn’t realize I’d end up with a ‘daughter’ out of it (unofficial, but that often is the best and dearest kind.)
Winnie’ biological father died around the time of her birth; she gave me the ‘Daddy’ title early on and I take that very seriously as she does. When she went off to school, they asked her if she had both parents (a question with a far more profound meaning in Uganda; divorce is not the issue, death from AIDS or civil war is.) She said she certainly did; her mother was here and her father in America. I just hope I can live up to the title because she’s a real winner.