Sunday, August 19, 2012
Arriving in a slightly zonked state at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport (one of my favorite transit points) on my journey home, I indulged in a delicious Dutch cappuccino. The strains of Black’s “Wonderful Life” filled my ears. I was initially impressed by the airport’s choice of classic British pop music, but then the lyrics started to resonate with the sense of gratitude I was feeling at the end of our second successful GSSAP.
My gratitude check list includes: our wonderful group of students who embraced and engaged the challenges of northern Uganda in so many inspiring ways; my most valued colleagues and dear friends, Tricia and Randy Hepner; our impressive set of lecturers and group partners; all those who shared their war stories and personal suffering with us; our former students Jayanni Webster and Lindsay McClain for all their help on the ground, and to the latter for holding her wedding to popular local musician Jeff Korondo while we were there (!); the delightful hotel staff who looked after us throughout our stay; the joy of old and new friends in Gulu; the excitement of our game drive in Murchison Falls Park and the exhilaration of the river Nile; and above all our gracious internship hosts who provided such unforgettable opportunities for our students to learn about grassroots peacebuilding and development initiatives, as well as local institutions.
On the evening before we left Gulu, we invited many of our partners and friends to a farewell party at our home away from home, the one and only Hotel Kakanyero. The following pictures capture magnificently the spirit of our group (enhanced, not diminished, by five weeks of living together!) and the warmth of our Acholi friends and partners. How we shall all miss their oft-repeated greeting, “You are most welcome to Gulu and Uganda!”
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
This photo post is over due, but now that I have returned to the land of fast internet and leisure time I have managed to seriously sift through my photos and come up with a few that I wanted to share.
One of my favorite aspects of Ugandan culture was the music and dance. Whether it was a live performance of the acholi traditional group, a night out at BJs (the local bar), or the wedding of Lindsay and Jeff, Ugandans truly know how to put people at ease through music. Below are some images of my favorite musical experiences while in Uganda.
|While in Kampala we ran into a|
local youth brass band
|Traditional Dance Group in Kampala|
|The Children at The Future is Now Orphanage|
dancing and singing to welcome us
|Lindsay at her and Jeff's reception|
There are different ways to experience good byes. I adhere to a system of good-bye of avoidance and deferment. I emotionally exit well before any departing words are exchanged. I aim for a quick departure with a little lingering and physical contact as possible in hopes to avoid any overwhelming emotions on the spot. I choose to recognize the pains of separation after I have left and safely in the final destination.
In the limbo of “I’m not quite here but I’m not quite there”, I sit in Tennessee with my watch still set to Uganda time and trying to pass a shilling off as a quarter at the local breakfast joint. (I almost got a way with it.)
As family drill me on my trip the questions I still have circle distractingly through my head. I’m frustrated that upon leaving I have more questions than when I arrived. Maybe the most daunting question that I keep asking myself is what I learned. The obvious answer that I respond with is the history and dynamics of Northern Uganda; however, I am still trudging through the emotional baggage that I returned with. This adventure has taught me about the nature of people and myself. Rehashing events and experiences looking for clues the most memorable moments also invoke the most emotion. The day before we left Grace handed me an object in an Achumi bag saying the gift was not for me, but my mother. I was sent with the gift and a message, “tell your mama that I love her and thank her for giving me you”. Potentially the kindest words every spoken to me came from a humble young women I had known for only a few weeks.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
By far the most powerful experience at my internship with the Gulu District Local Government, was visiting children with Nodding Disease in Odek. The moment we arrived was overwhelming. In this small village there were at least 40 children seizing, suffering, and crying. Not only do these families struggle to provide basic nutrition to their children, but now they are battling a disease with no known cure. The suffering I witness in these weak children was more than I cared to see. "Chafing" on the skin left one young man unable to walk with a huge chunk of his leg missing. I didn't notice at first, due to the mass of flies infesting the open wound. The video I took does no justice to the terrible situation these children face everyday in Northern Uganda.
Thursday, August 9, 2012
Below is brief clip excerpt from a longer video put together by BOSCO that discusses mine and Candice Patton's internship experience with BOSCO-Uganda. We only highlight a few of the bigger moments in our stay. To get the nitty-gritty details, just ask. We would love to share about our incredible experiences. You could also Google BOSCO-Uganda if you want to know more about the other projects they work on.
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
|List of community groups in Lakwana SC|
Wilobo Pe Yero translates "the
world does not discriminate"
|Community sensitization to the importance of|
formalizing customary land ownership through legal means
|10 Hectares of land undergoing the demarcation process|
|Dialogue with CRR Staff and stakeholders|
over the land to the right
|Field Lunch of posho and beans for 3000US|
|Follow up visit with CRR to a recent court settlement|
|PDRP project sign and a curiously unfinished|
road in Lakwana SC
|Awareness poster in the Lalogi SC headquarters|
|Notice for Certificate of Customary Ownership on|
a community board in Lakwana SC
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
“I Love You Africa”
Coca Cola has released a new viral advertisement. It has a catchy song for a popular product, but it sends some disturbing messages.
There a billion reasons to believe in Africa.
Yes, there are a billion reasons to believe in Africa, but I am not sure that Coca Cola is aware of them.
While the world shakes and stumbles… Africa dances to a different beat.
The last time I checked the Arab Spring that shook the Arab world began in North Africa. Egypt, Libya, Tunisia are firmly attached to the African continent.
For every bank closed down… 2 million Africans send money back home.
This may not be common knowledge, but there are 54 recognized countries in Africa. The continent has over 1 billon people. According to the CIA World Fact Book there are over 34 million people in Uganda alone. Banks may shut down every day, but fear not, there are 2 million Africans sending remittances home to keep the continent afloat…
As authorities try to tame the internet… Africa becomes the most mobile-connected place on the planet.
True. The Arab Spring spread like wildfire thanks to improving communication technologies. YouTube made “Kony famous,” the radio helped bring soldiers home from the bush in Northern Uganda. There are internet cafes in Gulu Town. Coca Cola’s viral advertisement plays multiples times every hour on the TV at our hotel. Boda boda men text while driving and there is a lucrative market for buying air time.
While the rest of the world struggles to get back… 1,000 new businesses are opened in Africa every day.
Gulu recently acquired its Wal-Mart equivalent: Uchumi. At Uchumi it costs 4,000 shillings (approximately $2 USD) to get two packs of very stale, off-brand gum, 28,000 shillings for a bag of almonds and 22,000 for a bag of cereal. For less than 4,000 shillings one can enjoy a more nutritious, traditional meal at a local restaurant with foods you will never see on the shelves at Uchumi. Although some foreign investors are welcomed sources of employment, unchecked neoliberal capitalism has had a destabilizing effect, handicapping the local economy by increasing inflation and out-competing local businesses. Where the rubber meets the road is in a competitive advantage garnished through the nation’s forced adoption of economic policies that grossly undercuts governmental protection of local industries. So yes, businesses are opening; but most are stocked with foreign goods and have a predominantly foreign and/or upper class clientele.
While the world turns grey… we live life in full color.
Consult Uganda’s colorful Anti-Homosexuality debate…
While the world worries about the future… 1 Billion Africans are sharing a Coke.
Rephrase: While the rest of the world worries about clogging arteries and rotting teeth, many Africans struggle to afford a Coke.
The commercial is suggesting that while the rest of the world is concerned about tomorrow, Africans are not worried about acquiring potable water; they are not worried about affording school fees, combating HIV/AIDs, institutionalized corruption, inequalities or rising inflation. No, according to this advertisement they are all drinking a Coke. What Africans need is an overhaul of the predatory political economy of a global “free-market” system puppeteered by a ‘corporatocracy’ which profits from impoverishing the “developing world,” starting with Coke.
Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rb6yctYKfhs