That last post was very fragmented, slightly unfinished, and rushed, so here is my new last blog now that I’m home in the United States…
Sunday, August 21, 2011
No one could be prepared for the dualities that characterize every aspect of Ugandan life, dualities that presented challenges for me that I had not envisioned. I left for Uganda with the expectation that I would encounter and experience many aspects of Ugandan life—the poverty, the strains of overpopulation and scarce resources, the friendliness of the people, the desire of children to be held and cared for, the flourishing displays of an expressive and artistic culture. What I did not expect, however, was the extent to which all of these aspects and many more are so very intertwined, inseparable.
Unclothed babies sit on clay dirt outside of small, dirt huts; young children chase a tire down the bumpy road, pushing it along with small shoots of sugar cane, and mothers scrub at laundry with infants bundled in scarves upon their backs. But the indicators of immense poverty that tear at the heart give way to the dynamic of appreciation and love that is so abundant. Children search for your hand to hold, your back to climb up, and your affectionate speech to listen to, but would the tenderness and eagerness that they possess exist in the absence of poverty? Do the children love and play and care for one another because they have nothing else; because the only comfort that they have is the knowledge that they are all in the same position, and therefore must learn to support one another and become one with the land which is their home?
Men, women, and children dance and sing, craft and build, create so many wondrous artistic artifacts that have allowed a unique and utterly beautiful culture to flourish. But do they do so because no access to technology exists here; because art and song are the only means by which to properly express emotions that cannot be accurately put into words?
Roads are congested with women in brightly-colored dresses carrying heavy jugs of water atop their heads as they walk with children over miles from the well to their home, bicycles piled high with hundreds of green bananas making their way to the market, griddles upon which the careful hands of a man kneads a clump of dough into a steaming, fresh chapatti. In the background of the busy scene, lush, green hills ascend and descend, and the waters of the Nile flow peacefully on beneath a slightly cloudy, blue sky and the hot, African sun. Uganda is beautiful. It contains an atmosphere of the utmost warmth, cooperation, appreciation, and dedication. Never have I felt a part of such an inclusive society, or such a sense of contentment. But the beauty, the attitudes, the experiences all stem from a foundation of poverty, from the search for a way of coping with the struggles of surviving from day to day. At the same time as I felt a deep sense of love and attachment to this land, I felt an equally deep sense of pain and tragedy when I witnessed the disparity of wealth so prevalent walking down the streets of Jinja, the begging hands of the starving street children, the dilapidated villages on the outskirts of an expansive sugar plantation which reaps the benefits of the villagers’ labor.
There is no separating all of these conflicting aspects of Ugandan life. We cannot pick and choose which characteristics are agreeable and which we would like to change. Because the fact is, the way of life in this country exists as a complex system, much as nature exists as a system. The isolation of the diverse variables leaves one with an unfulfilled vision of the reality of the circumstances.
How do we approach the development of Third World nations? Is this the task of individual governments, of NGOs, of the western world, of the citizens of the developing nations in question? How do we improve sanitation, infrastructure, education, access to water, and nutrition while simultaneously preserving a nation’s rich cultural foundation? How do we ensure that while we attempt to create a more developed and economically prosperous world, we simultaneously foster the special group dynamic and friendly atmosphere that exists in countries like Uganda? How do we stress the importance of a desire to work towards the betterment of each person’s life when development seems to have instead fostered an attitude of individuality and greed in nations like the United States?
There are many questions; questions that I already had, but which have been pushed to new levels over the course of the past two weeks. These questions all play an imperative role in the shaping of the world over the next few decades and beyond, and it is the responsibility of this generation and those to come to use our capacity for knowledge, research, innovation, and creativity to search for their answers. All the same, we must also remember that answers are variable, they are conditional, and they are never fixed. Try our best, learn from the mistakes of history, and foster love and cooperation. These are but a few of our tasks.
There really exists no other way to conclude than to express thanks to the country of Uganda, the team members of The Giving Circle, and the people who opened their arms and welcomed us into their lives, their stories, and their world. It was an experience that has shaped lives, opened up new doorways for development, and will never be forgotten.
Monday, August 15, 2011
Catherine, Karin, Jillian, Prachi, Kelly, and I woke up at
four thirty in the morning on Saturday to embark on our safari. Though I was exhausted, I couldn’t help but
watch out the windshield of the safari van as we wove through traffic, drawing
in my breath at every pass. After about
a half hour I was again accustomed to the unspoken, unwritten rules of the road
here, and felt completely safe and trusting of our driver, Charles. Even in the early hours of the morning people
lined the roads—men, women, and children.
Over the course of the six-hour drive to Murchison Falls, there was not
a single segment of highway that didn’t contain pedestrians or bicyclists. Once we arrived at the park entrance we all
stood up through the sunroof of the van for about an hour as we drove down the
winding dirt road that led to our campsite.
Lots of baboons, butterflies, and beautiful views as we climbed to
higher elevations. The whole trip was
rather chaotic, as our driver didn’t really know much about details other than
the route he had to take to get us there.
We had been told that we would be staying in a hotel after all, and
didn’t find out until we went to bed that night that we were, in fact, staying
in little two-person tents. I was
extremely excited about that, but I can imagine the disorganization wouldn’t
have proved as acceptable for a different group of travelers. That afternoon we went on our boat ride down
the Nile to the Falls, spotting tons of hippos, crocs, birds, and distant
animals on the shores as we went along.
As we approached the Falls our driver pulled up to the bank of the
river, right across from where another crocodile had been lounging on a small
island, and let us out for the next segment of our journey—the hike up to the
top of the Falls. It was one of the
greatest hikes I’ve been on. A small,
winding pathway with lots of steep ascents to the next incredible view. The actual Falls also happened to be the wildest
water I’ve seen, as they cut a winding path through an enormous mountain of
rock. We sat at the top and rested for about
an hour after our hike, sitting on the rocks and allowing ourselves to be momentarily
hypnotized by the roar of the water.
After falling asleep in our tents to the varied sounds of a
savannah melody, we woke up on Sunday for the game drive. The whole three hours was spent standing
through the sunroof, and we spotted tons of antelope, small deer-like animals,
birds, giraffes, and a couple of elephants.
Though we unfortunately didn’t get to see a lion, it was nice just to be
out in the endless stretches of African environment for the day. I was
slightly deceived by the cool wind as we drove along, and ended up with a
little burn. So it goes…
The safari was a good time, but I’m still very conflicted as
to whether or not it was worth it.
Driving along and viewing the African landscape as a tourist simply
cannot come close to the experience of interacting with the people of the
villages, which I missed out on for two days.
But it’s done, we had a great time, and I’m glad that I had the
opportunity to get my African safari out of the way.
Tying up loose ends from the weekend…
Monday, August 15, 2011
Last Thursday was the day that we visited the secondary
school for the pad project, which was basically a lesson for the girls about
their girly matters, and then an hour of sewing reusable sanitary pads. That part turned out to be more of us telling
them where to place the various pieces, and them getting a kick out of our
shoddy sewing skills. In fact, one of
the girls in my group took it upon herself to teach me how to do a decent
job. Though I felt inadequate, we
actually bonded quite nicely that afternoon.
The girls were yet another example of the gratitude felt by all of the
people we’re reaching out to. They are
all so curious to hear any and every detail about our lives, and to receive any
form of information that we will share with them.
Friday we went to the primary school again, this time for
the Koi Koi Olympics. My station for the
games was the three-legged race, which produced some pretty interesting
results. You had the kids who awkwardly
struggled to realize that the most efficient way of going about it was to hop
only on their outer legs, the little ones that surprised you with their
seemingly innate three-legged skills, and then the mismatched pairs which
usually resulted in an older child dragging the little one along in a desperate
attempt to win the race. So that was
fun, and I got to spend some time with the boys I had met the previous time I’d
been there. One of them is a really tiny
one who has the most mischievous little grin.
His favorite thing to do is to try and sneak up on me in a tickle
attack. Tickle wars are definitely in
abundance at the primary school. I just
can’t let that little guy go, which works out well considering he won’t let go
of me either! The other boy who’s taken
a liking to me is a little older, although I would say he’s still only around
seven or eight. He’s very quiet, but has
a pair of eyes that just seem to understand so much. His face is quite possibly the sweetest face
that I’ve seen. At the end of the
Olympics, the kids lined up for new shirts and some pens and pencils. The older boy walked up to me with his pen,
took my palm in his hand, and wrote his name.
I did the same for him. Later on
he came running towards me with his paper Olympic medal, pointed to my hand and
then to the paper, asking me to write my name in a more permanent form. The gesture was so sincere; he wanted that
name as something that he could have as a reminder. Having to leave that day was yet another
emotional drain, as the kids are on holiday now and we won’t be seeing them
again. I wasn’t quite sure I was ever
going to be able to leave my little guys that afternoon. The attachments I’ve formed are
simultaneously the most beautiful, joyous, and heart-wrenching bonds that I’ve
experienced. There is only one way to
cope with the pain of having to say good-bye to the other half of such an
attachment, and that is to step outside of the constraining boundaries of
selfishness and to understand the fulfillment that we’ve provided these kids for
even a small period of time. In all of
the laughter, the gentle touches, the teaching and learning, and those deep,
comprehending gazes, it’s easy to realize that we aren’t creating some
superficial display of happiness and fun, but rather interacting with these
kids on a deeper level, and in a way in which they will forever cherish.
The rest of Friday was spent at the secondary school, where
we showed the kids a movie and then had a little dance party. Instead of watching the movie I spent the
majority of the time outside talking with the girl who taught me how to sew. She wanted to know anything that I was
willing to tell her about my life, my motives, my ambitions, and so we
exchanged condensed life stories and other little anecdotes. That was a fun night. It’s a much different perspective interacting
with the older kids versus the younger kids.
Friday night was dedicated to clubbing with Liam, Frank,
Umaru, Catherine, and Prachi. We’ll
leave the details for later, but in short, Ugandan beer is gross, Frank is a
funny dancer, and it’s absolutely great to dance in a place where people don’t
know you, won’t judge you, and just want to have a good time.
So I guess I still have loose ends that need to be tied,
including the safari and our second visit to the village, but I’m sleepy! That’s all for now…
Rainy Night in Jinja
Monday, August 15, 2011
It’s raining. I hear
the fury of the downpour on the roof over my head as I sit typing on my
computer on a comfortable chair that’s in front of my bed, next to the
television, and underneath the fan on the wall that maintains a steady
circulation of air throughout the room.
On the streets of Jinja, where we recently returned from, children with
bloated stomachs, tattered clothing, and not a parent to comfort them hide from
the fury of the downpour under the overhangs as they hungrily eye stacks of
fresh chapatti piled upon the carts of street vendors and scramble to their
knees as a mzungu walks past, holding out empty hands that they hope will be
filled. And that is the only hope that
they likely possess, because these children are not children, but the living
proof of what happens to a human who has suffered an utter absence of the
fundamental elements of survival.
Food. When you need it, you are
nothing short of consumed by an animalistic search for the substance that will
satisfy your hunger. Or at least I
imagine. I cannot know what it is to be
hungry in the truest sense of the word, to lack shelter, shoes, and the
guidance of a parental figure. But I can
know what it is to walk past a huddle of young children who reach out their
empty hands and their yearning hearts to ask of me something that I can easily
provide them with a bundle of Ugandan shillings that I need not.
How do you look into the desperate eyes of a hungry child pleading
for food and move on down the sidewalk?
How do you observe the abnormal bulge of a starving tummy and avert your
attention? How do you saunter past the
frequent bar or market and continue to tell yourself that nothing can be done
for the ravenous kid sitting just down the sidewalk from that venue?
And those are only the questions that accompany the immediate
scene, the direct environment of the main stretch of Jinja. The questions extend beyond the vicinity of
that street corner that is just one of many millions of street corners throughout
the world that provide some small, inadequate form shelter for the children of
this rainy night, and of every other consecutive night.
How do you manage to believe that any one individual is
entitled to Apple’s newest gadget when another individual lacks the necessities
for day-to-day survival? How do you convince
yourself that you’re free to make decisions concerning the improvement of your
personal profit when freedom is a meaningless entity to the child whose only
decision is whether or not to keep pleading with the next passing mzungu and
temporarily satisfy a larger, more insatiable hunger? How do you view a nation like the United
States—one that churns out industrial products, consuming and wasting more
resources in the process than should ever be a viable option—as something
mighty, powerful, or benevolent? Fuck
that. The world as it is today remains
the product of exploitation by the western powers as they evolved into colonial
terrorists. In one of the most
resource-rich environments in the world, the starving children on the streets
of Jinja serve as an example of the perpetuation of the western, capitalist
pursuit of superfluous wealth at the expense of the majority.
I’m done. I’m tired,
I’m emotionally drained, and all of this from simply looking. I saw the children, I returned to my luxurious
hotel room, and it’s been another incredibly difficult night. Those children, however, weren’t looking at
anything. They were experiencing that which I can only push my mind to comprehend. And they’re still out there tonight, sleeping
on the muddy sidewalks and trying, perhaps, to salvage some small amount of
peace from what sleep they can get…
Visit to the Women’s Prison
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Bright yellow shapeless dresses transforming the small room in which they are contained into a conundrum; the glow of the shocking hue obscuring a sick and torturous reality. Indicative of the marked difference between those clothed in the lemon-colored dresses and the assortment of visitors that sit facing them on the floor. And then a rhythm begins to reverberate off of the walls of the small enclosure, the product of a few dozen voices that have attained something higher than the simple element of sound. The inmates stand singing, moving, breathing, transcending the boundary of ordinary sound and appealing to a power that they somehow manage to pour their faith into despite a situation that cannot be comprehended. Their unjust captivity, and that of any child that may be born to one of these women during their often thirty to forty year sentences for crimes that are often either the construct of a corrupt, male-dominated system of justice or the murder of a husband who desecrated the individuality of these women, awakened in my gut a sense of feminism completely surpassing any previous such sentiment. Looking around at the infants that innocently breastfed from their mothers and the little children who expressed curiosity at their unusual visitors as the women closed their eyes and emptied their entire beings into a music beyond music gave way to a flood of tears that were involuntary and simply uncontrollable. And throughout the rest of our gathering, as the women expressed the conditions of their lives in prison with an unflinching acceptance, I searched for some reason why I couldn’t hold myself together in the face of these resilient women. There are no more words, but only incredulity to be expressed. The prison, set in the midst of a view filled with the hypocrisy of a beautiful Ugandan landscape, complete with a quaint-looking exterior and the view of many young children running around in the lawn, concealed a horror behind the fences surrounding it that I am so grateful to have been shown.
At the end of our visit we bought many of the crafts that the women occupy their time with, including woven bags and paper-bead necklaces. My energy for the day was sapped as we drove back along the winding dirt path to the prison, and reentered the town that appeared utterly oblivious to the injustice so near at hand.
We next visited Wairaka again, and this time were given something of a welcome ceremony from the village craftswomen, from whom we spent much of the day purchasing the most beautiful artwork. They gathered us in a circle and beat out a drum rhythm to which the women and girls danced, but not before little Adam danced himself, front and center, into the middle of the circle. Eventually they got us muzungu girls in the middle for a shot at dancing, which was great!
Later in the afternoon I had an encounter with the boy from the previous day, Aaron, that caught me completely off guard and left me with a deep sadness. After the women had finished their dancing, Godfrey had led a group prayer that captured my attention, as does every word that any of these incredible people have to speak to us. So I was astounded when Aaron walked up to me and asked, “Why you not into prayer? Are you a Christian?” I truly am left with a lack of explanation for why he would have discerned a lack of interest in me, which wasn’t at all the case. So I attempted, in my confusion, to work around explaining my atheist-leaning agnosticism. I could tell he wasn’t at all satisfied, and it pained me to witness the intense curiosity and desire to understand that I could not satiate out of the interest of avoiding the topic of religion. To clarify, I absorbed that prayer as something meaningful, spoken with the utmost reverence and sincerity, and didn’t understand the reaction that I provoked in Aaron. It was this strange observation on his part, possibly the result of the fact that I didn’t bow my head like most of the others during the prayer, that made me understand that in another time and place I could have spoken to him from a perspective that he has never been exposed to. Not to teach, not to persuade, but simply to explain myself as well as an alternative view of the world to a child that has the capacity to understand.
Back at the hotel I ran into one of the men who had given us an introduction at the women’s prison that morning—the second in command in the political hierarchy of the district that we’re in in Uganda. That’s another thing to mention—the fact that wherever I go, I seem to collide with someone who can immediately conjure up an insightful conversation. It’s absolutely wonderful. These people are concerned, they’re creative, and they’re so welcoming to the idea of sharing their views with us and receiving ours in return. Anyway, the man, Paul, asked to speak with Mark, and for about twenty minutes before Mark arrived I conversed with Paul. I threw myself out there, seizing the opportunity to gain the perspective of someone who’s in a position to make decisions that will have a tremendous impact on this nation. We exchanged opinions and challenged each other, and I would go into more detail but I’m really needing to finish up soon…
Last but not least, last night I took a trek, with Liam, Nishtha, Frank, Catherine, and Umaru, to the source of the Nile River which is about a half mile from the hotel. Both fortunately and unfortunately, this involved navigating through the weeds and along an old brick wall until we got out to the edge of the bank. We were scared shitless of snakes and other such creatures of the brush, but used our little flashlight and each other’s company to make it out to see the pretty awesome view. I would like to take this moment to say that Umaru, the Africa native, was the wimpiest leg of the entourage. In his words, he’s “a lover, not a fighter.” And that’s why we love him!
Sorry mom! Hope I don’t have to end like this every time. But don’t worry, I have no snake bites, no ticks, not even a single mosquito bite (the mosquitoes here are actually so much more scarce than at home).
Visiting Moses’ School
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
After our visit to the secondary school we drove farther
down the road to Moses’ primary school, where around a hundred kids from grades
four to seven gave me my second insight, after Adam and Mawunja, into just how
incredibly friendly and warm the children are in this country. And not just the children, but the few
teachers that greeted us as well. When
we stepped down from the bus the kids just swarmed around, coming up to each
person and grabbing at arms and hands, pouring every ounce of themselves into
the desire to be held and loved. The
first thing we did at the school was to watch a performance by the children,
who sang and danced for us in greeting.
The sincerity and beauty of the song of course brought more tears, and I
felt, already, the appreciation that the kids have for our presence here. During our afternoon at the school we painted
the front side of the school and taught a few classes. The class that I taught alongside Prachi,
Kelly, Dierdre, and Toni was a reading class, and though we spent a good half
hour reading to the children and doing a drawing activity, it was the children
who then went on to teach us a little something. We had more time with them, so their teachers
suggested we play some games as a group.
Ugandan children’s games are, simply put, awesome. There’s singing and dancing involved in
everything, which ultimately ended up giving the kids a lot to laugh about as
we attempted to keep up and learn the words and rhythms.
After class the kids went for lunch, which consists, daily,
of a small cup of watery porridge. Today
we were making soup for the kids, prepared with fresh vegetables from town, but
it wasn’t quite ready when the kids went for lunch. So I went with the kids up the hill to get
their porridge, and on the way noticed a little boy all by himself, one who had
been incredibly shy during the class that I had taught earlier. I grabbed his hand and brought him up to get
lunch, just hoping to erase a little of the sadness that seemed to exist in his
One of the hardest parts about the trip to the school was
the fact that, surrounding the school farther up the hill, there were many
houses where the children didn’t attend school.
Throughout the day they came down into the field from their houses,
oftentimes stopping to watch us as we played with the other kids. A solid reminder of the poverty that exists outside
of the school, where things are already unfortunate enough.
We left school in the afternoon, with kids hanging off our
waists until the moment we got on the bus, wishing us a “safe return.” From school we made our first visit to
Wairaka, the village that’s the main focus of our work here. After meandering down a long dirt road past
the many huts in the village, we arrived at the land where we’re in the process
of building our school. Again we were
met by a swarm of children, this time dressed in random, mismatching
assortments of clothing rather than the uniforms of the school children. As we pulled up in the bus we heard chanting,
and to my immense surprise followed by incredible happiness, we realized that
the kids were all chanting “Nishtha!” They
all remembered her from last year, which really isn’t a surprise at all
considering how absolutely amazing that girl is! What’s surprising is that they can remember
so much at such a young age. And here
I’m feeling the pressure of tiredness, time restraint, and just a general lack
of words again, because there is absolutely nothing that I can write to depict
the experience of interacting with these kids.
They’re content in the utmost respect to be shown such affection, and
the boundaries between nationality, beliefs, affluence, and every other
characteristic simply melt away at the moment that you reach out to grasp their
little hands and wrap their arms around you.
Another aspect that I encountered at both the school and the
village was an intriguing depth to the stares that I received from a few of the
children. There were about five
different kids who looked at me throughout the course of the day and seemed to
convey an eternity of emotion, curiosity, and sincerity in their gazes that was
unique. One of those kids in the
village, 12-year-old Aaron, came up to me and introduced himself and then said,
“I want to be your friend,” all the while looking at me with those searching
We left the village
after an afternoon of football, playing on the playground, and just holding and
playing with the kids. And now begins
the portion of the blog that you probably shouldn’t read, mom, for fear that
you might want to kill me when I get home.
After dinner at the hotel I went running with Nishtha, who simply
couldn’t make it back to the hotel without stopping for food in Jinja. We finally found some chipate, a sort of
African flatbread, from a vendor. It was
quite possibly the most delicious thing I’ve eaten on the entire trip, and
there have been many delicious things!
So, on our somewhat full stomachs (which by the way, mine feels
completely fine), we hitched a ride back to the hotel on a boda-boda, which is
the name for the motorcycle that’s one of the main forms of transportation around
here. When in Uganda, you gotta do the
Uganda thing. It was a great ride, and I
felt one hundred percent safe. I know
you don’t trust my feeling, mom, but give me a chance to express to everyone in
some small way how my sense of safety and confidence has evolved in the few
days that I’ve been here. This probably
sounds weird, but the simple concept of traffic here in Uganda has done so much
to provide me with a cultural understanding.
It’s almost as if cars and taxis, buses and pedestrians, motorcycles and
bikes move as one on the streets. Yes,
they make daring passes, they weave in and out of one another, and they drive and
walk alongside each other, but they do so with a form of communication that is
actually quite elegant. Horns are
constantly beeping, but not in the loud and aggravated way that we’re
accustomed to in the States. Rather, in
an abrupt fashion that alerts other users of the road to the moves of each
driver. I’m not naïve, and I understand
that there are dangers that exist here, not just in terms of traffic but in
terms of other aspects as well, but something about my sense of security has
changed in experiencing something so utterly different from American
culture. This is an entirely different
place where people possess a certain group dynamic unlike anything I could ever
have imagined without living it. Reading
books, watching the news, even viewing documentaries can never compare to the
state of understanding that you achieve from completely surrendering and
immersing yourself in a new environment.
I’m not sure how strange it sounds to other people to be
reading about how something silly like traffic has influenced me, but I hope
I’ve managed to convey some small part of the Uganda that I’ve been introduced
Sorry mom! And more
Trying to put words to an experience that, so far, simply
cannot be put into words...
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
It’s been a very busy few days, with little time to think
about posting, but now I shall begin and try to keep up a somewhat regular
regimen. It’s the end of our second day
here in Uganda, and I’m having very conflicting feelings about recording my
experiences through writing like this.
Writing, for me, has always been a sort of search for attaining as
meaningful a description as possible.
With limited time, and with limited abilities to properly express the
sentiments surrounding such an incredible adventure, I’m left feeling like
whatever ends up on this blog will remain entirely inadequate. But anyway, I’m rambling like usual. So here I am, sitting on the floor and
listening to the sound of trickling water from the toilet in the bathroom that
won’t settle, which rather pleasantly accompanies the soft jazz emanating from
the corner of the room where Liam, a team member, sits reading, as well as the
mellow drone of Nishtha and Frank’s voices as they converse. These are just a few of the fascinating people
that I’ve had the opportunity to work with on this trip. The first thing that I wanted to get out was
how much I truly admire every single person participating in this effort for
their passionate personalities and overwhelming desire to make a difference. Already I’ve had so many discussions with the
younger team members about contemporary issues within and without Africa, and
it feels so refreshing to hear the strong perspectives and evaluations of my
On to the action side of things… When we first arrived at
Entebbe airport two mornings ago, the first people we met from the wonderful
Ugandan family were Moses, teacher at the school already in place that we’ll be
working on throughout the trip, Emmanuel, the engineer on the team, and Chris,
the Brit who’s soon returning to Uganda indefinitely. There were also two children, Adam and Manja,
who just latched on to everyone in turn.
And then we commenced our three-hour drive to Jinja, which was the most
mind-blowing drive of my life. Mile upon
mile was a perpetual glimpse at the most fundamental aspects of Ugandan life,
culture, and economy, the streets lined with wooden huts full of produce and
crafts, as well as people weaving in and out of traffic and barefoot children
scattered everywhere. I felt so
incredibly like a tourist driving by and attracting stares that contained so
many mixed emotions—smiles appeared on many faces as they caught a glimpse of
the muzungus (white people) driving by, but many of them also remained rather
stone-faced as we passed, their looks seeming to reflect the huge difference in
all aspects of life between them and the small group inside of the bus. Immediately I realized how difficult it would
be for me to take pictures on this trip—how do you point a camera at a group of
people who most likely see you as something foreign trying to exploit their
presence, their appearance, and their conditions as something of an attraction
to be marveled at? It seems inhuman, it
seems wrong, and it’s been very hard to bring myself to do.
After a wonderful dinner with members of both the Ugandan
family and the American team at the hotel, we eventually made it to bed the
first night. The next day, which was
today when I started writing this, but is now yesterday, we went first to the
secondary school near our village. We
arrived at a plot of land with one large, somewhat derelict-looking building
that was the high school for around four hundred teenage boys and girls. We took a short tour of the building with one
of the teachers, and had the opportunity to speak with a few of the students
who were still there studying for upcoming exams. One of the girls I spoke to was Sharon, a
girl sitting in the corner of an empty classroom, who told me of her desire to
one day become a lawyer, and how difficult that would actually be considering
the lack of educational opportunities for the vast majority. It was an incredibly revealing and intimate
conversation. We also stepped inside the
girls’ dorm, which was temporarily inside of a few unused classrooms, as the
actual dorm building is a work-in-progress.
The dorm was where I first began to cry, utterly overwhelmed by the
tight quarters filled with bunks, school supplies, and various other possessions
of the amazingly friendly girls who all, undoubtedly, had stories similar to
Sharon’s. The girls warmly greeted us,
holding our hands and asking us questions, and I just can’t put any more words
to the emotions that surrounded that brief encounter.
I really regret that I’m in such a hurry, but I have to go
eat breakfast really quickly before we leave for today. I’ll finish talking about yesterday tonight,
and then hopefully get to today…