Friday, September 30, 2011

Oh Africa...

This has been a while... sorry.

Since my last blog I was hospitalized overnight for typhoid. SIT sent me to the nicest hotel in Gulu, and it still sucked hard core. They took my blood with a syringe which hurt like hell, and left a nice bruise in my wrist. The room was really nice, the actual medical care was really quite awful. There was no food, toilet paper, sterilization, the IV drip was really quite painful. They put in some other drug through my IV with a syringe and pushed it all in at once... ouch. I will take this opportunity to pity myself for being in the hospital, but also to point out that this was the nicest, most expensive hospital in Gulu... What are the not-so-nice ones like. I would be terrified if this was it for hospitals for me. I am lucky because I get to go back to the US where hospitals are fantastic (I never realized how fantastic until this experience). I guess this little piece is to point out something to be grateful for in our lives in the US.

Some other things that happened...

I got really frustrated with my host father. I woke up on Sunday, cooked breakfast, did laundry, and cooked lunch. Wego on the other hand, woke up bathed, napped, and showed up for lunch. I sat down before lunch to just take a little break. As soon as I sat down he told me to get him water. I said no. I explained to him that I had been working all day and it would not kill him to get up and get some water. I know this may sound incredibly rude to the readers out there, but I would like to point out one thing. SIT told us before we went to our houses to bring some American culture. What better culture to bring than some equality in the household. After I explained to him why I said no, I went to my room. He asked Samuel to bring him water, which Samuel did. One of my many older siblings was at the house that day. He came into my room and told me Wego respected me for saying no. Later that night, Wego and I chatted about male female dynamics. He explained to me that although I only saw Daisy in the fields harvesting all the plants, I never saw all the work he did planting the crops. He said that men in Acholi plant, and women harvest. Women have all power when it comes to the food in the house. I explained to him that I know he works hard to pay for his many kids tuition (He was polygamous at one point, but his second wife died and now he has Daisy, but that is why there are so many kids)but Daisy also works hard. He told me Daisy doesn't work because she doesn't make money. I argued that the money he makes would be nothing if Daisy didn't do the work she does at home. He chuckled, agreed with me, and told me he would wash dishes with me and even cook. Win.

This past week I have been in Kitgum. It borders Sudan and was the site of even more war trauma than Gulu.The road from Gulu to Kitgum is one that has seen so much bloodshed. Hundreds of thousands of people died on that road during the past decade. LRA soldiers mass murdered anyone on the road one day to prove to the Ugandan government that they do not have control. One thing that has been really hard here is dealing with ghosts.

I am not Ugandan, and I never will be. I did not experience the war, and I never will. These are two very simple and obvious statements; however, they were necessary to really come to terms with so I could continue my trip here without loosing myself. It was incredibly hard to hear the stories of my mego and wego and go to sleep in the same house where such evil had been. Robbin's night terrors and the constant feeling of death and trauma and destruction started to turn into ghosts. I could see it all. Driving on the road to Kitgum I could see the thousands dead. Lying in bed at night I could start hear the LRA knocking. I wasn't there, but being here and having those memories be not only so vivid for these people, but relevant makes it difficult to understand my part. Should I be this connected when I haven't even been there? The answer for me (it could be different for others) is only if I want to loose myself. I am not Ugandan and I did not suffer this war, I should not see ghosts, but instead I should see the people who are there today and where they could be tomorrow. Pure evil is what occurred here... knowing that this evil is not just in the movies is enough to haunt someone. If I were to focus on this evil over the steady rebuilding, my time here would be wasted. People are moving on, I do not know how after all that they have seen or done, but they are moving on and it would just be backwards for me to focus and drown myself in the atrocities that happened here.

Side note/prediction... Kony will come back to Northern Uganda. Northern Uganda is incredibly oppressed by the South. People are frustrated but do not want to fight. They are waiting for the "fight that will end all fights". Hundreds of thousands of college students are graduating each year in Uganda and only a select few get jobs. Highly educated young people without jobs.... sounds familiar. The people that start protests will be stopped by Musevini. When this happens, anger will arise and they will look for someone to lead them against Musevini...

Back to Kitgum. It has been a great break from the homestay. I have spent all week with the SIT kids and it was exactly what I needed. What we all needed. It has been hard living with homestays and going to class, and never really having time to debrief with fellow friends. This week was just that. A long debrief.

I am going to be doing once in a lifetime research with Doctor David. I will be monitoring 5 HIV patients who will start ARV treatment in the month of my ISP. It is said that ARVs can alter one's psychological state.... I will be meeting with these patients over the course of the month to see if this is true in my small sample size.

Overall, I love it here. I am coming into my own here, and I am just really liking who I am becoming.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time for Some Religion

I just posted a long message and it got deleted so here is round 2...

I am agnostic. I usually believe in a higher power, but that higher power could be an alien race that is more intelligent, or it could be a God. I really don't know. I do not think this makes me a bad person because I would like to think if there is a hell (which I don't believe in) God (the Christian God versus Allah, or Jewish God, or Greek gods, or any other gods) would judge me based on my actions rather than faith in Jesus (not that my actions are anything great, but there a lot more plentiful than my faith in Jesus as God's son [which is non-existent]. Africa is really religious, so I try to avoid all discussion of religion...

However, I met a reverend when I got lost going to school. He walked me home because he also lives in Laro. He told me about his orphanage and told me to visit... Today I did just that.

I was kind of terrified because I had no idea what kind of Christian he was. I decided to go because I am only in this experience once (and I can always bite my tongue if things turned towards the controversial). I say I am Christian here because here you are either Christian or Muslim, and anything else usually turns into a long discussion filled with misinterpretations. So, today I told the Reverend I was Christian. I let him lead discussion so I could see what I could and could not say...

It turns out I could say a lot. I told him I am a Christian but I question my faith a lot. I told him I do not believe I have the power to judge, and he agreed. He does not believe in stigmatizing HIV/AIDS like most of the villagers here, he believes in family planning, he believes he does not have the power to judge... only God does. I was scared his orphanage was going to be a school for judgemental Christians, but it is not. They believe in love and charity and it is refreshing.

He took me to their gardens and I saw where they grow food for the children. On the walk back, discussion got real.

Ready for the kicker

He wants me to be a minister for RockLife... his evangelical christian ministry. He wants me to spread the word. I told him I am not evangelical and that certain Evangelicals in the US have a bad name for condemning people rather than loving their neighbors. He said that he was sorry the US has ruined the meaning of Christ for me, and that he just wants me to be the American "ambassador" to his orphanage. He told me I was blessed and that my presence is God. He also told me it was God who introduced us and that God will take me to do big things. I was a little uncomfortable with hearing this, so I nodded my head and smiled. I told him I would think about it since I am still in college. He offered me and any friends a place to stay in a Ministry house whenever I came back. He told me I could travel Tanzania and Kenya with him... He also spoke of marriage with me and I am not sure where he was going with that so I told him I don't think of marriage because I am too young... he laughed and gave me a high five so I think we are okay.

He and I spoke of how the Catholic church condemns the use of condoms and contraceptives (The use of condoms is now sort of okay in Africa according the Pope). He got saddened by this and said that is not Jesus' message to condemn people for such actions. We spoke of certain religious groups that use religion as an excuse to act on their personal biases or prejudices. He said any Christian that judges is not a true Christian because they are ignoring Christ's word.

I talked to him about my beliefs on how damaging NGOs can be when they do not work with the government. He totally agreed and he even semi works with hte government (he is a registered NGO with the Ugandan gov't). I told him I know the government is corrupt and he cannot work with them until the corruption is gone, but that part of an education is teaching children how to be mindful and active participants in their government. That is the only way the corruption will end. He agreed and told me I could work with the students on this.

He says he doesn't believe in stigmatizing HIV, he doesn't believe in judging unwed pregnancy, he doesn't judge a lot of things that I often tie evangelicals to judging. However, although he communicates with Muslims, he does not like them. He thought Obama was one, and although he likes Obama, he did not like that. He also hates the homosexuals. He thinks they are wrong and are going to hell. He does not believe they should be killed, though... which is a positive.

It is these contradictions (I don't judge, but I do judge any non-Christian and homosexuals), that make me loose faith in religion. At the same time... his religion is inspiring him to help 20 children. What if one of them wants to be Muslim, or atheist, or even worse... gay. Would he kick them out? I don't know. I want to help with his orphanage because he is offering so much freedom with it... but how can I when I don't believe in Christ and I don't fully believe in the message the organization is founded on?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Time to Apologize...

I made a big mistake in the post I made yesterday. For that, I am apologizing and correcting it. I always say that I hate children. The reason why I hate children is because they can pull on the heart strings more than adults and I think that can create a lot more problems than it can help. Everyone says the future is in the children's hands... but how do you expect them to live up to the expectation without guidance from the elder generations? Here is where I made a mistake...

I painted a picture of black and white, and then realized I did this and tried correcting it by posting two small paragraphs at the end about Daisy and Santo not being bad people. The fact is, I can paint this picture in whatever way I want and make Samuel the bad guy, Daisy the bad guy, or Santo the bad guy. This oversimplification of these stories is the exact fuel for the war in Northern Uganda. So... here is my correction, making everyone a bad guy and everyone a good guy...

Daisy does manuel labor all day. Picking dried corn from the cob (a task I got three blisters from doing for an hour), doing laundry (a task I got another few blisters from, and overall exhaustion), cooking (without hot pads and on a charcoal hand made stove with no ventalation), cleaning, and picking food from the garden. All of this she does without sitting down, she is constantly standing and doing heavy and difficult labor. When Santo comes home, she works even harder to get him food right away, to get him tea, to wash his hands, to wash his shoes, to pamper him. Santo sits on the couch acting like he worked harder than Daisy all because he sat in an office and got paid to do so. All of this money goes to his 15+ children's tuition. Daisy has been taken by the LRA, she has had three miscarraiges, and has been outcasted because she is Santo's second wife. She has gone through more than anyone who has not been in her shoes can imagine, yet she still has room in her heart for love. She has pictures of all her children and has such love and admiration for them. She would die for them, and almost did when the soldiers entered her house. She risked her life for Santo and her children by not telling the soldiers where he was. She was tied up with her 7 children walking to what seemed like her death. She hid Robbin from them until they heard him crying. She takes care of her son Robin, and nurtures him. She sings him to sleep, comforts him from his night terrors, and shows him the motherly love Santo is too busy to give him. She teaches him English, she helps him with homework, she helps him with his clothes. She loves Robin, and she loves me as well. She works tirelessly to provide a good nurturing environment for me. She teaches me to cook, clean, do laundry, all with such patience. Meanwhile Santo comes home and talks about his day and his idealistic views on life that seem more preachy and self-ritious than they do real. He does not let me ask questions or even speak, he just talks at me and everyone just looks at him with admiration while they are washing his hands... See, now Santo is the bad guy, and Daisy is the good guy.

I already made Daisy the bad guy last night, so let's make Santo the good guy...

Santo's first wife died a long time ago. She was the love of his life, and I still cannot figure out how she died. He had some children with her (I still don't know how many because it is very confusing family history, when I find out, maybe this blog will too). During the war, he walked back and forth from Kampala to Gulu in the nighttime 4 times, 1 of which he was carrying luggage on his head and a child on his back (If you don't know the distance you should look it up on a map, it is crazy... it took us 5 hours to drive). He walked in the night so he would not get killed by soldiers. He walked 1 time with his family to take them to shelter in Kampala. The other three times were trips back and forth from the fields of Gulu to bring his family food in Kampala. He walked each time with so much weight, and for so long, and without sleep. As most men ran, Santo stayed with his large family and provided for them. He then went to work for the Human Rights Watch and continued to use his big heart even after his wife died, his children were taken by the LRA (one of which he still hasn't seen), and his sister (Samuel's mother) dissapeared. He then took in Samuel to his home when he was literally skin and bone and about to die. He began paying for Samuel's schooling until an organiztion could help pay (even though he already has more than 9 tuitions to pay). He now works for the Acholi Institute and helps preserve the Acholi culuture. He is dedicated to justice, equality, and family. His main concern in life is making enough money to support his family.

See... Santo and Daisy are great people who have suffered so much. Samuel is also a great kid with a heartbreaking story.... but Daisy and Santo's stories are also heartbreaking, but since they are adults, they are not as heartbreaking. Everyone here needs help rebuilding. Without people like Santo and Daisy, Samuel would be dead. In order to help rebuild, we cannot think of these issues as black and white, or good and bad... We are all smarter than that. These people deserve better. So... I am sorry for falling into the exact trap I hate. I hope that anyone who is reading can see my family is good people who deserve all the love and support in the world. Thinking of Daisy or Santo as "bad", will not and never will help Samuel. In order to really help Samuel and other children like him, one needs to work on helping his supports, which in this case are Santo and Daisy. They too have grief. Psycho-social support is immensely needed in this region.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

If you don't want to feel depressed

...stop reading...

Okay, storytime. This afternoon we dropped off Daisy (mego) at the fields. She is going to live in the fields for the next week harvesting beans from dusk to dawn. It really sucks. Meanwhile Santo (wego) is on a bus to kampala for the week and chilling in a hotel. The problem I have with all of this is that Daisy works her ass off all the time and never complains; meanwhile Santo (who works in a cozy office and doesn't do manual labor) comes home and sits on his chair and acts like he did years of manual labor. He cannot get up to make dinner, clean dishes, or even his own hands. It is kind of absurd. He is a good guy but the dynamics here are so far from what I am comfortable with.

So here is the depressing part...

Since both my host parents are gone, it is just Samuel, Robbin, and me in the house. I have been really curious of how much Samuel likes it here, but have felt that he is censored when Daisy is around. I probably never should have asked, because now I cannot imagine not doing anything... but here is his story in full.

Samuel's dad was a Ugandan soldier who was killed by the LRA. Samuel's mother left him with her sister when she went to Kampala for a weekend. She left feeling ill with Malaria and some other sicknesses. Samuel's mother (Santo's sister) was never heard from again. To this day they do not know if she is alive.

Samuel moved from house to house for a year. One house he stayed at he did not eat for an entire week. He went to school, came back, slept. By the time Santo took Samuel in, he looked as if he were going to die.

I have always been curious why Samuel looks so thin while Robin, Santo, and Daisy are decently filled out. I have also felt this weird tension between Samuel and the rest of the family. While Robin is constantly playing, Samuel is constantly working and doing whatever Daisy or Santo says. Daisy and Santo both say they took him in as one of their own, but it just doesn't seem that way.

With both of them gone, Samuel really opened up. Daisy "cains" (hits) Samuel all the time. If Samuel gets home late, if he does a chore too slow, if he says he doesn't want to do a chore, she will beat the hell out of him. She also constantly reminds him that he is not her son and she has no responsibility for him. She gives Robin money everyday to take to school to buy treats, but never gives Samuel any. Currently, Samuel's schooling is being paid for by an organization here in Gulu that helps out orphans. The organization is closing this year and Samuel is screwed for next year. I am going to work something out with Santo so he does not end up not going to school. I asked Samuel if he was angry... he said he does not get angry because anger is what took his family. Instead he says he likes to just think that one day he will be free from all of this. He also mentioned he is happy because I am here. When I am here Daisy feeds him lunch and dinner and does not beat him. When I am here Daisy is good to him (The reason he is so skinny is because he is not fed very often). This is why he needs to go to school somewhere. He needs to get out of this house where his talents and potential are being wasted and beaten out of him. He needs a life where someone will hug him and love him and treat him as their own. If I wasn't so young, I would love nothing more than to do this. You can just tell he is something special and deserves so much more than this.

Some other depressing things I just thought of... Samuel has three outfits and Daisy won't buy him more... Robin has 10. Robin has 2 backpacks, Samuel has none and Daisy won't give him one. Samuel works for little pay when he is not working at home to pay for his books... Robin has never worked in the house or outside of it.

With that said... Daisy is not a bad woman. I have no excuse for how she treats Samuel, but I cannot judge her for it. Look at her life... She is working under the hot sun, dusk to dawn, living in a hut for a week to pick beans Santo planted. She is constantly serving Santo and the rest of the family. Her life is not hers to live.

Santo is also not a bad guy. This is just how it is. Men make money, women work at home, that's life. Samuel tells me Santo's heart is so good, he is just not pratical and has too many children (I found out Daisy is his second wife, his first wife died). I am not sure how many kids Santo has, but I think it might be near 15 or more....

So this is my story of everyone else's story. Basically I want to take Samuel back right now. This all sucks a lot that he is suffering so much and all I can do is try to email some people about a scholorship...

Friday, September 16, 2011

It is Time

It is time for a blog about me feeling awesome in Africa...

I finally know how to walk home 3 different ways. I know how to catch a boda boda and distinguish good ones from bad ones. I also have a boda my family knows that I can call for late night outings. He takes me to school everyday and for the first time today and talked to me! I got him a coffee and we chatted for a bit. He lives in Laro just like my family. I actually didn't chat much, but he is nice. It just feels good to have his number and make some connections. Everyone in Laro now knows me. They call me Lamaro if they are older than me. Lamaro is my Ugandan name that my Ugandan mother Daisy gave me. It means "loved one". The market place by my house knows me and when I am in town I often run into fellow Laro"ions" and they always come over and say hi. I honestly just feel very loved and accepted. I am even becoming comfortable with being called a daughter and calling my family mego, wego, omera, or even mother father or brother. I even said I love you to them today. They smiled so much. My mother always tells me how happy I make her, and she is always so appreciative of when I help her cook or clean or iron or whatever else I do around the house. My father talks a lot... but it is good. He has been through a lot, like most people, and he has this unrealistic optimism that I cannot even begin to understand. He thinks America is the greatest country ever and does no wrong. I do not argue because I don't want to crush his spirits (The Acholi Culture Institute (his work) gets funding from USAID). I figure part of it must be coping... and who can argue with that.

Here are the things I like...
My host family
Hot bucket baths in the morning
The whole no electricity thing is making my sleep schedule incredibly healthy and I feel pretty great about it. (I go to bed around 830 or 9 and wake up at 630 or 7)
I really like my classmates
I like what I am learning and how I am learning (not test based)
I like that I am picking up Acholi and can speak with my Laro Forest"ians"
I like tea time... so much tea time.
I like that I have a phone... it makes me feel legit
I like that my bed is like a princess bed with the mosquito net. I am safe from all creepy crawlers at night
I like that I go to bed and it is in the 60s and during the day it gets up to 85
I like that since I have no electricity I don't have a toilet that doesn't work when there is not electricity.
I like that I don't think the pit latrine is as gross as I used to
I like being part of this community.
I like how friendly people are and how genuine most of them are
I like that I can walk alone during the day and do my own thing and know what I am doing
I like how inexpensive everything is here
I love that my mother is taking me to a tailer to make me an African dress
I love that she is going to teach me how to wash clothes here and cook chicken
I love that I am starting to love how natural it all is.
I like that I am not focusing on negatives anymore
I like that I am not looking forward to my plane ride home as much, and instead I am excited about what will happen today or tomorrow
I am falling in love with Africa.

A class in language. However, Acholi is also a tribe here in Africa. They are rich in culture.. I will write more about it later. All you need to know is today was Acholi culture day and we all danced. It was hilarious.

A little thing that was thought about today...

Somebody was very disturbed by how there is no system of garbage disposal here in Gulu/Uganda. Well... let's think about this.

You miraculously get the funding for a waste management facility and all the trucks and workers and whatnot. The trucks take countless hours to get around because of the potholes and flooding of the dirt roads. They also slow down traffic an immense amount. You have to educate the citizens on how to dispose of trash. How do you do this? TV? No, very few people have TVs. Newspaper? A lot of people read it, but what about the rather large population who cannot read...

Which brings me to education. You want better education? We get the funds for that too, miraculously. How do you transport the students (on the shitty potholey roads)? How do you learn when electricity is off 50-60% of the time? How do you get people in school who need to work for money and survival. How do you get everyone vaccinated for school?

Hospitals... Ambulances don't really work on such shitty roads. There is also a lack of medical staff... Partly because of all of the reasons listed above. Why live somewhere like that when you can live somewhere nicer. How can a hospital run when they need to use generators half of the time? How can you deal with the overflow of people suffering from diarrhea because... there isn't a proper waste management system.


One more thing.

Joseph Kony is not a good man... but in order for a man like Kony to gain power, there had to be a powerful negative force at hand. Yes... you Ugandan government (Musevini). The LRA and the war in Northern Uganda isn't as black and white as so many people think. I could argue the Ugandan government committed just as many crimes against humanity as Kony and the LRA. It is important people know this so we can learn from it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Short Post

Tonight we all decided to go out to eat as a group because it has just been one of those weeks. One person decided to leave, and one person was in the hospital for tonsilitous (sp), and 2 people are in the hospital for typhoid. We are a winning group. Every week is getting easier and easier. I suppose the only hard thing is understanding how I have a new life here, and an old life at home. I guess I am concerned my life at home won't keep a place for me as it does not really have a place here. It is all about balance though, and I will figure it out. It is only week 2 even though it feels like a lot more. I just have to remember to give myself time. Africa is so friendly... on the brightside. I got lost walking home yesterday and a reverend decided he would walk me home and invited me to talk to his orphanage one of these days. I am excited, he is really cool.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Kid and the Vulture

I finally have begun to process my time here in Uganda. I think the first step was admitting that I have had this mental block. I finally am beginning to accept that this is my life for the next 4 months and instead of being afraid I am learning to love it. It is a truly beautiful place to be. I have had an internal battle trying to cope with what I am feeling about being here. I feel an immense amount of guilt saying that this is hard. The guilt comes from the fact that this is life for so many. I honestly hate going to the bathroom in a smelly broken down shack that is just a hole in the ground with a lot of gross bugs and a place I have to bring my own toilet paper. After that experience I hate not being able to go to a sink and wash my hands. I hate the constant use of alcohol wipes. I hate that the area I bucket shower in has limited privacy and smells really bad and is not clean. I hate that when I try to help cook I go into a really dark small hut where chickens sleep and have to leave after five minutes because of all the smoke. I hate that I want to cook for my family but have no idea how to cook on a stove that is made of stone and charcoal. I hate that I have this much to bitch about and this is a well off family in Uganda. I hate that I even want to bitch and am not fully appreciative of this experience. I hate that I don't have electricity. I hate that I signed up for this knowin there was a good chance I would have no ammenities and that it would be really cool and didn't even think of how much it would suck. I hate that I feel guilty for saying it effing sucks... but who would say, "hey this is awesome! Look at me I am living an impovershed life!" Sure you would say that the first day, maybe, but day after day? No, no one wants to live like this. If you think you do, you are lying to yourself and should try it. I hate so many things and having ignored all these things because of guilt I made myself unable to process the good things. I finally realized today, I am not supposed to like these things. I used to think the poverty of these places is what kept them so naturally sane and happy. That is really easy to say when I have running water and a toilet. After living here for a mere 3 days I understand what it would really mean to modernize, but not westernize. Everyone should have running water and everyone should have proper sanitation. Don't get me wrong, I actually really enjoy bucket showers, but my family should have the option to choose what kind of shower they want to take. It took me so long to find a new towel the other day. Everything in these shops is second hand. Yes, it is good for the enviroment, but it should be the people's choice of whether or not they want secondhand clothes. Why since these people are poor they get limited options for all of this shit. They live more environmentally friendly than any other culture I know of, but it is not a choice.
Okay, so that was me starting to cope with the culture shock... Now onto my host family.
Gulu as you may or may not know was the hub of the Ugandan war. I knew this, but for some reason I thought my family would not be affected by it. I was severely wrong...
My brother, Samuel, I found out today is not my Mego (Mother) and Wego (father)'s child. Samuel is Wego's sister's child. Samuel's mother died of disease and his father disappeared with the LRA, he is an orphan. I am emailing MPS tonorrow to see if they have a scholorship available becasue all he wants is to study in the US so he can go back to Uganda educated and able to change things for the better. My Mego and her 7 children were abducted by the LRA in 1999. They came in the middle of the night and told her if she did not open up they would throw a grenade in... The same house in which I am writing this was a witness to these autrocities. Anyways, Mego opened the door to the LRA who stole everything (clothes, food, money, Mego, my siblings, etc.) She was tied to her children, and she had Robin, my little brother in her arms as a baby. She was forced to then go house to house with the LRA and witness them do this again and again to her neighbors. Neighbors here are family. For example, I am an auntie to about 30 neighborhood children and a sister to countless adults and a daughter to countless more. So she went to her families houses and watched the LRA take everything from her community. Robin began to cry after countless hours of walking and the LRA soldier stopped and looked at her. (Before all this, back at the house, they asked for my Wego, Mego said he was sick in the hospital. Wego's sister lied to another LRA group about the whereabouts of her husband and she got her lip cut off. Mego was lucky and he just took her instead). Anyways, the LRA soldier told Mego to go back because they do not need mothers and children. Mego had to leave her 7 children to the LRA. 3 days later my sister was able to convince the LRA to let her take her two younger brothers home and keep her instead to work because they were too young. The LRA agreed and let my two younger brothers go along with my other sister. They walked for 2 days and eventually were picked up by a random man who carried them home to Laro Forest. The other siblings were there for 3 months and were all able to escape.
My Wego then came home...
In 1999 he worked for 7 days dusk to dawn planting food for his starving family in Kampala. As most men left their children because it was too much to try to provide, he worked tirelessly. He was constantly hunted down to be killed because he was working class. He told me that he saw a picture of a starving boy and a vulture waiting for the child to die so he could feast. Wego said this image haunted him and made him work to rpovide for his family. My Wego worked for the human rights watch and now works for acholi cultural instititue. He wants to go for his PhD but does not have the money for schooling him and his 9 children. If anyone knows a way for him to get a scholorship or grant, you should let me know. He has his Masters in human rights and wants to write his disertation on how conflict affects the child more than anyone else, and how to stop the child from being affected since they are the future. Point is, my family is great and deserves the help.
I cried with my family as they were telling me these stories. I was especially heartbroken when I heard about Samuel. He is such a good boy, but since these are not his real family he owes them a lot. Because of this, he works nonstop to help Mego around the house while Robin just sits around and plays. Samuel deserves an American education and would benefit both the US and Uganda if he were to get a scholorship.

Monday, September 12, 2011

TIA (This is Africa)

It took me an hour to get on this site... and this is the nicest internet cafe here (there are two).
On Saturday I moved in with my host family. They instantly said that they loved me and called me their daughter. They are a middle class family so they have a house they built. They do not have electricity or running water. I do, however, have my own room. My host parents have 9 children... 7 of which are at school. I have a brother Samuel and a brother Robin who live at home. My father works for the Acholi cultural institution. He is quite knowledgable and cool. This blog is short because I am going to try to walk home with some friends from SIT until I don't know where I am going and call myself a boda driver. I am not going to lie, this is all really difficult. The language is very hard to learn, it is kind of awkward, and I in general hate feeling like a guest. I know it will get easier and I am happy to be coming to school everyday and talk with my SIT folk. I think these blogs will start to get better when I start to understand what is actually going on in my head. So far, I have just been just trying to live and understand everything that is going on that I have not stopped to just live. I suppose I will sit in my room tonight and write down everything that is going on so I can start to process everything and stop feeling this disconnect when i go to actually blog. I think it is partially a defense mechanism because I am here for almost 4 months.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Few Days

I arrived in Entebbe Uganda at around 9am and was picked up by some SIT folks with around 9 other kids who were on the same flight. We then drove an hour to Kampala, the capitol. Kampala was crowded, but surprisingly a lot more efficient than I expected. I think since Bangladesh is still fresh in my mind I keep referring back to it when I look at the infrastructure or cultural differences. I am realizing how messed up Bangladesh actually was after being here for a few days. Uganda is obviously not incredibly well off, but it is worlds better than Bangladesh. For example, cars move for ambulances and police cars and cars obey some sort of traffic law. People are much more willing to come and say hi to you, and they are also much more willing to smile. There aren't as many gender disparities in Uganda and people stare much less. I also have not been asked for money yet. Bangladesh had this weird class difference where there was extreme wealth right next to extreme poverty. This allowed for us to stay in a really nice guesthouse with AC, full shower/tub, warm water, generator, and washing machine... these things aren't here. Here there are no Sheratons next to really impoverished villages, it is way more balanced. I would much rather take cold showers and have spotty electricity and no wifi for this different mindset. Here there are phrases like "African Time", which means (for example), food will come when food comes, no need to rush. Money isn't constantly on one's mind. I have only been here for three days and maybe this will all change, but I thoroughly am enjoying this different pace.

Anyways, back to the trip... I am in Gulu now and arrived last night. We took a bus from Kampala to Gulu, and it unfortunately broke down. SIT was pretty amazing and tracked down two taxi buses and strapped our luggage to the top and we were on our way within 20 minutes. On the drive we saw the Nile and a lot of baboons. Baboons apparently are the vultures of the land which I was sad to hear about because I thought they were cute. We are staying in a hotel until Saturday when we will be picked up by our host family from the hotel. The weather here is beautiful. I sleep in pj pants and a sweatshirt. During the day it gets pretty warm and rains a little. I absolutely love the weather. So far so good.