Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween.

Going to three genocide sites on Halloween is quite the feet. In case you were worrying I wouldn't get my skeleton fix on Halloween, rest assure, I got my fix... and then some.

I could go on forever about the fact that there was a genocide here and the memorials are graphic and overwhelming and disturbing and whatever other word you can use to explain seeing thousands of skeletons or clothing items or the occasional blood stain from children being thrown against the wall or hearing several accounts of survivors.... but no matter what words I use or how I phrase the experience it cannot be properly expressed because you have to see it to feel it... even believe it.

Here are my immidiate thoughts...

Genocide sucks... along with: Murder, rape, torture, discrimination, prejudice, ignorance, inhumanity, evil, death, colonization, super-powers leaving one million people to be murdered within two months. I don't know how Rwandans (or any people from most of Africa) look at people from developed nations (aka myself and my group) and smile and act friendly. Colonization put Rwandans into Hutu Tutsie ethnic groups and created the imbalance. France supplied the Hutu extremists with weapons to commit genocide. When genocide was occuring, we left. Genocide ended, and we come back giving money because we feel guilty. If I was Rwandan I would hate my presence.

Also... My dog died? How does the sadness an animal dying fit into this larger picture of sadness over people being exterminated like "cockroaches". I feel pretty pathetic for being sad... I guess that is how it fits.

Oh the irony Halloween brings.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Everything is in French...

I am in Rwanda today... I was also in Rwanda yesterday.

Yesterday was my first day in Rwanda, and since they use Franks, I decided to go get some money from the bank. In Uganda there are plenty of banks that love my Mastercard... Rwanda, however, hates my Mastercard. A simple task of getting money from the invisible space and into my pocket was quite the experience. I first asked a Rwandan man what bank would take my Mastercard... he laughed at me. I asked our director, and he asked his friend, and I found out Bank of Kigali likes them some Mastercard... so I went.

I walked into the bank and it was so crowded. One thing I learned I hate now? Lines. There are no lines in Gulu because there are no people... It is not the same here. I waited in line for twenty minutes only to be told I had to go to the headquarters. This would seem easy enough right? Wrong. I took a motor-taxi to the first bank without any money. I needed to take the same one to the one in town... with no money. My boda did not understand why I was not paying him,and I though he was going to punch me in the face. Luckily... another boda came over, gave him 500 franks, and told me he would take me. He was cool.

In Gulu driving on a boda is quite easy because they go so slow because there are no real roads. Here, there are real roads so they go fast. As badass as I felt afterwards, I thought I was going to die the whole ride. When I finally got to the bank my hand had been holding on so tight to the back handle that it hurt to stretch it out.

Good news? I got some money...

I also celebrated Halloween here. We went to a bar dressed as soccer players because all we had were jerseys. Rwanda knows how to dress for Halloween and we were laughable in our soccer jerseys. To say the least, it was fun.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bloggity Blog Blog

I have been in Kampala for the past week. Showing up to Kampala I was a little shell-shocked. There were 40 million cars and 100 million people on the street. It was terrifying. We pulled into the same hotel we stayed at our first night and we all looked at eachother and said "shit". The first day we were in this hotel we thought it was awful. It wasn't clean, the shower pressure sucked, and the food was not good. Pulling into the same hotel a month and a half later, we were in shock of how nice it was. It is not only clean, but we have toilets, mirrors, hot showers (the most satisfying thing of all), and the food (though repetitive) is delicious. Apparently, Gulu has lowered my standards of living by quite a bit.

We went to the Garden City Mall the first day after lectures. We all walked in with faces that probably had the security gaurds saying what the eff is wrong with these poeple. The mall is four stories big and had thai food and indian food and ice cream and a supermarket and spas and a bowling alley and an escalator and a coffee shop that was identical to starbucks. We (or just me, but I will say we so I don't sound like the only idiot) acted like kids who were given 3,000 pixie sticks and then some sugar on the side. I calmed down after I ran around the whole place looking at all the stores.

I can analyze this and think about developed nations and developing nations and why does a place like that exist when there are places like Gulu or Kitgum or any of Northern Uganda. I can sit and think how awful it was that I spent 90,000 shillings that day (around 35 USD) on a facial and really good food, I can even analyze the fact I got so happy by material things. This program causes a lot of self-introspection along with a lot of thinking of your surroundings (I think that would occur with or without the SIT program). I rationalize that day by saying this... 1) Garden City exists even though Northern Uganda is in shambles because there is money in Kampala because of corruption, tourism, and corruption. 2) It is not awful to spend 90,000 shillings because who wouldnt want a facial and really good Indian food. All I can do is be greatful that I can do that. And no, (I am now talking to myself who thinks it would have been better to not spend the money and give it away) I am not bad for not giving that money to the homeless person infront of Garden City because had I given that money it owuld have sustained that person for maybe 3 months and created a dependence thought process (not that one donation of 90,000 would do that, but it encourgaes the idea). There are many more reasons for why it is not awful and I would love to discuss them with anyone who would want to discuss them. 3) Material goods do provide a sense of happiness... I lived without them for a month and half and I was happy, I got them for a day and I was happy. It is a different kind of happiness that yes, you can loose yourself in, or enjoy for one day and then make a rule not to go backk until the last day to have a fancy dinner with your study abroad group on a revolving restaurant that overlooks the city of Kampala.

We leave to Mbarara(sp?) tomorrow to look at refugee camps. Fun stuff.

Btw... Obama sent 100 US troops to Uganda to fight Kony. Kony and the LRA are not in Uganda... I see a problem with this logic. Maybe...  the US sent 100 US troops to keep Al Shabab in Somalia and maybe they are here to check out the huge oil supply found in Northern Uganda. Good ol' Musevini has been fighting the war in Somalia for the US for quite some time. Recently, Al Shabab has gotten a little crazy and attacked refugee camps in Kenya... and recently the US sent 100 troops. Maybe there is not a connection to the oil and Al Shabab.... but I think it is worth asking why 100 troops were sent to Uganda when the target is in the Congo.

Who knows.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Here we go Kampala

Today we left our homestays with all of our stuff and we are going to head to Kampala. For breakfast this morning... My mego made me samosas, chapati, odi (peanut butter but better), milk tea, banannas, papaya, guava, orange juice, oranges, and boiled eggs. To say the least... I loved it and am spoiled. I will miss my mego so much. The conversations we have had have been life-changing (corny) and the work I have done with her may or may not have taught me how much of a lazy-ass I am at home. I can feel that I have changed, I think it is all for the good. I hope I can keep this change for when I reach home.

I will visit my family when I get back from Rwanda, but I will be living with the other 13 students in a huge house. It has running water, electricity, and a huge modern kitchen. I feel a little bad about this... but I will also really want all of these things while i am doing research.

My research project is why has HIV/AIDS prevelance risen dramatically with the introduction to ARVS... My advisor thinks that HIV has gone up because people are simply giving the drugs out without infomring people that they can still spread HIV on medication.... I think it will be interesting and open up a whole new lot of questions as well.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It is Almost the End of the Beginning

Tomorrow is our homestay farewell parties. On Wends. we will travel to Kampala for one week and then Rwanda for two.

Two nights ago we hung out with SIT Rwanda at a rooftop bar. I have always been told that Rwanda is the prime example of a country using aid to further a countries progress. What I have never heard is that the government is incredibly oppressive when it comes to freedom of speech. The SIT kids are not allowed to talk about the government in class, in their homestays, or anywhere... if they do, they could be kicked out of the country and SIT could never be invited back. They are not allowed to read certain articles or books. A main reason they come to Uganda is to debrief on their entire experience in Rwanda. The students told us that Tootsie and Hutu as present identities are not spoken of due to government constraints. When I am in Rwanda I will not be able to blog about certain things. The students told me that had I visited without this knowledge I probably never would have seen it. In the last election, the current government scared away the opposition.

On a different note..

Mussevini was talked about in the NYT as America's best ally in Africa. I am happy to know our best ally steals millions of dollars in aid, has committed countless war crimes, has killed up to 10 people for protesting rising prices in the past year, and has been in power for 20 years. He hates terrorists though...

On the bright side... in the beginning he did a lot for HIV/AIDS and education?

Scattered, I know... but I will compose a better one later.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Just something to read

Since I have been discussing this so much in this blog and not doing it justice... here is an actual semi-intellectual writing. I don't agree with everything, but I think it is good to think about.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mbale... The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Hi readers...

On Monday SIT took us to Mbale. Mbale is in Eastern Uganda. The program wants to introduce us to all of Uganda so we are not able to overgeneralize Uganda when we go back to the US and talk about our experiences.

Something that I have written about before is how difficult it is to be in Gulu/ Northern Uganda and constantly be surrounded by the ghosts of its destructive war torn past. I was beginning to think these ghosts where everywhere except Kampala, where the central government is located and oppresses the North. Peace is not known here in Northern Uganda and it can be pretty taxing on the spirit when you are trying to study post-conflict transformation and all you can see is conflict.

For example, we went to talk to students in a high school. I had a really great conversation with three high school students. One of the things we talked about was the Bible. The girl who was speaking of the Bible was a Christian who took "eye for an eye" very seriously. I told her that I believed in forgiveness and she responded by saying "How can munos (white people) forgive so easily all the time?". I thought about how this was way too over-generalized, and thought about arguing it, but another thought came to mind. I told her most munos can forgive so easily because America as a country has never experienced anything like Uganda since the civil war. Americans have not seen war on their soil, and most Americans do not know what it is like for their home to be invaded by either the government or a rebel group, their siblings taken or killed, their parents taken or killed, themselves taken or killed, or all of their belongings being stolen. Most Americans can forgive easily because we have not experienced such trauma or evil. I told her this and she responded, "If that boy hit you, I would make him bleed to make you happy, that is love in Uganda".

This is the mentality that is here. The students I was speaking to go to the best high school in Norther Uganda. They are bright, engaged, and educated; yet they still have this deep need for revenge. Peace is not here, even in the generation that is supposed to be hope for the future.

This lack of peace has definitely gotten to all of us... I think we all realized it when we went to Mbale.

Mbale is peace. They grow bananas and coffee and are relatively well off. They are the center for opposition to Musevini, yet they are peaceful and sane. There is very little NGO presence, yet they are still doing well. It became clear that the reason Gulu and the rest of Northern Uganda is messed up is not because of political oppression, IDP camps, laziness, or any other reason except war. This part of the country has not been stable since Independence. Northern Uganda has hope. The hope is to rebuild peacefully. The virtue needed is patience. Mbale taught me that Uganda is not hopeless. I say that then think of how Northern Uganda is on the verge of another war. NGOs here have to have one purpose as Westerners. Continue to give hope by promoting peaceful negotiations with the central government to end the corruption and oppression so there is not need for a war. I am not sure how Westerners can do that, but if that is not their main issue they are just promoting a dependence mentality that will destroy this part once again.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Yesterday we took a very long day excursion to the land of Joseph Kony. Joseph Kony got his inspiration to start the LRA on this beautiful cliff. People are told that is where evil spirits entered his body to start the atrocities that occurred over the past 20 years. Before we went to this cliff, we met with his brother/uncle  Jarred Kony. Jarred Kony spoke to us about IDP camps, and a little on knowing Kony before he was known as he is now. He said Kony was a shy boy, which is he he believes he was possessed by spirits.

We went to visit an old IDP camp, where people still lived... 5 years later. We met with this one man whose profession was digging. He had 13 children and two wives, and no income to support them going to school. He also adopted 7 other children because his sister died in the war. I am obviously not here to judge; however, when you look into the eyes of  13 big malnutrition tummies, you begin to wonder "why". Why have two wives and 13 children? Yes, it is a culture, but just because it is culture does not mean it is humane. Yes, I cannot be the one to say this because I am not from Northern Uganda and I am not in this culture, but someone who is in this culture must see it as destructive. People in this culture do see it as destructive, but they also see people who are still living in camps as hopeless lazy causes that will never change. Maybe this is true for the older generations, but what about the thousands of children who have no choice? Another why that is asked... Some most present destruction is that of the culture, I am not in the culture, I cannot fix the culture, nor would I want to... but why am I here. Why are we here as white people who will never understand the conflict and are we doing good.

I asked this to a speaker today in reference to Invisible Children. The speaker pointed out that we do not understand the depth of the conflict. We all agreed. He then spoke of the good things Invisible Children are doing. I asked him how they could be doing good work without understanding the conflict. He said that they would not exist without this conflict and their organization was based around this specific conflict with expertise that Uganda simply does not have right now. I can tell you one thing... Had Africa remained untouched by colonization and slave trades, it would be far better off than it is now. It is our fault this continent is as destroyed as it is. It may be our responsibility to fix it; however, we can not fix it by influencing it anymore than we have. We need to help the people who are here and have been fix this in the way they seem fit.

That was long and drawn out and vague. I am not sure if it made sense.

Back to Odek (rock of inspiring evil)... It was the most beautiful scene I have ever seen. Which leads to the next question... How could you look out on something so beautiful and be inspired to do such evil? It is pretty daunting.

I hung out in a cramped car for 6 hours with Joseph Kony's uncle/brother... that is pretty absurd and unreal. I am still processing how close we are to it all.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Home sweet home

I got back from Kitgum last night, and I felt as though I was returning home. I had a huge smile on my face as I started to see familiar buildings on our ride home. It was actually really really nice. I missed both Gulu and my homestay a lot more than I thought. Although the hotel had water and electricity, I find myself more happy and comfortable in my homestay than I did there. Today my mego took me to find fabric and a tailor for my two African dresses... yes two. I am pretty excited. That is all.