June 28, 2010
Finally! I have some pictures of my Ugandan excursions; hopefully they will be to your liking! The ones you will see below are from about two weeks ago. A precious girl I work with, named Christine, asked me to go to her house, which was only “a short distance” away from the ARLPI office. I asked my friend, Jayanni, to come along with us since Jayanni had so kindly invited me to the home of one of her friends earlier in the week. By the way, inviting friends and surprise guests is completely acceptable in the Acholi culture. So, after trekking over an hour in the heat with my friends Jayanni and I began to realize that the “short distance” was not getting any shorter but we finally made it to Christine’s home. After FINALLY reaching her home I began to take everything in.
Her family was all in the middle of their outside living quarters and I happened to see that there was a large mango tree nearby. (Lucky me!) Christine took us inside to her house and the first thing I noticed was all of the calendars on the wall containing images of previous presidents and leaders. My favorite calendar was one that contained “The World’s Greatest Leaders”—the first image on the paper was that of George W. Bush. Ahem…the calendars covered most of the four cement walls that made up the living room. There were a few chairs, a couch, a coffee table, and a nice cupboard, which held what I imagined to be many family valuables. Christine asked her sisters to bring mangos to us and also spiced African tea! The tea was simply amazing due to the fresh milk that came straight from the cows. Also, Acholi cows all have very odd humps on their neck that distinguish them from other cows in Ugandan districts.
While we were consuming the mangos, Jayanni isn’t very fond of tea, I fell in love with Christine’s three year old brother, named Griffin. He looked just like his older sister but he was extremely shy and he “feared my white skin.” I’m still trying to find a way to sneak him past U.S. Customs without being too conspicuous. If you have any ideas please let me know.
After eating Christine took us outside to meet her mother and her father, who is much older than his wife. The two elders were very sweet and made me feel really comfortable. We were able to take pictures with the family and of their land surrounding their humble abode. They are currently in the process of building a new and more modern house to live in but funds in northern Uganda are hard to come by due to the post-conflict job accommodations.
When we finished taking pictures Christine wanted me to see a rock quarry that happens to be close to her home. I tried to explain to Christine that I have seen rock quarries in Tennessee and was actually quite tired from the day but Christine was adamant about taking me to see the quarry, so of course I followed her. After walking by groups of small huts, grasses being burned, and more goats than I can count we were led to a huge open area.
There were dozens of women working, many with children bundled on their back. Some women were smashing large rocks, which would eventually be grouped into large piles sold for 200,000 shillings each (A LOT of money), while others were carrying huge buckets of rocks on their head and using both arms to carry two monstrous jerry cans of water. For a while I was speechless, but was also contemplating how much the women got paid and if the work was legal, and felt extremely awkward because all of the women and children in the site were staring at me. I was very much out of place and am sure that they were judging my obvious “American-ness.” Christine, however, chattered with the women as we passed by and took Jayanni and I to the top of the large hill. The sun was setting and our shadows were cast onto the large stones that overlooked the lakes below us. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen in Uganda and I almost felt ashamed that I was enjoying the view of the strange creation below me while the women around us were still sweating from the suns strong rays.
I snapped a few pictures while Christine led us back down from the hill and into the market type area that the women had made to sell boiled corn, spiced tea, and some other items. Christine graciously bought Jayanni and I each an ear of corn even though Jayanni and I protested. The women continued to stare at me but a few came up to shake my hand or just to touch my clothes as I passed. On the way out of the rock quarry the women asked me to come and beat the stones that were laid upon the Earth. I hesitated and they continued to jest with Christine and begged Jay and I to move closer to them. At this point I began to feel uneasy, even though I did not mind the humbling ridicule since I have experienced it so much here, and I could sense that Jay did too. We began to walk farther out of the quarry and had to ask Christine a few times to follow us since we had to be present at a dinner that night at 7:00 p.m. The sun continued to set as we bartered for boda bodas to get home and I was thankful not to be walking since we had such an exhausting day.
As we arrived at Boma, a nicer restaurant in Gulu, for dinner (I ended up having chicken in a garlic cream sauce with rice). I saw the last of the sun fall into the curtain of the dark sky and was so grateful for my friends and family here in Uganda and for those at home. It’s been an incredible experience thus far and words truly can’t describe what I have seen and felt while being here. Again, thank you all for your continuous thoughts and prayers.