|July 2nd - July 15th, 2011|
Liberation Day in Kigali, Lake Nabugabo, a Traditional Healer, and the First East African Fencing Tournament
July 2 - Father Emmy and I enjoyed a nice cup of African tea at Bourbon Coffee in the city center, mentioned on a few websites as the "Starbucks of Rwanda." When we headed back to our hostel at the parish, we stopped in the church to see what service was going on. We sat in on a wedding ceremony in which three couples were getting married. Father Emmy said that it was uncommon to have a wedding ceremony in which only one couple gets married. So, instead of hosts greeting people at the doors of the church to ask whether the entering guest is with the bride or the groom, the hosts asked which couple the guest was there to see. When doing the wedding vows and the "I dos," the priest moved from one couple to another.
We left the wedding after the "I dos" to meet Honorine and to go for a walk around the Kigali city center and surrounding blocks. It was a Saturday and very quiet. The streets were very clean and were shaded by beautiful trees that were planted in the median of the road. It looked like areas of Los Angeles. A common sight on the streets was a trash receptacle with the words, "Keeping Kigali Clean" - a vast difference from Kampala. On our way, we passed the Hotel des Mille Collines and the Hotel Serena - two very famous hotels, mentioned in numerous stories recounting the genocide. We also passed the French Embassy, before visiting the memorial for the ten Belgian UN soldiers who were assigned to protect the Prime Minister and were killed. The memorial was at the site of their deaths. The building in which they took shelter had massive bullet holes in the walls, and inside were the remnants of the grenade which ultimately killed nine of them. On the two walls next to the grenade remnants are the irremovable bloodstains. The tenth was shot, and hacked by machete when he came outside. The memorial contains ten stone columns, one for each soldier, and tick marks indicating age. The ages ranged from 25 to 32 years. Inside the building, which had been an army barracks, the families of the soldiers who had died had written messages on the blackboard in remembrance of their husbands and sons.
After the somber experience, we took a bus to meet Thierry at the Ikirezi Bookshop, a store with a wonderful selection of scholarly articles and books about the genocide, in English, French, and Kinyarwanda. We then said goodbye to Honorine and went to dinner with Thierry. Father Emmy talked about how in Uganda during the genocide, they would not eat the fish from Lake Victoria. He said that the Nile Perch, which grow to be very large, would have body parts inside them. Father Emmy personally saw one which had swallowed an arm, with the watch still on the wrist. Thierry said Nyabarongo River had turned red. Thierry also talked about how even what was going to happen was apparent to him as a child in primary school. The teachers would ask the Hutus to stand up, and those who stood did so proudly. When the teachers asked the Tutsis to stand up, they would do so, ashamed. Thierry said that this happened often.
July 3 - We went to mass at St. Paul's Church with Thierry, Honorine, and Mama Ariane. At mass, a man who had served the parish for 52 years was recognized. The dancing at mass differed from the dancing in Kkindu and the dancing in Bwindi. The people put their arms out and move their wrists slowly outward like some sort of swimming stroke. They start with a fist and when they have rotated their wrists the fist becomes an open palm.
After mass, we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Mama's home in Gisozi. Father Emmy and I had not seen the house in the daytime before, so we were struck by the presence and beauty of the backyard with matooke trees and bushes. It was such a beautiful day so we decided to eat outside. We talked about the dancing that we had seen in our travel from Kkindu to Kigali, and then we took some pictures.
When we arrived back at the city center we went to Bourbon Coffee. Walking through Kigali, even at night, is very safe because there are soldiers and police lining the streets. From almost any vantage point we could see three police officers.
July 4 - Although it was Independence Day in the US, the celebration today was to mark the 17th Anniversary of the end of the genocide: Liberation Day! Honorine and her cousins Eric and Justin, picked me and Father Emmy up from the parish very early in the morning to catch a bus to Amahoro Stadium. While walking to the bus, others were passing by completely full and with people singing and dancing. As we approached the stadium, traffic slowed to a crawl because huge groups of people were jogging on the street also singing. Countless Rwandan flags were passed out. Despite the large amount of people, we did not wait long in line to enter the Stadium grounds. At the security checkpoint on our side of the stadium, I was the only Muzungu, so Father Emmy asked if I have ever worn a shirt that says, "All eyes on me?" Nonetheless, after the police officer took a picture of me with my camera to make sure it was actually a camera, we made it into the stadium grounds. On our way to our seats, we passed the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) and police officers who were getting ready for the march into the stadium.
We entered the stadium at 7:30am. A man was leading the cheers and recognizing different business groups who were attending together. Every time music began to play over the speaker system, people would get up and dance. When there was no music, or it was too soft, groups would get up in the stands and make their own.
One problem for many in our section, it seemed, was that once you entered the stadium, you could leave, but you could not come back in. Well, many people had to use the toilet, including the boy two seats in front of us. At one point there was a commotion, and the soldiers in the area came over - the boy had urinated on the stone steps, and was asked to leave by the soldiers. But because of the "martyrdom" (as Father Emmy called it) of the boy, the soldiers allowed people to leave and then re-enter; the soldiers realized they had made a mistake.
The MC would call on a section of the stadium to stand up and say, "Twari bohoye," or "We've liberated ourselves." In almost the fashion of a wave, sections would stand up and scream it one after the other around the entire stadium, except the diplomats and government officials in the covered section of the stadium. But the cheer went around again, and on the second go, the stadium became silent when it came to the diplomat section. Those who had gotten to their seats in this section - men in business suits, women in very colorful and regal dresses, and people in military uniform - finally stood up and screamed the phrase to the expectant crowd, which in turn let out a huge cheer. In the time before the ceremony began, the crowd was entertained by gymnasts, unicycle riders, and rollerbladers.
Finally, the crowd became silent, as the army had gathered at both entrances at the sides of the stadium. Line after line of soldiers, military police, and police officers marched in to music provided by the military band. Their marching was pristine and crisp, at a rather fast pace. They finally came to a halt in their positions facing the diplomat tent, and the big screen then showed President Paul Kagame enter from behind the podium with his wife. Huge applause erupted from the crowd, both for the excellent show by the military and by the entrance of their beloved president. After greeting people in the covered section, President Kagame walked down the stairs to a raised scarlet platform on the field. He stood up straight and looked very intense as the band played the national anthem. After the anthem, Brigadier General Alex Kagame (no relation to the president) marched with sabre drawn in salute to escort the president, as he made his way across the soccer pitch to walk in front of the columns of soldiers in recognition of their role in the end of the genocide. President Kagame walked very fluidly, and his body is tall and slim, to which people say he looks no different than when he was in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). There seemed a deep and solemn appreciation and love for President Kagame as he neared certain sections of the stadium. Eric told me, "Our President is a beautiful man!" When the president reached back to the stairs leading to the covered section, he bowed to the military police.
When the president had been seated, the MC recognized delegates from Burundi, the Congo, Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, the United States and Canada. At the time Father Emmy estimated that there were 30,000 people present, although we found out later that the announcements on the television were over 40,000. For the nature of the stadium, it was very crowded. The Mayor of Kigali gave a speech followed by a speech from a man who had been involved in the killings, and had fled to the Congo after the genocide. He was urged to come back because of the reconciliation processes that were going on, but when he returned, the Abacengezi (soldiers who were against the new government, now suppressed) killed his wife and child. As part of the reconciliation process, the man was given a cow by the president, and the man is now finishing English school and has become a very successful farmer. The man's speech was indicative of the reconciliation which has occurred within the country. The mentality is to move forward, and not hold deep-seeded hatreds for people within the country. The process, I was told by numerous people during my visit, has been very successful. You now have women, whose parents were killed during the genocide, marrying sons of those who had killed.
At one point, the military made a request of the President to march out of the stadium in honor of President Kagame's leadership in the RPF and the end of the genocide. After the army had marched out, entertainment was provided in the form of simulated fighting and martial arts. Scenes were acted out including one in which a woman was walking by herself between a group of men, one of whom offers her money for sex. The woman (played by a man wearing a wig and with very large calf muscles) throws her purse at the man and proceeds to defend herself against fifteen or so men. The choreography of the fight was very impressive, using a mixture of self-defense, karate, and ultimate fighting. The crowd enjoyed these shows immensely, as they aimed for humor and great choreography. Traditional dance of the Banyarwanda was also done to entertain the crowd. The traditional dance was done by men with wigs of long, flowing white hair, and women with red dresses.
Finally the army made another spectacular entrance to their same positions as before. With that, the president rose to give his speech. His voice was very soft, but there were no moments of hesitation or of wavering words. His speech was direct, calm, solemn, and deeply respected by everyone in the crowd. I could tell that this was the part of the celebration everyone had come to see, the only part that really mattered. Honorine would translate for me and Father Emmy. Kagame told the crowd that Rwandans have succeeded in restoring their dignity (the motto used for the signs recognizing the 17th Anniversary of the end of the genocide). He said that Rwanda has never been afraid of what other countries say about it, and that the government will do what Rwandans want, not what others want. Where we are is good, he said, but where we are going is better. Kagame has just been elected to his second term, a length of seven years. His speech received warm applause and a standing ovation from the crowd. And with the end of his speech, the ceremony had ended. The crowd waited to be released by the soldiers until everyone under the covered section had left.
We arrived back at the hostel at 3pm, but it had been a full and memorable day, so Father Emmy and I rested before dinner.
July5 - Thierry picked us up in the early afternoon to see one final place during our trip: The Presidential Palace, the residence of Presidents Habyarimana and Bizimungu. The compound itself is very large, but the house is deceiving. From the outside it has the appearance of a two story home with slanted roofs. The inside, however, I will discuss later. In the yard was a tennis court, a pool with a fully stocked bar, a covered patio, a playground, an enormous tree planted by Habyarimana in 1973, and another pool which acted as the home for Habyarimana's pet snake. Evidently it was a very large snake, which Habyarimana kept because of his beliefs in witchcraft. When Habyarimana's plane was shot down over the field next to his home, the snake went missing. The guide also stressed that another thing missing after the crash was the black box of the plane. The guide did like to point out that the French soldiers who were controlling the airport were the first to the crash site.
The home acted as an office for both the First Lady and the President. The first floor of the home which had two massive sitting rooms was covered with many tiles. Almost everything in the house was white, which may be attributed to Habyarimana's beliefs in witchcraft. The home had a dancing room and a sauna on the first floor. The stairs leading from the first floor to Habyarimana's bedroom had sensors attached to each one and each stair had a separate tone. This was a security measure that was heard in Habyarimana's room, because anyone heading up the stairs after he had retired must have been an enemy. The sounds were not audible in anyone else's room, including in the children's. In Habyarimana's bedroom, there was a table which was covered with the hide of an elephant, and the two legs of the table were elephant feet. There were two bathrooms, a very large one for the wife, and through that a very small one for Habyarimana. This was another security measure, because if both he and his wife were bathing when an enemy came in, the President could lock himself in his bathroom. There was also a safe in the first bathroom which carried a great deal of money. The guide said that the President's philosophy on security was, "Take the money and leave, or if not the money, the First Lady."
Through the children's room was a secret door which led to a completely hidden part of the house. Only Habyarimana had the key. Through the hidden corridor were numerous rooms which the President used on a regular basis: an area for the witch doctor to practice, a tutoring room for the kids, a massage room, and a chapel. In 1990, John Paul II visited the house and said mass for Habyarimana in his own chapel. The Pope and the witch doctor even had separate stair cases to enter the upper floors. What one was doing did not need to be known by the other.
Before leaving the home we visited the room in which only two people could be at a time. There were three reasons that one would be in the room with President Habyarimana: for consultation/discussion, assignment of a mission, or punishment. Directly next to the room was a nicely furnished and fancy bathroom for the punished person to wash up, because the rule was that no one was allowed to leave the house crying.
After the visit to the museum, Father, Thierry and I headed to Gisozi to see Mama Ariane before we left. I cannot thank Mama enough for the kindness she showed me and Father during our week in Rwanda. She and her entire family are certainly blessed.
July 6 - Since our motorcycle did not come at 5:30 am as we had arranged, Father and I rushed to the street to find two that would take us to the bus park to catch our 6 am bus. We made it just in time, and, unlike in Uganda, the bus pulled out of the park at exactly 6 am. A car pulled to the entrance just as the bus was pulling out, blocking the path of the bus so that the two passengers in the car could get to their seats. The driver was furious that he had to delay a moment longer. So, "Africa Time" might be too general of a designation. In a short time, we reached the border and went through customs on both sides. It was the first day in Africa I had actually been cold; I could see my breath. Usually, however, it will drop to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the people here will pull out their heavy winter jackets.
When we finally arrived in Masaka (about a 6 hour bus ride), Father Emmy and I grabbed a bite to eat at his favorite pork joint. Father is the only person I know who enjoys warm beer. Cold beer, he says, does not go well in the African climate. I still don't understand why. We were lucky to find a place to eat, however, because most of the shops in Masaka were closed in protest of the raising prices and inflation. When I entered the country six weeks ago, one US dollar was about 2,300 Uganda Schillings. Now, one US dollar is almost 2,600 Uganda Schillings. That increase is an enormous jump. Another example is that a bag of pig feed has risen from 70,000 to 130,000 Uganda Schillings in three weeks.
We finally arrived back in Kkindu and I quickly fell asleep for a nap before dinner.
July 7 - I started the day teaching about Transportation to P.6 and P.7 at Kkindu Primary. At the Primary school, many of the topics in Social Studies are the same from year to year, but the scope increases as one gets older. In P.6, the topic was Transportation and Economic Development in East Africa, and in P.7, the topic was Transportation and Economic Development in Africa. We talked about mobility's critical role in the development of human history. In P.6, we used an example of transporting cassava from Kkindu to Rakai, to Masaka Town, to Entebbe, to Nairobi, in order to discuss the advantages and disadvantages behind certain means of transportation.
After lunch with Sarah, at which we shared different stories about our high school experiences, I rode with John 16 km to Namirembe Landing Center. I kept thinking that John said we were going to a learning center instead of landing center, so when I finally asked what is taught at the learning center, he said "fishing," which, until we finally arrived, just confused me. The long boats were all lined up, with the groups of fishermen preparing to set off for the night. They are typically on the water between 5 pm and 2 am. They slowly pushed the boat out of the shallow water and then turned on the motors to go deep into Lake Victoria. The cattle by the water were resting as the breeze cooled them down. There were mostly Ugandan fishermen docked at the landing center but there were also some Kenyans and Tanzanians. The shouts of the fishermen preparing the trip were very audible over the soft crashing of the waves. We purchased a Tilapia that had just been caught, so I carried it on a string which had been tied from under the throat and through the mouth. As we flew by on the motorcycle, the fish spun on the string, the eyes were always looking at me.
Once I got back to the house, Sarah and I went on a walk around Kitofaali, and helped to get water from the local well and lead the cattle from the field where they had been grazing all day to the stalls behind the house. We opened the gate of the field, and without much urging, the cattle exited, carefully crossed the dirt road and went to their home directly across the street.
July 8 - Today was an exciting day, I could tell just from John Kakande's tone. He picked me up from the house early to finish packing the brand new uniforms for the kids at HOPEFUL School. The uniform is a green shirt and brown shorts for the boys and a green jumper for the girls. The green symbolizes many things, including life and friendship. The brown symbolizes the soil and nature. They are smart colors because of where the kids go to school. When they play, the grass and dirt stains will not show much. When we arrived at the HOPEFUL School we began to organize the uniforms by class with the help of the teachers. I would say that the kids were peeking outside the classroom, but they ended up just all being outside and surrounding the area where we had placed the uniforms. The baby class received theirs first and then the teachers distributed them to their classes. These were the first uniforms for the HOPEFUL School. Many kids in school who do not have uniforms are the subjects of ridicule by students from other schools. So, the kids from HOPEFUL quickly changes and when it came time to leave that day, they wore them proudly and even took different routes home in order to show them off to the community and kids at other schools.
Before class, I went with the P.4 students to fetch water at the nearby well. They made it a race to get to the well, and then once all of the jerry cans were full they made it a race back to school. The fetching of water is a way for the kids to contribute to an ongoing brick project that will allow HOPEFUL to build more and sturdier buildings. After fetching the water, P.4 went to class, but I was able to learn how to make a brick. The first step is to gather the soil and keep it covered to remain cool and moist. The second step is to use a hoe, water, and your feet to mix the soil into mud. The third step is to pile the mud and add more water. Steps one through three had been done already, so I had the easy task of making two bricks. Using a table stuck into the mud, I placed mud into a wooden rectangular frame. There are two methods to filling in the frame: to get a lot of mud and smash it into the frame with one overhead motion, or slowly and in a less messy fashion fill the frame in stages with mud. I gave into pressure from the teachers who were gathered at a safe distance away and went ahead and did the smash method. It is much more efficient, as I tried the other method next. Once the frame was filled with mud, I scraped the excess off of the top and used water to smooth the top. Using the side of the table to flatten the bottom side, I slid the frame off of the table and brought it over to the line of bricks. Using a flat piece of wood that fits into the frame, I pushed out the brick and smoothed the top. After I had finished two bricks, I covered them with grass so that the bricks dry without any direct sunlight which would make them crack.
July 9 - Today was Independence Day for South Sudan! Luckily, John and I had gone to Masaka Town so we were able to watch some of the celebration on the television. We tried to use the internet cafés but three were closed and the two which I tried had problems with the internet connection. John and I ate at Valley Cave and then headed back to Kkindu. Sarah and I met up with Father Emmy to go to the St. Jude Family Projects and Rural Training Center. St. Jude's is a resource for farmers, both local and commercial, to use to gain knowledge about more prosperous ways to use the resources they have. We got a tour from one of the workers named Richard. He showed us the kitchen gardens, gardens which utilize space vertically on shelves. St. Jude's had many other methods for planting gardens demonstrated. The Training Center also had two stories of stalls for poultry and goats. The urine and the feces of the goats are collected because mixed they make excellent fertilizers. After seeing the piggery, we went into the large gardens that grow many different crops and practice different irrigation techniques for farmers to learn and adapt to their own situation.
The fumes from the cow excrement are captured as biofuel and are used in the kitchen for cooking. The gas burns blue and does not emit smoke. To end the tour, Father took us to the location of the planned and begun building project for the St. Jude lodging and conference center. St. Jude provides consultation and training to large groups of farmers and agricultural development specialists and people travel from all over the world to visit and to see the innovative agricultural techniques.
After the visit to St. Jude's, Father took us to Kabuwoko, the parish where he was before coming to Kkindu. It was the first parish in Masaka Diocese that was begun by an African, and it was celebrating its 75th year. The parish owns 300 acres, and Father took us to one of the large fields. During the war between Milton Obote and Idi Amin, it was a field of battle. There was a huge crater left from a bomb, which now facilitates a water hole. From a point on the field, we could see Tanzania. Father also took us to a rock on the parish property which is still used for witchcraft. He showed us some stains that he said were probably animal blood from sacrifice.
We visited the Church and then shared drink and conversation with the religious at the Parish: the parish priest Father Emmanuel, the parish priest of a neighboring parish Father Emmanuel, our Father Emmanuel, Father Jude and two sisters who were headmistresses at the parish schools. Father Emmy and I talked about our trip to Rwanda, and the priests shared their memories of the genocide.
July 10 - After mass, a group of Kkindu Primary boys came to my home for a Sunday morning fencing practice. We practiced for about an hour and watched videos of fencing on my laptop. It was much easier for them to understand the game when they saw good examples of fencers in the Olympics. After practice I learned how to ride John's motorcycle. I understood how to do everything, but putting it into action was different. I was able to ride it out of the yard onto the street and back onto the yard, but switching gears tripped me up a few times.
After a fun morning, Sarah and I went to an auction that was being held at the Church. The kids in the community brought things to donate, which the elders of the community bid on. Sarah and I both won a soda and a stick of meat. The entire process was great, and the man who led the auction was hilarious. He would do big hand gestures and make jokes throughout. At one point, a high school student outbid the head teacher of the Secondary School on a beer. Whenever Sarah and I would bid on things, the other people present would work extra hard to drive up the price. Because the purpose was to raise money, the sodas and beers had to be taken at the auction because the bottles needed to be returned.
After the auction, Father Emmy, John, Sarah and I headed to Lake Nabugabo for some relaxation. It was only an hour and a half drive to the beach and we visited two different places to enjoy the view. At Terrace View Beach, which Father said is where all of the priests go when they want a vacation, we saw a bunch of monkeys playing on the lawn tables. They realized that we were there taking pictures but they continued playing, perhaps even posing. We then went to the sand beach, although until the water there is just grass. At the sand beach, there were donkeys that seemed like stuffed animals because they were completely motionless. We each went to touch one and they did not even move, except for an occasional muscle twitch. They must have been asleep like that because as we were leaving the beach, they were moving around and grazing and wouldn't let us come near them. We got a table right by the water and ordered food. It was such an enjoyable time and was certainly an ideal location for taking a break. There was music blasting and different families were there playing in the water and having a meal. I stepped into the water and it was so warm. The breeze off of the water was not even that cold. Father Emmy and John dominated the conversation telling stories about priests who were defiant during the wars in Uganda. At one point, Father went to a covered patio because he was afraid of being too close to the water.
July 11 - I started the day teaching P.4 at HOPEFUL School, the same transportation lesson which I had taught at Kkindu Primary. I gave them exercises and corrected their work, then we went over the answers before class ended. After class I had lunch with the teachers in the faculty room and then I held practice for fencing. In the afternoon I also held fencing class at Kkindu Primary. Because I use the words, "maso, mabega, and kiganye," to coach, when some of the kids see me, they will start saying those words. Martha, teacher Josephine's daughter, ran up to greet me and gave me a big hug. We did many drills at practice and it was a struggle to work through them but finally the entire group understood the drills and was able to learn a great deal from practice.
John came over in the evening to talk about different HOPEFUL Projects including the village banks and a sponsorship program for the kids. I will be working with John and Fields of Growth on this sponsorship program, so we were doing some brainstorming on the details and the goals of the project. After our meeting we drove to the Secondary School at Kkindu to talk with Director of Studies Abbe about a lesson plan I could teach tomorrow, and then we drove to see John Mark, the chairperson of the Kamuzinda Village Bank, which is working to become a model village project. John Mark is a very good man, and John Kakande likes him very much. On the whole drive home, he was telling me about how John Mark had provided the labor for four days to put together the building frames at HOPEFUL School.
July 12 - After an easy morning, I walked to Kkindu Secondary to teach S.2 history. It was a 120 minute class covering the End of the East African Slave Trade. Since I had had no knowledge of the East African Slave Trade, the night before, I had prepared the lesson plan, learning as much as I could in order to teach the subject. The class went very well, and everyone participated and was attentive. There were many dates for the students to take notes on, mostly dealing with the treaties made which led the way to the abolishment of the slavery and slave trade in East Africa. After lunch back home I returned to the Secondary School to teach another S.2 history class on the Ngoni Migration, the last Bantu group to enter East Africa. This class was only forty minutes and seemed to go very quickly. I had to spend more time to clarify certain points because it was more conceptual learning than memorization of dates and actions as in the previous class. We discussed the reasons for the Ngoni Migration (the main reasons were the expansionist wars begun by Shaka Zulu), but did not get through all of the reasons presented in the textbook. After Secondary School, I played soccer with the kids at Kkindu Primary. The kids are very good at doing short and quick passes to move the ball forward and do not do much dribbling. We then walked for about forty minutes to reach the soccer field where kids from all schools in the area come to play after school. We played a short game, and before I left, one of the kids, Emmanuel, said that I had many, many hairs on my head. During the game, one kid faked an injury to get a free kick like a pro.
John came over before dinner again and talked to me about the HIV education that HOPEFUL does, the focus on Orphans and Vulnerable Children, and the HOPEFUL student choir.
Sarah and I then had dinner with three people from the Diocesan office who were visiting Kkindu parish for inspections.
July 13 - John was feeling under the weather today but was still as busy as ever. "When I child says, 'I am hungry, where is my food?' I cannot say, 'I am sick, I cannot bring your food.' The child will not understand," said John. At breakfast, he told me and Sarah about the Youth Day Celebration which took place in late May with delegates from Play Like a Champion Today. The boy who won the 30km bike race was deaf, and he won by ten minutes. John said that he finished the race, got off of his bike and sat down to wait for ten minutes by the finish line. After breakfast I finished the transportation lesson with P.4 at HOPEFUL School. We talked about tarmac (paved) and murram (soil) roads, then I taught the same lesson to the Kkindu Primary P.4 class. We also talked about the importance of transportation in developing the economy. We used the example, to which the kids contributed, that we take cassava from our home in Kyajjungu to Kitofaali, to Bukunda, to Kabonera, to Masaka Town, sell the cassava top get money, go to the market to buy goods, and go home to grow more cassava. We also discussed the types of roads we would take on that journey.
After lunch, Sarah and Aunt Margaret taught me how to make matooke. I was able to peel a few of the bananas. Once the bananas are peeled, they are packaged with banana leaves, they are burned, mashed, and burned again. After the peeling, Sarah and I were rearranging the furniture in the house to make it easy to watch a movie on her laptop while it was plugged in. We heard a honk in the yard so I assumed that it was John coming to pick me up. I looked out the window and saw the Bishop get out of the car. He was coming to visit his home, so Sarah and I quickly put the furniture back just in time as the Bishop came into the room. He greeted us briefly and then he and the members of the Diocesan office who were visiting the Parish sat down for a discussion.
After meeting the Bishop, John picked me up to meet the Kamuzinda Village Bank. The Village Bank was begun in 2007 as a way to provide a resource for members of the community to get loans for their projects at their homesteads. The bank itself was able to get money from the government to build a granary in Kamuzinda. The granary is very large and will be able to store foods for members of the community and for HOPEFUL School. The bank wants to improve on its agricultural activities, and it wants to get both a grinding machine and a tractor which it can loan to farmers to help open up their land. All of the money gained from loaning out the machines would go back into the community. The problem right now is that the Village Bank needs an organization, perhaps an NGO, to provide more money to increase the loans that people can have in the community. Right now, the bank has a few million Uganda Schillings, but for projects involving the tractor and a grinding machine, it is not much money. The bank has grown very much in four years, however, and is continuing to gain new members.
After the meeting, I had dinner with Sarah and had a very good conversation about the beauty of baseball.
July 14 - In the morning I went with John to HOPEFUL School and Kkindu Primary to make arrangements for a fencing tournament and celebration the next day. The match would be held at HOPEFUL School and Kkindu primary would send twenty kids to take part in the celebration and also fence in the tournament. I showed the P.4 class at HOPEFUL School a video of the Olympic bout between Mariel Zagunis and Becca Ward, two US Women's Sabre fencers. The eyes of the girls in the front row became very wide and they loved when the women would scream after getting a point.
In the afternoon I went with Sarah's group, the Foundation for Sustainable Development, to see a local traditional healer named Magezi, which means "wise." He greeted us "Iradi," which literally means, "Has the water been calm?" The origin of the greeting is at the landing centers like Namirembe, where I visited. The boats that fishermen used to use were not as strong as they are now and so many could not withstand the water, so when someone arrived home from a trip, he would be greeted with "Iradi." The traditional healer showed us many things that he uses, and went through the different procedures for certain healing methods that people come in for. Some people come to see him for good luck on their exams, others for medical problems, others because of bad omens, and others to conjure spirits. On average the doctor sees fifteen people a day. On Wednesday, he goes to Masaka Clinic to work with people who have psychological problems. He seems to work closely with the clinic, and does not seem at odds with modern medicine. It was not entirely clear in his explanation, but I understood that he views modern medicine as just a different path to healing, almost like different religions are different paths to God. He clarified that the cult to which he belongs does not sacrifice children, because evidently some cults do. I learned that young boys will have one ear pierced but not wear any earring, because they will not be kidnapped for sacrifice because they are not untouched. Evidently, there was a case about nine months ago in the Masaka District.
After getting back from the healer, Father picked me up to go to Peter Asiimwe's home for the baptism of his seven-month old child. Peter Asiimwe has become a good friend, and is a teacher at HOPEFUL School. He took a great deal of interest in fencing and I have given him many lessons on the rules and different drills that the students can do. He will take over as the coach at HOPFEUL School when I leave.
July 15 - Today was a very busy, special and historic day. John picked me up to visit four different families that are considered vulnerable and are helped by HOPEFUL School and Kkindu Primary. The first family lives in Lusaka and has eight children. Five of the children wake up every morning at 4:30 am and leave at 5 am to begin their two-and-a-half to three hour walk to Kkindu Primary. They go to school until 5 pm and make it home by 7:30 pm, fetch water and gather firewood. The oldest is Alex, a P.6 student who wants to be a teacher. Viola is next in P.5 and wants to be a nurse. Betty, who also wants to be a teacher, is in P.3. Sandra and Resty are both in P.2 and want to be a lawyer and a musician, respectively. Their smiles were so heartwarming, and when they told me what they wanted to be when they got older, they smiled even wider than before. Resty is really interested in guitar.
The second family I visited has three kids at HOPEFUL School, and the mother is a widow, because the father died soon after their wedding. The third family I visited has two kids at HOPEFUL School and the mother is also a widow. The fourth family was headed by the grandmother and grandfather and had four kids at HOPEFUL School. It was a really humbling experience to see the kids that I have been teaching at HOPEFUL School in their homes, and understanding their daily routines. All of the kids struggle to go to school as well as work and help out at home, but they are tirelessly committed to their schooling and to their families.
After visiting the families, I went to HOPEFUL School to begin the very first fencing tournament in Kamungu, in Masaka, in Uganda, and in East Africa. The tournament consisted of four very large pools of 10, 10, 10, and 12 - 42 total competitors. Both Kkindu Primary and HOPEFUL School were represented. Peter Asiimwe, Master Deus, and I refereed the pools. Although a time-consuming effort, the kids had a fantastic time participating in the pools and watching their classmates compete. Whenever a Kkindu Primary student would fence a HOPEFUL School student, both sides cheered very, very hard. When the HOPEFUL School student won, his or her classmates went absolutely wild. They were so proud that they could beat the Kkindu kids and they became so confident in their school. After the pools, in the essence of time, we took the top two fencers from each pool to make a top eight bracket. It contained three fencers from Kkindu Primary and five from HOPEFUL. In one bout I was directing, Noeline (the eventual champion), made an attack and turned to look at me to make sure that I called it correctly. I called it her attack and she went back to her en garde line with a fist pump and saying, "yes!" like she had been fencing much longer than five weeks.
One other girl, Teopista, was the youngest competitor, in P.3, and she made it to the final four, beating many boys along the way. Her dad was there to watch, because he is a community leader, and was so proud of her that after one bout he ran onto the "strip" and picked her up and spun her around in celebration. Many community leaders were gathered to watch, including Father Emmy, and they had a great time seeing fencing for the first time and watching the joy on the kids' faces as they cheered for their friends and schools. The final match was between Noeline of HOPEFUL P.4 and Ellen also of HOPEFUL P.4. Noeline won the final match 5-0. She made three straight attacks, as Ellen tried to defend, and then hit on two more attacks after making Ellen miss the first initial attacks. Each of the competitors received a school book for their work and a pen. One thing that made me so happy was that during individual bouts, classmates would coach their friends who were fencing. I would hear the occasional, "maso" or "mabega."
Between rounds of the tournament the kids enjoyed a special meal of rice, sweet potato, cassava, matooke, and beef. Many kids go months without having any beef, and so it was a great meal for them. After the tournament, the kids from HOPEFUL School sang songs thanking me for my work at their school and wishing me a safe journey home. The Kkindu Primary kids then joined in at the drums while the HOPEFUL kids did some traditional African dance. It was a huge celebration and the kids from both schools came together to make it such an enjoyable time. After the dance, Peter, the HOPEFUL School accountant, said thanks to me on behalf of the community, and then the kids lined up to give me presents which they had gotten from home. I felt so blessed by their generosity as the kids gave me avocados, mangos, eggs, sugar cane, a live chicken, and brooms which some kids had weaved at home. One of the P.4 students, Betty, weaved my name into the broom handle, and gave it to me on behalf of her younger sister Eva.
I was able to give some final words to the kids, thanking them from the bottom of my heart, and thanking the teachers at HOPEFUL School and Kkindu Primary. It is very difficult to describe the atmosphere surrounding the celebration - the first fencing tournament, the special meal, the dancing celebration, and their goodbyes. I felt so touched and regret leaving after being there for only a few weeks. I cannot wait to return.
|June 24th-July 1st, 2011|
Cultural Celebrations, the Batwa Experience, and Rwandan Memorials
June 24 - I started the day driving to Masaka Town and seeing a dog sitting down and leaning against a cow which was resting. The purpose of the drive, however, was to take kids from Kyanamukaka to Masaka Town to get tested for HIV, get treatment for HIV, or to play with other kids at the clinic. We arrived at the AIDS Health Foundation clinic and met with the head doctor. The doctor told us about his recent policies of "streamlining" all of the information that his office receives regarding NGOs and CBOs bringing kids to get tested. This meant that he wanted a record of communication between the groups bringing kids to get tested and treatment and the clinic. He also told us some information about the clinic. It is ten years old, and started with 300 patients. It currently serves about 15,750. It receives funding from private donors as well as the government because it is part of a larger hospital. The doctor gave us some information about the spread of HIV: that it spread in the cities, and when the parents became sick, they sent their kids to stay in the villages with their grandparents who are many times weak and don't have the resources to help the children get tested. Unfortunately, HIV is a burden forced upon many children. The clinic provides treatment, advice, support (psychological and spiritual), and hope. After the meeting with the doctor, Sarah, Andrew and I played with the kids at the clinic at the playground while others were still waiting for their treatment and testing. I played catch, jump rope, drew pictures, and a made-up-on-the-spot mix of cricket and kickball. They loved the last one a lot. After playing we waited for a few more minutes for the last few kids, and one cute girl came over to me and started giving me hi-fives.
After all of the kids had gotten treatment we went to Valley Cave in Masaka Town for their special meal. They got a full plate of posho, matooke, meat, rice, cassava, sweet potato, and as many sodas as they wanted. After the meal, we drove back to Kkindu and Andrew and I visited the Kamuzinda Women Perseverance Group with John Kakande. These women make purses, mats, bowls, mats that say Play Like a Champion Today, bags, and necklaces. All of the products are gorgeous and so much hard work and time is put into each one. I will be posting pictures of the various items later, please contact me if you are interested in purchasing one to support the group. After this meeting, John drove us to the Kyanamukaka trading center where we had some conversations with friends of John. The talk was mostly about certain articles in the New Vision (one of Uganda's main newspapers).
Father Emmy then took us to an introduction ceremony. This is the customary negotiation before the wedding. Both families are present and members from both sides present gifts. It is symbolic of the ability of the man to provide and care for the woman. As they brought up the gifts, the men and women were dancing in front of the three to four hundred people in attendance. There was a man who was hired to do comic relief; he was a riot if you understood Luganda. John said he was very funny, but the punch-line of the jokes or stories seemed to get lost in translation. At one point the father of the bride was presented with the certificate of recognition from the Kabaka (the king of Buganda). The couple (Cate and Kennedy - the comedy man said that the "Ca" in Cate and the "Ke" in Kennedy spell one of the best parts of the ceremony: cake) served a huge cake to everyone present as the bridesmaids sprayed icing into the air. After the serving of cake, the couple moved into a tent, where they would eat a meal. The tent was closed off by curtains because it would have been disrespectful to eat in front of everyone. While the couple was eating, the comedy man welcomed "the visitors from abroad," and gave me and Andrew a brief explanation of this cultural celebration. He then said in Luganda, "This is an historic occasion because we have our guests from abroad. If this is the introduction, imagine how amazing the wedding will be!"
June 25 - After a nice breakfast and a few phone call exchanges with John Kakande to figure out transportation to Bwindi, we drove to the Masaka bus stop to begin what would end up being a twelve hour journey. The bus was crowded at first and we had to stand for a while. When it cleared a bit, Andrew and I grabbed a seat, and I quickly fell asleep. I woke up to someone pulling my seat back, and with that pull it broke on its hinge. The seat reclined almost to a flat position, which would have been great for me to sleep, but it interfered with the person in the seat behind me. The woman behind me quickly ripped the seat from its hinge completely and placed it on the floor. For the next few hours I was in a seat with no back. After about 6 hours of driving, we arrived in Rukungiri, and worked on arranging transportation to Bwindi (in the Southwest region of the country). It was four of us traveling (Andrew, John, Father Emmanuel, and I), but a special car would have been very expensive. We finally got on a truck to go to Butogota. We passed by the river and magnificent valley of Nengo. After three and a half hours of driving, we finally reached Butogota, where Joseph Safari and Richard Magezi from the Batwa Development Program picked us up in another truck to make it to Bwindi. After a long day of travel, we reached the Bwindi community guest house, where we quickly found our beds.
June 26 - At breakfast I spoke with a family who had been traveling the world since January, covering Southeast Asia, India, parts of the Middle East, and now Africa. Joseph picked us up at the house to walk to mass at Mukono Anglican Church. When we went outside, we saw the beautiful mountains and rainforest. We had arrived late at night, so we had not gotten a glimpse of the immensity of the surrounding mountains. Beside the church is a soccer field which Fields of Growth has been building. The current problem is getting the machinery to Bwindi in order to continue leveling the field and removing the rocks too large to be removed by hand.
At mass, it was a full house. Kids were wearing their school uniforms which I was told is a way to distinguish them because otherwise children can easily get lost in a large crowd as well as guidance at mass. There was much singing and dancing and the offertory took about 20 minutes. Different groups were invited up to make donations of money or vegetables. The kids went first and danced before the altar while the choir sang along. The elders went next, then the deacons, then the men and women of the congregation, then the visitors and guests. John, Andrew, Father Emmanuel and I went outside in order to do the dancing procession in and then dance in front of the altar. The dancing consisted of a lot of jumping (Father Emmy referred to this as "spiritual gymnastics") and surprisingly no one stepped on other peoples' feet. I was afraid of doing so because I had some heavy hiking boots on and many of the kids (who, although dancing for the first part of the offertory, wanted to dance every time) were barefoot. There was also a lot of clapping, a good rhythm of which Father Emmy and I finally figured out. People were clapping in different frequencies, but everyone contributed to the underlying rhythm. During many of the hymns, Joseph Safari lent me his hymnal in Lukiga, so I followed along and tried to learn the pronunciation. I sat next to Levi, head of income generation for the Batwa Development Program (BDP) and head of laity ion the Church. At mass the four of us were invited to introduce ourselves and Father Emmanuel was asked to give a brief sermon. He was the first Catholic priest to give a sermon in that church. Levi, however, said that the Catholic and Anglican churches in the area work together a lot in order to help community development and if one church is in need of something or another like facility maintenance, the other church will pitch in to help.
After mass there was not much else to do (mass went from 11am to 3pm, but talking after mass went until 4:30). Andrew, Sam (who had met us in Bwindi), Father Emmy, John and I grabbed a meal and had some great discussion. The first item of discussion was slaughtering animals. Sam was saying that since Andrew is the coach of the lacrosse team he is viewed as the elder and expected to cut the throat of a goat for a celebratory meal. Sam continued to insist that it is necessary. Andrew asked about killing a chicken instead, but Sam said that it would have to be many, many chickens because it would have to match the weight of a goat. John then talked about a chicken that he has had but has not slaughtered because of many different reasons. He has now pledged to the chicken, who is eight, that it will die a natural death, it has become a family pet. The second item of discussion was the origin of Muzungu. I was told two different stories. First of all, the prefix "ba" indicates a people, and "mu" indicates one person. So for example, the Baganda are the people, a Muganda is one of the Baganda; the Batwa are the people, a Mutwa is one of the Batwa. So, Muzungu is one of the Bazungu. Sam said that the first Caucasian people in Africa were missionaries, who would do their work during the day but retreat to their homes at night. Since they also spoke English (Luzungu), they were called sun people (the root of "zungu"). Father Emmy said that the word Muzungu comes from the Lugandan word Kuzunga meaning "moving from one place to another aimlessly." The derivation is due to the generalization of a Caucasian person. A Muganda would see a Caucasian person in some part of the country but be unable to identify him. He would then travel to another part and see another Caucasian person, but because he had not made a distinction between the two people, he viewed them as the same. So the Muzungu is one who travels from place to place and is seen in many places. The third item of discussion was about Luganda, the language of the Baganda.
June 27 - After breakfast, Joseph Safari gave us a breakdown of the BDP. The BDP is a community based organization started after the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest was registered in 1991 and the Batwa were forced out of the forest. The forest was registered because of high tourist demand, and conservationists who did not want to have the Batwa disturb the habitat of the gorillas. Doctor Scott Kellerman and his wife Carol started a mobile clinic under the giant fig tree next to Mukono church. The clinic expanded to the hospital and Scott and Carol have been convincing many Batwa to go to school. The BDP has program areas in Education, Homebuilding and Land Acquisition, Healthcare, and Income Generation. Each program has subcommittees composed of the Batwa. Currently they own the land where they now live and over 126 houses have been built. Currently there are 209 students in school, and the BDP provides the financial backing for the Batwa to get health insurance. Like in Kkindu, there is a crafts shop which is a good income generating project. The Batwa Experience, which we would enjoy the next day, is another good income generating project and takes place on 100acres of land bought by Dr. Kellerman. Like all of the other organizations I have encountered on my trip thus far, the BDP is looking for ways to become self-sufficient.
Many problems face the Batwa after getting kicked out of the forest. Culturally, when someone in the community died, they would bury him or her and move to another location in the forest. Now they are forced to live in permanent structures which eliminate the possibility of moving when someone dies. Last week there were three deaths in the community, presenting a culture clash for the Batwa. The Batwa were hunter-gatherers, so right now, crop planting is not a viable income generating project (it is hard to tell them to wait six months for food). The Batwa are now not as healthy as they had been in the forest because they have little money to buy second hand what they had been getting for themselves in the forest.
Some red-tailed monkeys, who had been taking interest in our fascinating discussion, entered the lounge area where we were conducting the meeting. Dr. Kellerman gave one of them a banana, which the monkey jumped to grab and darted away. One came right next to me, lost to me in a staring contest, and went back on top of the roof of the porch. His tail was still hanging down.
We started driving to Byumba, where we would help to mud a house for a Mutwa named Eileen. Before that, however, we got a tour of the Byumba clinic, which provides family planning services, HIV testing, treatment and counseling, mosquito nets at a subsidized price, and many other services. We then visited the school in Byumba where 19 Mutwa were attending. One thing I noticed quickly was that kids here say "Hallo" instead of "Bye, Muzungu." We arrived at the home in Byumba and watched as the community prepared the mud which we would use for the walls. The outer walls of the home had been done in the morning, so John Kakande, Sam, Father Emmy, Andrew, a visiting student named Juliet, and I mudded the inside walls and the hard to reach places. Father Emmy provided spiritual and architectural guidance as we built the walls for about two hours. We were able to complete the house. Once the mud dries, the owners will make a mixture of mud and cow dung and use it as a second coat on the walls. It was a relatively large home with four rooms and two doors. After finishing, we ate a great meal with the Batwa and relaxed inside the home while it poured rain.
After showering at home, everyone at the Bwindi Community Hospital guest house went to the Gorilla Hut, a lodge within the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest. I talked to Dr. Kellerman, who told me about his plan to go into the Congo in order to help some of the Batwa caught in the crossfire of the conflict. (The Batwa inhabit Uganda, the Congo, and Rwanda). He also told me about how the Batwa are able to climb trees. Instead of using the side of their feet like we would, they walk up the tree because their feet bend all the way to their shins.
June 28 - In the morning, Andrew and I moved from the community guest house to one right next to the rainforest, in order to make room for some doctors and medical students from Vermont who would be helping out at the hospital. I can now understand why some people are afraid of the rainforest, because as I stepped onto the balcony of our new room, the rainforest was right there - the trees were dense and very dark because the sun was just rising. We walked about forty-minutes back to the community guest house for breakfast, where Sam gave us a mathematical equation for African time: if someone says that he will be forty minutes, multiply that by two, and add ten (one and a half hours). From my experience in the bus park in Kampala, however, I do not think that it is an accurate model.
Levi led me, Andrew, Sam, John, Father Emmy, and Juliet to the great fig tree by the Mukono Church as we began the "Batwa Experience." The fig tree used to be part of the forest, and can be seen from the top of the mountains. At first, it was used as a shrine, then it became the central church for worship. At the time it was a church it became a classroom; the teacher would bring a blackboard to the tree and the students would sit around it. Finally, it was the location of the mobile clinic that Dr. Kellerman started. People would travel from all areas of Bwindi to the tree and you could see people with IV drips sitting around the tree as Dr. Kellerman did his work. "Everything begins from here," Father Emmy said, and so we went to the tree to start our own journey into the rainforest. On our way we met a man who we called Chief. He was chief of the area for twenty years and Levi told us stories of him saving the congregants of the church from a black mamba; Chief also enjoyed the fact that his son shares my name. As we walked past homes on the way into the rainforest, Chief explained how white wine is made from banana (the strength that must be put into the process is reflected in the strength of the drink itself - my throat still burns from only a small taste). We made our way into the rainforest where we met our guides, seven Batwa. James was the lead guide and Levi and Chief translated for us.
We first went to a food and gathering center where they described different ways they would catch animals and cook them. When they hunted, they would never run from a charging animal without first trying to hit it with one shot of the spear. It started to rain while we were under the shelter so we stayed there for a while, as James played music on the engage. It is like an oval shaped guitar, and James uses his thumb and first two fingers on both hands to strum as the instrument rests on his right thigh and his right arm rests on top of it. The music was very good, and seemed to match the tone that the rain created; however, I do not know the meaning of the songs which he played. When it stopped raining they showed us how people were laid to rest in the forest - they would be wrapped in a grass and faced up in order to keep watching the forest; while one person was wrapping the deceased, the rest of the group would be preparing to leave the spot and move to a different area.
We passed a medicine garden, where the Batwa began telling us what each plant was used for - to help urination, bring down temperatures, to reshape the heads of new born children, to make the umbilical soft to remove, to stop bad omens from occurring, to ease pain in the eye, to cure wounds obtained in the forest, to increase breast milk levels in elderly women (called Omugiti, this was used if the mom died during childbirth and the child was entrusted to one of the elders). Levi then mentioned that every plant in the forest could be used by the Batwa as medicine so we should move on to the next stop instead of spending days with the medicine garden. We arrived at the rest hut after about two hours of climbing. We had gotten to the point where we were as high as some clouds around the opposite mountains. From the rest hut we could see the distinct outline of the hospital buildings, the school by Mukono church, and, of course, the magnificent fig tree. After dinner, the Batwa elders would tell stories, and the skids would sleep resting on their father's legs. James told one story:
There was famine in the land, and so a father went out into the forest to find some food. He saw a dike (a small goat; pronounced "die-kuh") eating grass, and so the father moved quietly towards it to kill it. Just as he was about to strike the dike said, "Stop! Please!" The father stepped back in astonishment. The dike said, "Because you have not killed me you are my friend. I know that you and your people are starving, but because you are my friend, I will give you all of the food that you need. When you run out, you can come back, but only you can come." So the father took ample food back to his home and the people rejoiced. The wife, however, was skeptical about the father. She thought that he had stolen the food from a neighboring people. When the food ran out, the father went back to the dike and they hugged as friends do. He returned home with more food. The wife said, "You must take me to where you get the food." The father refused saying that he could not. When the food ran out again, the father headed back to the dike, and the wife stealthily followed. When the father arrived, the dike would not embrace him. The father questioned why, and the dike said, "You have betrayed me and have brought another person." The father looked back and saw the wife who had followed. "Our relationship is over," said the dike. This is why the Mutwa always has to hunt, and the dike always has to run.
After the story, we went to the shrine of the nyagasani (god) named Nabingi, who entrusts the forest to the Batwa, and also saw four different types of houses in which the Batwa would live (far different from mud homes in which they are now forced to live). We returned to the rest hut and heard songs praising Batwa culture, the Batwa's love for gorillas, and the questioning of what they should do now that they are out of the forest. We finally shared a very nice meal with the Batwa, and practiced our bow and arrow skills. Then we said good-bye and thank you to the Batwa and descended back to the fig tree. We failed to see any gorillas (which tourists pay $500 to do) but we did see where they had been by the broken branches and the leveled grass.
After resting for a bit, we went with Dr. Kellerman to Volcanoes Bwindi Lodge, although it was too dark to enjoy the view of the rainforest. After swapping stories of catching snakes (of which, I am not ashamed to say, I had none), Dr. Kellerman told me about his story of coming to Bwindi and starting the hospital. He came over one time as a medical missionary, because he and his wife Carol traveled the world working with tropical diseases. They found their way to Bwindi and felt a special calling. They decided to stay in Bwindi for a year or so working with the mobile clinic. The day before they were set to leave for home, the elders of the area asked if he wanted to buy the piece of land to build a hospital. The price had sky-rocketed from $3,000 to $30,000, which Dr. Kellerman could not afford, he only had $2,500 in his account. The elders went to talk to the owners of the land, and they argued for quite some time until someone said something and it got very quiet and returned to civilized conversation. Finally, an elder came to Dr. Kellerman and said that the price was now at $2,500. The changing point of the conversation was when an elder had said, "And who will save our dying mothers and children?" Dr. Kellerman bought the land, and a year later the first building was built for only $7,000 because everyone in the community provided the labor, and the materials were the only purchases.
June 29 - After saying goodbye to the wonderful people at the BDP, Andrew, John, Father Emmy, Sam and I took a car on a very bumpy road to Kabale. Everyone in the backseat was feeling a bit sick from the bumps, but Father provided guidance by saying, "the struggles of today will be the success of tomorrow." We arrived in Kabale and John took a bus to Masaka, Sam and Andrew stayed in Kabale, and Father Emmy and I took a car to the border of Uganda and Rwanda. Father had told the driver that we must go immediately, to which he agreed but once we were in the car, the driver said that he must wait for some more people. The key to getting your way in many situations regarding transportation is to show that you will get out of the car, removing business from the driver. So that is what we did - Father Emmy and I got out of the car, and the driver immediately said that we would go. We went through passport control on both sides of the border, exchanged some Uganda schillings for Rwandan francs, and set off in a car to Kigali. Rwanda (known as the county of one thousand hills) is correctly named. The many hills and valleys provide for interesting sights in cultivation, and most of the land seems to be used for growing crops, or breeding fish.
We arrived in Kigali and met Mama Ariane, her younger daughter Honorine, and friend Thierry. Mama's other daughter is a friend of mine at St. Mary's named Ariane. Thierry is a librarian at the Kigali Institute of Education, and Honorine is in S.4 studying medicine. We ate a meal in Nakumatt mall, where we had arranged to meet, and Father Emmy and I began to learn simple things in Kinyarwanda like hello (muraho), how are you (amakuru) and thank you very much (murakoze cyane).
Kigali is completely different from Kampala. Where in Kampala there are dirt and uneven roads, in Kigali they are paved. Where in Kampala there is trash on the side of the road, in Kigali there are clean sidewalks. There are traffic lights and street lights in Kigali, so the traffic is organized, rather than chaotic. The buses have set bus stops and leave at a specific time, while in Kampala they stop anywhere on the side of the road and do not leave until they are full. Seeing the hustle and bustle of the city, and the respect that people have for one another, it is hard to believe that there was genocide less than twenty-years ago.
We checked in at our hostel by St. Paul's church and said goodnight to our hosts. In our room, Father Emmy and I talked about the role of the Church in politics, both in the United States and Uganda.
June 30 - Mama Ariane picked me and Father up in the morning and after breakfast we went to the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi. This memorial contained the mass graves of 250,000 people. The memorial contained many symbolic gardens. There are the flower of life garden dedicated to all Rwandan women, fruit trees dedicated to the children of the world, the provinces of Rwanda garden, the garden of self-protection, the garden of unity representing pre-colonialism, the garden of division representing the explosion of unity during the genocide, the garden of reconciliation representing the foundations on which Rwanda must now be built, and the forest of memory representing the eternal memory of the genocide. There is an unfinished wall of names of people who are buried at the site. The place was very quiet, but not completely silent due to the crunching sounds of the stones which mark the path, disturbing any silent remembrance of the dead - perhaps our remembrance should not be silent. The museum portion of the memorial gives a good explanation of the historical development leading to the genocide. The presentation focused on the role propaganda played in the genocide, as well as the historical relationships between the Hutu and Tutsi. It said that before colonization, Tutsi and Hutu were used to designate social class, but they were classifications which could change depending on a person's movement between social classes. When Rwanda was colonized, the ethnic and racial dimensions were added to the social classes, making them permanent identifiers. One very interesting quote in the presentation was by Felicien Ntagenwa: "If you knew me and really knew yourself you would not have killed me." There were rooms which contained pictures of some of those killed and clothing which had been worn by some victims (one was a Superman blanket). There was also a children's room, which gave information provided by some parents about their children. One of the most disturbing parts for me was the "last words" section. One child's last words were, "Mum, where can I run to?" and another's, "UNAMIR will come for us."
We left the memorial and drove in a bus to the office of the executive secretariat of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG). On the way we passed the US Embassy, the Departments of Education and Immigration, the president's residence, the Department of Defense, and the Egyptian Embassy. At the CNLG, a man named Claver gave us some information about the Commission. The missions of the Commission are to put into place a permanent framework for exchange of ideas on Genocide, its consequences and strategies for its prevention and eradication; to initiate the creation of a national research documentation center on Genocide; to advocate for the cause of Genocide survivors both within the country and abroad; to plan and coordinate all activities aimed at commemorating the 1994 Genocide; and to elaborate and put in place strategies that are meant for fighting against Genocide and its ideology. The Commission keeps the documentation of the Gacaca courts, a community form of justice in which perpetrators of genocide seek forgiveness from and reconciliation with the victims in their community and are judged by the members of the community. Claver said that reconciliation is the way to move forward, and they have made great progress in that respect. The history of the Genocide is part of the school curriculum, and most children who were born after 1994 learn about it in class.
July 1 - Today is National Work Day and Independence Day, so all of the places for breakfast were closed. Father Emmy and I went with Thierry and Vivian to Murambi Genocide Memorial. On the way we drove through the country side. The development is occurring in the towns and cities and there is still a disparity between the rural areas. However, many of the homes by the side of the roads have electricity. We stopped in Butare and caught another bus which took us to Nyamagabi, then got a motorcycle ride to the memorial. Even the motorcycles in Rwanda are different than the boda-bodas in Uganda. In Rwanda, the motorcycles are a different style, but do not have as good of shock absorbers as the ones in Uganda. The ones in Rwanda though provide a safety helmet. The Murambi memorial is on the site of what was to become a technical school. During the genocide many people fled to the school for safety. After a time, the Interhamwe (the militia) cut off the water and food supply to the school. They then entered the school property and killed over 50,000 people. The presentation at the memorial was similar to the one in Gisozi but also focused on the story of people in Murambi, the role the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had in stopping the genocide, and the many stories of survivors. One survivor told the story that when the Interhamwe were attacking her compound, she ran to a room and locked the door. It was the last room to be attacked, but the soldiers could not get in. They tried throwing grenades in and one man said, "Whoever has the key please open the door and let them finish us off quickly." She agreed and went to the door to open it. As she opened it, the door pinned her against the wall and she was hidden from the killers. She was the only survivor.
Another woman said that she was a Hutu who was hiding Tutsis, so her life too was in danger. A man knocked on her door one night and said, "We are going to put a huge burden on your shoulders. Are you ready to take it? If not, let us know so we can continue on our way." She replied, "I am ready to die with you."
Behind the main building at Murambi are the school buildings and classrooms. They were not finished, and left as they had been in 1994. In each of the rooms were preserved bodies, some with clothes still on, dried out and laid on tables. There was a smell (a mixture of must, mold, and the natural substances used for preservation) that hung in the rooms, but did not creep outside into the open air. Some bodies were still in positions of horror. Others had the marks of machetes in the bones. There were many bodies in each of the eighteen classrooms, but a relatively small number to the total number killed in the genocide.
We departed from Murambi and took a bus back to Kigali City, where we then caught another bus to Mama's home in Gisozi. We had a wonderful meal with her family, including her daughter Honorine and many cousins. It was so nice to share a meal and great conversation with them. Everyone speaks French and Kinyarwanda, and a few people speak English. Thierry and Honorine would do most of the translating.
When Father Emmy and I arrived back at the hostel, we talked about the political relationships between Uganda and Rwanda.
|June 15th-23rd, 2011|
Updates! Kyarusozi, Fort Portal, Masaka, and Kkindu
June 15th - My phone alarm went off at the same time that a rooster crowed. Breakfast was early but very interesting, with stories about the history of Uganda told by Father William. He talked about the history of the local conflicts and President Museveni. An interesting sound bite was when he said that "an idle African army is an enemy of the state. Engage it," and more pessimistic was his response to my choice of Peace Studies, "You have a long road ahead of you." After breakfast I went with Rebecca to teach about Gender Roles with Fortunate at Kihumuro Primary. On the way she told the story of a previous class: The subject was decision making and the scenario was that a girl is given many gifts by an older man who finally asks the girl to go to a hotel with him. After 20 minutes of deliberating the kids decided that it was best for the girl to go to the hotel with the man. Their reasoning was that if she did not go the gifts would stop and more good will come from going to the hotel than the bad. It was a co-ed class. At class, Rebecca first asked the class to categorize certain professions and attributes. She then asked them to categorize the same professions and attributes under who (male, female, or both) could physically do the profession or have the attribute.
After lunch at the parish, we went to Kyembogo Primary to do the same Gender Roles class for the Child Rights Club. At both schools, pregnancy correctly remained under a strictly female attribute, and, interestingly, building a house remained under male. At both schools, the reasoning was the same: many women are afraid of heights. Even after Rebecca took them through the steps - can a woman make a brick? can a woman use a hammer? etc. - they insisted that because women are afraid of heights they cannot build houses. We finished the class with a game of spider web. After class I went with Father George and Francis to meet John and Mary, two farmers who have been helped by Kyefa. John is one of the most jovial men you could ever meet. Francis insisted that he must have taken something (a drink), but Father George said that that is just how he is. The first thing he said to us was, "Here is my banana plantations!" as he pointed to his few banana trees. Father George says that John has all the reason to be happy because of how far he and Mary have come. From no agricultural development whatsoever, they have become self-sustainable with the help of Kyefa. They grow bananas, carrots, cabbage, guava, pineapple, onions, tea, coffee, maize, rice, and tomatoes. They also have their own underground water tank. John and Mary have a truly wonderful story because of the help that Kyefa has provided. John wanted me to take his picture in his garden, to which he said, "I am getting old, that is what the pictures show!" The farmers who are helped by Kyefa are not expected to pay much back to Kyefa because only a few are able to sell commercially. Most of the work Kyefa has done has been to make family households self-sufficient.
Kyefa comes into play because of a fundamental problem: the cycle of poverty. Families who have nothing are not able to open their land to become self-sustainable, and so they apply for a loan from the bank. The bank denies the loan because the families have no collateral. Kyefa provides the economic push for these families to break the cycle. Please read more at ugandafarmersinc.org, and please contact me if have questions about the NGO.
June 16th - After breakfast I took a walk with Fortunate to the Kyefa headquarters. We had a very candid conversation about religion in Uganda, the situation of the farmers, and the media portrayal of Africa. He said that even with riots in Kampala, he and his friends would go to the club in the evening. At Kyefa, I saw the goat project (currently Kyefa has 68 goats and the goal is to have 1000). I met some other families to see the work that Kyefa has done for them. One woman invited us into her home, where her walls were decorated by various calendars: religious, noting Queen Elizabeth's visit to Uganda, the FDC and the NRM (Ugandan political parties), and the last days of Saddam Hussein. Her children's school work was made into mobiles that hung from the ceiling.
After lunch, Fortunate took me to his class at Kyarusozi Primary where he taught the bridge model: the skills we have, where we want to be, the challenges in the way, and what to do to build a bridge over those challenges. Abstinence from sex is stressed in the primary and secondary schools, so it became an answer for the way to avoid early pregnancy and early marriage. They have the ABCs (Abstinence, be faithful, condom). After class, we went to the local clinic, which had beautiful facilities, built and run by the Holy Cross. They have a maternity ward, delivery room, drug dispensary, full school supply room, baby class to P.3 classes) and a uniform store. While it is a very nice clinic for the area, the problem is that it is the only one in a large area. Back at the parish, I played volleyball and then took pictures with the kids.
June 17th - After breakfast, Father George took me to Francis' home in Nsinde Village, within Kyarusozi. I met his mother and father, and his younger brother Mathias. We took part in the launch of the Model Village project - a project under Kyefa in which 11 families in Nsinde will have the tractor to till the soil and open the land for them. Kyefa will then provide coffee seeds and it is projected that within two years of planting, the families will be making good income. Then, the farmers can begin a collective market and open a coffee shop in the village. The goal is for this project to be replicated in many other areas of the country and to work with government officials to help implement it.
Life is very relaxed in the village, Francis was feeling very idle. We talked about many things to kill time in the morning: college tuitions, trust funds, the ICC and the Rome Statute, the Holy Cross, race relations in the US, the election of President Obama, and sex-education in Africa. At one point, a cow, which had been resting nearby, came over to our table on the front lawn and just stared at me in wonder, and perhaps confusion. Also, many kids did not go to school on Friday because of the presence of the tractor. It was hard to comprehend for me, but it is the only tractor in the entire county (400,000 people), so it was big news that it had arrived in Nsinde. Whenever the tractor went from field to field, the kids followed it.
After lunch, Francis and I went to Nsinde Primary school where I taught my first lesson, on the spur of the moment since we had not known the teachers would ask us to teach. I opened up easily enough with question and answer, about anything, I said. A favorite question was whether I had kids. It was also hard for them to believe that I am an only child. The final question had to do with what classic American food was. My initial reaction was to say a hamburger, which I drew on the board. Finally I went into a more substantial class, talking about many kids' favorite: sports. We talked about the skills we learn from athletics and how they can be applied to life. The entire class lasted over an hour. We also talked about the importance of staying in school: on which the head teacher elaborated (do you want to keep eating potatoes or do you want a nice, juicy hamburger?). The teachers at the school where great and very hospitable of the long class. The head teacher wanted me to tell all of my friends in the US, "hello" from the students in Uganda. After visiting the school, Francis and I went to the Mwenge Tea Plantation, a gorgeous and enormous plantation with endless acres of tea. We went up to the club to enjoy the view. The Mwenge company employs over 40,000 people, which is good and bad, because it gives people jobs, but there is not minimum wage. The drive back to Francis' home was pitch black, besides the stars and the occasional motorcycle that would pass us.
Back at home, Francis' mom reflected the wonderful hospitality that has been shown to me since my arrival in Uganda. She said that "a friend of my son is a son of mine," and since I am an only child: "When you are in the USA, you can say your brothers and sisters are in Africa."
June 18th - I woke up a bit late and saw many people outside gathered around watching the tractor. After discussing the pet names in Rutooro (there are twelve, everyone insisted, but we could only come up with eleven), I met Francis' eldest brother Richard. Francis' father was constantly working but always smiling. After only a night in the village, Francis took me back to the parish only fifteen minutes away in Kyarusozi. Francis' family showed me such wonderful hospitality that I will never forget. Whenever people in Uganda ask, "How have you found Uganda?" The first thing to mention is always the hospitality. Most people who ask the question will already assume that you have understood how hospitable everyone is. Back at the parish I spoke to the other Notre Dame students (Matt and Natalie) doing the ISSLP. I also met with Father George and the rest of the Kyefa staff to discuss ideas about making it a stronger program.
Brother Leonard was going to take me and Francis back to Fort Portal so we had to wait for him. In the meantime I watched a Nigerian soap opera about a woman who had been killed by her boyfriend's ex-lover. The murdered woman comes back in the form of another woman to convince her boyfriend to resist the temptations of the ex-lover, meanwhile trying to begin a new relationship with her boyfriend. However, the body she is using belongs to the girlfriend of her boyfriend's best friend, whose girlfriend had died on Valentine's Day. The best friend comes over one day and sees his dead girlfriend at the home of his best friend and faints. The two men then have to consult the elders of their families to determine what to do. Confused?
Back in Fort Portal, Francis' sister Lucy (a student at Uganda Christian University) and his cousin Annette joined Florence, Francis, Concheptah, and me for dinner.
June 19th - Francis' friend Fred came over in the morning before mass. Fred is a professor of Human Rights at Mountain of the Moon University in Fort Portal and the head of AHURIO (Association of Human Rights Organizations). Fred talked about theoretical versus applied development strategies. He said that one problem is that the national agricultural development organization in Uganda will take the president to see a farmer who has succeeded from their projects to which the president has devoted much money (much of which is used to pay administrative costs). On the way to the one farmer, the president will pass one thousand other families who have not been successful.
Francis, Florence, and I went to mass at the Virika Cathedral in Fort Portal, built by a Holy Cross priest from the US and who is buried at Notre Dame. The pastor was Father Poulinus, a friend of Francis and Florence. At one point during his sermon the pastor asked the choir to sing a bit. He then said in reference to how good the choir was that there is a saying in Africa: if you don't produce, your neighbor will. Much like Father Bukulu, he preached in the local language and used a few English phrases every now and then: "Faith makes the impossible possible," "Prayer surrounds you with a wall stronger than iron," "with no communication a friendship dies," and "the greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." During the hymn after communion, a man got up in the front of the church and danced for the entire 20 minute song. Then to my satisfaction, in his final address, Father Poulinus talked about the importance of Latin: "Latin is not a dead language! Three-fourths of English comes from Latin... [He would say a word] Do you think it is English? It is Latin!" - Justification for my five years of Latin.
After lunch, Francis, Florence and I went to Mt. Rwenzori. Florence went to make a negotiation of the price for the car ride to the mountain. Francis and I stayed behind a truck across the street. Florence called Francis to say that they had agreed upon 20,000 Uganda Shillings for three people. Francis and I emerged and got into the car. After three minutes of silence, the driver turned to Florence in the back seat to say that he wanted 40,000. As it was agreed, however, we paid 20,000. We met a friend of Francis at the trading center before the mountain who took us for the walk up the mountain. The climb was not so bad, but we went a steeper way down. At the top of the part of the mountain we climbed there was a school, which is the only one for kids on the two hills. We finally got back to Fort Portal after climbing for a while, and we headed to the Palace Motel to meet with Fred and Father Chris (registrar at Mountain of the Moon University) to talk about the addition of classes which focus on local leader development and working with the farmers helped by the Model Village Project. Students would be involved in the theoretical development strategies which they would then be able to apply and see applied. The conversation continued for quite some time jumping to other topics as well: democracy, Libya, Gaddafi (a favorite in Uganda), political parties, the nature of truth, history, journalists, NATO, and other development stories. We continued the conversation at dinner at Rwenzori Traveler's Inn.
June 20th - Francis and I woke up at 5:30 am to catch the bus for Kampala. Unfortunately, we missed it, so we got in a taxi headed to Kampala. It turned out to be a faster drive because it filled up quickly and most people were going to Kampala so there were very few stops. The road seemed so much more bumpy in a taxi, however! After a long drive to Kampala we had lunch while waiting for Sam and Andrew Busweiler (a student at Oneonta here with the Fields of Growth program and teaching lacrosse with the team in Kampala). Once Sam and Andrew picked me up, I said goodbye to Francis and thanked him for his hospitality and friendship. I went with Sam and Andrew to a large mall and then we headed to the Uganda Museum. The Museum had exhibits on the native animals and insects to Uganda, the history of the Bantu and Nilotic peoples, the history of the Kabaka kings, replicas of huts of the various tribes in Uganda, the music of Uganda, and the crafts of Uganda. We then took a boda to Makerere University Business School (MUBS) where the Ugandan lacrosse team (a very new group, recently recognized by the Federation of Lacrosse, which makes Uganda the 40th country to have a team, and makes the sport eligible to be in the Olympics) was going to hold practice with Andrew as the coach. While he coached the team for two and a half hours, I talked to a secondary school student named Oscar who was telling me about the school system in Uganda and his particular school path.
Once it had gotten dark and practice had ended, Maurice, Sam, Andrew and I climbed in the van to get something to eat before heading back to Entebbe. We drove to Centenary Park in Kampala, and on the way got stuck in terrible traffic. We ate at a pretty popular hang out in Kampala and watched the music videos that were showing on the nearby TV screen. After a while (African time applies in serving food as well), we drove back to Entebbe for the night before going back to Kampala in the morning.
June 21st - We walked to the main road to catch a taxi to Kampala, passing a man who was passed out in the middle of the dirt road by the house. Sam said that he must have started drinking early (evidently a special brew that is popular in the area), and it was only 8 am. Once we arrived in Kampala, it was chaos once again trying to get to the bus park. We got on the bus to Masaka but not at a window seat. I have noticed that you have to get a window seat if you want to stay cool during the trip because everyone so far has closed the window, making it very congested for everyone else in the seats next to them. We arrived in Masaka Town after meeting John Kakande and grabbed a quick bite to eat. Back at the Bishop's home in Kkindu, Andrew and I met Sarah, an intern with Foundation for Sustainable Development. The three of us immediately went to Kkindu Primary to hold fencing practice (Andrew and Sarah to watch and learn as well). The kids are improving every day. They know the basics of attacking, making someone fall short, and blocking, and we also practiced refereeing today. After practice I was introduced to Joakim, a secondary student in charge of the Student Committee who was responsible for the Play Like a Champion Youth Day celebration in May.
Sarah, Andrew and I played cards after dinner and talked about our observations so far in Uganda, including the religious tolerance and the inadequate fences holding back the lions in the Entebbe zoo.
June 22nd - After breakfast, Andrew and I went to the early morning children's mass at Our Lady of Assumption which occurs every Wednesday for the kids of the village. We spoke to Father Emmy beforehand. The mass was the same length as masses in the United States, but had much more singing and clapping along. The priest who said mass started by greeting Andrew and I and said that he hoped we would not get bored because the mass would be in Luganda. The kids were very well behaved even without any teachers present.
After mass, John took me and Andrew to the HOPEFUL school to teach. I taught a Social Studies lesson to the P.4 class about natural resources (What are natural resources? What are examples? What are raw materials? Etc.). The P.4 teacher, Peter, would help out by translating and clarifying sometimes in Luganda. After the lesson, one of the kids asked, "Can we fence now?" So, I taught practice next, this time with a group mostly composed of girls. The teachers enjoyed stepping in and fencing, and now everyone understands how and when to salute.
Andrew and I ate lunch back at the house and then went to Kkindu Primary to teach the same program (Andrew is teaching lacrosse). What was interesting between the two classes (HOPEFUL and Kkindu) were the definitions they gave for natural resources: HOPEFUL decided that natural resources are things which help us with our needs; Kkindu decided that natural resources are things made by God. I asked the kids to come to the board to give examples of natural resources and raw materials. After class, I led fencing practice with a small group of only twelve. We worked on the en garde position, footwork, blocking, and refereeing. John then took me and Andrew to the Secondary school to meet the head teacher Frank.
We walked home with Moses and Joseph. Joseph is always laughing and seems to be the class clown in P.5. I asked if he knew any funny joke, but I had to clarify what a joke was. Once they understood, Joseph said he did not have one, he just laughs. Moses said that he had a joke, "Joseph looks like a donkey!" They both laughed. I suppose that is one sense of humor.
June 23rd - After a lively discussion at breakfast with Sarah and Andrew about Yankees and Cubs baseball, Andrew and I went to the HOPEFUL school. I spoke with Peter for a while about the challenges that are present at the school. He said that there is no support for these kids at their homes, but because "the world is becoming one family," some coordination will make many changes at the school. The teachers even have difficulty getting the proper materials and having adequate resources for the classes.
I continued the P.4 lesson on natural resources and discussed the importance of land as a natural resource. We did some fill-in-the-blank activities which the kids enjoyed. We then had a good fencing practice that was focused on individual attention because some kids were still moving forward and back in the wrong position, which makes it difficult to keep up if the opponent is moving fast. After much work and patience, the kids finally understood and the ones who had been doing it incorrectly were doing it correctly and faster. We had lunch at the school with the teachers and then came back to the house to rest a bit before heading for the same program at Kkindu Primary. Sarah told a story of a woman she had met whose pigs had died from a disease. It reminded me of the man in Fort Portal whose cows had been struck by lightning. In just a moment, the source of livelihood for families can be taken away.
Andrew and I did the same program at Kkindu Primary as at the HOPEFUL school and then went to Kkindu Secondary school to do a quick introduction to our respective sports. The older kids picked up fencing very quickly and it was much easier to explain the rules to them. I was able to distribute all of the whacky-whackers that I brought (a donation from Absolute Fencing) - giving 20 each to the HOPEFUL school, Kkindu Primary, and Kkindu Secondary.
On the way home, we walked with Joseph and Moses, who told me about their lessons in Social Studies that day. They had learned about the Nilotic peoples and pre-colonization.
|June 11th-14th, 2011|
Fencing Practice in Buwunde, VPs Brother's Funeral, 12 hour Travel, and Kyefa
June 11th - This morning we slept in but had a very good discussion at breakfast, talking about personal space in Africa (or the lack of it), the custom by which mothers are called by the name of their child (for example, Mama John) but it is not viewed as a loss of personal identity, the word Katonda meaning God, and the fact (about which Francis expressed deep frustration) that some people who go on safaris write authoritatively about Africa. Before John Kakande, Francis, and I left to go for the afternoon in Masaka Town, Moses and his friend Emmanuel stopped by the Bishop's home. They asked when we would be back from Masaka Town and wanted me to come by their home in Buwunde to teach fencing that evening. John and I agreed and then Moses and Emmanuel went to Catholic teaching class at the church.
Once arriving in Masaka Town we met some former students of Kkindu Primary and Secondary who are now studying at the local University. We drove to the tomb of Msgr. Ngobya (b. 1896, d. 1986) who performed miracles and is loved by the people here. Evidently, on January 9th, the day of his death, the crowd is so great around the tomb that it extends to a point where those in the back of the crowd cannot see the tomb itself. The Cathedral Kitovu is right next to the tomb, and this year the Diocese is celebrating its 100th year. John, Francis and I sat in briefly for part of a wedding ceremony. The women were dressed in very bright and colorful dresses, while the men and groomsmen wore suits. The Cathedral itself is made of beautiful tan brick and is right next to two parish schools.
Back in the main part of Masaka Town, we ate at a restaurant, the owner of which helps the HOPEFUL Program immensely. When the kids are brought to Masaka Town once a month for HIV treatment and testing, they are then taken to the restaurant for a special meal. John Kakande talked to the owner about possibly buying the chickens from Mama Fort so that she can make some money to start a new enterprise. The chickens, as I mentioned in a previous entry, have not laid eggs in awhile, and since she cannot sell any eggs, Mama Fort cannot buy the feed to give to the chickens that will help them lay the eggs.
Masaka Town itself is a bustling urban center. Here I used an internet café (40 minutes cost less than 50 cents). The shopping areas in the town sell second hand clothing, but the most common stores are the mobile money stores. Mobile money is almost like Western Union but on the phone. Since there is a lack of banks in some areas and because some people fear banks because they are viewed as for the rich, mobile money allows people to withdraw money from one of these mobile stores. Unfortunately, network coverage can determine if you are able to withdraw or receive money on your phone. Francis purchased mobile money at the store but did not receive it on his phone for two days because of the lack of network coverage.
The ride on the motorcycle back to Kkindu was so interesting. When we stopped for gas, evidently the women at the pump told John that "the Mzungu is smart" because I was wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt, not shorts and a t-shirt. In Uganda, wearing shorts is something done by primary school boys, and so pants are supposed to be worn by respectable adults. So I was advised well by Kevin Dugan and Paul Ocobock. We drove on the road that split an immense and far reaching swamp, but before you go on the road that splits the swamp there is a hill from which you can see the beauty of the entire swamp and the hills on the border of it. A beautiful moment occurred in which we were driving very fast along a straight dirt road, and about three feet to my right a bird was flying at the same speed. It stayed with us for about half a kilometer, then took the exit above to the clouds. Before we reached home, we drove past the home of the brother of the Vice President Ssekandi. The brother had died and we would attend his funeral the next day.
We got home and immediately went to Moses' home in Buwunde. Moses lives with his grandmother, who watched while Moses and his friends Amos and Ronald had fencing practice. Whenever I would speak the few Luganda words that I knew (maso, mabega, kiganye) they would laugh because it sounded strange being spoken by a Mzungu. We practiced for an hour in fact, and they kept the two foam sabres to practice so that when I returned in a week they would be able to help teach the classes at Kkindu Primary and Secondary.
At dinner, we talked a lot about education in Uganda and how it compares to the US. Francis has experienced both so he had some interesting insights. After dinner, John Kakande, Francis, and I had a very good and productive conversation about the HOPEFUL project. The HOPEFUL Project is ambitious and wide reaching in its scope of community development. It includes many different programs including HIV testing, counseling and education; life skills training in the model of the Play Like a Champion program; village banks; crafts making including mat and bowl weaving; piggery projects; a Youth and Sports department; a joined children's choir; a poultry project; and the HOPEFUL school for orphans and vulnerable children. We brainstormed some other projects that will help organize these programs and become a source of income for the non-profit to put back into the community. John had the great idea of some sort of "adopt a child" program in which someone in the US would sponsor a child in Kkindu. These are truly great programs and John, who is excellent at mobilizing people, cares so deeply about the community and the children and their development. He is one of the kindest people one could ever meet. I will be writing more about these individual programs later in more detail. If you are interested in finding out more information and possibly helping with some of the programs please let me know.
June 12th - Today, as Father Emmanuel put it, Francis and I "received the Holy Spirit twice, over a period of eight hours. We drove early in the morning to the Our Lady of the Mother of God parish in Nkoni to go to mass said by Father Emmanuel as the climax of the retreat which he had facilitated since Friday. As we were driving, the sun was just rising and the road divided two sides of hills. The greenery on the left side of the road was very crisp in its image and the rising sun made the landscape bright. On the right side of the road a pink sky covered the hills making the greenery seem like dark cut-outs. At mass, Father Emmy welcomed me and Francis before everyone, saying, "people come from all corners to find the Holy Spirit." It was a very large congregation and in fact people moved seats so that we could sit closer to the front of the church. Everyone was very welcoming. Father Emmy gave his sermon in Luganda, and started by asking the choir to sing. Everyone got up and started clapping and singing along. Every once in awhile, Father Emmy would say phrases in English like "Peace! The Spirit gives Peace!" and "when a man's heart is at peace, he knows he has found God." Father's body gestures help his sermon, he used caricatures to exaggerate some emotions, and used boxing as an example to talk about fighting at home. At one point he stopped using the microphone and projected his voice to about 700 people. He used call and response as a form of getting the congregation involved in his sermon. He spoke for forty minutes, preaching from memory. The congregation gave him loud applause when he was finished. Mass took a total of two hours and forty-five minutes. At the end, the parish priest, Father Wasswamatia, again welcomed me and Francis, saying "Uganda is a beautiful country, the Christians here are very good."
After eating lunch at the parish, we drove with Father Emmy back to Masaka because he had to say the funeral mass for Ssekandi's brother. On the way, Father Emmy talked about the "dancing roads" and then I told them the joke which Moris had told me about the drunk driver driving straight. They loved that joke. "Here the opposite makes meaning."
The view from Nkoni Parish.
The funeral of the brother of Ssekandi, the current Vice-President of Uganda - what an experience. There were seating areas by region, for VIPs, family, and local government leaders. A woman with a piece of paper that said "official" taped to her chest led us to sit behind the choir in the VIP section. People were eating food before the funeral, which Francis acknowledged as very good since people don't want to wait until after the funeral to eat. The entire funeral ran four hours and thirty minutes. It included mass and another long sermon by Father Emmy, the presentation of flowers on the coffin, the speeches, and the burial. The speeches were by far the longest part of the ceremony. Different ministers and local government representatives, the family, the widow, VP Ssekandi spoke, and a message was read from President Museveni. One daughter said that her dad once told her, "live life considering nothing important but each other." And a son said, "May the peace he had on earth be with him in heaven." After the funeral I was briefly introduced to the Minister of Sport, with whom I hope to meet before I leave in July. Francis and John told me that Ssekandi had spoken about his brother, Henry, and the family, was very humble, and did not bring politics into the funeral. He acknowledged people present from all political parties, and is not involved in sensational politics. Francis said he was very well liked when he was Speaker of the House.
Back at the bishop's house, we discussed the US economy, presidential candidates, Gaddafi, Egypt, Africana Studies, and the push for minimum wage in Uganda. Then at dinner we talked about religion in Uganda (primarily Christian, small percentage Muslim, even smaller Pentecostals and Seventh Day Adventist), flights to and from Africa, and comparing Rwanda to Uganda (which I hope to be able to do a lot of after my week in Kigali).
June 13th - Francis and I woke up early and drove to the trading center in Kkindu to catch a taxi (a van that seats twelve and fits nineteen) to Kampala. The drive itself took 3.5 hours and was very bumpy. We arrived in Kampala and the traffic jam was immense. We decided to walk through town instead of wait in the stand-still traffic. We stopped to eat at Antonio's grill and then found a book seller on the street to buy a general Ugandan history textbook and a book on African Nationalism and Independence by Ali Mazrui. Finally, the bus park was so chaotic. It was hot, my shirt became drenched, and there were sellers going in and out of the parked buses. After waiting for two hours we finally got into a new bus heading to Fort Portal. We then waited in the bus itself for two hours because something was broken that was being fixed. There was no air circulation in the bus and the sellers who entered the bus added to the congestion. At around 4 pm, we finally departed. I was seated next to a man named Boniface, a forty year old from around Fort Portal. He spoke very good English but had a very soft voice so for some of the things he told me I had to fill in what I missed. Boniface and I talked for about three hours: he told me about the kingdoms in Uganda, the histories of the various tribes, the districts of Kampala, Gaddafi, Mormonism (he is a member of this church), his wife (they met through the church, and he said, "She is beautiful and I love her very much"), and the environment. He told me that the true gifts of Uganda are its beauty and its people. He said that he was sure that I had already figured out how hospitable everyone is. I noticed his hands, which were very hardened from work. Boniface works in two hotels but is working on starting his own restaurant. He was a very nice man and was excellent company for the bus ride. He was very passionate about the environment and said that in his schooling he had taken a class about the Tennessee Valley Authority in the US.
At 9 pm, we finally arrived in Fort Portal. Francis and I went to his home and I was introduced to his girlfriend Florence, and his daughter Conchepta. Conchepta was shy at first, but soon she was talking in Rutooro and laughing very much. She has such a wonderful laugh and started cracking up whenever I scratched my five o'clock shadow.
June 14th - I woke up late and had breakfast with Conchepta while Francis caught up with his neighbors. Francis and I headed to town when it started to rain and the power went out in the internet café a few times. We were then picked up by Father George Muganyizi from the Kyarusozi Parish community. Father George and Francis are very good friends and Father George will be my host at the parish. After eating at the Garden's Restaurant we drove through the rural country to the parish. The scenery (to which Boniface had told me that I would wake up) was so beautiful with rolling hills and the outline of Mt. Rwenzori. The road was paved and the sides of the roads were very clean with very little trash simply discarded. Francis said that it is rare, but in Fort Portal it is frowned upon to litter. In Masaka and especially Kampala, trash was everywhere, and people would get a bottle of water, finish the bottle and throw it on the ground.
Along the road, we were met by baboons! We were driving at the edge of a national park and the baboons came to the road to beg for food like dogs. My window was open but the baboons were on the other side. Father George stopped the car to give them some shortbread cookies, and one of them with a baby on its back came over to my window. I quickly rolled up my window, and it ran around to the other side of the car, upset that it did not get any food. They jumped very high and ran very fast. I had gotten used to seeing cattle and goats tethered on the sides of the road, but I was not expecting to see baboons! We continued driving and passed by huge tea plantations, owned by companies and individuals. As we arrived in the parish, Father George took me to see the Kyefa Project (an organization begun by farmers with the goal of self-sustainability and agricultural development; ugandafarmersinc.org). The Kyefa Project has the only tractor in the county (about 400,000 people), a maize drier, a pineapple project (which receives more for dried pineapple than for fresh pineapple), soybeans, a goat project, a support project for orphans and vulnerable children (which includes 108 families now), and a water tank that allows for irrigation at any time instead of waiting for the season to determine it. USAID helped to provide the tractor to Kyefa. At the project I met Rebecca, a Peace Corps Volunteer who has been in Uganda since August 2010, and Fortune who works for Kyefa.
Once I moved into my room at the Parish I went to play volleyball in the front yard of the parish. There were many kids and adults playing on two courts. Already playing were some students from Notre Dame and St. Mary's: Matt, Meg, Kelly, Natalie, and Ramy. After a few games of volleyball I played catch with some of the kids and then talked with them about the US, different handshakes, and their favorite music. Akon was a favorite. I would have written my thoughts down while watching volleyball, but my hands were occupied holding the hands of some of the children. Frank, Francis, Francis, Ash, Annette, Asidu, and baby Brian were very talkative and loved to hold hands.
|June 7th-10th, 2011|
Days 1-3 Updates
Sorry it took so long! I finally got to an internet cafe in Masaka Town, a very industrious and bustling urban center on the way to Kkindu. Here are some of the things that have happened since I have arrived:
June 7th - I arrived in Entebbe, Uganda, on the smoothest flight on which I have ever been. Although it took an hour to get through the Visa line (and the power went out twice: "Welcome to Uganda," an elderly gentleman said to the Americans in line), my bag and the box full of foam sabres for the children of Kkindu village came out first. I was greeted at the airport by Francis Tuhaise, a graduate student at the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame, and Maurice Sserunkuma, a business professor at Makerere University. Lining the airport walls on the way to the parking lot were signs saying, "Vote Museveni: Prosperity for All." After calling my parents to let them know I had arrived, we stopped to eat at Nicky's Pizza, one of Maurice's favorite hangouts. The pizza was cooked in a wood burning oven outdoors, and inside were posters of Avril Lavigne and Alicia Keys. Some local guys were hanging out inside. Nicky's Pizza was my first experience of Africa Time. Kevin Dugan briefed me on it, and Francis and Maurice continued the explanation. In Africa, things are not as prompt as in the United States - a fact about which Maurice and Francis both expressed their disappointment. Maurice was excited though, because Wednesday he did not have class to teach, and Thursday is Heroes day, a public holiday. It was a beautiful night and the stars were highly visible as we drove off of the main, paved Entebbe Road onto the bumpy and dusty roads that led to Maurice's home in Entebbe. There I met Sam Otoa, who works for Fields of Growth, and is a family friend of Maurice. I had my first try at the shower, with boiling water and a basin, and went to bed under the mosquito net.
June 8th - Heading down Entebbe Road, Francis, Maurice and I stopped at a very nice local mall. The security guard checked for bombs underneath the car with a mirror. We stopped to buy bottled water for the next few days in Kkindu. We stopped to eat at Hot Springs Café where we discussed many things, including the remnants of colonialism, the hindrances to development in Africa, Rwanda, the Ugandan president Museveni, tribal identity, and unequal distribution of wealth.
We departed from the mall on Entebbe Road. Once we reached Masaka Road, it was no longer paved the entire way, and Maurice told me a joke that in Uganda, because there are so many potholes, if you see someone driving straight, they must be drunk. The scenery of our drive was very beautiful. The landscape was lush green, and the soil of the road and by the side of the road had a strong red tint. As we drove by, dirt was kicked up onto the greenery nearby. Shops lined the road - drum makers, craftsmen, stone cutters, dairy sellers, clothing sellers, butcher and automobile shops. When a taxi pulls over to pick someone up or drop someone off, the food sellers rush over to the windows to sell to the passengers. We made our way to the equator line, a tourist attraction in Uganda, and we walked around looking at the shops. We then stopped at Uganda Martyrs University, one of the best private universities in Uganda. We ate lunch and met up briefly with Professor Essuruku, who had been a fellow at Notre Dame last year. Also at UMU was the first time I heard the phrase that everyone leading up to my trip had told me about: "Hello, Mzungu!" The kids shouted it with grins on their faces. Mzungu means a foreigner and is used to describe, not as a derogatory word. Mzungu is also used to describe a Ugandan who is very wealthy.
We finally arrived in Kkindu and went straight to Our Lady of Assumption Church, where I met Father Emmanuel Bukulu, who will be traveling with me to Rwanda. Father Emmy then talked to Maurice, Francis, John Kakande , and me about the priesthood and some experiences he has had. They showed me a statue of the original African fencer: a spear thrower. That night, Francis and I spoke at dinner about International Law, justice in Uganda, the ICC, languages in Uganda, and electricity. I mentioned to Francis that everyone in the village whom I had met seemed very affluent in economics. He said that they must because it is a means of life. All African leaders, he said, know a great deal about the economy and development for the country; the problem he says is that most of the leaders do not put their words into practice. Sister "saint" Margaret cooked dinner and was so welcoming to Francis and me. All of the people who know her, especially those who work with Fields of Growth and HOPEFUL School describe her as a saint, and from the little time that I have been here, I would agree.
Today, Francis posed two problems. The first is that the coffee we saw in the supermarket is too expensive for the person who grew the coffee to buy. The second is that a woman with a poultry farm sells the eggs, but cannot get enough money to buy the feed to get the chickens to lay more eggs.
June 9th - Today is Heroes day so there is no school in session except for those in boarding school who wish to learn. We visited the Kkindu Primary and Secondary Schools and there were such students eager to learn. Before visiting the school, Father Emmy showed us his Parish Pineapple project. I will be writing more about this endeavor when I get back home, because it is a very important project with the prospect of making the parish self-sustaining. An identical project is also being started at the HOPEFUL School. The parents cleared the field, but before they were able to begin tilling the soil, the dry season hit. Economic empowerment, Father Emmy and Francis said, is part of evangelization. You cannot teach a hungry person the rosary. The cost of the Pineapple project is 7.5 million Uganda Shillings (1 USD ~ 2000 Ugandan Shillings), and the gain if all are sold and harvested correctly is close to 60 million Ugandan shillings.
While visiting the Kkindu Primary, Francis asked some of the boarding school students why they must continue their education. The responses included: to make money, to get a job, to not get pregnant early, and to be able to marry whom you want. We then drove to the HOPEFUL School to see the land: the school consists of two buildings, both made of wood poles and mud. One has a tin roof, the other has thick brush and tarps on the top. There were kids playing soccer in the field despite being a public holiday.
We then went to a funeral which Father Emmy celebrated. Even on such a somber occasion, Francis and I were welcomed. Father Emmy spoke his homily in Lugandan, so I did not understand it, but it made the people smile and laugh, remembering Haman, who had died of cancer. Friends and relatives gave speeches about Haman that last about an hour and a half. The burial itself was public affair, in which everyone went to the grave and threw dirt in as a sign of respect. I asked Francis if the other mounds of dirt were graves and he confirmed it. There was only one mound that looked like an adult's. The rest, about fifteen or twenty, were all small mounds.
After the mass I drove with Father Emmy to the church where he showed me around and told me about all the improvements that have occurred in his three years as parish priest (Bwana Makuru; or leader of leaders). When he arrived there were not even windows, and now the church has beautiful windows and benches which seat some of the 700 people who come to mass every Sunday. We briefly met Mama Fort, the woman who owns the poultry farm and we discussed alternative ways for her to make income since she has not made a profit on the chickens in one year. Francis was dropped off at the office and I met John Kakande's family.
We spent the evening at the church in Father Emmanuel's home with four teachers - Justine, Josephine, Mary, and Jen - from the Kkindu Primary school. We spoke for about three and a half hours at this social gathering. As the gathering ended, Josephine told me the saying, "Once in Uganda, always a Ugandan," and she prayed: "bless us to make our visitors always part of our community."
Kids at the HOPEFUL School. The boy on the right|
tries to attack, but the girl on the left blocks it.
June 10th- Today was the day that I was blessed to introduce fencing to the HOPEFUL school and the Kkindu Primary school. The kids picked it up so fast and moved really well. I learned Maso and Mabega, forward and back, to teach the kids, which they thought was very funny. At the HOPEFUL School the kids sang songs welcoming us. At Kkindu school, the kids greeted us with Bob Marley's "One Love." After teaching fencing and having students fence each other for two hours, the students took a break and went to play soccer. Francis and I spoke with the teachers until we left to get lunch and then go to the office. I attempted to write an entry from the office, but the power went out before I was finished. Such is internet in Kkindu. At lunch we spoke about microfinancing and development in Uganda. I met a girl named Martha at Kkindu primary school who remembers one of the Fields of Growth volunteers from last summer, Mara Trionfero, and she wanted me to tell Mara hello for her.
The teachers fenced a bit at Kkindu primary and the kids loved it, each side cheering for their teacher. As I was sitting in the office after visiting Kkindu, Moses, a child in P.5 level of class stopped in to say hello. He wanted to say thank you and to take a picture with him. He also wanted sunglasses like mine, so I told him that when I go to Masaka Town I will buy him a pair of sunglasses. He said thank you and then said "one love" before he left. I have video of Moses fencing Richard at Kkindu school which I will try to upload later.
Francis and I walked back home from the office and I decided that the jet lag and time difference had finally caught up with me.
June 11th - I slept in today, resting from the jet lag and time difference. As he was heading to his class at the church, Moses stopped by with his friend Emmanuel to say hello. They want me to stop by their home later tonight and to bring the foam sabres with me. I sense dedication to fencing!
John Kakande drove Francis and me to Masaka Town where we visited the Kitovu Cathedral and ate lunch in town. We will be heading back soon.
This will be my last update until Tuesday. On Monday, I will be traveling to Fort Portal with Francis.
|June 10th, 2011|
A Brand New Sport
Writing now, I am so ecstatic and excited. I have just come from HOPEFUL school and Kkindu Primary School. At the HOPEFUL School, Francis (A graduate student at the Kroc Institute) and I were greeted with a song ("How are you/ You are welcome, our visitors"). The children were smiling the whole time and the student choir performed two songs for us. Francis spoke to them about the interconnectedness of our world. I thanked them for welcoming me to their school. With the translating of Kakande John (the director of Youth in the village and CEO of HOPEFUL school) I was able to teach the students a new game: fencing! They picked it up very fast and were able to move back and forth very well. Maso (forward) and Mabega (back) were words that I learned to help teach the kids. They enjoyed the fact that I was saying a few things in Luganda. At Kkindu Primary, once again the kids greeted us, this time with "One Love" by Bob Marley. They too picked up fencing very quickly and they enjoyed seeing their teachers take part in a match. I will be back at the schools in a week, and I will begin to teach more about fencing as well as Social Studies. As I was just typing this, a young boy, Moses Kawuki, came into the office to say hello to me. He said thank you for teaching and wants me to come by the school tomorrow. He also wants me to buy him sunglasses when I am in Masaka Town, this weekend.
Everyone here has been so welcoming and I have felt at home since the moment I entered into Kkindu.
I am sorry for the lack of entries as well as pictures. I am still figuring out the internet in the office. I will hopefully have time tonight to write all of the updates on my laptop and resize the pictures and easily enter them tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!
|June 9th, 2011|
Safe Arrival and slow internet
Hello everyone! It has only been a day and a half in Uganda but I have already learned a great deal. I cannot write long because the internet is slow. I will be writing entries on my laptop the night before so that it will not take long to upload onto my blog. Thank you for your patience and please expect an entry discussing the past two days very soon! The trip has been very smooth so far and very enjoyable!
|June 5th, 2011|
Naggyira Brenda who was recently|
measured for her first school uniform!
FirstGiving - Village Projects Fundraiser
Please check out the link below!
I am writing to ask if you would be willing to support the efforts in the village Kkindu. The money raised through FirstGiving will be used in Kkindu for projects like purchasing goats and chickens for families, purchasing water tanks, and building classrooms. I am very excited to teach in the HOPEFUL school in Kkindu and to learn from the children and teachers there. ?125 children, like Naggyira Brenda pictured below, were measured for their first school uniforms recently at the Fields of Growth - HOPEFUL school in Uganda. The money raised for the uniforms was from a fundraiser held by Ryan Flanagan, an All American defenseman lacrosse player who just graduated from the University of North Carolina.
Here is the link
You can donate online with a credit card. All donations are secure and sent directly to Elias Fund Inc by FirstGiving, who will email you a printable record of your donation. All money I raise through Elias Fund Inc on my FirstGiving page will be used solely for projects and programs in the village of Kkindu, a village in the Masaka District of Uganda.
Thank you so much for considering this project!
Please continue to follow my blog as I update throughout my trip! 2 days until I am in Uganda.
|June 3rd, 2011|
Itinerary for the trip
The itinerary has been developing since January, and it is now a fine work of art!
Tuesday, June 7 - Arrive in Entebbe.
Wednesday, June 8 - 3-4 hour bus ride to Masaka with Francis Tuhaise.
Thursday, June 9 - June 13 - Fields of Growth - HOPEFUL Uganda Orientation. Visit/Learn about projects in Kkindu. Teach in the schools there and organize fencing demonstrations.
Monday, June 13 - Travel to Fort Portal with Francis Tuhaise. Spend 1 week with Francis at the Holy Cross Parish. Meet up with ND & St. Mary's Students. Learn about Francis' agricultural development projects.
Monday, June 20 - Travel back to Masaka
Tuesday, June 21-23 - Masaka
Friday, June 24-28 - Travel to Kabale. Stay at the Batwa Development Project outside the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest. Tour Batwa Resettlements and build a Batwa Home with the Batwa. Learn about our soccer field project - Meetings with Soccer Club representatives. Learn about the amazing work of the Kellermans and the Bwindi Community Hospital.
Wednesday, June 29 - Wednesday July 6 - Travel to Kigali, Rwanda. Visit Gisozi Memorial Center, Rwandan Museum, Commission National pour lutter contre le Génocide (Nation commission to fight against the Genocide), Library Ikirezi. Participate in National Work Day and witness Independence Day and Liberation Day.
Wednesday, July 6 - Travel back to Masaka
Thursday, July 7 - July 13 - Spend the week working and teaching at the HOPEFUL School - Organize Fencing Tournament & Teach in the Classrooms. Visit Uganda Martyrs University and learn about Ford Program Work.
Thursday, July 14-18 - Visit Murchison Falls National Park and visit Jinja - source of the Nile.
Tuesday, July 19 - Depart Entebbe for Columbus.
Look for complete updates on each stage of my journey!
|Sunday, June 5, 2011|
Preparation - 4 Days until Uganda
These are the foam sabres that I will be using to teach fencing in Kkindu.
I used these when I started fencing eight years ago.
I am overwhelmingly excited to be in Uganda in less than four days. It has been an amazing experience just getting ready for the trip. Since I have been home after finishing my freshman year at Notre Dame, my main focus has been on developing a lesson plan for teaching fencing that stresses the role of sportsmanship, respect, and adaptability. These are three lessons that are taught in the African home, and so fencing will easily reinforce them. I am very excited to be in Kkindu village teaching fencing, a sport that will be new to the students and teachers.
It has been great working with Kevin Dugan, the Youth and Community Outreach Program Manager in the Department of Athletics. Since January, we have been putting together the itinerary and plan for my trip. Since I am planning on majoring in Africana Studies and Peace Studies, Coach Dugan helped to expand the trip to include traveling with Kroc graduate student Francis Tuhaise to Fort Portal to learn about Francis' agricultural development projects; participating in home building projects with the Batwa Pygmies by the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest; staying in Kigali, Rwanda, for one week; and visiting Jinja, the source of the Nile River. All of this is in addition to teaching social studies and fencing at the HOPEFUL school in Kkindu.
HOPEFUL Uganda is a community based organization in the village of Kkindu in the Masaka District of Uganda. Fields of Growth shares a village office with HOPEFUL and collaborates with local community members to carry out a variety of work in the village including:
- Transportation for HIV positive children to receive treatment in Masaka.
- Support of the One Love children's choir.
- Support and development of the HOPEFUL Uganda Peace Village and Orphan School.
- Support of a number of women's groups in the village.
- Youth Athletic Ministry
- Support of Village Banking Program
- Support of Social Entrepreneurism: poultry rearing, piggery, farming, crafts.
Fields of Growth Int'l. is a charitable organization with community based partnerships in Uganda, East Africa. It was founded with the belief that we were put on this earth to share our passion, joy and gifts with the less fortunate. Fields of Growth is about more than sharing the joys of athletics, but athletics is a key component in the mission, because Fields of Growth believes in the power of passion and enthusiasm. Fields of Growth has community Partnerships with Uganda Lacrosse Union, HOPEFUL Uganda, and the Batwa Development Program. This is quoted from the Fields of Growth website:
"In Africa there is a saying; I AM STRONG, IF YOU ARE STRONG.
I AM STRONG IF YOU ARE STRONG
This saying sums up our philosophy on leadership and organizational success. "I am strong, if you are strong" is all about a spirit of interdependence and shared connectivity that any great corporation, country or lacrosse [or fencing] team must have if it wants to succeed and be strong. It is with this spirit of solidarity that we are reaching out to share our passion, joy and blessings with less fortunate communities.
There is some symbolism in the name Fields of Growth. In essence, we want to take communities that have been built around fields of poverty, disease, injustice and heartache and turn them into Fields of Growth on every level: social, physical, economic and spiritual."
I have been introduced to some fantastic people in preparation for this journey who I am proud to say are now very good friends. A good friend from St. Mary's has been very helpful in preparing me for my visit to Rwanda. I have also shared great conversations with Francis Tuhaise, who will be traveling with me in Kkindu and to Fort Portal. I am honored by the support and help I have received from the Africana Studies Department at Notre Dame, including Professor Maria McKenna, Professor Richard Pierce, and Bianca Tirado. I have had a great time getting to know and speak with Professor Paul Ocobock, a professor in the History Department and a Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow. I also have had the pleasure of having meetings with Lacy Haussamen, assistant director of the Ford Program in the Kellogg Institute; Clark Power, director of Play Like a Champion Today; and Mama Irene, a friend from outside Kampala who gave me some introductory courses on Luganda. My fencing coach, Vladimir Nazlymov, has been wonderful in helping me develop a teaching program for fencing. I am also very thankful to Professor Delaney and Professor Hahn in the Glynn Family Honors Program, as well as Dr. Cecilia Lucero in the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement for their support of this summer research and service trip.
As I finish up my packing and my preparation for the trip I just become even more excited, especially to meet some of the great people who Kevin Dugan has told me about.