A Travellerspoint blog

Monstrous Moments

(and time in the Wilderness)

I can’t believe we’ve survived the lecture phase! We finished the 12 -week lecture phase today, and start our ‘Outreach’ phase next week.
This means the end of what has slowly become a ‘typical’ day here:
The Gong

The Gong

...gongs to announce the communal meal of posho, rice, beans and green, the end to each day in our classroom, with our African classmates who either look incredibly bored and disengaged, or have very very long personal or third party stories…
Bored?

Bored?


Bored-er?

Bored-er?

and the end of tieless interpreters for our deaf classmates
DSC_0051.jpg

This week is the end of our community work duties, slashing, DSC_0008.jpg caption cleaning the latrines, and also the end of dormitory life here, where our neighbours sit outside our window making tea and toast on a tiny paraffin stove, talking loudly late into the night…

weird antics of our neighbours

weird antics of our neighbours

It sounds clichéd but these three months have really challenged and stretched us in many many ways. Amelie has a great story called ‘When Mum Turned into a Monster’, unsurprisingly about a mum who gets increasingly stressed and on each page develops a long green tail, claws, bulging eyes etc, until at the end she is a fire breathing monster, who slumps onto the chair and sobs to her children, ‘I’ve become a monster’.

mother_tur..monster.jpg

In some ways I feels that this period has turned me into a monster (especially at night time when the neighbours talk loudly outside our window…) But then, more encouragingly, this week we were reminded in class about how Jesus’ time in the Wilderness was his preparation time, and how it is often in the ‘wilderness times’ that we grow. Maybe, alongside our monstrous moments, this has also been a time of preparation...
Preparation to understand Ugandans and this culture better. Preparation to look at ourselves and see how we function (or don’t function well) in teams, preparation to see how we resolve conflict and preparation I guess for whatever the next chapter brings…

Amelie and lovely Lilian, the nanny

Amelie and lovely Lilian, the nanny

Posted by africraigs 12:31 Comments (3)

Spoke too soon

This was a weekend of firsts! Arua had its first official race- advertised as a ‘marathon’ but it turned out to be 10 km. Several of our classmates & BigHair registered, and on Sunday morning, we excitedly set off to watch/ take part in the big race...

Here in Arua, one of the main modes of transport is a soft cushion on the back of a bicycle (a ‘boda’). Boda Boda

Boda Boda

As we set off, Amelie’s little foot got caught in between the spokes of the wheel, which meant bike quickly ground to a halt as Amelie’s high pitched screams filled the air.

We are so thankful for trustworthy medical friends in Arua, who cleaned Amelie’s wound and dosed her up on painkillers (and dosed us up on strong coffee and banana cake). But today she was still in lots of pain and can’t bear weight on her foot. So, today Amelie had her first x-ray, which thankfully showed no break, just bad bruising.

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Amelie's protective sock...

Amelie's protective sock...

We are so grateful she was wearing her pink plastic crocs to protect her feet from being completely mangled, and also that we are in a town where medical attention can be sought if needs be. It reinforces that we would really not feel comfortable taking Amelie to a remote mountain tribe in South Sudan with no health care, for 5 weeks for the ‘Outreach phase’ of this training in a couple of weeks time…

David made the race (the advantage of being in culture with many late starts) and enjoyed his first race in Africa. The inspiring part, according to David (unfortunately I didn’t get to watch as I was consoling Amelie and eating banana cake at the time) was that some of the winners of the race were teenage girls, running in bare feet along the dusty tracks.

It sums up some of the most admirable traits we see in this culture- being resourceful, being determined and persevering against the odds.

Posted by africraigs 11:09 Comments (3)

Rain!

Our prayers were answered... !
Storm hits us... so much water, so little time to catch it all

Storm hits us... so much water, so little time to catch it all


Catching rain

Catching rain


Hail stones in Africa!

Hail stones in Africa!


Coursemate Andrew attacked by hail stones

Coursemate Andrew attacked by hail stones

!

...bucket loads of rain which refilled the tank as it reached its last inch, and then today the town water (running water) came back,
DSC_0055

DSC_0055

Last week our cynical- 65-year- old Guardian reading- English friend Allan was involved in a serious car accident near Arua. His policy for their car is that passengers must wear seatbelts, which is very unusual in Uganda, but it quite literally saved his, and 3 colleagues lives as the car spun 360 degrees out of control. He said after the accident he thought, wow, I've been given a new lease of life, from now on I'm going to live quite differently....
and when we spoke to him 3 days later, he said, and here I am, back in the same old routine as always, forget about that new lease of life...

In some ways it is the same about the water, all the intentions of conserving water and appreciating every drop... and yet, now we have water, it is very easy to forget to reuse it for the skanky toilets, and forget that it could go again so easily. And forget that people a few hundred metres away don't have the luxury of running water or a big rainwater tank.

DSC_0107.jpg
Kenneth catching water

Kenneth catching water

Anyway, before I get too glum, Amelie and her dorm- mates, Luckly and Newton, are also enjoying the return of the water...

paddling pals

paddling pals

Posted by africraigs 07:39 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

Resolving Conflict

The Water Tank, Tear Gas and Being Beaten

semi-overcast 25 °C

‘How do you resolve conflict?’ asked the lecturer last week for our topic on relationships. Students started responding:
‘When there is a conflict in the village, the chiefs meet the two parties under the tree and beat the party they believe is in the wrong.’
‘In Kampala, when there is conflict the police control by tear gas’

Multicultural learning is not limited to the classroom- we’ve had the opportunity to work on real-life conflict resolution at the base this week with a water crisis. The town water has stopped, which means that most of the base (maybe 50 people) are sharing the rainwater tank at the side of our dorm. It's a big plastic tank, but it's not THAT big!
A crisis like this highlights massively different expectations and reactions.

There has been no rain for the last few days so the water is not being replenished and is going down quickly. When the rainwater has gone, we will have to lug water back from a leech-infected stream, which will take more time and effort and forward planning. So my view is… let’s conserve the water we have, but this conflicts with the attitude ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone, so let's just use it until it's gone’…
IMG_0904

IMG_0904

There are other conflicts surrounding the water issue, such as why rainwater harvest tanks are not attached to each building. The are more buildings being built on the base, but rainwater tanks are not a priority, even though if each building had one there would not be this crisis. It is rainy season here and we see an abundance of rain quite often at the moment, which is good news for our water tank but unbelievably frustrating to see so much water wasted as it tumbles from the sky onto the roof… and flows away in muddy rivers....
Lots of rain!

Lots of rain!


Our American colleague, Christian tries to collect water in his kettle

Our American colleague, Christian tries to collect water in his kettle


We had a community meeting yesterday to try and resolve some of the conflict (unfortunately we didn’t use the method of meeting under a tree and beating the wrong party) and we came up with three basic rules…

1. recycle water to use for the toilets
2. only go to the bathroom if you have collected dirty water to wash the waste away
3. no more urinating in the shower area...

Other suggestions could have been that It would good to make use of the long-drop toilets more often. These don't require any water, though they can be more hazardous if the person before you hasn't got accurate aim. The long- drop is also a very good test of your quadracep muscles while squatting.

In actual fact, it seems to me that building good quality long-drop toilets on the base instead of flush toilets would have made better sense for the culture and conditions. It doesn't seem that the town water is reliable, while flush toilets use a lot of water. Local people aren't used to Western-style seat toilets or flush systems, so it seems to make sense not to be relying on a flush toilet system anyway...

We are living in hope that the town water returns soon, that it rains tonight and tops up the tank, that our bladders become stronger, and that we start to live the reality of resolving conflict!
Amelie still needs to learn about conserving water...

Amelie still needs to learn about conserving water...

Posted by africraigs 13:39 Archived in Uganda Comments (4)

Confessions of a Selfish Missionary

So far I have discovered through this training and communal living that... I don't like sharing as much as I would like to think. Of course, there is pleasure in sharing our new colourful pens from a package (thank you!) with our penless classmates, and delight in baking cookies to share in class, but when it comes to being put on the spot to share, it is a whole different set of emotions. The daily requests for an eraser, a highlighter, a charger, a chair, a newspaper, a teabag (or even more annoying when there is no request to accompany the borrowing). I feel like I am a hungry hawk or a mean librarian, scouring the classroom or veranda for borrowed items that need to be returned. And then later I think 'what is wrong with me? why do I have a problem sharing a pencil??!'

The hardest thing to share is our daughter. One thing we are learning through communal living in Uganda is that children become almost the community's property. 'It takes a whole village to raise a child' which sounds so rosy when it's a nice African proverb, but it is a lot more challenging when it comes to the reality of trying to discipline and raise our daughter in a way we see best when we have little undivided time with her.
Last week we were learning about Worldview, which was really interesting and relevant, and helps us to see why our teaching a few weeks ago on Spiritual Warfare was so utterly confusing because it was a tangled blend of biblical worldview and animistic worldview. It helps us to see why there is tension even living in a community when there are different worldviews coming together.

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fgjgfkgfdf

We are reading 'African Friends and Money Matters' which is so useful in helping us understand the worldview here on borrowing and sharing and communal living and responsibilities... but I think it will take more than just reading a book and spending a few months in this community, to really understand.. (sigh).

Posted by africraigs 09:44 Archived in Uganda Comments (2)

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