A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

Peeing in class

and other traits of learning in Uganda...

overcast 24 °C

A dark silhouette appeared out of the blackness. Fluttering and flapping, it was a small bat flying haphazardly towards my face. I was outside, thinking and praying, sitting outside of our dormitory style housing taking in the untamed African night. I was very aware my bare feet were at risk from pinching ants marching in their straight lines through the grass. Of course, like usual, I had to be vigilant for the mosquitoes whose presence is betrayed by their horrible high- pitched drone.
But it was the incredible sight of the African night sky which kept me sitting there. The stars here are so clear, unrecognized constellations, beautiful tiny sparks of light, spread across the sky.

Africa is rugged, wild, untamed. This makes it frightening as well as exciting and intriguing.
It is frightening to hear of a lady has died of cholera in the neighbouring village this week. There has been a cholera outbreak in Arua, so we have been told to be extra vigilant with food preparation and wash fruit and vegetables.

Our lectures in the mornings on this discipleship training school are a lot less wild, most of the time, although some of the illustrations given or stories told by our African colleagues are distinctly African and wild.
For example, a Ugandan lecturer shared stories of the Lord’s Resistance Army and their horrific acts. She talked of a woman whose nose and lips were cut off, and a boy whose dad was cut into small pieces, put into a pot, boiled, and the other villagers were forced to eat. (for more stories about the LRA and their horrific behaviour read ‘Abote Girls.)
Most of the lectures aren’t so harrowing, thankfully, although it is interesting to hear from the students of their polygamous father whose wives used witchcraft to gain favour from the husband, and other stories so far from my own upbringing.

The classroom is a unique place, it is a privilege to be studying amongst the Ugandans (& a Kenyan). This is probably one of the highlights of being here because I am very keen to understand the African thinking and mindset better. There are 4 deaf students amongst us, so Helen and Adam, an English couple who have a heart for the deaf, are constantly signing whatever is being taught. There is a lady who hardly speaks any English so there is another staff member, John, (sign name: pointy head) who is always by her side tirelessly helping her.
Amelie is being looked after by Lilian, our sweet nanny, during our lectures, but 2 of the students have smalls kids who accompany them (and us) to class…
On occasions this means the class can be noisy when 15 month old Newton (named after Isaac) screams whilst his mother tries desperately to suckle him with her breasts hanging out to try and calm him, Luckly (a name of a cute toddler, not a typo) has produced a puddle on the cement floor of the classroom, but thankfully it will dry quickly here.

Luckly

Luckly

Outside, men are slashing the grass with long curved pangas sweating.
Inside , our Ugandan lecturer is wearing a Dundee United football jacket because it is only 24 C and cloudy. Her Scottish jacket seems out of place, a piece of my world breaking through into this strange and crazy place….

DSC_0024

DSC_0024

hair

hair

Posted by africraigs 10:29 Comments (1)

Big-nose, gappy tooth, bushy brows

And other common sign-names

semi-overcast 28 °C

When you move to a new country and culture, you anticipate learning a new language. We imagined we might be learning the local language, but so far we have been immersed in sign language. One of our highlights of our time in Arua has been seeing some of the team’s work with the deaf community. Deaf people here are often treated like second-class citizens – ignored, excluded and rejected, and often feared in case they have been cursed. Some of the team here are trying connect the deaf with the hearing. There are 4 deaf students on our course, which has been an eye -opener to another subculture. We are trying to learn some sign language so that we can communicate, but it is not an overnight task, and often my hands seem like clunky claws when trying to sign.

Something that has provided much needed light relief is seeing how the deaf give people sign names. This process begins with the deaf person (or people) studying the person’s facial features (or body) for something distinctive. (This period is usually accompanied with nervous laughter & the deaf suggesting signs to each other). Then, a person’s large nose or gappy teeth or big lips (or hips) are drawn attention to, and they have to sign to the crowd ‘my sign name is hook nose’. It is quite refreshing to see such blatant observations and naming, rather than it being behind people’s backs. There is a 6 ‘ 8’’ German guys visiting the base who was recently named ‘Bushy Brows’… (not that David had anything to do with persuading the crowd…)
Learning Sign Language from 'Long Nose' the teacher

Learning Sign Language from 'Long Nose' the teacher

It is a bit overwhelming with all the layers of cultures and subcultures here on the base… the Ugandan culture, the local culture , the YWAM culture, the deaf subculture, and of course, the weird world of the missionary subculture…
“Big, wavy Hair’’ (you can imagine the sign) and I are so keen to try and protect the precious & small amount of time and space within our 4 concrete walls for our own family culture (bedtime stories, regular bedtime, the occasional square of Bourneville, Marmite, photos etc) in order to stay sane during these 6 months. (Well, relatively...).
Tea Time

Tea Time

Posted by africraigs 11:35 Archived in Uganda Comments (3)

Mosquitoes of doom

semi-overcast 28 °C

Africa... I don't know if I will ever get used to life here completely because of the issues that keep confronting me when I live here. I can't imagine living without the resources that I am used to. I can't imagine living in conditions others here are coping with.

I have not been overly enthusiastic about our new accomodation, despite it being a lot more 'luxurious' than most of our neighbours in the surrounding villages. It has brick walls and a tin roof as well as a solar bulb to light up the deep, dark nights. Of course, feeling like this makes me feel bad as I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I can't pretend to be over the moon...Others have things a lot more challenging, we are the lucky ones, but it still doesn't change how I feel...

It is so hard to have a good, thankful, 'Christian' attitude at these times, especially with so many mosquitoes, the likes which I have never ever seen. They make their entrance to our little home in the evenings. The rooms have a grate which is uncovered and allows the mosquitoes access for their evening snack of Craigs. I have become a bit OCD with the mossie spray 'Doom', which I suspect we will spend a large chunk of our living allowance. Doom costs 12,000 shillings which is £3. This may not sound too much, but when we realise that the salary for a good nanny could be 50-60,000 per month, there is no way someone could spend a quarter of their wage on a can of insect repellant. It would be like a teacher spending £300 on one can of the stuff...!
Ready for the fight against the mosquito

Ready for the fight against the mosquito


You may be able to see why the issues of poverty are so challenging because it affects the basics of survival. Mosquitoes are killers, but those with a lack of resources can't protect themselves adequately. To me, poverty means limited choices and opportunities. Despite living with some of the same problems as others, we have the choice to spend money to do something about it, or even get on a plane and leave at the end of the day.
What the dreaded mosquito represents to me

What the dreaded mosquito represents to me


We know that God also cares about all the local families who can't afford to do anything about the mosquitoes that buzz around their kids' heads making them sick. But, it's hard knowing that many of them are so helpless to do a lot about them. I suppose this fact is what has impacted me the most about seeing the fearsome mosquito on a nightly basis...

- D

Posted by africraigs 11:39 Archived in Uganda Comments (5)

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