A Travellerspoint blog

December 2016

Tis the Season to be Hot, Sticky and Dusty

sunny 32 °C

Christmas in Arua is different to a picture perfect Christmas scene.

Leaves change colour and fall from some of the trees as though it were autumn, but it is dry season, so instead it is sunny and hot. The land is turning a dusty yellow colour as the plants suffer without rain.

Just before Christmas, I was listening to the local radio station, Arua 1 in the car as the presenters were warning parents to keep a look-out for their children. They were telling parents that many children get lost during the Christmas period as they are left on their own for hours or even days. They are at risk of being defiled, robbed or even killed. The Christmas period is known as a risky time for robberies, people stealing because they also want to enjoy their Christmas period by eating meat or buying new clothes. The Lifestitches manager, Charles, was woken up at 3am last week because his goats and pigs were stolen. He took his dogs and chased the thieves until he was able to recover the animals. Obviously, he came in late for work in the morning.
Christmas tree shopping in Arua

Christmas tree shopping in Arua

Christmas trees for sale in Chinese shop

Christmas trees for sale in Chinese shop


A crazy WhatsApp message featuring a naked beheaded woman lying on the ground warns people to be careful who they mix with over Christmas. The lady had supposedly been hanging out with her boyfriend who turned out to be a witchdoctor. Weird, and very different to the cute Christmas messages we are used to seeing on adverts and TV.

Frustratingly, people here also have an expectation of being given something at Christmas and ‘Give me my Christmas’ is a phrase I despair to hear. On Christmas Eve at 8am, a charcoal seller called Rose knocked very persistently and loudly at the gate wanting some money for her Christmas because ‘madam Emma is my customer’.

Being out here, we miss the beauty of the town Christmas lights, the diversity of foods, or the cosiness of having a hot chocolate in a café when it is dark and cold outside. It is lovely to be share the festive season with friends and family and enjoy special places like winter wonderland in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh.

But, we don’t miss the pressure and expectation of the season in the UK where it feels like a commercial frenzy. Christmas is synonymous with frenetic shoppers, hectic shops and the pressure to have a ‘magical Christmas’ where the food, the setting and occasion needs to be perfect. It is a highly stressful time and hard to find a sense of ‘peace on earth’.

There is an intensity to the heat, dust and chaos of Christmas here too, but I am sure it is much closer to what the real Christmas story would have been like in the Middle East.

Christmas in Arua is different because it is simple.

We appreciate this as it helps us to concentrate on the true meaning of Christmas. It also helps us teach our children that truth without all the consumerist distractions. We are thankful for the slower pace of this time to be able to have more time to spend with friends. The highlight of the season and the year for ex-pats in Arua is the Christmas carol singing on the compound of a Catholic radio station, Radio Pacis on Christmas Eve and then digging into 25 flavours of ice cream organised and made by Sherry, the American director.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all...

Tucking in to ice cream

Tucking in to ice cream

Christmas Eve at Radio Pacis underneath their big Christmas tree

Christmas Eve at Radio Pacis underneath their big Christmas tree

Amelie being held aloft by a teacher at a Sunday school Christmas event

Amelie being held aloft by a teacher at a Sunday school Christmas event

Dancing old women in church on Christmas day

Dancing old women in church on Christmas day

Opening presents on Christmas Day

Opening presents on Christmas Day

Friends came over for pork on Boxing Day

Friends came over for pork on Boxing Day

Taking our workers out for Christmas meal

Taking our workers out for Christmas meal

Kids on a random zebra at the Christmas meal

Kids on a random zebra at the Christmas meal

ORA children this year get bars of soap, sugar and rice for Christmas

ORA children this year get bars of soap, sugar and rice for Christmas


Arua Christmas trade fair selling 2nd hand toys

Arua Christmas trade fair selling 2nd hand toys

Kids got their faces painted at the Arua Christmas trade fair

Kids got their faces painted at the Arua Christmas trade fair

Posted by africraigs 09:24 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

Happy Birthday to You-ganda!

54 years old as a nation and what really is independence anyway?

sunny 32 °C

Ugandan Independence Day 1962

Ugandan Independence Day 1962

Uganda as a nation is only 54 years old, celebrating its birthday on Independence day on October 9th*. The British administration handed over the running of the Ugandan people to the Ugandan government in 1962. 'Uhuru' (Swahili for freedom) here is a national holiday celebrated through marches, brass bands and choirs. Uhuru is one of the few days where some people will eat meat like chicken or goat.
Ugandan baby at the celebrations

Ugandan baby at the celebrations

Marches on the football field

Marches on the football field


We went round to our friends Richard and Eunice to eat beef, rice, cabbage and 'enyasa', the Lugbara staple made from cassava flour. (Lugbaras say that if you haven't eaten enyasa, you've haven't had anything to eat'). It was special to spend the day with some Ugandan friends.
Celebrating Ugandan Independence Day with Friends

Celebrating Ugandan Independence Day with Friends


Being Scottish, the concept of 'Independence' always makes me think deeply... and it is also a very current concept following the UK's Brexit vote.

One Ugandan friend called Stephen, one of the brightest people I know in Arua, told me he thinks that the British should still rule Uganda as it would be better off and more organised. When the British handed Uganda over, the country had a similar level of development as Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia. Since, then, however, Uganda has struggled developmentally. Currently, it sits as one of the poorest countries globally. It's Human Development Index rank, which measures health, education and standard of living, is 163 compared to Singapore's rank of 11th, South Korea's 17th position and Malaysia at 62. As such, in Uganda, many aspects of life can be a slog.

However, although the African borders are mainly a European construct, very few would say Uganda or another African nation should not be independent, despite hardships. Independence is something that is celebrated and highly prized. However, the problems Uganda has faced since Independence does pose questions as to what 'freedom' should actually look like. Is national freedom but high infant mortality rate a good trade-off? In any case, what does independence look like in a globalised world, is it 'real'?

Additionally, with 52 tribal groups in Uganda bunched together as one nation, how do each of these tribal groups consider their self-expression? Historically, the dominant Buganda people have vied for more power. Today, Uganda is in the international news because armed guards of Rwenzururu kingdom were bloodily subdued recently. The King was supposedly agitating for the creation of a separate state straddling Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. What does independence as part of a bigger 'nation' mean for these smaller, historically independent people groups?

Ugandan Independence day makes me consider what real human freedom really means. One of my heroes, Nelson Mandela, is a poignant example of how despite his imprisonment, he remained a 'free' person. He stayed free in his mind despite his circumstances. In prison, he earned a bachelor of law degree from the University of London and became a leader for fellow- prisoners. That is pretty impressive.

Conversely, the physical freedom we prize so highly in the West can often trap us. When I worked for Bethany Christian Trust in the drug and alcohol rehab, one of the things I was told was that the UK is an addictive society. We are shopaholics, workaholics, sex addicts, drug addicts, food addicts, image addicts. This seems to be getting worse with the advent of social media. We are facing a 'loneliness epidemic', a growth in depression and social breakdown. We get trapped doing the very things that are supposed to give us freedom. It doesn't often seem that our 'freedom' makes us happy. Instead, much of what we do has the potential to imprison us.
Loneliness

Loneliness


Ugandan independence is important, but there are other issues which are needed for real freedom. In Uganda, many people may still be imprisoned in terrible material poverty whereas materialism might be the problem in the UK.

Real freedom comes from something much different. I feel I have experienced what Jesus said "If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed". Addicts I worked with in the rehab I already mentioned, for example, have seen their lives completely changed because of their faith in God.

What I hope for, and work for in Uganda through Lifestitches or Life-skills training at YWAM is for people to know their worth, to reach their potential and to be liberated in their mind and heart whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

*This blog was meant to be posted much earlier!

Posted by africraigs 11:41 Archived in Uganda Comments (4)

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