A Travellerspoint blog

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’…


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.



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)

The Other Side Of The Fence

-27 °C

This week I witnessed a horrible siuation which I can't shake from my mind... I was standing talking with a few people, then we heard a few loud thuds, and screaming and running. We looked up to see a small girl, probably about 9 years, running towards us holding her head and screaming, with a wide eyed, terrified expression, with the watchman walking slowly behind her.

After translation, it transpired that the girl and some friends were trespassing on the land to hunt for firewood. They had been caught the day before and verbally warned, but obviously had returned, and the watchman had wanted to teach them a lesson. He had wacked the girls head with something, probably wood, causing a 6 inch welt and enormous egg which was rapidly changing the shape of her head. Her head was bleeding, and she was clutching it and sobbing and shaking. It shocked me that someone could use such force on a child's head. We found out later that the girl's mother had died a few week's ago leaving her and her siblings orphaned. There were many other factors about the event that highlighted different approaches to situations and different cultural perspectives, which I am trying to understand. Big Hair and I were discussing the event afterwards and thinking about REAPs teaching about fast-growing trees to use for firewood, and various other practical ways that one could reach out to the surrounding families. Our friend Cait, from David's well-drilling course in North Carolina in 2009, visited us this weekend via a well drilling project, and it was interesting to hear about her work. (www.HowManyCows.com)
The firewood event sharpened our desire for the kind of work we want to be involved in after this training period, and a stark reminder of issues on the other side of the fence...



Jerry can queue

Jerry can queue

Posted by africraigs 01:24 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

Mermaids and Bootcamp

I often feel that this 6 month DTS (Discipleship Training School' is a mixture of Boot Camp and Big Brother. It seems like the daily challenges increase the level of intensity of our Boot camp physically, emotionally and spiritually...

Physically is probably the easiest part to deal with, such as the more simple African diet and our 60 day intense exercise programme 'Insanity'... (which our American colleague, Christian introduced us to, hence his new nick name, 'Christiansanity'...)

Living and studying cross -culturally in an unfamiliar place was always going to bring challenges, as well as richness, diversity and colour. Like on Big Brother, when the housemates are given various tasks, and their different characters and backgrounds provide (questionable) entertainment, there are a number of different personalities and nationalities here on the base (including a team of American photographers from the Hawaii base who arrived this week- cue decent pics of amelie I hope) which can provide entertainment (and immense frustration...)
Like last week when we enjoyed a heavy rainstorm, which brought thousands of large flying ants, (a local delicacy), to the night light on the base. All of our African coursemates went crazy, clutching buckets and large basins and grabbing handful of the insects to fry and eat the following day.


Unfortunately, our coursemates were not the only ones who consider flying ants a tasty treat, and before long armies of pinching ants came to our dormitory demanding their fill as well, biting anyone who got in their way. Another American coursemate, Katie, was concerned that the pinching ants would come into our bedrooms so insisted on switching off the light, causing much annoyance and frustration to the others. A compromise was found by finding another light away from our rooms with plenty of ants flying around to enjoy...1DSC_0024.jpg

The training course intends to provide formal learning in the classroom, informal learning through our community responsibilities (like slashing grass and shelling thousands of g-nuts to make a sauce) and unformal (I know, it doesn't quite fit?) learning through living together.

David slashing

David slashing

Our classroom experience this week has been eye-opening and has challenged us spiritually, which is maybe the hardest of the aspects so far of Boot camp.

The topic this week has been about 'Spritual Warfare' which is a controversial and heavy subject at the best of times. Our teacher has shared many crazy, terrifiying stories this week about witchcraft, curses, totems, ancestral worship, witchdoctors, demonic powers, child sacrifices, body parts and worse. It highlights our ignorance when it comes to understanding local cultural beliefs, (and maybe our narrow mindedness when it comes to things in the spiritual realm.) Some of the things we have been taught have not rung true with our own experiences, like the common belief that water is more easily possessed, that mermaids are real, and that a dream about an owl or snake equals death.

I find it fascinating that an event can occur, for example multiple car accidents at the same spot on a roundabout, and one person may interpret the event as a demonic curse and hunt to find an umbilical cord buried and cursed by satan worshipers on a nearby hill, (true story) whilst someone else may look at the environmental factors of the situation like blind spots, the type of road etc. If I'm honest, in many of the stories we heard, I could feel my small brain whirring to think of logical, rational explanations: medicine, mental health, genetics, environment etc, which I guess highlights my need to understand and explain events rather than simply believe that so much goes on that is completely out of my comfort zone...

We have both found it hard (and tiring) to understand and grapple with the 'truth', and i guess it boils down to the simple fact that some things we just don't know. It has been enlightening to learn what our coursemates think and believe, and how they would interpret various bible verses. Needless- to- say, I would rather never, ever experience any of the things mentioned in the stories, and it makes us a bit nervous about the outreach stage of this boot camp...

Posted by africraigs 10:25 Comments (3)

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.



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….





Posted by africraigs 10:29 Comments (1)

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