Thursday, May 26, 2005

Now that you've read Steve's post about the last two days and the bus ride, you know our current state of mind, and state of bowels. But we shouldn't let this end overshadow the other experiences we've had that we haven't had a chance to write yet. By the way (this is Emily) thanks so much for all your comments on our last post. It's really good to hear from people.

I was going to start out by talking about the drive to the northeast to visit Daniel. But you've heard enough about awful driving experiences. Let me just add that on this trip, from Kampala noth of Soroti, the road work had been left incomplete because of lack of payment. So our driver and other drivers would change randomly from one side of the street to the other, looking for the best roads. We went from pavement to dirt constantly, and from side to side. It was dangerous! We even had several times when cars were passing on both sides of us. Just wait till you see the video! We were not sick yet then, so we were laughing and filming, rather than wretching. On the way our driver stopped and bought us some burnt maize on a stick and cooked bananas to eat on the way--their version of take out! All you have to do is pull over and kids will flock around your car with things to sell. We have already noticed a major difference between rwanda and Uganda, however. In Uganda they never begged, and were polite and took No for an answer. Here, the opposite is true in every instance.

The visit to Daniel's village was quite different from the visit to Joyce's. The villages in the northeast are basically starving, partly from famine but also largely from the threat of the nearby Karamojong. This tribe on the eastern border of Uganda is a traditional cattle tribe, who believe that all cows belong to them, and must pay each other 100 cattle for each good wife (and they're polygamists). So, they constantly raid neighboring areas like Daniel's. They steal the cattle, rape the women, and generally terrorize, even kill. They are well-armed. Daniel's people are now mostly gathered in camps with armed soldier's guarding their cattle, but the threat is little diminished. When we reading Daniel's file, we saw that he listed his worst memory of the past year as a Karamojong raid in which 8 women in his village were raped. His village is very small and his mother and sister both had new babies, though neither has a husband. I think it's very likely that one or both were included in those 8 women.

The lack of cattle causes starvation, a lack of nutritious milk, and also lack of income potential. the Climate up there is also more arid, less tropical, so you don't have bananas growing everywhere. They plant groundnuts (like peanuts) and live on these, chicken (though Daniel's family doesn't own any), some eggs, and millet bread. They also grow some other beans and vegetables. When I asked Daniel his favorite food, he said peas and beans. They also grow sorghum (sp?). I'm not sure all the reasons why the villages are so much worse off up there, but I know water is also scarce, which it isn't in the South. But the difference was obvious to the eye. Daniel is about the size of an American 9 year old boy--and he is 16 years old. They asked me to pick him out of a crowd and I couldn't. Everyone is very thin. I have never seen such emaciated women nursing. As you see them nursing, you also see their ribs--every one. they look like starvation victums.

Daniel's village was also smaller, as I said, much smaller, and seemed to have less community support. There was no way they could have put together a program for us. Most peo0ple in his village are his relatives. He is blessed to have many uncles to look out for him, though his father died many years ago. His eldest uncle stood and told us the story of their family. He thanked us and expressed concern over Steve's job loss. Apparently everyone reads our letters (and we send too few--we felt pretty pathetic!). Daniel also had two living grandmothers, which was notable. Because of HIV and other factors, you see almost no elderly people here.

Daniel's school is a good example of how hard they are working here to combat AIDS. They have sayings painted all over the walls that say things like "Don't accept gifts for sex" and they have a curriculum which is very frank which they study once every week. In the textbook are printed questions like this, an example from a 9 year old girl: "I had sex with my brother. Am I still a virgin?" We were extremely impressed with the frankness, honesty of the text, which is used in all Uganda schools, and of the openness of all teachers and adults we encountered in disgussing the problem. I know we hear in the media that Africa's problem is that they don't disguss AIDS enough because of shame, but we didn't encounter that. The things they discuss would make Americans blush. Still, will the paternalistic culture and many longstanding moral oddities in tribes, it is an uphill battle.

Though in Joyce's village, some families like Joyce's lived in buildings while most in grass huts, in Daniel's area pretty much everyone lives in grass huts. This includes the teachers and headmaster of the school, most of whom have university educations. Still, though, they staff schools and CCF with local people who speak the local tribal language, and it was clear that in Daniel's project they don't have the same exposure to western professionalism that they had in Joyce's project. (I don't know if I've made the language situation clear--they are so many diff. tribes, all with their own languages. Though English is the national language and is taught to all children in school, the village children have no where to practice it, including no paper to practice it on, and most don't speak a word. Daniel is exceptionally good at English).

Speaking of exposure to westerners, we visited the nursery school near Daniel. The adorable little children ran away when they saw us. Once they were reassured by their teacher, they wanted to touch my skin and see what it felt like. They were something else--a class of about 100!

Also speaking of exposure to westerners, they really can't comprehend our life in these remote villages. Daniel's mother gave us some wonderful homemade gifts, including a half kalabash (like a dried squash) to use for spreading our seeds. We brought many gifts, and the kids took an immediate liking to the lollies (oh, I've gotten so British! Suckers, or lollypops is what I mean). I also told the women I wanted to learn how to wear a baby on my back, so they thought that was great and took great pleasure in showing me. Everywhere you see babies on backs and pots on heads. The women still do most of the work.

One thing here that is difficult for us to comprehend is that parents try to send their kids to boarding schools as early as age 5. This is all over the country. This is because often the available or better schools are not walkable, and they can't afford to pay their kids transportation to go to school everyday. So it's cheaper to have kids, even tiny ones, board at the school. This is very common. Since we were here at the end of a holiday, we saw scores of children transporting their mattresses on their way back to boarding school. That's all they take with them, rolled mattresses. Daniel, at 16, is finally finished primary school this year after being much interrupted by the Karamojong. His only chance at secondary school is via boarding. I don't think his uncle can afford a mattress. As I left, we made a deal that if he passes his primary school exit exams, I will buy him a mattress for boarding school. This will cost me a measly 25 bucks or so, but will be a huge benefit to him. This is one of the awkwardnesses we continually felt here--they feel like we've done so much for them when we've really put in very little effort and don't deserve their gratitude. These are people who will likely work harder their entire lives than we ever will, and earn less than we did in one summer in high school, and yet are equally intelligent, passionate, and God's children. But because of their constant effot to show gratitude for tiny gifts, you can see how many white or western people through the years have developed the haughty Missionary Attitude of thinking they have come to enlighten and "save" these peoples, financially and spiritually. We asked if they regretted Colonialism, and they said No, because it brought Christianity. And Africans are devoted Christians, much moreso than your average American. It does cut both ways, though--some people here also have the wrong attitude about us, thinking we have so much and should just give them money for everything. They don't appreciate how expensive our own lives are in first world countries.

After visiting Daniel, we were dropped off n Jinja near the source of the Nile and spent a half day whitewatering on the Nile. This was great. We cleared two grade 5 rapids, and many smaller ones. This was in the small rafts where you all paddle, not the big ones like we did with Western River Expeditions. So you're much less stable, and prone to flip. We flipped entirely in one Grade 5, and Steve fell out two other times. He got pretty beat up. But they have the nicest Ugandan guys in Kayaks who come rescue you. They also prepare your lunch. Can you imagine getting cool American Kayaking teanage boys to also prepares your lunch? They just don't have too much vanity here. IT's great. Also, one guy is the top Ugandan Kayaker, and 27th in the world. very nice guy. We'll watch for Jeffrey in the 2008 Olympics.

On the rafting trip, we were with some English people who had taken two years off to travel the world. Can you imagine? So unAmerican!
even wealthy Americans believe in work!

We would tell you about the food we ate in Daniel's village, but the thought makes our stomaches turn right now. It wasn't unpleasant to eat so much, but the aftermath was very unpleasant. Also, they fed us 3 TIMES IN 6 HOURS! It was so hard to be polite and eat, yet be totally nauseated (Emily was really sick by this day) and also having dozens of starving people watch you. Yet they want you to eat their food to bless their home. With the food, travel, etc., we've experienced on this trip, I feel like I've gotten a taste of a mission.

We're really grateful to have had such an off-the-beaten path experience here. In addition to the village people we met, we also met some great people as we mentiond, one young guy in particular (actually about my age) named Nick. Nick works at a travel place and deals with a lot of Westerners, so has excellent English and much more of an understanding of our world, so it was easy to talk to him on equal footing. I didn't make it clear in my last entry: His dad died of AIDS, and he desperately wanted to finish secondary school. He did all sorts of things to earn the fees. finally, the last semester, he traded his one valuable possession, a radio, for a bull. He walked the bull 60 KM to his school, and they accepted it as payment for the rest of his schooling. Even at age 27 or 28, Nick is still hoping for university. But it costs 300 to 400 a semester, and though he tries to save, he keeps having to pay school fees, etc., for his little brothers. We would love to help him if we're ever able. He wants to study statistics. What a fabulous person! And we can call him on his cellphone--everyone has cell phones here! Even Daniel's uncle in his remote village, and there is coverage everywhere! Such juxtaposition.

We love and miss you all and are ready to come home. Sara and Dave, we can never repay you but will always keep trying./ Thanks so much for making this possible, and for your frienship for the entire past year. Dad and Grandpa, thanks for teaching me to Love Africa and want to come for as long as I can remember. Jasper and Ruby, we love and miss you and can't wait to see you soon. Thanks for staying alive! Your mother worried so!

Love, Em and Steve

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