Sunday, August 19, 2007

curt's journal from Uganda-Aug. 14

This morning I checked out a less expensive alternative for the internet. I must’ve gotten there too early, the squirrels that provide the speed by running on their treadmill hadn’t been fed yet. Translation: It was inexpensive, but VERY slow. I had to bite the bullet, but by the time I got to my usual spot, I was running late, so I didn’t get all the photos uploaded.

For lunch, Hillary and Resty made this really nice meal, which included a tasty cabbage dish. I’m not a big fan of cabbage, but this was really good. We also had matoke, which is a staple here along with rice. Matokes look like green bananas, but are yellow when cooked, and taste like tangy mashed potatoes. Supposedly it’s a great source for hydration when you don’t have water available. Mary loves it, while I’m a little undecided, and Courtney eats it only to be polite.

After lunch, Hillary and I went to Lusaka to the St. Mbuga school to interview some of the Matsiko kids. We had Resty interpret so the kids could be comfortable telling their stories without having to concentrate on the correct English words. I keep teasing Resty, “why do we need an interpreter if English is the official language?” I tease her about this every chance I get. Many of the TV shows are in Luganda, all of the locals speak Luganda when they really want to explain something, many adults don’t speak much English at all, yet they insist it’s the official language. I’ve heard there are about fifty-two other languages spoken here, so they needed a common language to minimize misunderstanding. Uganda has British roots, so English was chosen.

Anyway, the interviews went pretty well. Sam Straxy gave us a list of kids that would be good to interview: Sulaina, Agnes, Yvonne, and David. Yvonne was home from school with some sort of rash, so we interviewed the other three. We had several things working against us for these interviews. THEIR CULTURE: people here are reluctant to share their true feelings. A Ugandan man will never tell you he’s tired even if he’s been awake for three days. THEIR PAINFUL PAST: these kids don’t want to relive their past, and for good reason. So many of them have lost a large number of relatives close to them. They protect themselves from getting hurt again. THEIR LANGUAGE: they don’t speak English very well yet, but are learning it in school, so it’s difficult for them to get very descriptive. THEIR AGE: I sometimes forget, these are just elementary school children. How many of our kids would be comfortable sharing deeply and descriptively with someone they barely know from another country? With these first three children, we also had the challenge of shyness. All three of them are very quiet, so even when they were speaking Luganda, they didn’t say much. In addition to this, I haven’t really found a place yet, in the city, where there aren’t a bunch of noises. During these interviews, we battled the sounds of chickens, children playing, a bottled soda delivery man, people walking by and saying things to us, loud birds, and of course, the ever present bane of my existence...barking dogs. The kids did a great job, but I’m not sure how much we can use from this first group. Sulaina told of her mother dying and the trials of living with a mean stepmother. She sounded like Cinderella as she described her life. Even though there are other children in the home, she was forced to do ALL of the housework and wouldn’t let her do her homework or go to choir practice until it was all done. She didn’t go into detail, but there were regular beatings as well. Sam Straxy and some of the other leaders went and talked to the step mom and convinced her to be kinder, so things are a lot better now. I really wish we could learn the whole story, but I think a lot of it will stay inside her.

We decided we needed to interview someone we knew better to try and get a little deeper into his or her stories, so we pulled Julius out of class. I love this kid. He has the most expressive face...his eyes say so much. He started out a little shy at first, but he opened up and ended up sharing a very painful time in his life. As the tears started rolling down his perfect little face, he recounted the story of losing his parents. It was all I could do to keep the camera rolling and not just pick him up and hold him forever. I was so proud of him. That was really hard for an eleven-year-old Ugandan to do. He lives in different places, but a lot of the time with Dr. Pauline. They announced one day at church that he needed a place to live and she stood up and volunteered to be his new mom. And that was that. That’s how it’s done here. If they had to go through a big court case for every displaced child, the courts would be gridlocked. As hard as his story is, it’s one that is told over and over here. Almost everyone I’ve talked to has several siblings or parents that have died. Early death is so common here. I think that’s why these kids are so attached to their sponsors. It’s truly a lifeline. If I have anything to do with it, Julius will have his way paid through will Yvonne...and Bruno...and...I have a lot of work to do.

At the end of each interview, we had each of them sing their favorite song. The beautiful melodies, sung to a backdrop of chickens, traffic and birds, will be something I treasure for a long time. After the interview we gave them each a soda. Fanta seems to be the most popular choice in Uganda. Do we even still sell that in the States?

When we were done, Hillary decided to check on Yvonne. We have to be careful where we meet her now. Apparently after our last visit where we met her mom, their neighbors have been giving them a bad time. I may have already written about this, but when Mzungus visit locals, the neighbors make the assumption that we dump loads of money on them, so they refuse to trade or loan anything, or help them out in any way. “You had five Mzungus at your house yesterday. You’re in a different class from us, you don’t need our help anymore!” is what they said to Yvonne’s mom. This makes it very difficult for the family, because community is so vital to their survival. We were really upset that we might have caused a problem, so hopefully it will blow over.

We sent Resty over to her house to see how she was doing and tell her we’d like to take her to Dr. Pauline’s clinic to see what was wrong. She was very happy to see us, as usual, and gleefully hopped into our van. On the way there, we grabbed some beef kabobs from a street vendor. It was a little tough, but tasted really good. I offered some to Yvonne and she quickly said, “Yes!” and took some.

Dr. Pauline greeted us with a huge smile and gave me a hug. She had brought her clinic guestbook to the place where we live and hadn’t yet thanked me for what I wrote. She is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve every met. With her ever-present grin, she said she wanted me to teach her how to play guitar (pronounced jee-tah in Uganda). It would probably take about five minutes to teach her all I know. She happily welcomed Yvonne into her clinic and the little soon came out with a bundle of pills, medicine, and a special soap. All for about $10 US dollars. The woman is a saint...I mean that in every way possible.

On the way home we grabbed some roasted corn from another street vendor. We asked if Yvonne was hungry. She said, “I already had supper.” “What did you have?” Hillary asked. “We take tea.” was her reply. After a little prodding, we discovered that she drinks tea for breakfast, goes to school where she has a cup of porridge (a watery, milky drink) at about 10am followed by posho and beans for lunch, then it’s tea again for dinner. So the only real food she gets is what the school gives her. I know I may be sounding a little preachy with all this sponsorship endorsement, but it’s hard not to when you see how these happy little kids live.

I told her I wasn’t very hungry and asked if her mom would like the rest of my corn. “Yes!” a huge smile brightened her face.

As we drove away, I slunk down into my seat trying to avoid detection from the neighbors, and I thought about all of the food we’ve thrown away in the past year. I hope they didn’t notice the three ears of corn tucked close to her side.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! Even though you have made me cry more than once now I'm grateful for letting me experience these moments with you....thank you.

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the latest on the sells

As of May 27, 2009...

Wow, it's been almost a year since we've updated this. Our family had a wonderful experience traveling to Uganda two summers ago, which prompted us to keep a journal on this blog. You can read our daily journal from our month long trip

This year brings new adventures. Our eldest daughter, Courtney, after graduating from George Fox University with honors, left for her third trip to India to spend nearly a YEAR to work at Happy Home for the Handicapped in Shimoga, India. You can read about her first trip to India and the impact it had on her life here. She'll also give us new updates from her current trip on this site (here). As of this writing, she is just starting to settle in and is very excited to be there. She has been looking forward to this for a long time!

Meanwhile, Hillary spent all of last year
touring the western U.S. with Matsiko, the choir of children we grew to love as our own in Uganda. She journalled about her experiences in Uganda if you'd like to see what that was like. At some point during this tour, she felt led to join the U.S. Army. Quite a big decision, and one she didn't take lightly. After moving through Basic Training with flying colors, she is now at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio training to become a combat medic. It's a very intense training, but we're sure she'll do well. Our whole family was able to travel to South Carolina to watch her graduate from Basic Training. What an awe inspiring experience!

Leslie is having a great year of teaching 5th graders. She's also in a Master's program, which takes a good chunk of her time. She's still finds time to read a TON of books. Literally, a ton!

Curt was overwhelmed by his experience as a first time overseas traveler and kept up his journal here (you can also read his random posts on everyday life here). The busyness of life and keeping track of his traveling kids has slowed down his writing, but he hopes to begin writing on a regular basis again soon.