22 December 2010
Since I have the time and Sister Emma has the skills, we've been making Christmas deserts. Yesterday, Sr. Emma made date squares and two cream cheese pies in the time it took me to try and make pan de huevo that ended up as yeasty dinner rolls. She patiently walks me through Cooking Skills 101; For instance she taught me how to measure butter. Instead of mashing the butter down into a measuring cup, use a set amount of water and add butter until the water line gets to the amount you need. That might not sound so impressive in writing, but I assure you, as a never-ending novice cook, I was amazed.
We worked all day in the University's kitchen, listening to the 10 Christmas songs I have on repeat, mixing, sifting, greasing, washing and tasting. It was nice to be with my friend, enjoying our foreign traditions and each others company.
13 December 2010
In the hustle and bustle there were campers coming up to me to ask for my phone number which I happily gave them. I felt like I made so many new friends who are looking for guidance in their lives. While I don't think all of them will stay in close contact, it made me more confident in their abilities to move forward with their goals. Thinking that they will seek out help, that they will make good friends and with them good choices, helped me tie the whole camp together. It helped me feel like while campers may not have understood or listened to ALL of the information, they did feel our love and care for them. They knew they were supported and encouraged, and they can use that to further themselves in education and social awareness.
It also made me remember how far love can go, how being compassionate for someone goes a long way for yourself and the other person. As a peace corps volunteer, the "way forward" can get clouded by development buzz words and concrete, measurable results. Yes, I would like to eradicate Malaria, HIV/AIDS and violence against women. But I'd like to get there without aid money, without imposing my Western ideals and without forgetting the compassion that had me sign up for this in the first place.
09 December 2010
We, as staff and counselors, have been so lucky to watch these (normally very quiet and submissive) young ladies freely use their talents to learn, to share, to paint, to draw, to sing, to dance and to express themselves.
The guest speakers have all mentioned the way women respond to questions here: Heads down, whispering voices, no eye contact. Any other form of address from a young woman is seen as disrespectful. Rehmah Kasule, who wrote "From Gomba to the White House", came today to speak to us about her challenges and successes as a female Ugandan entrepreneur. After her speech, she gave this riddle: "There are three birds sitting on a wire. Two decide to fly away. How many remain?" The answer is: There are still three. The two birds only "decided" to fly away, they didn't actually take action. She ended with saying that as women, we can decide to do many wonderful, enlightened and empowered things. But the most important thing is to follow our words and good intentions with action.
08 December 2010
Ugandan directions: Oh yes, let me tell you, you walk down the road and turn at the mango tree, then when you see the ant hill, go up that way. You'll see another road on your right, it'll have many trees nearby. Don't go that way. When you get to the next trading center....
American directions: Doyouhaveamap?AtTheNextLightMakeARightAndWalkDownThatStreetFor5MinutesThenMakeALeftAt....
The campers and counselors LOVED having her.
Visit our website to see more! Camp GLOW Uganda 2010 :)
01 December 2010
December 1 2010 marks the 22nd annual WORLD AIDS DAY.This year's theme is "Universal Access and Human Rights."
Visit WORLD AIDS DAY and see what's going on in the world.
Biologically and culturally women are more at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS. In the case of Uganda, a country where women are still seen as inferior to men, women are still fighting the status quo to keep themselves and their children safe from HIV.
[ I think America does a pretty good job of "saying" otherwise but not really completely settling in to gender equality. I'd like to take ask all of the women who read this blog. Do you feel equally capable of doing the same things as a man? Do you feel treated the same as your male counterpart? ]
In the Life Skills class that Sister Emma and I taught at the local vocational school we found that many young ladies are still being given false information about their bodies and about HIV/AIDS. Many of them didn't know that it is, in fact, incurable. Others didn't understand how the virus functioned in their bodies and some were just speechless when we talked about the myths that they have been told since childhood.
"At the end of 2009 it was estimated that out of the 33.3 million adults worldwide living with HIV and AIDS, more than half are women. It is suggested that 98 percent of these women live in developing countries. The AIDS epidemic has had a unique impact on women, which has been exacerbated by their role within society and their biological vulnerability to HIV infection. "
Taken from AVERT
Here are some of the reasons that woman are more at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS:
1. Unequal gender rights
3. Not being able to negotiate condom use:
Men and women in Uganda enjoy large families. If a man wants to continue having children, he will not listen to a wife who wants to use a condom.
4. Forced sex in marriage:
It is a woman's duty in Uganda to please their husband, he has already paid the bride price for marriage, and it's considered part of the bargain.
5. Widow inheritance:
This practice is still common in Uganda. After the husband dies, the wife and all of the deceased's property are handed over to his brother.
6. Female circumcision:
Not very common in the Central region of Uganda, though there are male circumcision ceremonies in the East.
7. Early marriage:
There are many young girls who are forced to marry young. Being young, they are more likely to tear their vaginas during sex.
8. Biological factors that cause women to be 2x more likely to become infected than men during unprotected sex.
27 November 2010
The homily was about how Americans say thank you and Ugandans don't. After mass we found ourselves exclaiming our disagreement! Ugandans do say thank you. They always express their gratitude and appreciation. They just also include a request for more of whatever they received, especially from foreigners. Walking down the village roads, i see moms telling their children to run up to us to ask for money or sweeties. It's something they're taught from childhood, that foreigners have money and they want to share it. It's mostly true. I appreciated Sister Valentine's desire to show her love and support for our American holiday, traditions and our friendships, in ways she knows how to express her committment to friendship, in this instance through a Thanksgiving mass.
For more exciting stories from Thanksgiving 2010, visit: Amanda's Blog
07 November 2010
World AIDS Day is coming up, 1 December. And in our Life Skills classes we've just finished the learning activities on HIV/AIDS. The class at the university goes in-depth about transmission, immune system response, origin, stigma, myths, and healthy living. The Life Skills class at the vocational school is a little more basic, focusing on transmission and debunking the popular myths that float around about why or how people get HIV/AIDS in Uganda. I thought I'd share some of the general information:
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
There are four main fluids that transmit HIV: blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk. These fluids can pass through mucous membranes (on genitals, nose, eyes, mouth, anus) and through cuts or openings in your skin. (Sweat and tears do not carry HIV; saliva has such trace amounts that you would have to swallow liters of it to be at a small risk; cerebrospinal fluid carry trace amounts as well.)
HIV can be passed on by:
1. Having sex without a condom
2. Contact with infected blood
3. Injecting drugs/re-using needles
4. Mother to child (during pregnancy, during delivery or during breast feeding)
IMMUNE SYSTEM RESPONSE:
HIV targets the CD4 helper cell (the part of the immune system that coordinates defense.) After some crazy cellular moves, HIV gets the CD4 cell to replicate its viral DNA INSTEAD of its normal function (defending the body and producing other CD4 cells.) CD4 counts determine how compromised your immune system is.
Without Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART or ARVs), eventually the amount of HIV will almost fully suppress the immune system, (the person now has AIDS), leaving the body susceptible to death from many different types of infections or AIDS-related cancers.
The most accepted theory is that humans first got HIV from chimpanzees in Cameroon in the mid 1900's. These chimps had Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) and the virus was transferred to humans probably through hunting or eating chimp meat.
(There are many different theories and time lines of HIV origin, please take a minute to check online for more information.)
MYTHS:(these are not true)
There is a cure for HIV/AIDS and its only available to people in the Western nations
If you have sex with a virgin, you can be cured of HIV/AIDS
You can get HIV/AIDS from hugging or kissing someone with HIV/AIDS
Two thirds of all HIV infections occur in sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, the first AIDS cases were reported in the early 1980s, it was known as the "slimming" disease because of the wasting away of the body of most people who had it. Today, about 1.1 million people in Uganda have HIV/AIDS.
I could keep unloading lots of terrible numbers about the situation here, but suffice it to say it affects everyone. Unfortunately, the numbers are on the rise, mostly in married couples. The feeling is that Ugandans are accustomed to hearing about HIV and have become desensitized about its effects.
At the end of 2006 about 1.1 million people were living with HIV. In 2008 Texas had 2, 924 people living with AIDS, making Texas the fourth highest state with people living with AIDS (after California, Florida and New York.) It’s estimated that about 53,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year.
Please take a moment to visit the following websites for more information:
25 September 2010
"The Smoke That Thunders" : the falls that are on the border of southern Zambia and Zimbabwe
When we were driving in the taxi from the Lusaka (capitol) airport, the first thing to be noticed was the dry dry everything. Of course they are in the dry season, so it makes sense. Lusaka is also a beautiful city that looks like an American suburb. There were strip malls! Boulevards! Street lights that work! It felt strange to be in such an organized city. Strange but good...
Amanda and I went to Livingstone, the tourist town near Victoria Falls and stayed at Faulty Towers, a nice hostel that we discovered, after an awkward misunderstanding of the joke behind our hostel and a Google search later, is named after a British comedy.
We drove the short trip to Vic Falls National Park in a truck with outside seats (the kind for safaris.) I thought it was appropriate for all the white people to be on display driving through Livingstone. I hope someone took our picture for a really prestigious magazine about cultural/financial diversity.
We signed up for the breakfast tour of the falls. Sometime in late morning we were anxiously swimming across a very cold Zambezi river. We reached the edge of the falls, marveled at the sights. When they showed us the "devil's pool" we were meant to JUMP into, Amanda and I began regretting our decision to pay so much money to fall off the edge of the world. Somehow, we decided to jump in and there we were at the top of Victoria Falls. After our swim, feeling brave, we had a surreal experience at breakfast. There was incredibly delicious food (a little bit of food on a really big plate, that always makes me feel like I'm in a fancy place, in my little head, extra plate space equals extravagance), white napkins, silver silverware, bacon, waiters and waitresses tuned to our every move. Money, blah. We snuck food for later.
The next morning was a scheduled elephant ride. Geez. The elephants were cute and scary. It made me wish I had been an explorer with my very own elephant (an explorer without the desire to colonize.) But I probably wouldn't really like it. When we were walking around Vic Falls admiring the greatness of water, there were at least 50 baboons strolling around like they owned the place and I would have appreciated some people-appropriate primate control… especially when I thought one was going to jump on me and almost started crying.
Northern Zambia was just as dry. We went to Chishimba Falls, more stunning vistas and the sound of loud water. We went fabric shopping. We had nshima and beans with our friends family. We call nshima posho in Uganda. Any way you look at it, it's an inexpensive, tasteless mush made outta corn that people use to spoon up a sauce or relish (like beans, meat, greens.) Its not half bad, just can't think of any other word besides "mush" to describe it.
It was exciting to be on an adventure in another African country. If you ever get the chance, take it. You're gonna love it.
21 September 2010
25 August 2010
-Queen Elizabeth National Park: we took a game drive early Thursday morning through the dry savannas and saw Buffalo, Water Bucks, Ugandan Kob, Elephants, Warthogs and Mongoose. Its an interesting experience to see wildlife from an enormous and very loud school bus. The best part is hearing their excitement and seeing them concentrate on what's outside their windows so they can be the first one to spot a wild animal. We didn’t see too many animals, but its was refreshing to take a drive, calming to see the sunrise over African plains and exciting to be in a wild place. In the afternoon we took a boat ride in Kazinga Channel, connecting Lake George and Lake Edward, and saw Hippos, more Elephants and Crocodiles. Some of the girls and I stood on the second story of this tour boat and enjoyed the wind and a great view of the water. Then to top off the day, we visited the museum. (After the museum my friend and I went next door and walked around the VERY nice and expensive Mweya Lodge accomodations, the hotel that was half a mile from where we were staying. When i told the staff i just wanted to look around, that i wasn't staying the night, they asked me "why not?, the place was made for people like you." It was unbelievably fancy and i was stunned because just a short walk down the road 60 girls were sleeping on a dorm floor and bathing in the moonlight.)
-Lake Katwe Salt Operations: the humidity there reminded me of Houston. We followed the tour guide around narrow walkways skirting the square pools of water where the workers "harvest" table salt. We saw the men in the middle of the shallow lake bringing in piles of rock salt that they sell for cows. The workers are at least knee deep in their salt gardens or Lake Katwe for hours at a time. Women
have high incidence of uterine infections and the men penile infections.
-Kilembe Copper Mines: about half an hour west of Kasese in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountain Range. Was closed down during Idi Amins time when he expelled Asians and most foreigners from Uganda, they are trying to reopen the mines. We were able to venture inside the old mine and it felt exhilarating to be inside the earth, to feel like an explorer searching for an elusive place or answer. Though this adventurer found comfort in holding one of the P7s hand as she slowly and anxiously walked through the pitch black mine entrance. After the tour of the mine, the teachers and i went down to get rocks from the river. It's been a long long time since i've enjoyed being in real water (i don't count water in dingy pools or in a bathing bucket.) I can't even stand close to lakes here for fear of Bilharzia. Feeling the cold water running around my feet and legs was rejuvinating and it reminded me of wading around 5 Mile Creek.
-Hima Cement Works: the last stop before heading back to Kisubi, most of the students were tired and grouchy, but we got to wear hard hats and goggles and that seemed to cheer them up a little bit.
Thank you tia for the coffee and coffeemate! Its like a blast from the past smelling and drinking it, I enjoy the coffee here, they grow it mainly in western Uganda. When I first came to Uganda, I visited some volunteers in a village out west where they grew lots of coffee. We went walking to visit the Sisters of Our Lady of Good Counsel and for the hour walk we smelled nothing but coffee plant flowers and I remember being so happy that this was my new home.
Thanks pop for sending the book with Georgia O'Keefe's work. I show it to Vale and Pauline and try and tell them about the southwest and art and women. Who knows what makes it through my terrible translations, but they like looking at the pictures anyway. They love the one of Japan's gardens. They turn each page saying in Luganda, "this is VERY far away" "the trees are beautiful" "Look there's orange and red." I'm just now trying to show them maps; they know Africa is very big and America is VERY far away.
Thank you Mrs .Clack for sending the colorful erasers and stickers. The students really like them, there's not any type of "Office Supplies" culture here. That sounds funny to say, but I know I certainly LOVED going back-to-school shopping and deciding which notebook to get and what color pencils and pens to get. Even as an adult! I love going to office supply stores, looking at organizing racks and new highlighting gadgets. I'm digressing. I just mean to say, that’s not here, and the students love the novelty.
And lastly, what would this blog be without stories of Vale and Pauline?! I went and saw them for their Sports Day at the nursery school.
02 August 2010
Nkumba's First Spelling Contest went surprisingly well. The students were very nervous so to begin things (and wait for the other schools to show up) we played spelling games. Thank you Amanda for getting them to relax enough to play Hangman!
It took about an hour to go 8 rounds of words. I've been going to these schools for a couple of months now, helping with spellling lessons, watching or organizing the schools spelling contests and it was hard to watch these finalists misspell words. I kept trying to tell them the correct spellings via ESP. It didnt work and one-by-one the contests dwindled until the best spellers (or really the students who work well under pressure) were left.
First place: Gloria from St. Charles Lwanga P/S
Second place:Penny from Nkumba P/S
Third place: Paul from African Children's Choir P/S
The first place winner received 200,000 USh (about 100$) towards her third term school tuition. Her teacher told me her family would be so proud and thankful for the help with school fees. Thank you Bishop Dunne staff for contributing to this contest! It helped motivate the students to learn English, gave them a chance to practice speaking skills and helped them gain confidence in their abilities. Thank you so much! The teachers and students who participated in the contest all send their greeting and heartfelt thanks to you.
Towards the end of our celebration lunch one of the teachers asked if i could help organize another spelling contest for the third term. Yes!
25 July 2010
Vale, Pauline and Mbabazi washing on my porch
It was called a science fare and St.Theresa's has been buzzing with activity for a month trying to prepare for it. The girls aren't allowed to recite or give presentations reading from their papers, so all the exhibitors, from the P1s to the P7s memorized sometimes over 10 minutes worth of information. We had 3 practice runs throughout the week and believe me, they recited the same thing every time. I'd usually be irritated with the forced and droning memorization but because they experimented and had to find information on their own, i think they actually had a fun time learning! Wunderbar!
I read a book by Michael Chabon called "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" and found myself refusing to go to sleep or pretending i wasn't home so i could finish a chapter! Its about comics, New York City in the 40's and 50's, and 2 characters that are so so very interesting.
Thank you Tia, Vicente and Lucas for the package with TUNA FISH! Thank you Monica for photos that i hadn't seen and stickers! Thank you Ms. Clack for gifts for the students! Thank you Mrs. Villanueva for colors for the kids! Thank you Matre for everything! Thank you Tia Janda for the soap! Webale nnyo...
06 July 2010
The last spelling contest at St.Charles Lwanga (named after one of the Ugandan Martyrs, go to http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=35 for more information) was really exciting. It was to determine who would represent their school at the catchment area contest at the end of the month so they invited the entire school (minus the fidgety P1s and P2s) to watch. I was nervous, but the students did really well under pressure.This was also another instance of supportive teachers giving their students positive encouragement and kind words when they were incorrect. I enjoyed seeing the students who were watching the contest mumble under the breath the spellings or write them down on scraps of paper.
Last weekend I went to a workshop on making instructional materials. (Faithful followers..haha.. of this page may remember I attended one last year when I was first at site…)We were about 12 teachers working together over a 3-day period, talking about the challenges of large classes with few resources, about why students shouldn't be caned or beaten for their misbehavior or class work mistakes, and laughing about the day-to-day rituals of work. It was invigorating to be in a group of teachers that love their students and want to run the system in a different way.
The organization that led the workshop is called Madrasa. They began in Mombasa, Kenya in the 90's and then a group of teachers from Uganda saw their work and brought the ideas this way. Madrasa is based in a suburb of Kampala called Mengo and they work with schools in Wakiso, Kampala and Mpigi Districts, helping them learn how to use locally available resources to make materials for their lower primary classrooms. Along with "How-To" instruction, Madrasa facilitators also talk about the importance of alternative teaching and discipline methods. So as we made our books and painted pictures, we heard great ideas on how to convince other teachers why it's insufficient to only lecture to young students. They also discussed why beating students does nothing but reinforce misbehavior and misunderstandings and if teachers want to change the trends in Uganda's school system they need to talk with their students, explain, discuss and leave behind the hierarchy that allows teachers to feel more important than their students. That’s revolutionary.
29 June 2010
It wasn’t until a couple of days before the first spelling contest, at a small school about 20 minutes walk off the main road… that I realized the words are too difficult and too unrecognizable. When I was compiling the word list I was only thinking about giving the students a good challenge. But meeting a challenge requires more than just setting the bar out there and expecting people to jump right over it. And I'm not able to go to each of these schools everyday to coach them in spelling/phonics rules. Besides, I want the teachers to be doing that work.
The first spelling contest went surprisingly well . The P5s were excited and got the first two words correct: Fight and Cough. Then came a long string of incorrect spelling of words I don't think they had ever heard. Mix that with misunderstood pronunciation and it was a little bit of a messy contest. Though we all clapped loudly for the pupils that spelled correctly and I tried my best to steer the teachers to encourage the pupils who were incorrect. (There is a deeply rooted habit of humiliating and debasing people with incorrect behaviors/answers. )
Some of the common issues were: 1. Leaving out vowels because of mispronunciation, 2. Students not knowing the word and being very scard so just standing in silence until the teacher told them to sit down and 3. Mixing "L" and "R" sounds. Ugandan English mixes those two sounds, making it difficult to hear the correct letter. E.g. Malaria sounds like "Mahraria" when spoken, so many students spelled it that way.
It felt nice to encourage the students in any way, and I think they enjoyed the challenge. That was a good feeling; to see the students smiling and laughing in class. The P6s struggled, but tried. The P7s did very well , one student was able to spell "unanswerable", which I thought was an incredible accomplishment.
At the end of July there will be the Nkumba Catchment Area Final Spelling Contest. Good Luck Spellers!
In other news:
I had a skin infection from scratching a mosquito bite on my leg. It turned into cellulitis and i'm on antibiotics to fix it.
My neighbors thought it was a ________(too gross to fill that in) that had burrowed into my skin. They tried to lure it out with a sugar paste. So one night last week, I was sitting in the parlor room at the convent, intently staring at a spot on my leg with the sisters, waiting for some tiny monster to peek outta my leg to eat the sugar paste smeared on my skin. I laughed. (I was imagining the Dune sandworm to come barreling out like it was in search of melange.. Ha!)
The P7 girls here at St.Theresa are learning the World Cup songs with me on the guitar. If you haven't heard K'Naan and David Brisbal sing the lively and extremely catchy "Wave Your Flag", you're missing out on the excitement that has taken over this continent (and most other non-American Football oriented places.)
Pauline, Concepta, Valentino