22 December 2010

Christmas Cooking

It's calm and quiet in Kisubi. All the schools let out a month ago, the teachers have dispersed around Uganda, all going back to their villages for the holidays, the men have locked up their bicycles, the boda-bodas quietly cruise by searching for passengers and even the grasshopper season has come and gone. It's just me walking down the dirt road and it's a peaceful way to enter Christmas; The bright songbirds and I under the hot sun.

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

Glowing with Love

After a few late starts, all the Camp Glow-ers were sent off safe and sound yesterday morning. It was sad to say goodbye to the girls; girls who were just beginning to adjust to our American-style camp, who were still beginning to open their hearts and minds to their fellow campers and counselors.

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

Three Birds on a Wire

I'm so proud of all the girls at our camp; These young ladies have come from schools or homes that disapprove of honest and creative expression, keep them feeling inferior to men and discourage negative behaviour by harsh beatings.

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

GLOWing with good speakers

Jane Alowoyo, a 17-year veteran lecturer from the Department of Language and Communication at Makerere University, came yesterday to speak to the young ladies about effective communication. She gave a wonderful speech after lunch about our different styles of talking. She highlighted Ugandan and American patterns of interacting with each other and really sparked lively discussions with her role plays of giving directions.

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

HIV/AIDS Part II: Women and HIV

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

2. Rape

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.