Monday, May 22, 2006

Outdoor Classroom

This Week

This week Holly has been conducting a conflict resolution training in Apac, a district with virtually no infrastructure. Last week I was training in Gulu. On Tuesday night, while Holly was sitting in the dark (no electricity or candles), she heard someone yelling outside. While I would have encouraged her to stay inside, she peeked her head out to notice that the grass roof on the hut next to her was on fire. The security guard, the cleaner, and Holly were the only people around. While the cleaning woman pumped water from the well, Holly ran back and forth carrying jerry cans of water to the security guard on top of the hut… and they eventually succeeded in putting out the fire! On the same day, I killed two snakes in our yard. They were small but very poisonous.

Last night I woke up to a strange sound. I got out of bed to see what it was and noticed that our entire house was being stormed by giant flying ants (we have the only security lights in the neighborhood that function when electricity is off). In the morning I went outside to find that our gate and parts of our house were plastered with flying ants. I looked at the mess with disgust. Little did I know that all of my neighbors were enviously looking at our house. As soon as Sandra came over, she immediately set her bag down and started gathering the ants. “Wow, this is going to make a great dinner!” She said with incredible excitement. She invited others to come and collect—they even got to keep the ants that they found. Instantly our yard was full of people of all kinds, tearing up our grass to find the treasure. White ants are a delicacy here in Uganda. I’ll let you know what I think after tasting them.

Tonight we’re having a little welcome home party for Holly. This morning I also slaughtered two chickens, and yesterday we bought a small local grill (which consists of a warped wheel rim of a car on posts and strips of metal welded together for the grill). All of our guests will no doubt wish we had more ants to serve.

I spent most of the day today helping a 12 year old girl from an Urban IDP camp. When CPA found her, she couldn’t walk due to a serious infection on her thigh. The infection has become so bad that it has been attacking the bone. The infection has been getting worse for two years. Her family couldn’t afford to take her to a real doctor, so they found a “local” one in the camp. He basically drained the swelling, and most likely made things worse. By the time we found her and took her to the hospital, the doctors told us that she may lose the use of her right leg entirely. I drove her around from place to place getting her x-rays, medication, and blood work. The hospital is struggling so much that they needed me to pay for the envelop to store her x-rays. We scheduled her surgery for Thursday (which is a small miracle in itself). What 10 year old doesn’t get a scraps and bruises—but in the camps this kind of small injury may have life altering consequences. Let’s pray for her.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mangoes & Millet Flour

By: Ben & Holly
Notice anything about this photo? It might be hard to tell. We ride our bikes past this watering hole every day. There is always a line of women and children with large plastic jugs lined up to collect water. Yesterday there was a lively and colorful soccer game going on in the same field. Not one girl was playing soccer. Not one boy was collecting water.

Last week we were talking to some MCCers who are working in the field of education. They told us that female attendance in school is quite high. Unfortunately, the quality of education they receive is not on par with their male classmates. Girls are required to bring cooking knives to school to help in the kitchen while boys are given free time for studying. Principals have been heard making statements to the effect of, “Girl-child education is a waste of money. All they do is distract the boys from their studies.”

On the weekend I, (Holly) went to Gulu with a friend to see a traditional concert and dance. Apparently, it was meant to be celebrating and appreciating women. But the way women are celebrated and appreciated is as producers of children, cooks, and providers of sexual satisfaction. I wanted to appreciate the culture—and I do—I love so much of it, but there is a part of the culture that is unjust and needs to change. My inner cultural relativist cringes to write that, but really, cultural relativism has its limits and for me at least issues of gender fall outside the boundaries of prudent application. It felt awkward clapping and enjoying amazing dancers and musicians when what they were dancing to and singing about was perpetuating discrimination against women. The mentality that is nurtured is a breeding ground for the high prevalence of sexual and gender based violence.

There was one song about how "all women cook the same" which is code for all women are the same in bed. Apparently, that is supposed to be a song that encourages men to be faithful to their wives because if all women are the same than why bother having more than one. Then there was another one that was supposed to appreciate the work that women do but instead it sounded like a song that encourages women to stay in the kitchen. One line said something to the effect of: "be careful men when you try to do a woman's work, when you grind the millet flour you might get your testicles caught in the grinder."

During the concert something smacked me on the top of the head. I looked around to see who'd thrown something at me, and then I saw a mango had fallen out of the tree and my head happened to be in its path. One of my CPA friends said that is a blessing. Everyone around me insisted I should eat it to get the full benefit of the blessing. Since I’m a woman, I’m sure the blessing has something to do with producing children.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Labor Day and Military Men

Around Lira there are two amazing hills in an otherwise flat expanse. We hiked one of them with two friends (Jessica is taking the picture and Priscilla is in it) on Labor Day. At the base there is an entire village of people with chisels breaking up rock presumably for construction and landscaping in town. We saw a boy as young as seven chiseling away and a woman who must have been 8 months pregnant determined to show us the way up the "mountain" by running ahead in front of us. We marvelled at her strength. We met some unexpected military men on the top who enjoyed killing their apparent boredom by hastling us for arriving unannounced at an outpost. The view was incredible. Down from the summit, just out of sight from the outpost we stopped and enjoyed some refreshment we brought with us. It was a good Labor Day.

Easter BBQ

On Easter we went to visit other MCCers, Ben and Celesta and son Matthew in Hoima. It was beautiful and we enjoyed relaxing with them and in a totally different climate. The trees there are lush and jungly and they live surrounded by rolling hills--quite different from Lira. We spent the Saturday lounging by a an oasis in the middle of a sugar cane plantation. They have a pool and cold drinks and hot dogs. It felt very American--sort of. The highlight was inviting all their neighbor kids for their first Easter egg hunt ever. We then made deviled eggs. It is strange to try to explain our traditions to Ugandan friends. Celesta just told them that the eggs are called that because they tast so good it's almost sinful. The Bens and a friend BBQ 9 kilos of pork.