Sunday, June 29, 2008

Living and Loving Life in Uganda

Howdy family and friends!

I know that this might be strange, but yes it is true that I am updating my blog so soon! I have some spare time so I figured I would update you about life here.

So, I think that I left off here...

Friday, June 27th

The theme of today was totally "Improvisation". It all started with my morning class at Haji Kiyemba Memorial Vocational Institute, the woman's school that I teach at. The lesson for the day was focusing on life skills (specifically communication, team-building and decision making). So, I and the other volunteers prepared a lesson full of interactive activities to engage the students and to have them put to practice the skills that they have been learning over the past few weeks.

However, the first activity that we planned was called "The Maze". It is where the students are on one side of the maze (which is made out of sheets of paper or dots and can be as big or little as you want it) and they have to figure out the path one at a time to get across. We, the facilitators, are the only ones who know the way and they are supposed to work together to get to the other side in silence. So, easy enough, right? thing we forgot to account for is that the class is outside. So, the wind was being our enemy today and was lifting all the sheets of paper away so the mazes were impossible to create! So we had to think quickly on the spot and I came up with the idea that we do the "Human Knot" activity instead. Now, this is hard enough to explain in English, let alone Luganglish. However, we got most of the students to participate and two of the small groups were actually able to accomplish it!

But what was good about this lesson was the reflection that I lead afterwards. We got them to think really deeply about what these activities we had them doing really meant and I was so excited too see them connecting the importance of brainstorming and team-building and learning that life is a process where we have to make many choices and that sometimes we make mistakes but it is OK as long as we learn from them and move forward. It was great to see, however it did take a lot of rephrasing and thought for them to get them to where we wanted them to reach!

Later that afternoon, we went to Bbira Vocational which takes about 1 hour to get there (by combination of matatu "taxi" and walking). This class was very difficult because almost every student had taken exams all day before we got there and there brains were fried and tired so they were not that excited about doing interactive activities and then discussing them. It was very disheartening because they have so much potential but most of them are not taking the initiative to do things with their lives. They don't seem to want to challenge the process of life and to make change. I want them to understand that we are all students and that we really can do anything if we put our minds to it (like me getting to Africa). All it takes is a bit of sweat and some hard work.

However, the one good thing about this lesson was that I got them talking about the importance of volunteering and engaging in your community. Some students were really interested in why I choose to volunteer and how I want to make positive and lasting change. It gave me a bit of a boost and by the end of the lesson we had encouraged at least a few of them to come talk to us after class or when they felt comfortable about social issues that they want to see challenged. I am hoping that some of them come and talk to me! Keep your fingers crossed!

So...Friday night was a bit crazy. We had finished eating dinner (rice and split peas) when our director (Derrick) came to our volunteer room and asked if we wanted to join him to go to Bulenga. We thought that it might be fun, so we decided to go. However, on the way Derrick got a phone call from his sister saying that his mother had become much worse. She is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease and is in very poor health condition. So we took a detour and went to visit his mother at her house. When we arrived, it was pitch black as she has no electricity and she sounded so very, very sick. Derrick got so upset that he was even crying and it was a very emotional time. I did not know what words to say or things to do. It was crazy.

After we left his mother's house, Derrick took us back to the KACCAD offices so that he could take his 76 year old mother to the hospital. However, we decided to stop and get some sodas on the way back so that Derrick could relax a bit and calm down. It is just a really hard situation to be put in. Derrick and Sam and Nick hardly ever get paid, and when they do it is about $30 a month. That is nothing. One thing that I have definitely learned here is that running a local NGO is NOT EASY and that it is very stressful. It almost makes you have to choose whether you should continue working for your community for nothing or to decide to get a job that makes some sort of an income so that you can support your family in times of need. It is a hard choice to make and it is one that I am sure is always in the back of people's minds who live to serve others. It was one crazy night, that is for sure.

Saturday and Sunday June 28th and 29th,

This weekend has been another lazy weekend. The week seemed to fly by and it was so busy with projects and lessons and home visits that I am simply exhausted. So, we decided to take it easy again this weekend and to rest up for our big travel adventure next weekend! We (Eri, Kylie and I) have decided to go to Sippi Falls in Eastern Uganda next weekend (it is the largest and arguably most beautiful waterfalls in ALL of Uganda) and are excited to do that! It is right near the border with Kenya, so it should be beautiful! I thought it would be a fun trip to do since we had the time! I will keep you posted about that!

Well, I guess it is time to say good bye! I only have two weeks left in Uganda before I head home back to the United States. I have found out this summer that 2 months is DEFINITELY not long enough to spend abroad in a foreign country and hope that I do not get too emotional when I have to leave and board the plane. It is going to be hard to bring this summer of service to a close, but I am so grateful and appreciate that I have been able to have this wonderful opportunity because of the generous encouragement and support of The Center at Florida State University and the Summer Serviceship program! Just a little shout out!

Siba Bulungi (Have a great day in Luganda),

Mirembe (Peace too),

Babirye or Ssuubi (Beth)



Christine said...

It must be sad that most of the students' mindset is that this the only way their life is going to be. Having the privilage to opening their minds to opportunities is awesome. Even if no one acts on it, you have exposed them to the possibility another way of life. Have a great trip next weekend.

Stephanie said...

BETH! It sounds like youre having a great time. I cant believe your trip is almost over. I cant wait to catch up someday soon. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it's amazing that you have had this opportunity through The Center to serve and to help change the way the kids see their lives. (You are definitely an inspiration to me) I've only ever briefly thought about the challenges that come with running an NGO, and it seems that you have a first hand look at the challenges through seeing Derrick's situation. Don't let it discourage you though because remember what we learned at LeaderShape: it can happen if you put your mind to it. :) I look forward to reading about your trip to the falls! It sounds awesome, I hope you take pictures. And if you do get emotional about leaving, I can totally understand. Maybe you could apply for another serviceship next year to come back? I miss you and look forward to seeing you when we get back to Tallahassee. Make the best of your last 2 weeks!!
Much love, peace, and support, Jessica

Anonymous said...

Wow... again, so inspired to read what you're up to!! Keep up your positive attitude...remember that you don't have to affect the entire ocean to make a different - one drop could be the beginning of something so much bigger than you :)
PS - I think its so cool that I'm here in Paris and you're in Uganda!! Miss you tons!! <3