Monday, July 30, 2012

Christian songs

This past week, there was this huge Christian Gospel Jubilee Crusade in Gulu that lasted five days. Starting like a month ago, they were hanging up posters for the crusade everywhere. They stuck posters advertising the event on everything they possibly could: buildings, trees, statues, poles... The posters were not just in town, but when we rode out to any villages outside of town, we would see the posters all along the way and in the outside villages. If that wasn't enough, like a week before the crusade started, they built stands to display these humongous posters in a few places around town. Everyone I talked to said they were planning on going to the crusade and how they expected to see me there.

But here's the thing. As soon as I saw a poster advertising the event, I turned to Jaron and told him we needed to be out of town during the whole event. Every time we go to Kampala, we ride this bus called the Post bus, it's the bus associated with the post office and it's by far the best bus because it leaves right at a certain time, instead of waiting hours until the bus is packed full before leaving, they say a prayer before leaving, which is definitely needed, and it's clean on the bus. The only bad thing about this bus, and it's a really terrible thing, is they play this video of some Christian gospel music event that takes place in the U.S. They play the same one every bus ride and if the video doesn't work, then they just play the music. They don't just play it as background music, they pump it up sooooo loud that you can't possibly block the noise out and not only that, they replay the video or CD over and over again for the duration of the entire 6 hour bus ride!

So a few weeks ago in church, our closing hymn was Nearer My God to Thee. Sister Woods, a senior couple here from Idaho, was playing the piano. The whole song was like this battle between the piano and the congregation because Sister Woods was playing the song according to how it;s written in the hymn book and the congregation was all singing the song according to how the lady in that Christain gospel video they play on the bus sings the song. The solo singer from the video sings it with all this emotion and with different rhythms to make it more dramatic or something, but since everyone here is familiar with that video/music, they all sang the song how they know it. Jaron and I could tell that's what was going on because we've heard the Nearer My God to Thee version everyone was singing on the bus so many times. It was pretty great.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Progress in the interviews

Ever since I implemented the changes in my approach to the interviews, they have been going so well. Ray has helped me tell the women in advance about the interview and the kinds of things they should talk about, so they are prepared when we come. We have also expressed that there is no sense of urgency, so the interviews are much more relaxed and natural. My favorite interviews have been the ones where we came to the lady's home and she was making paper beads and just started out talking casually with me and Ray or maybe there were a few of her friends also there making paper beads. Then we shared a meal together and did the interview while she was still making paper beads. It's so much more natural this way and I actually feel like we're getting to know each other. I love being in the women's homes and spending time with them. Ray has also been helping me with asking questions during the interviews, which is awesome because he knows now the questions I usually ask and will often ask them before I do. The interviews have gotten longer, in general, which is awesome and I think it has to do with our approach and the feeling that they can talk as much as they want and don't need to rush.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Starting the interviews

Wow, this field study is turning out to be the most enriching learning experience of my life. I started the interviews last week, which has been an incredible experience. Ray is a local who has been working with Jaron ever since he's been here and he knows where all the women live and speaks english really well. The women all know him and like him, which is awesome because it makes them all that more comfortable telling their life stories to us. We started out on Tuesday in a village called Laliya, where some of the women live, including the chairperson of the group. So we recorded the stories of four women on Tuesday and four more on Wednesday, when we went to Kanyagoga. Each day I came home feeling a little overwhelmed emotionally with all that I heard from the women telling me about their lives and the situations they are still currently living in. Each one has suffered so much throughout their lives and continue today struggling to support their children, most of them on their own. They all desire for their children to have better lives than they had and so they are doing everything they can to make enough money to pay for school fees so their children can gain an education, which many of the women didn't get very much of growing up.

Interviewing the women has made me realize how incredible important this paper bead business is to them. Many of them rely solely on making paper beads to support their families because they have no other source of income. Jaron is working so hard to find more orders for beads from the U.S. to at least keep the women working and earning money in the meantime while also trying to figure out something that would provide a more steady income for the women. Many of the women have no other resources to turn to and are thus relying on us and our connections to the states to help them out. After hearing their stories first hand and knowing how important this work is to them, I want to do everything I can to give back to them what they are in need of. They have been giving me so much by teaching me so many important life lessons and values that will bless me for my whole life. Hopefully I can use their stories for some good, so that this project will come back to bless them as well.

After conducting these first interviews, I realized some changes I need to make in my approach to recoding the stories. Ray is going to help me with being better about giving the women appropriate warning and time in advance to us coming so that they can prepare and think about what they want to say. I am also coming up with more and better questions to ask the women to get them really thinking and talking. It's definitely a learning process as I really didn't know what to expect at first. I think I will be able to make some changes that will help make the interviews more in-depth because the first few were not nearly as long as I had hoped. I also think I need to keep the interviews spaced out a little bit and have Ray help me convey to the women that I'm not in a rush to get all of the interviews done, but that they can really take their time. I love this project and I'm so grateful to be here and among such incredible people!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Exciting progress

Yesterday was market day, so we met with all of the women and they laid out all of their jewelry. We went around to each group, because we tried out a new system of dividing them up into 4 groups for this order, and picked out all of the jewelry to fulfill the order for African Promise Foundation. After gathering all the jewelry, we paid each woman the same amount. Then we had a meeting with all of them to discuss this transition period from working for Voices for Global Change to finding new and more work for them. At the end of the meeting, we told them about my project! Jaron and I decided this was a good time to introduce my project to the women and see their response and if I could get started. Fortunately, the women responded super well and all 21 of them are going to let me come to their home and record them telling me about their life. We have a really good friend who is going to translate for me and another friend who said she would take pictures of the women with her super nice camera. We told them that I would put a book together with all of their stories to give to them and they really like that idea. I'm super excited to get started on my project and I'm so glad that things are moving forward! It will be so much fun to visit each lady individually and get to know them all so much better this way. I will hopefully start with the interviews next week because I have 21 women's stories to record in less than 2 months!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cooking posho and doh doh

Last Friday was so awesome because I got to spend the day with my new acholi mom. Her name is Christine and she is one of the women that makes beads. She is actually the translator for the group because she speaks english really well, which is probably why I have gotten to know her the best so far. She invited me over to her house to learn how to cook some acholi food. So we first walked to the Layibi Market and bought all the ingredients we needed. On our way home, we stopped to buy a sugar cane stick. It was my first time ever seeing sugar cane like that before being manufactured into the sugar we use back home. So back at home, we started out cooking doh doh. It's a green vegetable that is very common to eat with rice or posho. We cooked on the charcoal stove in her kitchen area outside right next to the house. It was super fun because she was the best kind of teacher. She would start out by showing me what to do and then she would let me do it. After we cooked the amazing green leafy vegetable with onions, tomatoes and some spices, we made posho. Posho is a staple that everyone eats here. The majority of the population here eats posho and beans everyday. Posho is flour mixed into boiled water and you just keep stirring it until it forms a big ball of white goodness.

Friday, May 25, 2012

incredible strength

Just about every day since I have been in Uganda, I look around and think to myself, "Am I really in Uganda? Is this real? How did I get so blessed to have the opportunity to come to this incredible place and meet all of these incredible people?" I can't believe that I'm actually here. I have learned so much from being here, it's like every day is an adventure full of new experiences that open my view of the world. Would't that be amazing if everyday of your life was like that?

Since the conflict here was so recent, everyone's stories include experiences from the war. Everyone here was affected by it in some way. Death is such a common part of life here and most, if not all, people have lost multiple loved ones. I have never lost anyone super close to me in my life yet, which makes it difficult  for me to fully comprehend what it's like to lose your parents, your husband, your best friend. The other day I was spending time with a friend of ours who does our laundry. She pulled out a very old, worn picture album and started telling me about her life a little bit with the pictures. She would be going through pictures, point to a girl and say, "She was my friend, but she died." Telling me about her family, she explained that she lost two of her full siblings before her dad passed away. Yet she goes on with her life working so hard to provide for her 6-year old daughter as a single mom. She's so extremely giving and loving and always makes sure I am comfortable. She laughs and let's any of the neighborhood children come in her home whenever they want and cooks amazing food. She is so strong and I admire her so much.

Another woman I met out in the village of Awer, who also works making beads, is fighting in court to get her daughter back. Her 16-year old daughter was kidnapped by a much older man over 3 months ago and her husband won't help finding her because he's not her father. This woman was kidnapped during the war and had her daughter with a LRA soldier. She lived in the bush for 2 years before escaping. I admire her so much for working so hard to do everything she can to find and get her daughter back because she wants so much for her daughter to go to school and have the best life she can have.

I just really hope and pray that I can be as strong as these women are and have the faith and ability to press forward no matter what trials I face in this life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The adventures begin!

So I've been in Uganda for a little over a week and it's amazing. I love it here and can already tell it will be hard to leave. Gulu is such a great little city and all the people I have met so far have been so welcoming and so loving. It's rainy season, so every morning is super hot and sunny and then in the evenings, the rain comes and just down pours. Last night was the craziest storm I have ever witnessed! It makes all the roads super exciting because we get to ride through rivers and over tons of bumps:)

So far I have been in the homes of four of the women who I will be working with for my field study project. We also met with all of the women who make the beads here in Gulu that Jaron works for on Monday. It was so great to meet all of them and witness the awesome sense of friendship between all of them. They all seem like best friends and they were so happy and laughing all the time, which made me super excited to get to work among such fun people. One of the women, Christine, speaks english really well, so she translates for Jaron when talking to the women. Christine is one of the women whose home I got to visit last week. Her and her family made me feel so loved and accepted when we visited their home. They served us a delicious meal and beforehand went around to each person with a bowl and cup full of water to wash our hands. They came to me first and I didn't really know what I was supposed tyo do, so of course they laughed at me, but I eventaully figured it out. Good times:) We then all ate rice with meat and obooga, I'm not sure how to spell it but it's a green vegetable that tastes super good. When we left their home, I had this overwhelming feeling of joy and I felt so touched by their kindness.

I'm so grateful to be here and will keep you posted!