Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pausa por unos días

Hola todos!  Espero que les este gustando el relato de mi viaje a Uganda!  Hoy me voy a acampar con mi familia a Santa Cruz, CA, por unos días y no voy a volver hasta el viernes.  Cuando vuelva sigo con los cuentos!  Que tengan una linda semana!

Hello everyone!  I hope you are enjoying reading the stories from my trip!  Today I am leaving to go camping with my family in Santa Cruz, CA, and will not be able to upload anything until I return on Friday.  Then, I will continue to post the journal of the trip.  Have a lovely week!

Acá les dejo una foto de donde voy a estar.
Here is where I will be!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Day 3: Some eating and mind wandering in Mityana

                                                                  17 May 2012
            Yesterday, after the market we went to eat at a restaurant recommended by Justin, a journalist grad of UC Berkeley that we met here. 
            The traditional Ugandan food that we ate there “matoke” (plantains boiled and mashed up), what looked like mashed potatoes (except very, very hard, as if it was made with no milk or butter, and with flour instead) (which I later found out was Ugali, made out of cornmeal) pinto beans and rice.  They also served meat but we didn’t eat it to not get sick (plus, we had just come from the market with the hanging cows and black fish and eating them would not have been the greatest of ideas).  The food was pretty good and it filled me up immediately. It is amazing, Ugandans eat almost all carbohydrates!  We have heard that vegetables are expensive and salad is a luxury.  No wonder they have so many nutrition issues!  But I can also completely understand why it is so practical to eat this way.. you get full quickly and thus need to eat a lot less then if what you were eating was something else.  With just one small handful of matoke I was full.  And yes, I am not one to judge by because I don’t usually eat large portions, but I am sure the rest of the group would agree when I say that the food was very filling.
            The restaurant was on the main street of Mityana, in a small room at the back of another, with walls painted of light orange, and four tables with Pepsi tablecloths.  There were 3 women there, waiting for customers to come in.  One had a baby and when she began to set our tables she set the baby on the ground and the cute little girl started crying and screaming away while the mom went back into the kitchen to cook our meals.  You can imagine that 13 white, strange people looking at her, smiling, and making funny baby noises to make her happy did not work very well.

I had a similar picture of our food.  Beginning from left, clockwise: pinto beans, some more bean juice, rice, matoke, and there used to be some ugali here as well.
Photo taken by LeeAnn

            It took us a while to explain to the waitress what we wanted… first she brought over the whole combo dish.. with meat, liver, matoke, mashed potatoes, rice, beef sauce, and beans.  Then, after some very slow English and funny miming she brought another dish with no liver, but with the meat.  Finally after three tries we ended up eating rice, beans, matoke and mashed potatoes.  It was a very funny miscommunication situation…
            Today, I have still been reflecting on the market from yesterday.  When we went it was just incredible how people looked at us!  I mean, yes, it made perfect sense… after all we were 13 white woman, taking pictures and walking around the market in the middle of Uganda as if we were shopping or sight-seeing.   But still, it impressed me nevertheless.  They looked at us as if we were animals.  I don’t mean that in a bad sense... maybe animals wasn’t the best word choice... as pieces in a museum… as interesting things that they don’t usually see in their day to day lives… exactly the same way we were probably looking at them.  The majority was happy to see us, others, you could easily tell wanted us far, far away.  And I understand them completely.  I mean, who are we to just peruse around their market?  Who are we to go around taking pictures of their children, their men and women, the state of poverty in which they live in?  Who are we to do all that when in a week or so we will just go back to our nice and comfortable lives, with cars, and food everyday, and clothes to buy and computers, and cell phones... the list could go on and on and on.  Who are we to enter into their lives, look at them, and then leave… when we have everything… and they have nothing?  We are NO ONE.
            That is what makes me feel so uneasy, guilty, ashamed… I don’t quite know what name to give it. Here we are, wanting to teach these people things when in reality we are the ignorant ones that know absolutely nothing about what their lives are like!  It seems as if they think of us as superior, as intelligent, successful people that they aspire to be like... and that just makes me feel so… I don’t know!  Yes, we may have more economic resources, and a better education, and more job opportunities… but what about what’s really important in life? What about what’s it’s like to suffer, and be resilient and strong and courageous and keep fighting and fighting?  And the value of family, friends, food, shelter… life? We know nothing about all that in comparison!  And that is what makes me feel… uneasy.   A part of me doesn’t want them to follow in our footsteps.  I don’t want them to start a business and then get consumed with the capitalist mentality of individual superiority that the rest of the world has.  That “I must succeed, and under no circumstances stop reaching for more, and more and more” attitude that drives the “developing” of the “first world countries” … I don’t want them to have that!  That kind of mindset often becomes more important to some people than their family, their friends, their values, their time to enjoy life and not spend it always trying to get what is in the future.  But here, in Uganda, it is relieving to see that those values and ways of life still seem to be in place.  That sense of community, of brotherhood and sisterhood, of helping one another so that everyone can succeed and not just me, me, me… that is still here!  And, of course, I know that what we came here to do will not have a catastrophic impact and immediately cause them to lose those values and become self-centered, “success” hungry, superficial people, obviously no… what we do here will help them have a better life… but I am just pondering on it though, on the big picture of helping those in developing countries.  It is such a sensible thing to do, in the sense that we have to be so careful!  I want them to be well and happy and have food and clothing and shelter, but I don’t want them to end up like extreme capitalist, competitive, individualist, self absorbed people like the majority of the world!  Okay, maybe I am going a little far, I get wrapped in things sometimes and take them to irrational levels.... I don´t want anyone to think that helping others is bad and I am afraid that if I keep babbling on it may seem that way… my mind is just wandering now... and that is a very, very dangerous thing…

Here we are at work with our posters for the presentations.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day 2: the Real and the Sureal

Today we woke up a little late, but then we went down to the downtown of Mityana.  Simply amazing!   
            The market is located in a small plaza, where they sell fruits, vegetables, shoes, fish, cow meat, clothes, and every other thing one can imagine.  The people walk in between the small stands through little paths of red, slippery mud.  As I walked along the paths (with what seemed to be 999999 eyes staring at my every step waiting for me to trip on the mud) I smelled the people, the sweat, and depending on the stand I was passing by… fish, cow, vegetables, fruits… smog.
The small plaza, covered with umbrellas and women in colorful dresses and little children running around. The market of Mityana!
Photo taken by: Brittany       

             I heard some babies cry, people screaming in Lugandan back and forth, “mzungu mzungu!”  I wish I could enclose all those smells, sounds and textures in a little box and take it back to California with me!  It is all so… Uganda! 
             Just like automatically when I smell a cigarette I remember Uruguay, I know that these things I experienced today are going to be what will remind me of Uganda later on.  I love the fact that all of this, although far from my reality, is their way of life.  It makes me want to know about their daily lives!  What do people do here every day?  Yes, they go to get water and work on the gardens.. but anything else?  I wonder what they like to eat as a treat, and what is perceived as taboo, and what their daily routine is like, and what sort of music they listen to, and what they think of foreigners, and foreigners coming to their countries, and… what do they think of themselves?
Shoes at the market.  The women to the left had a tiny, beautiful baby and asked me to take a photograph of him!  I later lost the picture during the "formatting accident" but it was a very sweet picture!
Photo taken by: Bryce  
During our tour of the market I took some pictures, making sure to always as when I took pictures of individuals.  Whenever I saw pictures of individuals in National Geographic or another similar magazine, like the famous one of the Afghan girl, I always wondered how they do it, and how the people react to it.  Well, as far as I have seen, it is not so hard to ask, but the reactions can definitely not be generalized, everyone I asked reacted differently.  Many, happy and shy, nodded “yes.”  One man even stopped me in the street and asked me to take his picture!  But others did not want my camera to get even close to them…. Like it happened at the market today.
            I was just walking around, taking everything in, looking around as much as I could, trying to see everything, hear everything, experience everything… and occasionally taking some pictures of the general view.   One time I was trying to get a picture of the whole market (like the ones that you see here), when, through my camera I see a woman seating in the middle of a pile of green plantains, dressed in a blue and violet traditional female Ugandan attire, holding what looked like a large (and I mean very, very large) piece of ginger (or at least that’s what I think it was) on her right hand, flinging her hand back, ready to throw it at my head and screaming angrily at me in Lugandan.  I saw her through my camera and immediately took it away from my eye.  The woman put down the ginger, but kept screaming at me.  She did NOT want her picture taken!  And I was left there standing… facing my second (and fortunately last) traumatizing experience.  Of course, she didn’t know that I wasn’t taking a picture of her, and that I was actually taking a picture of the whole market and that I had not even noticed her sitting there until I saw her shaking the ginger at me through the camera.  But that experience left me thinking about it the entire day.  Immediately afterwards I was so in shock that I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, who to look at… should I just put the camera away?  Should I ask someone the translation and mouth “sorry” to her?  This might seem a little funny, but today I truly, truly realized I am in a different country.
            I came to this realization through both the sight of the market and the incident with the woman.  I can’t quite put it into words, and I am afraid that it will sound awfully childish and stupid when I say it, but here it goes…  I realized  that I was in a another country, completely unlike my own, not because of the differences in the look of it, but because of the nature of it.  In other words: the poverty, the starving children, the constant smell of sweat, the unhygienic conditions of the market, and everything else that is so, so different from what I have experienced in the past was not actually what had the effect of… “snapping me back to reality.”  No, at least today, it was the nature of the people.  The way they think, what they see as right, as wrong, as polite, as normal, as rude, etc, etc.  Just the way things are.  Because, although it is unfortunately very extreme here, there is poverty everywhere, there is violence everywhere, and disease everywhere and bad living conditions everywhere.  The state of each country may differ, but Uruguay, the U.S. and Uganda all include some level of those.  However, what made me realize that this is truly a different place is the people, because two countries may be identical in what one can see, smell, taste and hear, but the people will always be different; the people are what make a country, and Uganda is no exception.  I know this is confusing, and maybe I understand it in my own head because I have experienced it before.  Migrating to the U.S. showed me that, although I may be able to point out to people what I like and dislike about each country, that I want to move back to Uruguay because of the beaches, and the food, and that I don’t like the cold in the U.S., etc, all those excuses seem so… incomplete.  There is something else, apart from what can be seen and heard and that makes them different from each other, something a lot more powerful than the landscape or the weather or the economy or the education: the people.  Because  even if the two countries were exactly the same, I would still feel a special connection to Uruguay, because the people are like me.  We think alike, see similarly on things…. I don’t know how to explain it, but there is something that unites all citizens of a country, and that something cannot be explained or duplicated.  Uruguayans have that, Americans do, and Ugandans do to.  So, I guess that in conclusion, what made me “snap” into reality was the realization that I am a stranger here.  I am not part of them, and I will never be.
            Okay, I just reread that… I knew I wasn’t going to be able to properly express what I am trying to say.  I do not feel sad about it, and I am not trying to segregate, or alienate Uganda. No, no, no!  This was just the complicated process that my mind went through in the millisecond that I saw the woman with the ginger through my camera, and that then snowballed during the hours that followed making me realize that I am in another country.   So much for such a simple realization….That’s all.  And now, since I have been thinking so much about it my head is starting to hurt, and I cannot understand anything anymore... I am going to sleep.
Some of the women at the market.  I did not take this picture, and I had not realized it before, but I looked closely at the picture and actually the Ginger Woman is here!  On the far left you can see her, still looking pretty angry!  LeenAnn took this picture, I was to her left, so it was probably around the time the picture was taken that she was yelling at me!  This is crazy, I had't realized she came up on a picture!
Photo taken by: LeeAnn

Some of the women at the market.  I did not take this picture, and I had not realized it before, but I looked closely at the picture and actually the Ginger Woman is here!  On the far left you can see her, still looking pretty angry!  LeenAnn took this picture, I was to her left, so it was probably around the time the picture was taken that she was yelling at me!  This is crazy, I had't realized she came up on a picture!
Photo taken by: LeeAnn

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 1: The Firsts

May 15th, 2012
Photo taken by: Nicole
            What a day! So many things we saw, smelled, heard, tasted! I cannot believe I am here!
            The first thing that went through my mind when the airplane doors opened and we began to descend down the little yellow stairs was… HUMIDITY!
            The change was amazing.  It was humid like one of those summer days in Uruguay in which you go outside and are soaked but can´t quite figure out if it is because it is about to rain, raining, or that you are simply sweating like a pig.  In other words, it was welcoming, I felt at home.
I lost my picture of the first step, but Brittany took one!
Photo taken by: Brittany
            Before leaving California I promised my friend Erynn that I would take a picture of my first step in Africa.  What I wasn´t expecting was that picture to come along with an anecdote: I was walking down the yellow staircase, and as I reached the last step I brought my camera to my eye and right as I stepped onto the ground I snapped a picture of my red slipper stepping onto the black Ugandan asphalt.  I was happy, that picture somehow made being here more real, although the fact was far, far from sinking in.  I was still pondering this (in the millisecond that it took to snap the photograph) when I look up and a women, airport personnel, points at me with her finger, her face about 20 cm away from mine, and says in a loud and demanding voice “No cameras! Put it away!”  I am not kidding when I say that the lady was angry, very, very mad.  So there I was, with my first traumatizing experience, but happy as can be, and the lady looking at me as if pondering to confiscate my camera.  For the first “shock,” it was far, far different from what I expected my it to be, but at least I’ll be able to look back at it and laugh.  I wish I had seen my face, I bet it was pretty funny. (Fortunately, this was one of only 2 of what I call “traumatizing experiences” on the whole trip, or in other words, instances that left me confused, guilty and disoriented, not knowing what to do)
            But finally we got in, went to immigration and met with Father Kizito, Sister Christine, Sylvia and two other nuns.  They were so happy to see us! We hugged everyone, twice, once on each side, and headed towards the bus.   It was Sylvia’s birthday so on our way we sang her “happy Birthday.”
            All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Sylvia memorized all of our names, and began taking out little gifts from her purse.  She would call out a name and give that person a gift.  She gave mi a little blue beaded bracelet that I still have on.
            Then we went to visit a church in Kampala. Beautiful! And two guys showed us around and taught us about the symbols on the windows, the statues, the Ugandan martyrs, etc.  It impressed just how important the Ugandan martyrs are!  There were  talking about the entire time, they were on the windows, and on the statues, and on the altar, and even the people on the street were talking about them to us!
            After stopping to eat breakfast, bread with jam, papayas, and eggs, we kept going on our way to Mityana.
             The sides of the streets of Kamapala are lined with little stands of fruit, a lot of tomatoes, plantains and other vegetables.  Above all however, it was full of people!  Everywhere!  Many in motorcycles, called boda bodas and used similar to a taxi, and many vans, like buses.  Speaking of cars, it is weird to be driving on the other side of the street, I keep on thinking that we are going to crash because we are going the wrong way!  Also, gas here is apparently really expensive.  If they do not even have money to buy food, and gas is that expensive... how do they afford it?  The socioeconomic difference between the people I saw on the street and the few inside the cars must be huge! 
U$1= $2500 Ugandan schillings.
            But what impressed me the most was the not poverty of the people, living among trash and dirt, in tiny huts that seem fragile enough to be blown away by any small breeze or the incredibly large number of people everywhere. No, it was none of that, because what impressed me most was the abundance of ironies that I see everywhere we go.
            Among the dirt, the trash, the women carrying heavy baskets on their heads, the little fruit stands along the road and the smog, appeared Lexuses and Merdeces Benz!  It left be completely perplexed when I first saw it!  (most of them I saw them at the gas stations with the expensive gas)  How is it possible that in a country as poor as this one there are luxury cars?  Or actually, how is it that this country is so poor and that there are so many people suffering when fancy cars are driving on the roads? Because not all of the people driving the cars were American, or European, mzungu, as one may have thought. No! Many of them are Ugandan!  I am not trying to say that people in Uganda should not have the privilege of driving such cars, not at all!  If they are well of then they should enjoy it! I am not blaming anyone, not the rich or the poor, I am simply making an observation.  An observation of the reality, not only in Uganda, but in the entire world.  A reality that I know about, see in Uruguay ( but most certainly not to such an extreme), but have never experienced anywhere else, since Marin, although one may say there is a economic gap, it is basically inexistent in comparison.  In other words, although I know that this happens elsewhere in the world apart from Uruguay, where I don’t really think about it since that is just how things have always been, it is sad to have that confirmed here in Uganda.   Of course, like in every country, there seems to be a high class with great economic power, and at the same time, the majority of the people, living under almost inhumane conditions, considering the fact that not may seem to have clean water.   That’s it.  It’s the water issue that shocked me the most.  Because in Uruguay, yes there are the very, very rich people that buy the expensive cloth and have vacation homes in Punta del Este, and then the poor who live in the garbage dumps, but no matter how much money you make, or how lucky you are, both beggars and celebrities drink the exact same water.  That’s the shocking difference here! There are those that have the fancy cars, the money to buy gas, TV’s and computes, and then there are those that drink the muddy and dirty water from streams and puddles.

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Hello again!  I am back from Uganda!!!  The trip was incredible, I can´t quite find the right words to describe it, but it was unforgettable! 
To give a little background on the trip/class… it was officially called Uganda 2012 Engaged Learning class.  LeeAnn, a professor of psychology at my university, and Sister Carla who works in the Campus Ministry department, had previously visited Uganda.  They got the idea of creating this class and through their contacts and much, much generous support from sponsors and individuals they were able to put it together.  They put out an application, I randomly heard about it and thinking that I had nothing to lose and that I was probably not going to get chosen to go on this platonic trip anyway, I applied.  In December I traveled to Uruguay and there, on top of my grandmother´s terrace (the only place where I cold find wi-fi at her house) I checked my email and saw that I had been accepted!
So, since January, the group of ten women selected (Sam, Brittany, Nora, Bryce, Sandy, Lianni, Monica, Nicole, Ashley, and I) met once a month with Sister Carla and LeeAnn to plan what we wanted to do in Uganda.  The best thing about this trip was just that… we planned it all!  We chose what we wanted to do, how to do it, everything!  After some research on what was most needed in Uganda, we broke up into groups and decided to focus on different areas that interested us.  Then, each group came up with a “lesson plan” to present at two fairs that we organized alongside our contact, Father Kizito.  The subjects were varied and included:
                                Animal husbandry and raising chickens (Ashley)
                                Nutrition (Nicole and Brittany)
                                How to start a small business (Sam and Monica)
                                Composting (Sandy and Nora)
                                Feminine Hygiene (Lianni)
                                Clean Water (Sister Carla)
                                Hygiene: Washing hands and brushing teeth (Bryce and I!)
Aside from teaching during the two fairs, which occurred on the 19th and 25th of May (my birthday!), we also visited many villages, parishes and schools around the area of Mityana, about two hours away from the capital Kampala.  From the 22nd to the 24th we took a little break and traveled to the northern area of the country, Murchison Falls, for some touristy glamour, animal watching, and an incredibly immense number of mouth dropping moments!
During the journey I kept a journal, both to obtain units for the class and for my own sake, and I will now be posting it here for you to hopefully vicariously experience some of the magnificent times I had there! Taking pictures, as you will soon see through my diary entries, was a very profound and intense experience, which I am still reflecting on now…. 
I hope you enjoy the journal and the photographs!!  Feedback is very welcome!!
Happy reading!!
-Magda :)

NOTE: unfortunately, on the first day of the trip I lost all my pictures (accidently formatted my card…L) So the first few pictures are not mine, they were taken by my wonderful journey partners!

**Para los que hispanohablantes**  El diario lo tuve que escribir en Inglés para que me den crédito en la facultad, osea, el viaje fue como una clase y mi deber era mantener un diario durante el viaje.  Por eso es que estas entradas van a ser en inglés.  Perdonen por la molestia, pero es que traducir todo me llevaría bastante tiempo!  Si tienen alguna pregunta ó quieren que clarifique algo díganme y con gusto les mando un email! :)

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hippos of the Nile

Despues de una semana y media en Mityana, decidimos tomarnos unos días de descanso y emprendimos el viaje en auto de doce horas, por caminos de tierra repletos de agujeros grandes como la rueda entera, hasta Murchison Falls al norte del país.  Ahí fue donde hicimos el Safari, y la pasamos como princesas!  Como estaba encima del Nilo (osea, literalmente, mi cuarto daba al Nilo!!) nos fuimos a dar una vuelta en bote hasta llegar a las cataratas mismas (Murchison Falls).  En el camino nos encontramos con algunos animalitos... 

After one week in Mityana, we decided to take a little break and began the long journey of twelve hours, through dirt roads with holes big enough to fit the entire wheel up north to Murchison Falls.  That is where we did the Safari, and we enjoyed the whole stay like princesses!  Since we were on top of the Nile (and I mean literally, my room faced the Nile!!) we took the opportunity to take a boat ride down to the falls.  On our way, we found a few little animals...

Murchison Falls, Uganda


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