Monday, July 30, 2012

Final reflection: The beginning

I could spend hours and hours photographing these children and seeing them smile and laugh like this!!
Photo taken by LeeAnn
            We left Uganda, spent an incredible and unforgettable 20 hours in London and have been in the US for a few days now.  I am still incapable of comprehending the magnitude and impact of this trip.  So much happened!  I guess I will see the results of it later down the road when in retrospect I see how this trip has changed me.  What I do know, however, is that I will not keep my arms crossed.  I want to do more for Uganda, for the people and the children and for all of those we met that were so welcoming and kind and in need of our help.  That is why I say that this trip was just the beginning.  I do not want to stop here, and I do not think that the group does either.  We have already been talking amongst us about other projects that we can do in the future, garbage bins, and definitely more water filters, the possibilities and needs are endless, and our motivation just as much.  Our personal financial resources may not cause dramatic changes in the lives of so many Ugandans in need, but I know that with our communities, friends and families we can do so much good!  We have the capability to make another positive change in Uganda, and I will not let that opportunity go by.  I do not think I could live with myself knowing that I met so many people that need my help, and that I could help, and not do anything about it.  They deserve a better life, clean water, shelter, clothing, a good diet and income, and I believe it is my duty, as someone lucky enough to have these luxuries, to help them obtain these basic needs. 

Oh how they liked the camera... :)
Photo taken by Brittany
            This trip has not only inspired in me a desire to help, but it has also forced me to question myself, by beliefs and actions, in ways I had never done before.  It has helped me to understand why I do the things I do and if I should continue with them or not.  There is still a lot I have to reflect on and figure out. 

The last day... these two little girls almost made me cry.  I will post about them separately, they were truly incredible, I didn´t want to leave them!!!!
            The pictures… will they come out as the portraits of poor, suffering children and just remain as memories from a journey?  Or will they actually have an impact on the people that see them and inspire them to help?  I hope they do. 
            And what about everyone I met?  How will they be now?  I keep on thinking about everyone we met, looking at the watch, adding 10 hours and trying to imagine what they are doing at this exact moment.  Their lives will continue and so will mine… but will they ever cross again?  We met so many wonderful, wonderful people… will I ever see them again??  Will they be okay??  Will their situations improve, or get worse?  I will pray for them.

At the seminary we visited with one of the students.  We played basketball with the boys, talked about music, hobbies... so fun! 

The students, teachers and nun at a school we visited.  We had so much fun with them! They put music and we all started dancing and laughing... I will create a separate post about them! :)
            Before Africa I knew of the poverty that existed, the situation of the children, men and women living there and the struggles they faced.  Most people now that, but we subconsciously chose not to think about it, put it far in the back of our minds and continue with our lives. But now that I have seen it, and met those people, the memories of will never disappear and I do not think it will be very easy to put it to the side like before.  I don´t want to.  That is why Uganda has changed me, and helped to become a different person than the one that stepped out of the little yellow staircase of the plain in the Entebbe airport.  I know it sounds corny and the phrase has been used a million times, but it is true.  I cannot say how exactly, I do not want to say that it has made me a better person, one with a wider view of the world, that it has opened my eyes to another reality, that it has made me more grateful for what I have and inspired me to help others… because although all that is true…  This trip was so much more than that!  Saying that those were the results does not do it justice, and does not even come close to the reality of it all.  I am humbled, and grateful for the opportunity that I had.  I would never, in a million years, have imagined myself in UGANDA.  There are no more words that I can say about this trip.  Anything I say about it will come short of what I am feeling.  Yet, I hope that I am able to turn all of this, these feelings and confusion, into aid that will help Uganda, and try to give back a little of what it gave me.

On the boat trip at Murchison Falls.  Some are missing, but I could not have asked for a better group of individuals to share this experience with!
Photo taken by Brittany

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 7: The book of the Jungle

                                                                                                                    23 May 2012
            Ladies and gentlemen, I am writing sitting on a little boat in the middle of the NILE RIVER!  Yep, the Nile.  Today we did the safari and now we are in little boats that took us to Murchison Falls.  I am speechless.  The peace of this river, the PERFECT weather, no one drop of cold and a beautiful refreshing breeze.  This is just incredible.
            The river is pretty wide, although for some reason I thought it was wider, I thought you would not be able to see the other side, but you clearly can. 

Among hippos, birds and fishermen
            I cannot believe I am here.  Here, in the same river where the Bible says that Moses was found, the longest river in the world, and probably the most known too, the one we learned about in primary school and saw in the atlases and never even imagined or dreamed of seeing in person….simply because, not only this, but the entire trip is beyond even my dreams.  When I stop to think that doing a safari in Africa is the dream of so many people, part of their bucket list, and here I am… having done it already!  During my first year of college, two days away from my 20th birthday, of entering another decade…. I’m getting goose bumps. 
            We saw SO many animals today, I tried to remember all of them, but I don’t think I got all of them… here is my best try:
Water buffalos – so many of them!! They were everywhere, and birds apparently love to just sit on them and chill and ride along!


Go to the Facebook page and watch the sequence of these buddies... pretty amazing how they  coexist.
Lions – Yep, TWO!  And one… eating a water buffalo!!

Pumbas!!! – They even sneaked into the hotel lawn!
Giraffes – Fr. Kizito’s favorite animal… by far.  Every time we saw one he would scream as if it was the first time, “Look! A giraffe! That’s my favorite animal!”

Las elegantes
Elephants – So, so wonderful! And Also friends with the birds!

Oribi- The models of the jungle… they posed for the pictures… I am not kidding, look!

The jungle´s Next Top Models!
The bird from the Ugandan flag – One of the most beautiful birds I have EVER seen!

Such beautiful birds!
Eran hermosos!
African Bald Eagles- which the tour guide enjoyed calling Bold eagle..  

Monkeys- there were not that many but we just saw some on our way to the falls, hanging on some trees and some other ones on the street!!
Hippopotamuses – SO much bigger than I had imagined!  If I had to chose to be one animal, a hippo would be the last.  They don’t do anything!  They just sit there, with a smile on their faces because of the natural way their mouth curves up and just stay there.   In a school of hippos, (or a group, I forget the name of it for hippos) there is always one loner.  The loner is the brave one, the one that fights with others and wins.  He is all scratched up and looks like he is suffering all alone, isolated from the group and bloody looking…. But apparently that´s “cool” in hippopotamus world.
But as the guide told us, apparently hippos are not the only ones that include loners.  The giraffes, once they are old, also leave and just wander off by themselves.

Agarrate Catalina!
Crocodiles: The scariest ones!  Why?  Well apart from the fact that they have huge teeth that could rip one of us apart in seconds and that they do not mind showing for 10 minutes straight and intimidating scales, they are so quick!  I could barely get a picture of them because they would either be hiding or, when they went to get in the water they would do it too fast!

I see you!
Te veo!
Whispering Acacia – a plant that ants live on and giraffes like to eat.
Quails – so beautiful but unfortunately too quick for my camera.
Waterbucks- very pretty little animals... they liked to hang out with the Ugandan birds.

….and more that I don´t remember…

                One of the best parts however, was the lion.  At the beginning it was far away from us, eating the waterbuck that it had killed.  But then, after about 20 minutes, it walked towards the road… and crossed it!!!!  It was behind us and I could not take a picture.. but it was crazy!!!!  The lion was crossing the street behind us!!! 
El paisaje... como para no querer ser un animal y vivir acá...
                I have no words to describe how beautiful this place is… the plants, the trees, the animals… it´s like living in a zoo!  And I mean that literally.  We were having lunch today and all of a sudden… pumbas on the lawn!  Yep, they were just walking along… AND we heard from the hotel people that the day before we arrived they found an elephant in the pool!  That one… is less believable, but I believe it anyways, it makes everything more fun. J
There are A LOT of really awesome pictures of the Safari, the boat trip on the Nile and the hotel on Facebook! Check them out!
Hay muchas más fotos del Safari, del hotel y del paseo por el Nilo en Facebook! Que lasdisfrtuen! J

Murchison Falls

That´s where I was!  This sign was at either side of the Nile, at the place were we crossed with the boat.

Finally, after a 12 hours car ride in VERY bumby roads we got to the hotel!  ... and of course then we got silly.. :)
Por fin, después de un viaje de 12 horas por caminos que eran un poso solo, llegamos al hotel!... y porsupuesto no tardamos en empezar a hacer pavadas.. :)

... and the menu changed! We went from mitoke and beans, to fancy shmancy western food...we ate (and drank) like pigs!
....cambió el menu! Después de comer solo mitoke y porotos, cambiamos a comida del hotel pituco que nos tocó... comimos (y tomamos) como vacas!

The Falls!
Las cataratas!

When we got close to the falls we stopped the boat next to a big rock and took pictures on it before turning around... I could have stayed there forever!
Cuando llegamos más cerca de las cataratas con el bote paramos al lado de una roca, nos subimos y sacamos fotos antes de volver al hotel... me podría haber quedado ahí para siempre!

The Nile.
El Nilo, una maravilla dificil de explicar con palabras.

La pasamos mal en la picsina.. con el Nilo al lado.. y el bar ..

Uno de esos cuartitos era mio!

Yep, I turned 20 here!  The girls surprised me with a cake and everything! It was very funny, I thought the cake was for someone else when the waiters were bringing it over and was commenting on how nice they were to make a cake for someone... and then it was for me!
Sipi, cumpli 20 en Africa! Y las chicas me sorprendieron con una torta y todo!  Fue muy gracioso ese momento porque  yo no sabía que era para mi y justo estaba comentando sobre lo bueno que eran los mosos por que los veia llevando una torta... pero se fueron acercando y acercando.. y terminé siendo yo a la que se la llavaban!
Photo taken by LeeAnn

Behind me are the hippos chilling like they always do.
Atras mio están los hipopotamos... haciendo nada como siempre. :)
Photo taken by Sam

On top of the falls with Fr. Kizito... we were completely soaked!
Arriba de las cataratas con Fr Kizito... nos empapamos todas!
Photo taken by Justin

El el bote de paseito por el Nilo con un elefante atras mio. :)
Photo taken by Nora

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Power of Photography

Day 6:  The Power of Photography                                                                 20 May 2012

            Ever since yesterday I cannot stop thinking about Justine and her friends, they way their faces lit up when they saw the camera, held it, saw the pictures that were taken.  I love photography and taking pictures, but their enthusiasm for it was far beyond what I have ever experienced.  It was absolutely incredible. 
            The joy that one picture, especially a portrait, brings these children is something I cannot even explain with words. 

         When I think about how some of these children may have never seen themselves in a mirror, let alone a camera or a photograph of themselves… I try, but can’t quite comprehend what that must feel like.  I grew up looking in the mirror, taking pictures all the time and posing and having “model photoshoots” with my sister when bored.  I cannot remember the first time I saw a camera, my picture, my reflection in a mirror, anything… for me it is just… normal.  It was bewildering to learn that this was not the case for these children.  I had never sat down and pondered about this.  If I had, of course the idea does not seem irrational or far-fetched, but since it is such a normal thing for me, I never thought of thinking of the power a photograph can have prior to coming here. 

            Some children know that muzungus (white people) have cameras that show the image in the back, and after taking their picture they look at you and at the camera, waiting for you to turn it around and show them the result.  Others are surprised when this happens.  But all of them, no exceptions, laugh like crazy when they see themselves on the screen!  A timid laugh, but such a joyous one!  True, true happiness. 

So Happy!!

    There are also those that have asked me to take a “snap” of them.  The ones that know a little English say “photo?”  And the children… they just look at the camera with those beautiful eyes, full of excitement, enthusiasm and curiosity.  Often they do not speak, but it is not hard to decipher what they want.
            On the day we went to the market a young man walked towards me from one of the fabric shops and standing straight and still in front of me asked, “my photograph?”  I never saw that man again, I interacted with him for about one minute and then he left, and I left.  He saw his picture for about five seconds.  I took the camera, with his photograph.  He wasn’t even able to keep the photograph, but he was still so happy and excited to have it taken.                                                                                                                                      Then there are those that have little interest in the camera and become offended if asked to take a picture of them, like the ginger woman at the market. 
            I find the stark contrast very interesting, yet so logical.  Just like when we were walking around the market and everyone looked at us, taking pictures sometimes receives a similar response.  And I could not understand them more.  Who are we to go around taking pictures of people, as if they were museum pieces, or pretty flowers with bees on them?  Since when have people and their surroundings, because they are so drastically different from our reality, become an object of art?  Of exotic material worth showing to our friends and families so that they may see how far we went, how poor the people are, how horrible their lives are, how much they suffer.  Again, we have no right to do so and should be ashamed if that is what our objective is when we point the camera at someone or something. 

            This had crossed my mind before, while in the US, but I had never pondered on it, nor did I know the answer to whether or not that was actually the reality.  Realizing this has truly challenged me to reflect and question myself as to why… why do I take pictures of these people and their country?  Am I unconsciously doing the same thing that upon reflection find so repulsive?  Treating people as objects?  Artifacts from a far off land, from another reality?  As a sort of entertainment to show first world citizens to widen their knowledge of the world?  I will be honest, this is not something that has been easy for me to do.  Today I was taking some pictures of a few children we saw along the road and these questions and thoughts kept bugging me.  I want to believe that I am not using my photography for these reasons.  And I truly think that that is the truth.  But I can’t help but to think that it could well be mistaken for all those selfish motives. 

            In reality, there are various reasons why I am so interested in photographing the people here in Uganda.  And yes, one reason is because of the empathy component.  Back in the US I saw many pictures of African children, on National Geographic, on the internet, on pamphlets of charities and NGO’s asking for donations to help the starving children.  These photographs caused such empathy in me that more than once I donated money, read more about an issue, and tried to tell my friends, family and myself to be more grateful for what we have.  And I know that others with more economic resources donate larger amounts of money, and travel to places like Uganda to help people, and create foundations, and build hospitals and schools like many of the ones we see here.  And all because of photographs that they saw of individuals living in a reality different from theirs.  This is one of the aims I hope to achieve with my photography here.  But I have noticed that that is not as easily said than done.  There is a fine line that separates the search for empathy in others and the use of human beings as objects of marketing, status or profit.  And it is that line that scares me. 
            However, once I started reflecting on this, I realized that apart from the fact that I hope that one day my photography can help these individuals and not just remain as memories of a journey, there is something else about Uganda that draws me to photograph it.  And that, I found out is the happiness of the children.  It is so REAL.  HAPPINESS as I have never seen it before.  The children here are carefree, liberated, independent, brave, strong, curious, and confident.  I am not sure why, but I just cannot help but to try to capture their character in their photographs.  I don’t know if I photograph them because I want to remember their faces, their smiles, and their spirit, or simply because I want others to see their beautiful smiles.  Those reasons seem so selfish to me that it’s hard to think about them.

            But there is one aspect, the most important, about the children in particular that makes me want to spend hours and hours photographing them (as opposed to most adults or places) and that makes me feel better about the selfish reasons: their response.  Like I said, they get so happy when they see their picture!  They have very difficult lives, yet they see themselves on a screen and they seem to be the happiest children in the entire world! I keep on telling myself that I am making them happy with my photography, and thus, I am not doing anything wrong.  But am I?  Is this just an excuse that my unconscious mind is making?  Am I just another self centered girl with a camera taking pictures of poor little Ugandan children to show my friends and family?  I hope not.  Yes, I want my friends and family to see them, their smiles are so beautiful and their laugh so contagious.  And I want to somehow help them! But how?  Is photography really going to do that?
             I am getting confused.  I am going to sleep; it’s too late to be thinking about this, I will get a headache.
     …. Maybe that’s an excuse too…

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Hagan click en ¨Me Gusta¨ en la página de Facebook para ver el resto de las fotos!


Friday, July 13, 2012


Part of Day 5
The most beautiful part of the day was actually after the teaching, and after we had lunch on the large field.  (Lunch was also very interesting… we ate before everyone else, on chairs, while everyone looked at us.  Again, I felt as if they were treating me as superior to them.  I am getting used to the fact that I will probably always feel that way whenever I encounter anyone in Uganda… unfortunately.)  So, after lunch we were sitting on the grass, chatting and waiting for the next part of the day, the report reading and presentations by the church groups.  We did not have anything to do but wait, so I grabbed my camera and went out to explore the area.  I took pictures of some cows (the cows here have large horns on top of their heads, very interesting, not like any I have ever seen before), some children playing, and some women dressed in beautiful traditional attire.  And then, like always, I was drawn in by the flowers.  Behind the church I found some beautiful ones, with little bees on them, and began snapping away.  All of a sudden I sense someone to my right, I look up and there was a girl standing there, looking at me with a shy and curious smile.  I smiled back and said “Oliotya!”  She responded with the familiar giggle that I have now become accustomed to whenever we say anything in Lugandan.  I looked past her a little and noticed there were other children, too.  Hiding behind the church wall there were four more, timidly observing their brave friend as she approach this muzungu taking silly pictures of flowers and bees.  The girl was dressed with a blue skirt, and simple green and white T-shirt; and she just looked at me.  Prior to going out on my photographic adventure I had asked Father Kizito how to say “may I take a picture of you?” just in case I found someone along the way that caught my attention.  So, overjoyed with enthusiasm and using my newly learned (and very poor) Lugandan I said to her “nkukube ekifananye?”  Her smile told me “yee” (yes).

       And thus, I began to photograph Justine, pausing between each one to show her the result and hear her contagious laugh in response.   Soon, another girl came towards us from behind the church wall… and then another… and another.  After speaking to Justine, and she reassuring her friends about me, they approached me, stood still and smiled at me (which I have learned is their way of saying, “take a picture!”)  I took pictures of every single one of them, alone, together, silly ones, ones they didn’t notice I was taking, even some of their hands.  I did not tell them to do so, but all of a sudden, the flowers I was previously photographing became props to our photographs). 

They chose the flowers as props.
Justine behind the church with the flowers they had been planting.

        After some time, their enthusiasm was wonderful to see and they felt more comfortable with me and me with them.  Without thinking twice about it, I said to Justine “you want to try?”  She looked at me and nodded eagerly with a smile that stretched ear to ear.  Very carefully she held my camera and I taught her how to look through it, zoom and take a picture.  I gathered with the other children and Justine took a picture of us.  Then, one by one, with Justine translating how to work the camera, they all took pictures of one another, of me with them, of the flowers, and some accidental ones of the floor and the brick wall of the church.  

         Unfortunately, when I realized that the field was no longer noisy like when I left it and looked around the church to find it empty, I had to tell them that it was time for me to go.  Relentlessly and sad I left them planting pretty little flowers for bees to visit at the back of the church, with the promise that when I returned to the US I would mail the pictures of Justine and her friends to the parish.

Taken by one of the children

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No se olviden de ir a mi página de Facebook, ahí están todas las fotos! Hay muchas más de Justine y sus amigos!

Day 5: The first fair

                                                                              19 May 2012
The fair was held at a parish, and this field was in front of it.
            The fair today went pretty well.  There were SO many people!  But, to be honest, the part that I enjoyed the most was not the teaching.  Again, I got that funny feeling when I was teaching both children and grown adults how to brush their teeth, wash their hands and build a Tippy Tap.  Aside from teaching them how to built a washing station, we also gave them soap bars (although they quickly ran out), tooth brushes, and floss.  Similarly, other groups gave other things out, relevant to their presentations: seeds, cloth to make feminine pads, food, etc.   Our subject was so rudimentary and basic that I felt a little uneasy teaching it. 
The day started off with a beautiful, moving mass.  The church was all decorated with bright colorful ribbons and flowers and the singing... I have never heard anything like it!!  By the end of each son the whole group was tearing up.
            What was interesting however, as well as sad and in a way reassuring of the fact that my teaching was truly beneficial, were some of the questions that the audience asked.   For example, one man asked me very earnestly, “Miss, does tooth paste have any secondary effects that we should be careful about?  Can it harm us?”  In EVERY group (in the second fair, too!) someone asked how long tooth brushes last… four months? …One month? … one day?  AND… most surprising of all, they all asked if they could brush their teeth with salt, soap, and ASHES!  Apparently, there is a myth here (actually there seem to be a great number of them) that says that it is better to brush your teeth with ashes, because it cleans them better than tooth paste!  
Sam and Monica busy teaching about how to start a business

Nora and Sandy gave out seeds during their presentation.  We took thousands! and the people were so grateful and happy to receive them!
          On a side note, Fr. Kizito also told us about another myth that says that malaria pills, the ones prescribed to sick patients, actually cause the malaria to exacerbate!  How do these people believe such myths?  Such lies that to us seem too clear and irrational… to many here they are the truth!  Harder still… how does one convince those who have lived and believed in those myths for decades that they are false?  How does one convince others of something that to them is just as irrational and erroneous as the myths are to us?

Our group and the youth leaders of the Mityana dioceses in front of the church.

After lunch I went for a walk to shoot a little and found this boy who over and over again tried to get onto the bike, finally, after various tries he was able to get up and ride away, leaving just a cloud of dust behind.


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No se olviden de ir a mi página de Facebook, ahí están todas las fotos!