Monday, August 25, 2008

Off to Kabale

It's almost the end of week one here in Uganda, and so far, so good.  I've been feeling really healthy and am adjusting to life in a big African city.  CRWRC has hired a girl named Lydia who has been showing me around since I arrived, teaching me a little Lugandan (emphasis on LITTLE...not because of her teaching,  but because of my tiny tiny brain)  I've been staying with the Omanyo family which has been very nice.  Davis works for CRWRC, is married to Beth and they have four daughters - all of which are either in boarding school or university.  So far, I've met three of the four who have all been wonderful.  

Last week I spent a lot of time just getting used to Kampala.  When we travel, we usually take a taxi which is a 14 seater van which picks up people along the way, whose motto should be "there's always room for one more!"  It's an interesting way to travel, and really cheap - anywhere between 35 to 65 cents per trip.  We travel throughout the city spending time with people who are living positively with HIV/AIDS.  All have been wonderful in sharing their stories with me, each one being very different and extremely powerful.  The first lady I met came from a polygamous marriage where her husband and two of the other co-wives have already died.  She is a friend of Lydia's and was so lovely about inviting us into her home for lunch.  I bought a bag she had made to carry my camera and wallet in which was great because later in the day, three times people tried to pick from my backpack.  (Take note, when in Kampala, do not carry a backpack!) I'm almost done writing my first story about her, so keep your eyes peeled for that one coming soon.  

Along with interviewing people who are living positively, I've also had the chance to visit a case worker at a free clinic for people infected with HIV, and just today visited the Public Relations Officer at a program called TASO, which is another program for HIV positive clients.  It has been amazing to hear what people are doing here to fight HIV/AIDS, and also has been overwhelming to hear how thankful people here are for support from North America.  

On Saturday, Lydia took me to her friend's Introduction Ceremony.  This is a Ugandan tradition where a woman will introduce her family to her fiancee for the first time (today though, most of the time the family has met the man pre-ceremony) It was a very swish event in a huge house in Kampala.  I had to wear a traditional Ugandan outfit, supplied by my friend and supervisor Carole, and it was a great introduction for me into an aspect of Ugandan culture.  The whole event was in Lugandan and took almost 5 hours, including an elaborate process of introducing people, the giving of gifts (including a rooster for the bride's eldest brother, and an entire slaughtered cow and live goat to the family) a variety of musical performers including a troop of traditional Ugandan dancers and drummers that enter with the groom and his entourage of about 80 people (think Eddie Murphy in the beginning of 'Coming to America.')  One of my favorite parts was when the speaker (each side has a speaker representing the family) said "we have been talking so long, we need to refresh ourselves" - or something like that, my Lugandan is still a bit weak;) - and then men start carrying in crates of bottled soda on their heads and passing them down the rows for a bit of a break.  Usually, the groom's party would bring the local brew, but because they are Christians, soda has to suffice.  

The best part by far was the blowing of the Shofar.  I learned about the Shofar in Bible college  but had never seen one in real life.  It's a horn made out of a long curly ram's horn that was blown by two guys throughout the ceremony. The bride's brother, Mark, was one of the blowers and after the ceremony came and visited with me for awhile and taught me how to play it. In case you have no idea what a Shofar is, you can see a little of it sticking out of Mark's sleeve.  Who knew I'd have to come to Africa to play a Shofar???  The whole event was great and the family of the bride were so hospitable to me, inviting me to sit at their table at lunch before the ceremony even began, allowing me to sit in the section reserved for close family and friends during the ceremony 

Tomorrow, Lydia and I are going to Kabale, which is around six hours by bus from Kampala. We will travel all day tomorrow, on Wednesday visit the HIV/AIDS programm
ing that CRWRC is working with there, and travel home on Thursday.  Friday, I am meeting up with a guy named Jonathan whose mom lives in Oak Harbor (my home town) an
d is working a few hours outside of Kampala.  On Saturday I will be leaving for Nairobi, Kenya and will be there for two weeks. After that, will go to Malawi for five days, then back to Uganda for another two weeks or so and then onto Zambia and possibly Tanzania, finally returning to Uganda for the end of my trip.  

It's hard to believe that it's only been around a week since I left the U.S. but so far, the trip has been wonderful. Thank you to all who donated the support I needed to get here, and to all of you for your continual support through thoughts and prayers.  Walabe (or something like that in Lugandan, like I said, my language is lacking) for now!

-Kristen

3 comments:

eveapple said...

Oooh, purple is a good color on you!

tlmoody said...

I should have sent you out with my red back pack from the Durban AIDS Conference. It is big and red and has the words "HIV/AIDS" across the back in big letters. Funny, no one ever once stuck their hands in it to try to steal my stuff! Hmmm....

Have fun in Nairobi. Think of me at Ya Ya. I'll email you the name of a great Italian restaurant when I remember it!

Jeff said...

I'm happy for the pictures. Keep posting them.