Monday, September 22, 2008

Balance Your Decisions Carefully

Last night (Sunday, 9/21 - sorry for the delay in posting. I wrote this Monday morning before we left for Eastern Uganda, and as I was finishing, the power went out and I haven't had internet access until now.) I went with the Omanyo family and our friend Lydia to see the Ndere Dance Troupe which was amazing! It was a beautiful night outdoors, even though it had been pouring rain earlier in the day. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot and we could hear the joyful beat of the drummers, I could tell we were in for a treat.

The entire night consisted of traditional
dances, music and costumes from all over Uganda accompanied by two hysterical MC's. The jokes and routine they had was great - my favorite joke was when they were talking to a group of Canadians, remembering a trip they had taken to the blustery north and said, "You have the coldest sun we have ever felt in our entire lives" Besides the high entertainment value, they also mixed in some really thought provoking moments, one of which was illustrated through a beautiful dance native to Northern Uganda.

My favorite dance of the evening involved the kind of grace and balance I can only dream of having. It began with one woman (right) who acted as the lead by singing and leading a progression of pot stacking. They started with one pot on their head (picture above) and as they danced and sang, stacked more and more pots on top of one another until they had reached the pinnacle of 8 pots each! The dancing was so joyful and lively, it was hard to believe they were keeping the pots on their head without some sort of magic glue or invisible magnets. No trickery was involved though because when they got to the sixth pot, one girl had to sit out because her pots were so wobbly they were in danger of falling.

When they finally reach the eighth pot, the lead dancer (right) had two pots fall from her head and crash to the ground. You could audibly hear the crowd gasp as they fell and smashed into hundreds of pieces. Two male dancers came out and picked up the pieces, as she continued to sing, even with the sixth pot (pictured below) still perched precariously on top of the teetering tower.

When the song was over, the audience broke into wild applause. The MC came out and interviewed the lead dancer/singer. He began by having her sing the song once more and this time, he translated the words into english. The song lyrics that accompanied this dance translated into something like, "When you are making decisions, balance them very carefully if you want to maintain peace in the world." When the song was over for the second time, he explained that the lead girl is from the area of Uganda that has experienced massive violence from the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA - also active in Sudan) who have been terrorizing that area for over 20 years. You might have heard of the LRA before - they are the ones who abduct children to be child soldiers and prostitutes as well as mutilating many of the adults by cutting off their arms, lips and ears, if not killing them completely. The MC talked about how sad it is that many children in this area will not learn these beautiful dances because they are just trying to survive. But then he made the point that made the audience go completely silent. He said, "Why is it that when two pots fall to the ground, everyone gasps in horror but when hundreds of thousands of children are being taken and people are being killed and mutilated, no one makes a sound?"

His powerful words were a reminder of a couple of things for me. 1. What are the things in life that I really value? Are they things like clay pots - my car, clothes, etc? Or do I value most of all human life, justice and mercy? 2. What am I doing to stay educated/informed about what's going on in this world? Northern Uganda can seem far away, even from Kampala. From North America, it can begin to seem like another world away. It is easy for me to choose to either not be informed or to ignore these kinds of things that happen in the world that the nightly news chooses not to report. Finally, 3. What am I doing to make a difference in this world, even if it is in the life of just one person?

They're hard questions, but ones I was glad to be reminded of. It made me wrestle with challenging questions, which isn't fun, but I know are good to wrestle with. So far in my trip, this has been a common theme - wrestling. Lots of good things, lots of hard thing, just lots of things to think about. Hopefully, some of the things I'm writing about are causing you to wrestle too. Thanks for reading and hopefully wrestling.

1 comment:

rubyslipperlady said...

Thank you, Kristen, for this story. I'm not trying to figure out how to fit this into my trip to Uganda next month. I'm emailing Carole right now!

Keep wrestling, my friend. If nothing else, that's what I've learned this year. To keep wrestling it to keep caring and learning and doing.