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The Waiting Game

June 23, 2011

Waiting for facilitators to arrive, waiting for the bride and bridegroom to come out, waiting for transportation, waiting for food, waiting for the next civil war to come to unseat the current longstanding leader of the country. African time, as it as been called by some Ugandans, is something I am not accustomed too. I have grown up around deadlines and a pretty fast paced lifestyle. One of the only things that I have witnessed here that are fast is the driving. People in Uganda actually even walk incredibly slowly. Sometimes people are incredibly on time but the other day one of my facilitators left me waiting for four hours, and then I had to spend six hours sitting in the same chair during an Introduction, which is an elaborate Ugandan engagement party. So you really do have to get used to waiting for things more here.
I had a deep political discussion with my host father the other day. He normally doesn’t speak too much to me because he doesn’t know English as well as his wife, and my Luganda is still terrible. But we sat in the dark kitchen, because the power was out once again. It turns out that one of the reasons the power goes out in Masaka frequently is because the government, according to my host father Mona, sells energy to Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, instead of supplying its own citizens with available electricity. This is a really sad fact I think. This time of year there are tons of stations around Masaka at nighttime that construct what look to be these huge open-roofed iron sheet houses. By using incredibly bright (and powerful) lights, people can catch grasshoppers. Then they fry them and sell them. Because these stations use lots of energy, the government turns off the electricity periodically to ration out the supplies. It happens more often this time of year because of the grasshopper stations. One can’t depend on water and electricity supplies here in Masaka, even if you have all the means and resources to receive them. Mona is very intelligent and I quite trust his opinion. He also loves news and politics. I hear him watch BBC news and Aljeezeera late at night. Anyway, Mona told me about some of the corruption in the government, how he feels the government doesn’t care for the citizens, which is a similar perspective I heard from a young entrepreneur in my village Lutweete the other day. In the last week I have really taken the time to get to know my host father better. And the more I speak to him, the more I am learning about real opinions, from Ugandan citizens, about Uganda and the lack of trust in the government and the awareness of corruption of politicians. Mona actually said today, “The Vice President is going to court over rigging the elections. The vote made be ordered null, and there will be a new one. But the vice president won’t be disqualified from the second election.” He also said, “This politician stole so much, while this one only stole a little so he isn’t so bad.” The lack of trust in the government greatly decreases the amount of stability in this nation. My host father literally said that Ugandans are waiting for the next civil war. There is no way, according to him, that the dictator in power will leave unless forced. Every leader of Uganda post-Independence has been brought in under a coup.
On a different note completely, I had an absolutely fabulous day with my farmers. We got all organized, and tons of members came out to the first water-harvesting tank site, and we dug the entire hole all before lunch. The following Monday we dug another entire hole and hopefully next week we will construct the tank. I was sitting with my facilitator Charles Mbiru, and I told him that I was so amazed at the strength of the women in the community. Literally, they took over and jointly hacked away at the dirt. “Most African women are as strong as men,” he said back to me. There is definitely a mutual respect in this community. There may be difference in gender roles in other areas, but in terms of abilities to complete tasks, both in making decisions and doing physical labor, there is much more equality in this community.
I thought a lot about what Ben said in his post, and I also highly detest how some people think they are way more culturally broadened and above other people because they have traveled to developing nations and did service work. I don’t feel like what I am doing makes me special. Realistically I am just working with some really welcoming and lovely farmers and helping facilitate some projects that both my cooperative members and I feel will tremendously benefit the community as a whole. I think many people could do what I am doing, but maybe they just don’t have the balls to throw themselves completely outside of their nicely created comfort zones. I don’t know if I even have the balls someday, but I’ve realized you just keep going and you do it. Today I conducted a health seminar discussing the importance of clean water, as well as touching on healthy foods to keep up your energy and nutrient intake. The goal of the seminar was just to help pass on knowledge that might help specifically the women of the community to be healthier. Many of them work so hard in their farms each day, as well as looking after the entire family, that they just forget about themselves. But my women are pretty badass. They told me that if there isn’t enough milk, they don’t give it all to the husband. They know they need it more and so instead of subjugating themselves to their husbands, they make sure to have some to keep their health in check. This is actually not the most common thing around the Masaka area. More times than not women give most of the good food to their husbands, and they eat after them with what’s left. The seminar sounds pretty simple right, and it went quite well. But I went in just thinking I am just doing a small discussion presentation with men and women that I have gotten to know over the last couple weeks. I had my awesome facilitator doing some translation, but I also tried to kick up my game and do some Luganda. What I am doing isn’t hard if you just have some compassion and patience. So it outrightly makes me laugh when people say that we are being such a gift to other people, and that it takes a certain kind of person to do this. We aren’t. We are just normal students who wanted to learn more. Albeit I don’t need as much guts as some people, because I do not have to deal with HIV/AIDS in my community, but I really think that as an intern we should just focus on the people that we are here working with, rather than thinking we are some high and mighty people because we sacrificed our lovely beach summers to go and rid the world of poverty. Not to be cheesy but here is a quote from Nelson Mandela that I think quite suits what I am saying, but is composed in a much more elegant fashion.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
So I guess my point in saying all this is, I love being here and yes it can be difficult. I do feel like I am learning a tremendous amount, and I know that is the point of this internship. But it’s in all of us just to step out and do something more than we think we are capable of.

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