To all my avid readers: sorry I’ve been slacking on my blogging responsibilities lately. Since Rwanda, we’ve been pretty busy, but mostly with mundane things that you probably wouldn’t be interested in hearing…but I’ll tell you about them anyways!
For the last month of the program, we have to do independent research projects, which basically means we are on our own trying to be real people in Gulu for 4 weeks. We all rented a house together which is actually very nice and very cheap (~60 bucks for the month per person) and includes a kitchen, running water (most of the time) and a generator for when the power is out at night (which is almost always). It even has a TV that used to have cable, but I think we broke that somehow…
Since moving in I have been coordinating interviews with local people to help build my research. My project is focusing on determining the ways different generations perceive peace and peacebuilding in Gulu, and is also kind of evolving to look at the tensions which exist between the two main generations here. I’ve talked with some NGO/UN workers, as well as some children from a local high school. I haven’t yet sat down to start bringing all my research together, but I think it will turn out to be pretty interesting once I start compiling everything.
Besides doing research, we also have to do normal people things…like go shopping and cook for ourselves. Cooking is much easier said than done–I don’t think I’ve ever missed microwaves so much–but I’m also turning out to be a much better chef than I thought I was. I guess the best/most hilarious example of our African cooking experience was Thanksgiving:
Our house consists of a gas camping-style stove with one burner and two charcoal stoves. We also had an oven which we thought worked when we got the house, but turns out it doesn’t. So we woke up early Thursday morning and got cookin’. I made sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, beans, rice, gravy and helped out with some of the other dishes as well. Everything was going pretty smoothly, until about 2 hours into the cooking when our house ran out of water, meaning we had to rely on borehole/rain water and jerry cans for cooking which is inconvenient at best. Then, when we were ready to start cooking the turkey (which we had killed at our house the day before) we discovered that the oven didn’t work. This was very sad because we had planned on baking quite a few things (mac and cheese, green bean casserole, and peach pie). So, to remedy the situation, two of the people in our group took bodas across town to a café that has an oven. The employees there were trying to make Thanksgiving food for all the Americans in town but, being Ugandan, they weren’t quite sure how to go about doing that, so they let our friends use their oven in exchange for some cooking lessons. The turkey situation didn’t quite work out however, so we ended up having turkey stew instead of roasted turkey–close enough.
We invited a bunch of our Ugandan friends over to have dinner with us and it turned out to be a very nice evening. We had PLENTY of food…even enough to have traditional Thanksgiving leftovers Friday morning.
Even though cooking had totally tired me out, I woke up early on Friday morning to visit an outlying village with a girl named Eliza who is with the Peace Corps. The village she lives in was having a sort of peace celebration, which she thought we would enjoy given the focus of our program. My friend Charlotte and I met Eliza at Coffee Hut, and then started walking ‘south’ until we found a car/taxi type thing which could drive us part of the way. We got dropped off at a gas station and then took bodas the rest of the way to her village. Eliza showed us around the medical center where she works, and made us some coffee and oatmeal.
From her house, we left to go to the celebration which was AWESOME. Eliza is the only foreigner who lives in the village, so they were pretty excited that she was bringing along two more mzungus (white people). When we reached the school where the celebration was being held, we were greeted by a huge crowd of people singing and dancing. They grabbed our hands and marched/danced us over to the main area where we were seated as the guests of honor. Once everyone else had arrived (there were about 200 people there) all the guests including Charlotte and me had to stand up and say a little bit about ourselves. We had people of all ages coming up to us to shake our hands…the children were absolutely adorable and very noticeably nervous to see 3 white girls at their school.
The celebration consisted of groups of people from all the surrounding villages singing, dancing, and performing skits about why peace is important. They were all performed in Luo, but luckily one of Eliza’s friends was there to translate for us. The school where the event was held was actually on the site of a former IDP camp, which made the messages the people were conveying even more relevant.
All in all, it was probably one of the best days I’ve had here so far. The people were so genuinely nice, and happy to see us, and it was also really cool to see so many people so dedicated to promoting peace. And, to top it all of, Charlotte and I got to have a nice cuddly (read: squished) two-person boda ride back to Gulu, which took about an hour and a half. Riding through Ugandan countryside on the back of a motorcycle is pretty awesome.
So there ya go…that’s my update. It will also probably be one of the last, seeing as we only have 3 weeks left before heading back to the States! AH!