Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A poem inspired by Joanna's bungee jump

This poem will make more sense after reading the blog below it...

"Release, Surrender"

Hair tied back, eyes forward,
Posture as straight as her determination.
His hand rests on her shoulder,
Offering a comfort that is not needed.
Of course she is fearful,
But two words coax her resolve into place.

Release, surrender

Standing at the edge of this spacious descent,
One more deep breath before the countdown.
Three, in
Two, out
In an instant, this graceful beauty
Launches her fears into a dive.
Arms outstretched, open to embrace
All that adrenaline’s rush has to offer.
But no rush exists in this moment.
Her fall holds more freedom than gravity.
Inch by inch, moment by moment
A peace exudes from her form
Covering all who watch in envy of her
Cease to exist as she nears
the surface of the placid water and
the rope stretches to its limit.
in the knowledge of success,
in the cradle of
Softly, she extends every ligament, every emotion, every sensation
As she waves to and fro
Undulating in complete

Sorry it's been so long!!!

I’ve never been to a party before where EVERYONE danced!!!
Sorry for the long time in between blogs…I’ve been a bit preoccupied. But I have extended my trip one week and I am very excited about that. It will be nice to have a bit of a vacation in Gulu, without having to go to school and teach at least. Don’t worry, I’ll come home eventually. I’ll definitely be back for school! Catherine, so glad to hear that you are in first hour again. Looking forward to it.

So, July fourth celebration! It was amazing. The food was great, but the company was even better. There were about 200 or more people there from the teacher exchange, Invisible Children staff, Acholi and American/International…it was a beautiful party! Seriously, I have never been to a party where EVERYONE danced…but everyone did. At one point, the played Michael Jackson’s “It don’t matter if you’re black or white”…it sounds so cheesy, but it was just one of the coolest moments of my life. They also played the National Anthem and I almost started to cry, hearing this large mass of Americans patriotically singing in Gulu, with sparklers overhead. Quite a party…I also got to Acholi dance (or attempt to) with my teachers from Keyo. Florence can dance! It was an evening that I will never forget…

The next day, my friends Abbie, Lauren and Sasha came with me to visit Florence’s house in Lacor. I am so glad they came because we got lost for a while on the bodas after Florence gave me the wrong directions. Good times. Finally, we arrived and Florence walked us through her village, introducing us along the way with the pride of a mother. She fed us soda, water, blue band (butter), bread, bananas, rice, potatoes, meat, cabbage, sim sim paste, beans…dear Lord, is it never-ending? But it was all very good. I was so tired from the night before, but I had to force myself to keep going and go back for seconds because it is considered rude to eat minimally. After eating, Florence walked us around her property. She has a fairly lovely home for a home in Gulu. I got to hold a baby goat…and by baby I mean about two days old. So sweet. He was lost from his mother and crying so Abbie and I helped him find her.

We had to leave Florence’s house to go so Bambu for me to sing with Mick one last time. It was fun. I got to eat fish fingers and chips…always a good time. After singing and eating, Abbie and I went with Ian and Anna to watch “Madagascar 2”. It was so entertaining to watch this movie while in Africa. There are so many subtle details that make so much more sense after having been here.

Monday my group got to go with some friends to Tom and Rose’s house to eat again. They liked us so much that they wanted to have us back one more time before we left. They are always a blessing.

The rest of the week turned out to be quite lovely for various reasons. The end of teaching was sad, but fruitful. Many of my students wrote letters and poems for me to bring to my students at home. They are so desperate for a pen pal situation, so Florence and I decided to set up a system of writing between us that will facilitate a start.

Thursday night was our last Quiz Night with Group One. A great evening of competition and laughs. After the quiz, we went to Hotel Boma to hang out for a bit. I’ve really made some great friends here and I feel so blessed to know each of them.

Friday was our last day at Keyo. They had a going away party for us which started two hours late and consisted of many speeches given by men that we had never even met before. It was kind of boring. But I was still appreciative. They gave Sasha, Daneen, and I flip-flops, a bag, a necklace, and fabric. So sweet. We gave them a collage of pictures from our trip. At the end of the party/meeting, the school Inspiration Hymn Club sang for us. They marched out singing “I’m walking the miracle line”, then they sang two songs, both about Jesus, some had hand motions, and then they marched out to a song in Luo. I got most of it on video. Such a beautiful moment.
I was so sad to leave my school, but I was okay because I knew at that point that I would be here this week so I will have one more opportunity to go back and visit.

Saturday morning we woke up, packed, said our goodbyes to the house (the group did, not me), and piled into the coaster (bus) for about an eight hour trip to Jinja. We stopped in Kampala at the craft market to wait for Amy’s husband, Nick. She was so happy to see him. It was a very sweet moment for their family. When we arrived at Adrift in Jinja, we ate and went straight to sleep because we were so tired. But before heading to bed, we took a look over the balcony of the bar at the bungee jump site. The platform extended 145 feet above the water, over the edge of a cliff. I was so terrified. Just looking at it, I got a feeling of vertigo. But I told my group that I was still going to jump. There were about four of us that agreed to do it before rafting the next day. All night, I tossed and turned because I was so terrified of the thought. It’s one of those feelings where if something bad were to happen, all I would’ve had to do to prevent it is to just not jump off the platform. That’s it. Simple. When I woke up in my bunk, I was resolved to not do it. Then, I walked out to the edge of the balcony and saw the jump site in the morning mist. It was pretty serene. The rushing Nile below almost sounded the question of when would I have an opportunity like this again? Never. I was going to do it.

During breakfast, I was just as terrified as I was when I kneeled at the edge of the plane to skydive six years ago. This, however, seemed so much more terrifying because I was alone. No tandem master to make me jump. Only me. And the fact that it is so much closer to the ground was more daunting than consoling. We signed up with Jack (I think that was his name). I asked him if he was from New Zealand and he high-fived me because he was so glad I didn’t think he was an Aussie. I told him that I watched too much Flight of the Conchords to think he was from Australia. Then, we made the walk to the platform, up the numerous flights of thin, wooden stairs, and out along the arm of the contraption that held my safety and fears woven in the threads of the rope. Five girls went before me. No guys in our morning group. Joanna went first and she blew me away by her beauty. I wrote a poem about it yesterday that I will post in a moment. Sasha went right before me and as she inched up to the edge, she looked up and said, I can’t do it. For a couple of minutes she just stood there shaking her head and said, nope, I need to walk down. At that moment, Jack, the guy in charge of the bungee, pushed her off the platform, plummeting over the edge. She was grateful. I realized at that moment, as I was sitting on the metal plank watching her fall, that I was going off that ledge one way or another and I wanted it to be of my own accord. So, when he called “next”, I stood up and walked to the edge to sit in the chair to get strapped in. They tied the rope and towels around my ankles so tightly that I still have bruises. I was grateful for that. Jack told me that since I was nervous I should not look down at all. Just keep my eyes focused on the mountains in front of me. After I was tied in, I had to hop about four feet to the platform and then scoot my way to the edge. I couldn’t look down, so I had to trust Jack when he told me to stop. Then, he said to raise my hands to the bar above me to steady myself. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, let go and put your hands at your sides. Vertigo…here it comes…I kept looking forward. Knowing that at any moment I was going to hurl myself off this platform with no swan-dive-like form, but just complete, awkward release. He started the countdown. THREE – TWO – ONE – BUNGEE!!! As he yelled bungee, I did it. I actually jumped without hesitation! So scary to just fall and see the water, the cliffs, the sky swirling around me. And then to realize…I’m STILL FALLING! Crazy tunes! Finally the rope stretched to its limit and it didn’t jerk me at all. It was quite a fluid motion. I was relieved. But then I bounced back up and fell again…now it was just fun, though. I swung to and fro for a while and then Isaac and Moses came over in a raft, extending a paddle for me to grab onto and they brought me safely into the boat and to the water’s edge. I am so glad that I did it. It was quite a freeing experience that I will never forget.

I will write more later about the white-water rafting experience on the Nile, but for now I have to go to a roundtable at one of the schools. Take care…

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Still They Rise

Wednesday, July 1, 2009 - (Be sure to see the safari post below as well)
This week in class, Florence is teaching the grammar and I am teaching a poetry unit. Although by “unit” I basically mean that I am teaching a poem or two. I also had them write an “I am” poem that was really fun.
But today, I decided to teach “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. I only wrote four of the stanzas on the board because there was not enough room for all of it, so I chose the ones that they could relate to the best.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies.
You may trod me in the very dirt,
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

You may shoot me with your words.
You may cut me with your eyes.
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide
Leaving behind the nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
I rise
I rise
I rise

I read through it once and then had them read it as a class. As they read, on each “I rise” I had a different student stand up. It was so powerful. They truly enjoyed it. I was actually surprised by their insights into the poem when I asked them to write what they thought the poem meant to the author and what it meant to them personally. I wish I could write all of their responses, but just to see their faces when they understood the meaning of the poem and the reality of rising out of struggle, overcoming, embracing freedom in the midst of oppression, etc…it was just beautiful. Today, I feel like I really made a difference…like I was able to let those who are dying to have a voice know that there are so many who are listening…today they felt empowered and I felt so humbled by the experience.
At the end, they asked me, “As a white American, what does this poem mean to you since it is addressing the white masters of the slaves?” I was dumbfounded for a moment. They asked if this poem created more segregation in the U.S. They are so incredibly insightful; I can’t get over it. I feel pretty good about my answer, but I was still floored.
I’m so proud to be a part of this program and Keyo Secondary School. I feel very blessed and I will miss my students very much. I wish there was more I could do…I wish I could come back…I just want to be sure that I never lose the memory of the way I feel right now.

A-weem-a wep-a weem-a wep...

Sunday, June 28, 2009 – Safari at Murchison Falls
So, this weekend my group traveled to Murchison Falls “state park” – about 3 hours away from our home Gulu. We took another mutatu (taxi van) which is always a nerve-wracking experience after our trip to the rhinos. But the trip down was nice. I got to listen to music the whole way which is always good. But the road is pretty terrible. After about two hours of bumping and bouncing, we finally got to a paved road…but that only lasted for four miles. Then we got on another dirt/trench road…good times.
But as we entered the park gate, I felt like we were already on safari. The animals were grazing the plains and as we drove by, they just stood and stared us down. We drove in the park for about an hour before we reached the ferry to go to the campground Red Chilli. While we were driving in, because there were so many animals, we decided to go ahead and ride on top of the mutatu like on safari, since the animals were out. The top of the mutatu filled up pretty fast…and being as smart as I am, I volunteered to not go up on top just yet because I knew that it would mean I would get to go up first on the actual safari. Instead, Abbie, Lauren, Mary Kay and I sat on the bars in the windows and hung off the side. It’s hard to explain, but it was awesome! I did get a little nervous at times hanging out on the side of the mutatu with so many cape buffalo around. But they just stood frozen. They had such a serious stare-down. It was insane…I think they just look angry because they are insecure about their haircuts. There were also hundreds of bushbucks – kind of like deer – and hart beasts…also like deer/antelopes but bigger with really long snouts. They have a very serious face…but I think they must be really sweet. And they are also really funny when they take off running…kind of awkward like me.
Then, we came across a family of elephants in the middle of the road. A little baby! Precious…we went slowly so as not to alarm the father and make him charge.
That night we slept four to a tent. I was so scared because there were signs all over warning us about the attacks of wart-hogs, hippos, lions, etc…but, I survived. Even after coming across two sleeping warthogs…they could’ve snapped my leg in two!! But they didn’t…
Sidenote: You turned me into a newt! I got betta…
Sunday morning we woke up before dawn to head to the ferry, to get on the mutatu, to go on safari. The sunrise over the Alberta Nile was impeccable! On the ferry we ate our packed breakfast of cheese sandwiches, fresh pineapple, boiled eggs and juice boxes. Yum.
Our mutatu was the first off the ferry…it was so exciting! I felt like we were in Rat Race because all of the land rovers and tour companies started racing out to be the first in line…but we won! We had a great guide! The safari lasted about 4 hours. I got to ride on top! Thrilling. The whole experience was amazing. We saw so many buffalo and giraffes and warthog families and monkeys and elephants and many more AND…lions! It is not typical that you are able to see the cats on safari because they are so crafty at hiding…but we saw 6! In two different spots. So freaking amazing…I was actually hoping to be able to see one hunt, but maybe next time.
The birds are so beautiful too…I have never even seen some of these colors before. We also came across a bull elephant feeding in the brush. After standing on top of the mutatu for a few minutes to take his picture, he started to get angry and faced forward to us completely, ears out and tusks up, as though he was about to charge in order to warn us to back up. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time! He backed down…he knew better than to mess with this! Just kidding…he could’ve ripped me limb from limb in a heartbeat.
The whole ride was just an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.
OH! And we got to walk with 27 giraffes! It was one of the most majestic sightings of my life! To actually see 27 giraffes crossing the plains of Africa was one thing, but to get to walk 100 feet away from them…so peaceful. They are full of grace…possibly my favorite moment.
After the safari, we ate lunch at Red Chilli and then got on a small boat to travel down the Nile for two hours to view Murchison Falls. We saw numerous families of hippos…it was terrifying also. They seem so sweet, but when they get angry, their little beady eyes can be so scary! The crocs were pretty great too…I kept having a feeling like vertigo that, what if I involuntarily throw myself overboard – like in that M. Night Shyamalan movie - crazy tunes. They could all snap me in half too! Morbid, but really exciting also. :)
The falls were so beautiful. We couldn’t get too close because the currents were too strong, but along the way we saw the spot where Ernest Hemingway supposedly crashed his plane and was stranded for two days.
After the boat ride, we got back in the mutatu to head home. Abbie and I sat in the back, which is not the best spot because it gets the worst of the bumps. On our way out of the park, all of a sudden I heard, “POP – PHEEEEEEEWWW”…the back, left tire blew – the one I was sitting on top of. Not a problem…Dennis, the driver ( of course his name is Dennis), can just get out in the middle of the wild, with all the animals around staring and put on the spare, right? Unless, of course, that was the spare!!! Dennis had changed it the day before because the original tire was so low. So, he just put the old tire back on. Now, as someone who has driven on a sketch tire before, you would think that you would drive as carefully as possible knowing that you did not have any back-ups, right? Unless, of course, you are a Ugandan mutatu driver named Dennis. In which case, you drive like a bat out of hell on the bumpy roads. I have never been more frustrated in my entire life. And of course, two hours into the ride, as is expected, I heard, “GUH-DUNK-GUH-DUNK-GUH-DUNK…”. Finally Dennis heard it and stopped the car. It was now very dark and we were in the middle of the bush. Not the best place for a bunch of muzungus. So, I stuck my headlamp out the window for Dennis to look at the tire…it was shredded. He decided that our best bet…since of course we had no cell phone service…was to keep riding on it until Sunday, the boss, could come meet us. AN HOUR!!! A WHOLE HOUR we rode on the rim…through the trenches…I was so angry and frustrated, but I find that in these situations it’s best to just keep repeating in my head… “this too shall pass”…and to breathe...oh, I forgot to mention that it started raining. After an hour, Sunday came to meet us and changed the tire and we rode the remaining 20 minutes or so on the good tire. But when we got home, we realized that Doreen made enchiladas so all was well again.

Friday, June 26, 2009 I never want to leave...sorry... :)

It's true! Today...this may sound like an overstatement...but, today was one of the best days of my life. I shadowed one of the Invisible Children scholarship program mentors. IC has a Visible Child Scholarship Program in which they select certain students in need and provide school fees for them after they apply, go through interviews, etc. They are then required to meet certain standards of excellence in order to maintain their school fees, otherwise they go on probation, etc. The mentors are Ugandan, not internationals, which is excellent because the kids are really able to open up to them honestly. So, today, I got to shadow Oyella Betty to see what a day in her life is like. I woke up and went to the Invisible Children office in Gulu. I had to wear pants because I was told that I would be riding on the back of a motorcycle all day...and I did. Betty walked in the office to pick me up and she had the biggest smile on her face. I was so excited and rejuvenated by her joy! When we walked out of the office to start our day, Betty handed me a helmet and said, "You'll need this." That's not intimidating, right? The motorcycle looked more like a dirt bike. I was very nervous. But, Betty's smile kept me at ease. I put on my helmet with the Invisible Children logo across the front, made the sign of the cross, and hopped on the back. :) Immediately, I could tell that Betty loves driving the motorbike. It belongs to Invisible Children. They have many that they send the mentors out on during the day. So, Betty had to learn the bike when she became a mentor. But, she did very well...she just drives very fast! On the open roads we got up to about 70 miles per hour! Don't worry, Mom...I'm safe :)
Betty used to be a secondary school teacher, but changed to being a mentor for monetary purposes. She is perfect at it.
So, we went by her house, winding through the displacement camp, dodging chickens and goats within an inch of their life. But I think chickens and goats are always within an inch of their lives in Gulu. Betty changed into pants and we hopped on the motorbike to Koro Secondary, which is about 10 kilometers outside of town, off of Kampala Road.
But, before we turned off of Kampala Road, Betty pulled over at a small building and said that we needed to go visit. When we walked in, I realized that it was the MEND facility where the women make the bags! What?! Betty! You're amazing! I walked into the back and there were about 12 women sitting at sewing machines and each looked up and smiled at me. It was beautiful. I felt so privileged to get to see them in action. I even got to see the new designs for the bags...keep an eye out, girls! They're awesome! I tried to take one with me, but they just laughed nervously. :) Betty is a joy to everyone she meets. She's like a celebrity.
Back on the bike and down a dirt road through some bush and corn fields for many miles. I have never felt more free...I may be romanticizing the situation. But I just rode on the back of a motorcycle through the bush in Africa!! on a gorgeous day! Truly, the greatest feeling that I can recall thus far. We rode through many small displacement camps and finally arrived at the school. Betty and I met with the head teacher of Kora for a few moments and then we met with her sponsored child, Nancy. She was such a sweet-hearted girl. She is currently receiving a warning for her grades. I tried to encourage her as much as I could, even though I only had a few moments with her. Then, we got back on the bike and rode to Nancy's mother's hut. About another 5 or 6 miles...through the bush. If I thought I was in the bush before, I was wrong. This bush was brushing up against my legs...but that doesn't slow down Betty! So good. Every now and then I would hear the sound of more terrified goats running for their lives.
Finally, we reached a clearing that held about 5 small huts. There were goats and chickens running around, and many piles of different colored beans and vegetables spread all over the ground. A very old woman was laying on a mat under a tree and a younger woman was sifting the beans by pouring them into a bucket from very high in the air. The wind would blow away the shells as the beans fell.
We pulled up and sat next to the elderly woman. She did not speak English, but we spoke what little Acholi I know and then Betty translated. They were all very sweet. For a while, I just sat listening to these three women speaking their native language. I was trying to think of how I could describe this moment to everyone I know. But then I realized that I just needed to sit and breathe it in. As I looked around, it was a square clearing surrounded by walls of corn stalks. The dirt was brushed so intensely that it almost looked like a polished floor. As the women spoke their rhythmic language, the wind blew such a quiet peace across the field. The birds in the trees, the sound of the stalk leaves, the chickens clucking, the goats whining...I will never be in that spot again...but I hope I will never lose the feeling that I gained from it.
I am so sick that I did not have my camera with me. So very sick...
After a while, we got back on the bike and rode back through the bush to town. I was just trying to soak it all in. As we reached town, Betty said that I must take something to drink before I go. I said, no, you don't need to worry about it. This is the last time that I will ever not suggest what I might want to drink. She took me to a small shop and we sat at a table with two older men. One of whom would be great friends with Lynn Johnson! I'm trying to track him down in town right now so that I can get a picture, Lynn! His shirt was bright know the one...and it said, "Ithaca is gorges"!!!! Amazing! I will find this man, Lynn, I promise! :) Anyway, the waitress brought out two trays of mendazi (beignets) and a large, too large, cup of white milk...with chunks in it. Why? "Why are there chunks", I thought to myself. Betty said that this is her favorite...more than soda. It is sour milk. Holy hell! Are you kidding me? Okay, what to do...I can't be rude and refuse. She said to just put a lot of sugar in it. So, I did...and didn't breathe...and I sipped. Oh dear Lord...I didn't know what to do. I knew that if I tried to drink that whole thing that I would be on the floor for the rest of the weekend. So I smiled and sat and Betty, good woman that she is, knew that I was not okay with it. So she ordered an orange fanta for me. I love Betty!!! Love, love, love! :)
Then, we went back to the office. All in of the best days of my life. Hopefully I will get to go with Betty again before I leave so that I can bring my camera.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Aol Irene

Monday, June 22, 2009
Before prefect elections (below) – Today was an excellent teaching day. I got to teach the concept of plot mapping to all levels. They seemed to really grasp the concept. In fact, for the senior level four group (we had to combine both streams, so there were about 130 kids in the classroom at one time), after giving notes on the plot map I told them the short story “The Most Dangerous Game” …to the best of my ability from memory. It was amazing. If you haven’t read this story, you should. Anyway, they really appreciated hearing the story. And at the end, they were successfully able to map out the plot on their own. They even pinpointed the climax! So exciting…
After class, since we had to combine the two streams (classes) there was about an hour break in between class and lunch. So, I decided to sit outside because it was a gorgeous day and read Three Cups of Tea…hopefully all of you are doing your summer reading also. However, my reading was disturbed by a young girl that I have mentioned before. Irene is the “head girl” or head prefect for the girls at Keyo Secondary and she led the video tour in the schools for schools video for Invisible Children. We have developed a good friendship, so she came over to talk. I feel so blessed by the fact that she chose to share her story with me. And to be honest, if I had any doubt as to why I am here, she just refueled my reasons for coming.
Irene is the oldest child of a family of five children. Her father died in 2004 from HIV/AIDS and her mother is unable to work. So, when Irene was chosen to be one of the children sponsored by Invisible Children to have her school fees paid for, it made a huge difference in her family…and she has not taken a single day of this blessing for granted. I think that Irene will make an excellent role model for so many and I know she will go on to do great things.
I wish I could share her stories, but I don't feel comfortable publishing them in a blog. This is her life...
But she, like so many I have talked to, has the same stare. When they are talking to you about their experiences and all that they have seen, they get lost in a trance. It is uncanny. I can’t explain it, or imagine what it feels like. Maybe they just have to become numb to some extent in order to be able to recall those images. One thing that I have noticed about so many, especially Irene, is that they cling to God for hope. I am greatly encouraged by them. Their faith is so strong. It is humbling. We struggle with our faith back home on a daily basis, but they have been given every reason to turn their back on God by feeling like He has turned their back on them and they refuse. Instead, they run to him for every comfort. I can see both sides of it, but their strength still astounds me.

Prefect Elections at Keyo

Monday, June 22, 2009 – Today, afternoon classes were cancelled so that Senior Level 3 could hold prefect elections. I had to leave early because it was taking so long and I was out there for two hours. Wild. But the elections were held behind the staff room under a big tree to avoid the sun. I sat with the other teachers on the bench and about 200-300 students gathered under the tree on the ground and in desks that they had taken out of the classroom and placed in the shade. The group of prefect candidates was seated off to the side on a series of benches.
The current head prefect got up to introduce the candidates. He said that each candidate for head prefect would go first (there were three) and they would have a maximum of five minutes to speak. All other candidates (there were 15 total positions) would have a maximum of three minutes to speak. Then, he called out the first candidate.
As he got up to speak, I thought that this was going to be a very long, boring event because he was not the greatest speaker. I wanted desperately to tell him to just stand still, keep his head up, and talk loud enough for everyone to hear. But that is something that I say every day. The Acholi people speak so softly. I feel deaf all the time. After his five minutes were up, the head prefect took questions for the candidate. There were none. No one seemed to care about his speech.
However, the next candidate was announced. This boy I recognized because Florence and I interviewed him last week. He is 21 years old and is in senior level three (the equivalent of ninth grade). The reason, though, that he is so old and still in such a low level is that he was abducted when he was 13 years old. Shortly after he returned from the bush, both of his parents died of HIV/AIDS. So now he is the oldest sibling left to care for his brothers and sisters.
He rose from his candidacy bench with great poise and resolve. His face was stone. He is about 6’5” and as skinny as a rail. He wore a suit and tie, but I am not sure whose suit it was. The sleeves of the blazer were about five inches too short for him. On anyone else, I may have laughed. However, his intent was so clear that I had no choice but to give him respect. As soon as he stood, two young girls in school uniform jumped up to accompany him on his walk to the center of the grass, carrying two colorful umbrellas over his head. A comical scene, but one that deserved much admiration. He gave a great speech…very clearly stated, reserved, and analytical. He gave numerous reasons in his “manifesto” for the need to “mandate him into power”. I thought, surely, this candidate could not be beaten. However, the final candidate was one that I recognized from his repeated participation in class. Odong Magellan walked to the center of the field, also accompanied by two ladies with umbrellas. I was very proud of him and I am anxious to see who will come out on top tomorrow in the voting process.
Their speeches were all delivered in English. I was surprised at how clearly they spoke. However, there were a few candidates throughout the speeches that got some words confused. With so many categories of prefects, the speeches all ran together after a while. But the entertainment prefect speeches were funny. When the first candidate was called up to speak, he immediately abandoned the formal introduction that all the other candidates had followed. Instead, he jumped up and started running into the opening of the field with a piece of rolled up loose leaf paper for a microphone, his pants pulled down low, and he started rapping. He also had three other boys join him as his entourage. All holding rolled up pieces of loose leaf paper, occasionally yelling “yeah”, “uh huh”, “right”. Amazing. Actually, one of of my favorites of all the students I have spoken to at Keyo…Mandela Nelson, had his pants pulled down low and was sticking his belly out as far as he could. Now, Mandela is about 5’3” and tiny in the waist, so there is not much of a belly to stick out. But he was trying the whole time and kept scratching it as he jumped around yelling. Any idea who he is imitating? My first instinct was maybe Lil’ Jon? All in all, it was an entertaining performance. And the first of a few that were similar.
I thoroughly enjoyed the speeches and was sad when I had to leave early. But I did get to talk to a few of the students before I left to commend them on their performance. It is funny to me that people are the same everywhere you go. Of course there are drastic cultural differences. But as far as personalities go, so similar. There is always a range from the sweet, shy, quiet ones to the loud, comical, need for attention ones.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I miss wearing pants! is our first full day off since we have been here. I am so excited. For some reason, I did not pack any pants. I only packed skirts and capris. Unfortunate...I can't wait to get home and put on my jeans! I think I have even forgotten what my jeans look like!

Anyway, there are three new posts below. Hope you enjoy them. It's been an eventful weekend. The wedding that was going on next door while I was writing ended up lasting until four in the morning. So there was a constant bass beat all night long. Outrageous! They started up the festivities again today, so I had to get out of there.

But I miss y'all and love y'all! Hope all is well!

Fort Potiko

Saturday 6.20.2009
Today we went to Fort Potiko with our teachers. It was a beautiful day, but no one told us that we would be rock climbing. It was about a 45 minute drive in two mutatus. I was so exhausted from singing last night and not in the mood to socialize. But, it all turned out lovely. The drive was fun as usual in the mutatu. The roads here are so terrible. It keeps things entertaining.
Sidenote: There is a wedding going on next door right now. It is so loud. The man on the microphone sounds like he’s on one of those Spanish game shows. I’m not quite sure what he is narrating. I got to watch the traditional dancing earlier. It was amazing.
So, when we arrived at Fort Potiko we immediately started the tour. The fort is dedicated to Samuel Baker who came and freed the slaves that were being held and killed there. It’s not a fort like you would think of back home…the kind that would be in some John Wayne movie. It was a giant rock formation (yes, similar to Pride Rock in The Lion King) that they turned into a fort. The crevices were used as holding cells for the slaves and the slabs of stone were used as execution areas. We saw marks in the stones where the beheadings took place. We climbed to the top of the rock formation, which was very tedious, and we could see all of Gulu. We could even see to Sudan. It was vastly beautiful.
Florence and I took some pictures together on top of the rock. Her husband Jimmy came too. They seemed so excited to be on an adventure like this. And I was so surprised at how willing they were to be rock climbing in dress clothes. We didn’t realize that it would be so intensive. After the tour, we went down to the clearing for the barbecue. Sasha (a teacher from Arizona) made guacamole. It was INCREDIBLE! We dipped chapatti (which is like Ninfa’s tortillas) in it. They eat chapatti here with just about everything. That makes me happy. I love tortillas. We also had barbecue chicken, roasted vegetables, fruit, and corn on the cob. But it was not corn on the cob like back home. Very dry…it reminded me of the corn that we used to play with on pilgrims and Indians/Thanksgiving dress up days in elementary school.
The sunset was astounding. I tried to take pictures of it from the mutatu but they don’t do it justice. It really took my breath away.
Sidenote #2: Abbie and Sasha just got back from town and Abbie brought me a can of ranch Pringle’s. I’m so happy right now.
I played Frisbee with some kids in the field after we ate. I actually was not so bad! Surprising…
Very ready for the ride home. It was so dusty, though. We need it to rain again soon to settle the dust.
Peace-ing out…so tired…good night.Nevermind…there will be no sleeping tonight with the dance party going on next door. The walls are shaking…shaking. And with all the electricity they are using ours will probably go out. There is actually someone blowing a whistle to the beat of the music.

First Gig in Gulu!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday night at quiz night, Abbie asked Derek, the owner of Bamboo from the UK, if he ever had live music at the pub. He said, yeah, and pointed to Mick at the end of the bar. Mick is a big, bald Irish man who likes to taunt the Americans on quiz night because he is smarter than us. We have become good friends through the quizzes. I may have mentioned him before, but I’m not sure. He is in Uganda working with an organization that de-mines the landmines. But apparently he is also a country singer. Amazing. So, Abbie mentioned to Mick and Derek that I sing (she’s my agent in Gulu) and Mick said well let’s play tomorrow night (Friday).
I was really excited. And everyone else was as well. All of my group came and group two came as well. They are a good family to me. Very encouraging. Also, Tom’s sons Obi and Apollo were there. Mick sang first. He blew me away. It is so funny to me that his accent completely disappeared as soon as he started singing. He sang a lot of American country covers. Then, he passed the guitar to me and I played about three songs and passed it back and then he passed it back, etc. It was awesome! We even sang together on a few…like “Me and Bobby McGee”. I love how surprised people get when I sing because they wouldn’t normally realize that something so loud could come out of me. There were apparently some neighbors next to Bamboo that liked it too, I heard the (ay-i-i-i-ii!!!) Good times. Mick sang a few Irish songs as well. The accent came back for those. He sang “Danny Boy” and “The Town I Once Loved”. Beautiful. People started phasing out after a few hours, but we just kept playing. I hope that we get to do that again because it was just what I needed. I just adore music and I was so grateful to get to share it with so many great people.
One of the guys from group two is from St. Louis and he said that he wants to book me at a local restaurant that features musicians. He said that they will pay my way there and that all the profits raised will be split between me and Invisible Children. I think it’s a great idea. I’m always up for a road trip!Anyway, it was a great night. Hope it happens again.