Saturday, December 27, 2008

Lovely Lamu

The second week of December I took an amazing little vacation to Kenya. The goal: Lamu, a beautiful Swahili island about 7 hours (by bus) North of Mombasa. Gorgeous and amazing.

Yes, the water actually is this color. And it's warm! And yes, it is December!

On Lamu donkeys are the main mode of transport and transporting goods around the island.

A bunch of the noble beasts eating a huge trash heap.

Old architecture, old man, pink flowers.

Lamu is known for its intricately carved door frames such as this one.

Man making coconut jewelry, with donkeys who kept trying to eat the coconuts.

The market.

A dhow.

Ryan and I on a dhow that took us sailing, fishing, and snorkling.

It's the people that make the place

As my time here in Uganda begins to draw to a close (I'm coming home in May!!!) I have been thinking about what has really impacted me about this experience. You know, reflecting and all that emotional insight stuff. I have realized that the most rewarding thing for me is just having connected with different Ugandans. I don't want to be negative, but I do want to be honest, so I must say that work can be frustrating: I feel like I'm not really making an impact or that I am not doing enough when it seems there is so much that needs to be done. But despite that frustration, my friendships and the cultural exchange associated with them is what really has made everything worthwhile.

The person I feel closest to in Uganda is my counterpart, the Ugandan I work with, Lukman Kirya. He is a great great guy with an adorable, welcoming, and friendly family. My connections with Lukman and his family are the center point of my joy at being here in Uganda. Their acceptance of me and desire to include me in their lives is what has made this last year and a half such an amazing experience!!!

A few highlights of my inclusion in Lukman's Family:
  • Having a volleyball competition with a few other PCVs, Lukman, his wife Josephine, and his cousin Bruhan. Lukman and Josephine both killed at volleyball! It was great seeing them joke and compete with each other, as a lot of Ugandan couples maintain a very formal and gender divided front.
  • Lukman and Josephine eating thanksgiving dinner with me last year. They loved the American food!!! Josephine was super super pregnant with their third child at the time--I thought she might pop!
  • Being a bride's maid in Esther's (Lukman's cousin) wedding. I had to wear an awesome 90's-prom-style dress, complete with sparkly rhinestones and a full bottle of hairspray in my hair. Esther, her husband, and their three beautiful children are wonderful, welcoming people, and my friendship with them is now forever immortalized in the wedding picture I am in that is hanging on their living room wall!
  • Janat Gimbo (Lukman's sister) picking my mom up from the airport in the middle of the night when she visited. She also escorted us back to the airport after my mom's visit!!!
  • Lukman's mom weaving my mom a grass mat as a gift.
  • Spending the night at Beatrice Kiwalabye's (Lukman's aunt) house after attending a raging Ugandan party she was throwing

Most recently, I have been involved in two important family functions with Lukman and his family. First, Lukman and his wife Josephine had their Introduction Ceremony, which is when the bride's family meets the groom's family and dowry is negotiated and paid. For this ceremony we had to travel to Kenya, as Josephine is Kenyan and her family still lives there. We started planning the ceremony in September, having weekly or bi-weekly family meetings to discuss the budget, raise money for the dowry, and generally organize everything. Then, on December 6th, we travelled with 50 of Lukman's friends, family, and colleagues to Eldoret, Kenya to "buy" his wife! Below is Lukman's brother (left), Lukman (center), and I (self explanatory) after the Introduction Ceremony. For formal wear that Ugandan men wear is a long dress called a kanzu with a coat over top, while women were the silly dress with big shoulders and huge sash that I have on, which is called a gomez.

Here is me before the ceremony preparing to carry part of the dowry in on my head, as is traditional for women to do.

The second family function that I attended recently was a funeral rites ceremony (kind of like a memorial ceremony) for Lukman's deceased grandfather and aunts. For this ceremony we travelled to the Eastern area of Uganda, to the Bugisu region where Lukman's mother is from. I travelled to the village on my own, Lukman having gone a day early. He said that when he arrived the first question he got from everyone was "Where is Nakayiwa (my Ugandan name)?!" Being so far from home and the comforts of friends and family it is hard to express how touched I am to have been fully embraced by this family to the extent that it is just assumed I will be with them at any important event. At this ceremony the family also gave me a name from the Bugisu tribe, as Nakayiwa is from the Buganda tribe. So I am now Nakayiwa Wabule Brett! They make a big deal out of names here as each belongs to a tribe, but also within that tribe to a specific clan--i actually met the head of the Wabule clan while I was at the ceremony! He was very excited to have a muzungu clan member! Below (left to right) is Lukman, a cousin, aunt Beatrice, and wife Josephine.

After the formal part of the ceremony, the gathering turned into a big party to drink locally brewed alcohol, called malwa. You drink it through a long straw with a sieve on the end, because it is chunky with the millet it is brewed using. People will sit ALL day drinking it, hence the gargantuan bucket.

Aside from my relationship with Lukman's family, I also enjoy socially interacting with a few of the teachers I work with. I went to the market at the same time as one teacher the other day and she was so excited that she held my hand the whole time and was just so proud to be with me. I had a birthday party and seven or eight the teachers came and had a great time. I made them sish-kebabs, which they had never tasted before and they really enjoyed. One teacher proclaimed that he was changing the name from sish-kebab to delish-kebab! So many people in the community I live in are also wonderfully friendly and warm. There's a little old man who lives in my village who only speaks to me in Luganda. I only understand like 10% (tops!) of what he's saying, but he gives me things from his garden and wants me to teach him how to bake corn bread. And he always tells me in Luganda when I get confused, "Ojakuyiga, mpola mpola"-- "You will learn, slowly, slowly."