Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The End

I have an announcement to make. Drum roll please...................

My two years have come to an end! I've moved out of my house and left the village of Naddangira. I feel happy, sad, excited, apprehensive, proud, nostalgic, confused, optimistic and a lot of other things that I cannot even put a name to. At the same time, I think I am still in shock and haven't truly realized that I am leaving Uganda. After two years here it is hard to imagine how different my life will be once I leave. It makes my brain hurt a little just to think about it. So I'm just trying not to think too much.
The last few months have been very busy as I tried to tie up loose ends and complete my projects, as well as saying goodbye to my friends and colleagues here in Uganda. But at the end of it all, everything was finished in time, including:


The "library" before we began. This room was not being used, except for storing a few musical instruments and old shoes (I don't know why they had old shoes, mystery to me).

The shelves, which were built by the first grade teacher, a carpenter, and myself, reusing lumber from broken desks and chairs.

Me, painting.
Some of the books, organized and labelled!

Teachers and a student working in the library to make instructional materials.


The library, with students peeking in at the windows.

A teachers showing her colleagues how to use some of the library materials.


The building in its original state, with children inside learning.


The Headmaster and the finished building.

Parents gathered for the official opening of the new building.

The thing that is hardest about leaving is leaving the people that have cared for my while I've been here. Everyone, from the women in the market selling food to the Principal of the Primary Teachers' College, has asked me, "Okomyewo ddi?"--"When are you coming back?" This is such a hard question to answer. I sincerely hope that I will one day be able to come back to Uganda and visit--no, I KNOW I will one day return to visit--but who knows when. And who knows who I will find still in my village. I may never see some of my Ugandan friends again. But enough of the sad side, I feel confident that I will keep in touch with some of my friends in Uganda, and even if we lose touch they have changed me forever.

My counterpart Lukman and schools I have been working with came together to organize a farewell celebration for me. It was thoughtful and touching and I feel so grateful to have spent two years in the Naddangira community. These people took care of me and welcomed me in a way I cannot explain! Saying goodbye was hard, but at the same time I felt good.

Kazibwe Joseph, the Headmaster of St. Pius Primary School, at my farewell ceremony.

Me accepting a gift of sugar cane from some of the children.

A few of the students of St. Pius say goodbye!

The teachers of St. Pius

The women I live with
(from top left:Nakayiza, Carol, Julie, Betty;
from bottom left: Annet, Siza, Rita, and Letishia).

My going away party at my house.
This was the awkward-dance-party segment of the evening.
Me and Lukman's family (from top left:Rayan, Hajirah, Josephine, Baby Riyaz, Me, Lukman; from bottom left, ____, Rahman)

I will leave Uganda on May 15th. I plan to travel in Malawi and Mozambique before returning to the US on June 17th. Get ready.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Cut it!...Imbalu Ceremony

Uganda is made up of approximately 50 different tribes (thanks colonialism!). Of course there are a number of similarities between the tribes, but there are also a lot of cultural differences. Language is a big one--there are something like 47 different languages spoken in Uganda!

The Bugisu tribe, found in the far east of the country near Mount Elgon on the Kenya border, is unique among Ugandan peoples in that it performs a circumcision ritual for all men. For a Gisu (the singular form of Bugisu) boy to enter manhood they MUST be circumcised. Publicly. The age at which the boy is circumcised varies, but it usually takes place somewhere between 14-18 years. The ceremony is a rite of passage and celebration, and there is a lot of pride attached to it's successful completion. Basically, it's a pretty big deal.

So, of course, I had to see a Bugisu circumcision ceremony: the Imbalu.

I went with my friend Dan to his colleague Tadaeu Mabonga's village. Mabonga's sons and nephew were getting circumcised and he invited us to come witness the ceremony and participate in the celebration. The ceremony actually takes place over the course of three days, with the actual circumcision happening on the third day. The first two days are mainly a series of dances and processions that mentally and physically exhaust the boys (probably so they're too tired to panic at the last minute and try to escape the knife!). On the third day they're smeared with a yeast mixture and dressed traditionally in beads the goat skin. Then they lead a procession of their family and friends around the village singing and dancing. At the end of the procession the friends, family, and neighbors gather around in a big mob, the boys standing on a cloth in the middle. Then a "trained" village man uses a big, big knife to cut off a rather large piece of foreskin. And viola!!! The boy has become a man! I've included some pictures below, although I did not post any of the more graphic shots. But it was an incredibly graphic experience.

The setting of the Mabonga's village.

Mabonga (right with the plastic sack) smearing his nephew with yeast.

The three initiates.

Now, you may be wondering what all the spectators do throughout the three days of this ceremony. Mainly they sit around drinking malwa, a locally brewed beer. Malwa is made from maize or millet and it's pretty chunky, and tastes a bit like I imagine dirty socks would. But it's a very social activity--everyone sits around the pot or bucket of alcohol and passes drinking straws around--and it's what I did from most of the two days I was at the ceremony. Of course I got pretty horrible uh, ...stomach issues, afterwards. But it was totally worth it.
Me drinking malwa with Mabonga and a neighbor.