søndag 29. november 2009

Days of our lives

In a blog, you're supposed to write about things that might interest others. I haven't written a blog in a long time, I haven't found all that much I think will interest others. However, during the last couple of weeks, we've had quite a few visitors, and I realised that our everyday lives are actually quite exotic and interesting in their eyes. Therefore, I figured it might be just that to others as well, hence, I'll blog about it. I'll take you through an ordinary day here in Mbale.

I get up at about seven; turn on the oven and start preparing scones for breakfast.

Marthe and I eat and chat for a little bit too long every morning and rush a bit through brushing the teeth and, for me, putting my hair up (it's way too hot to wear it down, even though this is the cold season!). We then walk the thirty minutes to CRO. About ten-fifteen strangers greet us every day during these thirty minutes. They're all asking how we are. The weird ting is that almost none start asking until we've passed each other. Moreover, they keep on talking as they walk in the opposite direction, back to back (it's amazing how long you can keep a conversation going while you're walking away from each other, back to back. Marthe once witnessed such a conversation stretching out for about fifty meters!). When we're about halfway to the CRO, we hear shouting from a distance "Silia! Mafhotte!" Some of the kids from the CRO catch up with us and we walk the last bit together.

When we reach the CRO, the doorkeeper, called Mordercai, opens up the gate for us and welcomes us, followed by about five-ten kids who come over and say hi. Then, we're off to morning devotion. It lasts for an hour and contains prayer, worship and a special message from one member of staff (or two, as is the case when Marthe and I are in charge). After the devotion, I teach my class which consists of the children who are about to join P1 (first class in primary school) in numbers. I do so in what is usually the dining, but for the occasion we've put the benches and tables like desks and chairs in a class room, and a portable blackboard is put on one of the tables, then; I try my very best to teach them how to count, but above all how to concentrate. That can truly be challenging sometimes, but it's not easy to stay angry with them. They're just too sweet and lovable!

After class, the kids have porridge (maize flour and water) and I try to make sure they don't make too much of a mess. The kids themselves clean up the mess that they've made before they can play. Oftentimes, I join the kids when they are playing around in the compound, other times I take one kid aside and have private tutoring or counselling. Sometimes, we also just goof around in our office and have fun with a camera.

Then, it's lunchtime. Mmmmm... lunchtime! We eat beans and posho every day, except for when we have visitors; then we get meat. Nevertheless, I actually prefer the posho and beans. It's yummy! In addition, we also get the world's best fresh passion fruit juice! After lunch we train the kids in our groups in various circus games, I'm in charge of the Chinese plates group. They've made me so proud in the presentations the previous week!

When the day in CRO is over, we do some grocery shopping and go home. The way home is pretty much the same as when we're going to the project; many people greet us and make us feel very welcome. When we've reached home, we drop our bags and I sometimes head to Namatala (the slum area) by myself. I go to buy fruit and vegetables for dinner in the marked. It's really a nice trip to take, especially now that people are starting to recognize me, and say Silia, not just Mzungo. I buy lovely avocadoes and tomatoes from Juliet, the mother of a girl in the CRO, and bananas from a woman that only speaks Swahili. I'm always overjoyed when I understand the price she's giving me, and she's always laughing when I don't get it.

After shopping for dinner for the two of us, spending about 1500 UGSX (4,50 NOK), we go home and prepare the food. When the electricity is out, we sit outside and light up our paraffin cooker.

If there's still some spirit left in us after the dishes, we go out our door and into the library and start a disco with our great, African comrades. We do salsa, swing and other fun stuff until we're too tired to keep going.

At that time, Marthe and I retreat to have a little time with each other before going to sleep. We do as Jack Johnson expresses so neatly in "Banana pancakes"- we close the curtains, pretend like there's no world outside. Good night, Uganda!

onsdag 4. november 2009

A step in the right direction

Some time ago, we were at a football match with the CRO-team. They're actually in the top league in Uganda, so it's a good team. In the first half, Marthe and I sat under a roof on one side of the field where all the grown-ups sat. On the other side of the field there was no roof, but a mighty lively gang. The children from the CRO and many other young people were dancing and playing drums and cheering. We decided to go over there for the second half.

As we walked over to the other side, some of "our girls" came running towards us to greet us and make us come and sit with them. We felt very welcome, and this was indeed the more festive side. However, the seats weren't all that. There were just concrete steps with no support for the back or anything. Therefore, I decided to stand up for a bit. I left the girl I'd been devoting most of my attention to in order to stretch my legs for some time.

When I got up and freed my attention, I started noticing things. There weren't only CRO-kids with "God loves me" on their backs surrounding me. Most of the kids were probably still on the streets. Their clothes were ragged and their faces and legs were dirty. Then, I spotted a kid that's been coming to CRO for a while now. Two seconds after he caught my eye, I saw him catch something else. He snatched a bottle from another young boy. The other boy hardly reacted; he just looked up and after the CRO-boy, his eyes hazy and red. There wasn't cola in that cola-bottle. Whether it was glue or airplane-fuel, I'm not sure. Nevertheless, it was probably one of the two.

When I'd spotted the first bottle, they suddenly appeared everywhere. A closed fist against the nose, a bulk under a shirt, bottles... The singing, dancing and drumming all of a sudden got another side to it. Some of the most active dancers and cheerers had an unstable walk and woozy eyes. And the smell. It quickly became piercing. The entire place reeked of glue and fuel.

However, that wasn't the worst part of it. The worst thing was that there was no one there to stop it. No one to take the bottles away or look after the children to keep them from doing these foolish things. The children can't help it. When you're eight years old, there are limits to your long-term thinking. And most of the time, these children don't have anyone to do this thinking for them...

This is where I should have come with a hopeful ending. A bright solution. But right now, I can't see a quick-fix. The only hope for many of them might be to come to the CRO, but even that doesn't necessarily guarantee a change. However, it could be a step in the right diredtion.

A well-earned tribute

I've written a couple of blogs since I came here. They've given an impression of what life is like in Uganda. However, when I thought of what I'd written, I realised that I'd left out a vital part. The thing I assign this tribute to is actually a very big part of my everyday life. Marthe and I have even made a lovely piece of art in honour of this marvellous thing. I am of course, for those who know me, talking about food. But not just any food. I'm talking about the Chapatti!


We started out quite lightly, but as time went on, the most of our garbage consisted of Chapatti-wrappings. Out of curiosity, we decided to count how many we have every month. Therefore, we've made a lovely list that's situated on the door of our living room. We've got pens stuck to the door to make the notation less troublesome. The blue lines are the ones we've bought; the green ones are our own attempts to make the dish (not quite so heavenly).

The fascinating thing about the Chapatti is that it's like the potato; it can be used for anything! Breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, snack, picnics. It's grand anyway! You can have it with cinnamon and sugar, avocado and tomato, banana, Nutella (yes, my dear ones, I've found Nutella!) or you can take it plain.
It's amazing either way. I know this might look very silly compared to many of the other things I've written about. Nevertheless, it's me; a food blog was unavoidable!