mandag 10. mai 2010

A heavy settlement for resettlement

I guess I was a quite average 14 year-old girl. My moods could change in the blink of an eye from hyperactively chirpy to inexplicable anger and sadness. One moment I was laughing so hard I almost fell to the ground, the next I could be convinced that everything was just crap. When being in the down-swing on the mood curve I could imagine a lot of silly things. If my parents happened to push the wrong buttons at the wrong time, I could for a brief moment think that they didn’t like me or care about me all that much. If I would have disappeared for a while, they would probably not even notice or care. Is this recognizable to anyone?
Most often I would just feel like this for a short time and then snap out of it. I always came back to the certainty that my parents love me and would be devastated if anything should happen to me, or if I got lost. When resuming the normal mind-set I’d feel silly for even thinking that they wouldn’t care. After all, they are my parents. Parents love their children no matter what, right?


If it is right, though, some parents have great difficulties accessing and expressing such an unconditional love. I never knew just who these parents were, what they looked like or how they behaved. I’ve never met a parent who simply does not care or want their own child. Not until last week.

100 %We’re about to take off, almost ready to go
50/50 nervous and excited
That’s why I’m cleaning up so

Walking to our transport I’m looking over at you
You’re now 20 % excited
Fractions of fear are pressing through

When reaching the place I used to lived, the excitement is no longer there
I’m nervous and fearing, what will I meet?
Anticipation fills up the air

We find the aunt’s place, we sit there and wait
You want and need to see your father
No matter how high the rate

The father finally arrived, hardly greeting his son
80 % disappointment
Most of the hope was now gone

I look at my father not looking at me
My friend tries to meet my eyes
Why won’t he?

We talk to your father, try to open his view
To make him see all the good things
That are moving inside of you

My father said cruel things, as cruel as can be
Claiming there’s no way a good man like him
Could be the real father of a brat like me

He made a gentle offer, though, giving me some land
He’s willing to fulfil his lawful duties
But I don’t think he’ll ever again hold my hand

As if your father hadn’t said enough to hurt you beyond repair
His last words were:
“I know that on many issues, I can currently not see clear.
But of this I’m most certain! I absolutely, 100 % do not want that boy around here!”

I was rendered speechless, rage bubbling inside of me. All I wanted was to take my friend out of there, away from his father, away from the rejection. I wanted to cry and yell at the father and just knock him down for being so awful to this amazing, young, vulnerable boy. However, it would merely cause more problems and hardship from the father, so I kept the 14 year-old mood-swing-behaviour to myself, clenched my teeth and tried to just be there for my friend. And God knows he needed all the support he could get, being called a social deviant, a thief, a hopeless case and hearing that his own father would rather see him in prison than in his home…

We left about thirty minutes after the father had left us in the aunt’s place. The boy had to be allowed to finish crying. When we went, we were all disappointed and quite shocked (except for the CRO resettlement-officer who’s more used to this and has experienced cases that were far worse than this one). When we got back to CRO, the boy didn’t even speak. He was so exhausted, he fell asleep. While he was sleeping, we contacted an aunt. We were going to try our luck there the next day. Nothing to do but hope and pray that it would not lead to another rejection!

Settling the resettlement

We were ready to try yet again.For the second time that week, we put the blanket and the t-shirt in a plastic bag, climed a boda and set off to the same outskirt of Mbale. The boy seemed surprisingly calm and collected. There was even a smile on his face at times. The fear didn't seem to be present anymore. Maybe because he didn't care as much this time. I mean, it couldn't possibly be worse than the previous day! He looked to be quite indifferent, just walking towards our destination with no expectations of any kind, neither good or bad.

Luckily, the aunt and the people around her did not seem indifferent. They gave a completely different reception than the father gave the previous day. They all greeted him, looked at him and talked to him, not just about him. They looked to be genuinely interested in having contact with him and help him. It turend out that he had lived with this aunt before, but he had done something not so good and he'd run away. However, the aunt was willing to forgive and forget. She wanted to give the boy a second chance.

Despite the fact that they were not talking him down, I coud see that the boy was feeling somehow uncomfortable all the while the aunt and the counsellor were talking. He was twiddeling his thumbs and avoiding eye-contact most of the time. It was obvious he was still a bit nervous, even though he had hid it well (and it was obvious he was still trying to hide it), and I could begin to recognize some of the fear and memories from yesterday sneaking in. Needless to say; they were still bothering him.

At least, the aunt and the people around him didn't provide fuel for these burning memories. Even though he apparently did something bad last time, they didn't ramble on about how awful the boy was. They simply took him back. Everything was settled. Yet, the boy still didn't look all that happy, his mind still contemplating on the awful incident of the day before. But at least he had stopped twiddeling his thumbs. His hands now lay calm on the bench where he was seated. It was obvious he wasn't thrilled with the situation, of course he'd rather stay with his father, but he seemed to have come to rest with the current circumstances.

My hope now is that he'll manage to stay in this home for a full week (that's when we'll be coming back). If he's still there, we'll get him into one of the nearby schools for the second term. Then, he'll only be put back one more year. That means he'll commence fifth grade at the age of fifteen. It's not too bad. And if anyone can do this without giving up, it's definitely this inspiring, aspiring young man!

torsdag 29. april 2010

School signs

Signs are made to inform people of various things. They all have some sort of a purpose. Some are made to promote a product or a service, others to help you in the traffic, tell you which street you’re on and such. I Norway, these kinds of signs are highly common. However, the common phenomenon in Uganda of signs in schools are not normally found in Norway.

In Ugandan schools they are found pretty much everywhere. They are there to inform, guide and educate the children in a variety of “subjects”. Like all other signs, there's a reason why they are put where they are and that they are saying what they say. By reading the signs in a place, you can tell a lot about said place. About what sort of information people in the area need to be acquainted with.

The signs contain information on the matters that are important and a large part of people’s lives that people still need some help in handling. The signs also say something about what the people with the power, the “sign-purchasers”, think is important. Let me illustrate with some pictures of signs from Nabuyonga Primary School in Mbale, Uganda.


Being clean, having clean clothes and a clean surrounding is extremely important in Uganda. Lack of cleanliness is pretty much equivalent to lack of money and manners. Let me tell you a story that shows just how important this is to some Ugandans.
A friend of mine from the UK told me about a friend of his who is a water engineer. The engineer started a major project in a rural area of Uganda that was very much bothered by diseases from unclean water. He installed a water-cleansing system so that all the people in that place could access clean water free-of-charge. No more cholera and other awful diseases from water! Genius, huh? But after some time, he went to check on his project and found that no one was using the new system. He could not understand why the people refused to use the healthy water.
There was one major aspect that he hadn't considered; how much foam will the cleansed water produce when washing clothes compared to the dirty water? The answer was easy, the new water made less foam from the same amount of soap when washing clothes than the old water. The people were then left with three options;
1. Use more soap
2. Have clothes that are less clean
3. Keep on using the old water
Number one is not really an option, because soap is very expensive. The second one is not an option due to the internalized notion in the people that cleanliness is EXTREMELY important! Then, there's only one option left.
A little bit crazy, huh? But that's just how important it is to be clean!


Oh, one is supposed to stay in school and finish education? In Norway, this is a given. All children go through at least ten years of school, and all have the opportunity to attend for 13 years. Most young people understand that education is important in order to have a decent life in the future. If they don’t, they probably have parents who do, and who will push/force them to continue if they’re thinking of dropping out. In Uganda, the situation is quite different. School is expensive. Furthermore it deprives the family of a source of income. Even though he or she is just a kid, they can still contribute to the family’s upkeep. When they’re in school, it’s more difficult to contribute to the income. So for some, the parents do not provide the supporting voice which encourages the children to stay in school when times get tough (this does, of course, not apply to everyone, many parents support their children going to school very keenly). And times can really get tough for the Ugandan kids, with strict discipline, very hard work and, at times, harshly direct feedback from the teachers. Therefore, it’s actually quite necessary to have these kinds of reminders around the school compound.

onsdag 31. mars 2010


Pop by "The poetic corner" if you've not yet done so. I'm quite the Rhymenoceros, if I may say so myself.

lørdag 6. mars 2010

Could've been

This song makes so much more sense to me now, after staying in Uganda for five months and realising how different realities one can face in this world. Seeing how tough conditions the children I work with live in. It is scares me to think about how it would have been to live like they do. Living in such hardship. Luckily for me, it is not. However, I do not think that it is mainly because someone loved me, and did not love these people.The main reason is that they were born in Uganda, while I was born in Norway. It is so fundamentally unfair that this one thing has got so much to say for ones life. Nobody can decide where to be born, we have any impact on that at all. Nevertheless, it is what decides that it could’ve been me, and at the same thing makes sure that it is not me. It is also the same thing that makes it so that it is them…
You should sit down and listen to this song and praise yourself lucky that you are in a position where it could’ve been you, yet it is not.

Kirk Franklin - Could’ve been
It could’ve been me
With no Clothes or shoes and nothing to eat
It could’ve been me
Without your loving, tell me where would I be?

Could’ve been
Me in the cold wind
Everything gone
No house, no job
Outside and alone
Trying to look around
Where would I go
Can’t somebody help me?
Tell me what do I do

torsdag 18. februar 2010

The week of 1000 UGSHX / day

Living in Uganda is very cheap compared to Norway. 3 NOK gives you about 1000 UGSHX (ca 0,5 USD). For 3 NOK you can get one banana, if you buy the cheap ones. For 1000 UGSHX, you can get dinner for two people and be a hundred and ten percent full. Late on a Sunday night my dear partner, Marthe, and I started thinking; Hm… could it be possible for us to go a whole week spending no more than 1000 UGSHX per person per day? We decided to give it a shot. Then we figured out it would be a good idea to check what we did and did not have. We had some flour, so we could make scones in the mornings, puh! Some rice and spaghetti was also to be found. The only ting we saw as a potential problem was this; there was one and a half roll of toilet paper left, aiai… Still, we had decided to go through with it, we’d just have to eat a little less one day to have enough for the TP. We were much exited when we went to bed on Sunday, really looking forward to try out our new project!

Day 1

Our total spending today was 0,- UGSHX. We were invited to a missionary family for dinner in the evening. They live far out on the other side of town, but we walked (for one and a half hour) to get there and they drove us back.

Silje: This is going great! It’s so good not having to worry about what to buy or whether to walk or bode (take a boda boda / motorcycle taxi).

Marthe: Yep… It’s looking good. It leads to conscious choices.

Day 2

We spent 2000 today. We bought 4 eggs, onions and yoghurt.

Silje: I’m not feeling too good. Think I’m sick. I have very little energy and appetite and would have loved a Del Monte juice (at 3600) and a movie (3000).

Marthe: It’s still going ok. No problem.

Day 3

and so on and so on...

Our total spending today was 57 000. UGSHX. This was spent on bodas, consultation and tests.

Silje: turns out it’s not all that easy to limit the spending to 1000 UGSHX/day when you get sick. I have malaria.

Marthe, on the other hand, has been very good and not spent any money today!

Even though I’ve been quite bad regarding my spending, I think I deserve some credit for carrying out a night survey (walking in the town centre from midnight until two) with malaria!

Day 4

Total amount spent today was 1700 UGSHX. Wise as I am, I went to work today. Good idea! But at least I didn’t think I’d manage to walk to work. Therefore, I spent 1000 UGSHX on boda. In addition, for food, Marthe bought chapattis for 700.

Day 5

Today, we spent 800 UGSHX. I stayed home the whole day, enjoying my malaria. In the evening, Marthe and I had a lovely pineapple at 800 UGSHX.

Day 6

We spent 2700 today. (Yes, it’s ok because we’ve saved up the excess amount earlier this week) We had lunch in Namatala for 1200 (really full and marvellous lunch!) and bought Blue Band (butter) at 1000 UGSHX (to make cake for tomorrow) and two eggs for 500 UGSHX.

Day 7

Total amount spent today was 4500. We visited a Ugandan friend called Brenda today. On the way to her place, I managed to break my shoe, but a nice chap along the road fixed it for 500 UGSHX. Then, we went to the Internet, spending 1400 UGSHX. We got plenty of food at Brenda’s place, so we didn’t really need anything when we came home. However, we were left with so much money, so we bought sugar for 1200 UGSHX and a roll of toilet paper at 400 UGSHX.

If my math is correct, this means that apart from my major splurge at the hospital (bodas, consulting and tests), we spent 11 400 UGSHX (ca 35-40 NOK) between us the whole week. Meaning we even remained with 3600! Haha! We made it, sort of. If you count in the malaria-expenses, on the other hand, we blasted our budget big time, ending with 68 400 UGSHX (ca 200-210 NOK). Either way, it’s not bad. Nevertheless, it proves an important point; it’s fully possible to live on little… until something unexpected happens. The 1000 UGSHX / day-life can work out, but it takes nothing to mess it up. One little “bzzzzzzz; mosquito-bite” and you’re out. Good experience, though. Mission accomplished!

søndag 7. februar 2010

Is your flat not all that?

Finding a good place to stay when you are studying can be difficult. Even though you are using half of your income just to pay the rent, the flat may not be all that. If you are among the less fortunate ones you might wind up having to share your bedroom with another person. This means you will not be getting any real private space. The situation is not exactly as you would have wanted it to be. However, it could have been worse. It all depends on whom you compare yourself to.

My previous flat in Drammen
2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bathroom
7000 NOK / month
4 girls (with approximately 12 000 between them from “Statens lånkasse” every month)
We had to stay two people in one bedroom and use most of our scholarships just to pay the rent. It was fair. Nevertheless, I think we all wanted a bit more space at times. In addition, the bathroom was a bit icky. It looked like the floor was starting to rot some places. From time to time, there was also some water seeping from the floorboards in the kitchen floor. Our flat was on the first floor of a house, on the ground floor there was another apartment. We were not exactly thrilled about them. They acted and looked a bit suspicious. But it was ok, we had a good lock on the door and we even got a second lock to ensure our security further. Still, I did not like sleeping alone in the apartment.

After having spent some months in Uganda, I realise that I did not really have good reasons to worry or be unhappy with anything.

The current home of my twelve-year-old friend in Namakwekwe (Mbale)
1 room (approximately 6 m2)
10 000 UGSHX / month (ca 30 NOK / month)
Mother, younger sister, younger brother, baby brother and my friend (with no steady income)

They are five people sharing one mattress. In their one room, they have a tiny table and two chairs, the mattress and all their clothes are hanging on the walls. When it rains, nothing stays dry. There are small holes all over the ceiling and some places, there are big gaps between the bølgeblikkplater. The neighbourhood is not the best. People are robbed every night; attempts of different kinds of assaults are also quite common. It is not safe to move outside after seven o’clock. Not the most secure place to live as a single mother with four small children. Moreover, they do not exactly have an alarm system or good locks. Nevertheless, they are lucky in one way; they do not have an icky bathroom. They do not have a bathroom, period. In addition, one can look at the price of the room and think; “At least they hardly pay anything to live in this place.” However, 10 000 UGSHX is not hardly anything when you do not have a steady income. If she is lucky, the mother can wash some clothes from one time to another or maybe sell some onions and such to make some small bit of money. Other than that, most of the burden is on my twelve years old friend. He fetches water for neighbours, sells sugar cane and does other petty jobs for a petty pay. All we had to do to get our 3000 NOK a month was to send two letters in a year and attend school. For my friend, attending school and getting the small income he needs can actually come in conflict.

Turns out, we did not actually have a single thing to complain about. Not if we would have compared ourselves to an average family of a CRO child. I am not saying one should feel bad about not living in lousy conditions; one should not be embarrassed or have a bad conscience about living in a nice place. One cannot go around and compare the life in Norway to the life in Uganda. The difference is too big in every way. It would be like comparing a cat and a skyscraper; ridiculously unreasonable (very good example, huh?). Nevertheless, that does not mean one should just shove it under a rug and leave it at that. Occasionally one should stop and think about the ones who are really less fortunate. Think of those whose lives are worlds apart from yours, even though we all live on the same planet. Be happy and grateful for what you have! It surely is all that!

These are some of my girls (Angella Esther, Keem Christine, Loley Joyce and Nampomba Shamilla). They’ve all finished their one year in rehab class. On Monday they got school uniforms and new bags. Now, they’ve completed their first week of formal school. If that’s not motivating, I don’t know what is. Last year they were all on the streets picking what they could find to eat or sell. Now, thanks to CRO, they’re all in school. I have an amazing job!

lørdag 30. januar 2010

Whoopsi daisies!

In our pre-course, we were warned that we’d become careless after some time in our new settings. They said that after spending much time in our new settings, we’d start letting our guards down and something bad could happen. I thought; “I will not do that, come on, I’m a reasonable girl. I won’t let my guard too far down. I won’t care less.” And even now, I stick to the “not caring less”-part. But I think I showed the children that I cared in a way I that shouldn‘t have. These sweet little children really got to me, and I cared so much. I just wanted to give them all the love and trust I could. The same applied to the two other volunteer girls in CRO. When all three feel like that, this is what happens;

Three naive girls, sharing a space
It’s their office, supposedly a safe place
And these three girls love showing trust and grace
To see that a young boy feels trusted when you look at his face

Three naive girls sharing a great deal
And, oh, how great sharing makes you feel
Trusting ex-knick knackers will truly make them heal
Trusting them alone in an office with plenty of things to steal

Three naive girls realized, as they should;
That trusting someone way too much, really isn’t good
When taking something small from you can give his dear ones food
The young boy that you trusted so, he did the best he could

Three young girls, not so naive anymore
Being restrictive with their stuff
No longer over-tempting the poor
Three girls knowing a little better that this world is really tough

The kids are not to be blamed. It’s like putting a Norwegian kid alone in a candy shop and expect it not to sample the sweets. And even though it’s a bummer to have people you trust steal from you, it all worked out for the best. We’ve upgraded our office-security and know that we shouldn’t put poor and desperate people in such tempting positions again. Yet another handy lesson learnt! Thanks, Mr. -------! ;)