A Travellerspoint blog

Kasese Morning

In the wake of the horrible devastation in Haiti, I have been reflecting hard on what it means to have even a minor crisis in a country with no infrastructure. Compound that by the depth of poverty that always reigns in Haiti, and then add the crumbling of even the tenuous infrastructure...and it's apocalyptic. Darkness, dead bodies, screaming, fear.

I keep going back to my images of Uganda, and I landed on this one picture. It's the morning commute. I took these around 7 am on the road to Kilembe. People going about their business. This is peaceful, functioning rural Uganda. What Haiti *aspires* to.

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One thing about these pics is that I was really hesitant to just shoot pictures of people as though they were landscapes -- it feels so wrong to take their pics without asking. But then if you ask, you get this:

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And it becomes an interaction, not an observation. A totally different narrative. (This is the guy who took me to see the secret hidden hot springs).

Posted by CateinTO 11:35 Comments (0)

Kasese images

I'm still sorting through my pictures from kasese, but a few are starting to emerge as some of my favourites.

Scovia fixing the plumbing.

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Madam drinking her porridge.

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Lilian and kids during church.

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Blair in the bike shop.

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The family that sheltered us from the rain.

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Posted by CateinTO 09:08 Comments (2)

Amazing update on the boy in Canada

So I posted a couple of months ago about the kid who'd been brought here and passed around, and it looked like I'd have to return him... well, our instinct to hold off on taking him back with us found some hold in the universe, because a family that had agreed to temporarily foster him decided that he could be a permanent part of their family. He's been there about 6 weeks now, and I got an email today that made me weepy:

Things are going very well. [He] is adjusting to life [here]. I continually reinforce with him that we are not going to give him back. We all love him. He has realized the importance of education and now brings his homework to me, rather than making me nag him to get it started. Last night he had to create slides for a power point presentation about himself. One of the slides was to be a family tree. I was a bit concerned about how he would get through this, and nearly broke into tears of joy when he immediately offered the names of our kids, [my husband], and myself.

I'm so grateful for the people with wisdom and open hearts.

Posted by CateinTO 11:35 Comments (8)

Why travel

I've noticed in some of the coverage of the overheated security response to the Detroit underwear-explosives guy that there has been a trend around chill about traveling. Lots of the (usually overwrought) commentary on cbc and the globe sites has taken the form of "I'm just going to stay home, thank you very much." One guy from NZ proposed that people should only be allowed to fly on planes from the countries that they were citizens of. It's kind of laughable, but it's also really interesting to me -- two diverse forces, an opening up of the world, cultural mixing and bridging of differences in unprecedented ways in human history, and a real backlash against difference and otherness.

There was a good piece in the NY Times this weekend about not giving into this kind of hunkering down isolationsim:

Still, a fortress mentality settles in each time a new instance of attempted airborne thuggery hits the airwaves. In the wake of alarming headlines, an obstacle course of cumbersome but laudable security precautions unrolls at airports, leading many of the earth’s seven-billion-odd inhabitants to resolve to remain earthbound as much as possible. One goal of terrorists is to make ordinary people afraid to leave their homes and interact with the wider world. Attacks on individual courage may leave no scars, but that does not mean they do no damage.

It's really the paradox and the balance we have to strike -- we can only create novel approaches to incommensurate worldviews when we can figure out how to see each other as humans; and we can only see each other as humans if we actually make contact.

Posted by CateinTO 17:52 Comments (0)

Perspective

Home for two weeks now, and despite a pretty self-indulgently relaxing holiday (hot stone massage, luxurious food and all), I'm still carrying a lot of Africa with me. Still sorting my pics, and although this isn't particularly interesting as a photograph, it illustrates so much about perspective.

This is from the first day we walked to the project, when we got a bit lost and it started to rain. So there we were, four muzungu unexpectedly walking down a side road, soaking wet. And this guy got out of his car and started filming us. So here is carissa, asking him directions, while he's still filming her, this weird stranger. So much about unexpectedness and how the gaze of otherness shifts.

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Have been reading Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, by Richard Dowden. (http://www.amazon.com/Africa-Altered-States-Ordinary-Miracles/dp/1586487531/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262629523&sr=8-1) I can't recommend it enough -- very accessible and insightful about the west's perception of Africa, the multiple forces that made it what it is, all of the hope and possibility there. He talks right at the beginning about the contradiction between what we expect and find as visitors:

Few go there. Africa has a reputation: poverty, disease, war. But when outsiders do go they are often surprised by Africa's welcome, entranced rather than frightened. Visitors are welcomed and cared for in Africa. If you go you will find most Africans friendly, gentle and infinitely polite. You will frequently be humbled by African generosity. Africans have in abundance what we call social skills. These are not skills that are formally taught or learned. There is no click-on have-a-nice-day-smile in Africa. Africans meet, greet and talk, look you in the eye and empathize, hold hands and embrace, share and accept from others without twitchy self-consciousness. All these things are natural as music in Africa.

He also emphatically makes the point that there is no ONE Africa, and that it's not luxury-travel that shows you what Africa is. Which I would agree with, also emphatically.

I'm still holding onto the paradox of the authenticity of the oceans of love -- which I feel fresh in the emails I get from our oldest girl -- where in some ways I acquire the status of "mother," as relatives do who look after you as a child -- and where I'm also so aware that this is such a privileged status coming from the money and outside-shape to the world I provide. Uganda is so aid-dependent that I am so conscious that our every interactions can't be about us... and of course, they also are, we do this because we care about these kids, and we care about these kids so much because they care about us back. So complex, and so compelling.

Posted by CateinTO 10:20 Comments (0)

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