The first week in Uganda
When we were writing the project, we were sure that we could only do something effective if we were in Uganda, because the culture is different and many issues would only be understood if lived. Being here, this has become stronger. Writing the project behind the computer is one thing, getting here and coming across millions of issues impossible to be planned in advance is another. This process is extremely rich and we are already learning a lot.
We leave Brazil with a definite rhythm: internet always available, we jump in the refrigerator to eat something, an easy run to the bathroom, a table and chair to work, side take and a certain privacy. We perceive, although we already know, the accelerated pace that we are forced to live. All fast, we can not waste time, we have to produce before seeing, looking or feeling. Arriving here, somehow, we saw that we should break this, to experience every second truly. Despite the overwhelming desire to tell the incredible things we are experiencing, we allow ourselves this time.
Since we arrived we were very well received. Augustine, the founder of TORUWU, picked us up at the airport. There was a little confusion on the schedule, we told him we would arrive at two in the morning on Friday, but Augustine thought it was two in the morning on Saturday. Then he explained that here the day begins after 7 a.m. First learning! Arriving at the airport, he welcomed us with a huge smile and we were talking in the car.
On the way, it began to clear, and we could already see a little of the country that would be our home for the next few months: children going early – alone – on the road to school; women selling fruit and the markets starting to open. We had arrived at the place where we both talked and imagined. Now it was for real!
We arrived in Kikajjo almost eight in the morning and Najib, who lives with Augustine, came to greet us. He took us to the room and helped with our bags. We ate a fruit, had tea, and went to sleep. We woke up in the afternoon with the busy house. Voices of children, people talking, when we left the room everyone welcomed us as if we were already home, many warm hugs. In the village, they have a way of greeting each other in which they hold hands and approach each other as if they were going to kiss each other on the cheek, but they do not do it, they just come close. Us, accustomed to kiss kissing aside, we would go to the end and we were half lost. He rolled into greeting with a kiss on the pastor of the church, who did not understand anything! When they greet they hold hands for a while, and we do not know when we can let go so we hold on as well.
Food was one of our concerns. Besides being all new, many people live in the house and we did not know how much we could eat. A plate of food means a lot and the meals are counted. With great effort Augustine can provide three meals a day: coffee, lunch and dinner. The interval between each is about seven hours and there are no options of snacks in the middle, in addition to the dishes being the same every day. We eat rice, a broth that looks like beans, but it’s peanut butter, beef stew and sweet potatoes. Very good! The food is valued, we do not see anyone leaving leftovers on the plate. We realize that when people want to be kind to each other, they offer something to eat, like when we went to fetch water and the lady who owned the land offered us avocado and asked her grandchild to get a horse from the tree. At home, we sit together to eat the fruits given as gifts, those moments become much more meaningful.
Meals are also spaces for exchanges, we have very good conversations. Augustine is an intelligent and interested man, asks us several questions about Brazil and knows exactly the data of our country, such as unemployment rate, per capita income and data on economics. We said that with him we would learn about Uganda and about Brazil. He also spoke about the issue of drug trafficking in Colombia and the recent plebiscite; about the election of Trump and the conflict in Sudan. He is aware and always seeks to inform himself, so he likes to receive people from abroad to work in TORUWU, it is a way to “travel around the world and exchange knowledge and experience.
Here at home, the bucket was already waiting for us! In Kikajjo, there is no running water or shower, we have a gallon of cold water and another one of hot water to shower. The water is counted, we have to calculate the use if we want to have an amount per day to brush our teeth, wash our faces and our hands. In the first bath we used the amount we were accustomed to soap and the water of the gallon went down the drain. Although we already have an awareness of water saving, this has intensified. We showered inside the room, there is a place with a wall and drain. The bathroom is “little house”, a hole in the floor. This is shared by everyone in the house. As soon as we see the bathroom, the feeling is strange. Living every detail of the routine will help us to understand the way of life of the population and its implications.
At the end of the afternoon we went to TORUWU headquarters, the youth of the music and dance group were training to perform the next day in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Augustine showed us the wine project, where local women produce – we’ll talk about all of TORUWU’s projects – and the terrain they have to build the new school. It’s a big lot and Augustine’s eyes sparkle when he talks about St. Mary. Later we went to see the school where it is working and on the first visit we have already seen some of the difficulties of the infrastructure and we felt many things. It is hard to see for yourself the size of rooms that are very small, the lack of energy and poor air, the amount of dirt and dust inside, the place where meals are made – which does not exist – and the situation of the bathrooms, there is a lot of rubble around it and, consequently, a lot of bug.
At the first meeting we had with TORUWU, we reread the project, they told us about community data, talked about what we had planned to implement, and set some agreements and goals. TORUWU indicated the points we needed to be more attentive, how to speak to each audience and said the same thing as our project supervisor, Profa. Dr. Claudia Stella: We are dealing with a population that lives in a situation of social exclusion and finds its own ways of dealing with and overcoming obstacles, and very beautiful ways, such as cooperation, community life and help to others. That way, we should look at these beauties and not come up with an addicted look of just seeing problems and asking about difficulties directly. When we begin to open to what is good, we see that the list is gigantic!
As they walk through the community, people cast curious glances, want to talk and children ask questions such as: “Is the sky in Brazil the same color as here? “. Sometimes it seems like we’ve been here for a long time, every day we learn something new and there’s a lot we want to know. Here we are mzungos (white), and through the streets we hear it straight. We’re the only ones in the village. The people who live and live together have opened up a lot with us, it seems we already knew him. The Najib (18 years old) is amazing with us. He is always available, accompanying us and thanks to him we have managed to solve many things around here. He is crazy to learn Portuguese, he already speaks several things, and asks us about Brazilian songs, like Bossa Nova. He plays drums and trombone and always calls us to see some music he has learned. At night we chatted, laughing or playing games. It also helps us with the local language, Luganda. He lost his father as a child and his mother recently, she was very close to Augustine’s family, so the Najib came to live with him.
Jaja is the lady who works in the house, she only speaks Luganda, but we already talked a lot. When she sees us, she begins to speak and we respond with mimicry or gestures, she gradually teaches us the language. She is very smiling and helpful. Rose and Gift, her granddaughter, make our days at home happier. Gift is 4 years old and on the first day we have already clung to her. She is very funny and has an energy that does not end. She goes from seven in the morning to school and eleven at night is still talking nonstop. We have fun! Rose is 12 years old and very curious about everything. She asked us the question about heaven in Brazil. She also asked us how the streets are in Brazil, how we do the dishes, if we have brothers and sisters, she says she wants to travel and get to know many countries. The father died and the mother lives in another village nearby, we know her, she is very kind, the girls love when she is around, but living with Augustine they can attend school (St. Mary) and so they stay in Kikajjo with the Haha.
Faith is 14 and a little shy. Little by little she was letting go, showing how affectionate she was. His mother is sick, so Augustine welcomed her home. She talks about her mother with a lot of love and wants to take us one day to meet her. Jimmy, 20, is another figure. He’s also quieter at first, makes a shy-sarcastic type. Sometimes it’s quiet, then loose a little joke that makes everyone laugh. He recently lost his father and now he takes care of the house and the two younger brothers. He lives relatively close to Augustine’s house and is very close to Najib, so he’s always here with us. These are the people we spend every day, but we already know many other young people and children who have loved us and come back from school to come and give us a “hi” or a hug that makes us win the day.
As we approach these people, many issues are taking hold of us. We still need time to dig deeper into the issues and we will share with you little by little. Our goal is to ask questions and reflect, we still do not want and we do not have the right to give answers.
One thing is the issue of child labor. Seeing Rose, Faith, and even the 4-year-old Gift, making the dinner, cleaning the house, picking up water with heavy gallons (which sometimes we can not carry), actually creates a very big nuisance and we think human rights. At the same time, seeing Rose, having returned from school, helping with the day’s chores because her younger brother is ill and she will not stop helping the family, makes us reflect on the scale of the problem.
Children in the community seem to be “loose”, play in unhealthy places and with sharp objects. Talking to Augustine and Sophie we understand that they are not on the “street” in the sense we give to it, but protected by the neighborhood. Both were frightened when we said we did not know our own neighbors in Brazil. The village is their territory and no matter how we look at it in our eyes, everyone is really responsible for the children. Like the lady mentioned above, who owns the land where water is collected, the children call her Jaja – the same name as her grandmothers – and for them it is a safe environment, even far from their homes. They sit, talk, climb in the trees, play in a beautiful poetic liana swing.
Going back to the beginning of the text, we did not imagine we could live so much in the first week. The project has the steps defined, but planning must be flexible to practice. When we say that the rhythm is different and we need to take it easy, it does not mean that it is quiet and quiet here, but what you invest in is different.
We are following exactly one of the purposes of the project: immersion. We have daily records that we really want to share and we will gradually pass through here. You can be sure that many interesting things will come, but to ensure the quality of the project, the most important thing now is to be here in heart and soul. We will post photos, accompany our Facebook and Instagram, and if they have any specific subject that they want to know more, send us so we can organize the posts on top of that too.
We are very happy and every day we are more assured that we have made the right choice to allow us to live this experience in Uganda!