All posts by Milana Jordan

Forgiveness.

After out trip to Uganda I have thought a lot about what forgiveness truly means. I have decided that the best definition of forgiveness is when you let go of the past in order to be able to move on to a better future. 

Mama Angelina was an example of this and so many others were also. It was so common to see and hear form people who were holding on to the past and consequently struggling even more to move forward. It was the people like Mama Angelina that found a way to forgive that were able to move on.

Letting go of the past is in no way an easy task. Especially for the people affected by the civil war in Uganda. However, if I learned anything from this trip it is that forgiveness is necessary and without it you can be stuck forever. 

If you want to visit Uganda read this first:

My tips/lessons learned

  • If you have a phobia of bugs, try to get over it. They are plentiful.
  • Ululating is extremely difficult. (Ululating is the shrill yelling sound that women do when they cheer in Uganda)
  • Driving is scary. Have a driver. Our driver Fred is superman.
  • The bathroom is more like an all-purpose hygiene box. If you’re used to the sink, toilet, and shower being separated by space or curtains, get over that too. The bathroom is often a small square room with a shower head on the wall and sink and toilet in it.
  • Grass and mud huts are surprisingly cool. 
  • Everywhere you look you will see women and children carrying things on their heads.
  • You will also be hard-pressed to go a mile without seeing chickens, goats, or cows. Even in the city.
  • There is no such thing as too much rice. It will most likely be served at every meal.
  • Crickets are crunchy. (I ate a couple fried crickets. They really aren’t bad. Try one!)
  • Toilets are a luxury. I hope you like pit latrines!
  • Don’t go anywhere without hand sanitizer. It’s a good rule of thumb.
  • Lunch is an afterthought. Always have snacks with you because you may not eat until 8pm.
  • Power outages are a common occurrence. Bring a flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Sleeping under a mosquito net is weird but necessary. 
  • The pillows are commonly rock hard and over stuffed. Find a way to sleep comfortably though. The sun soaks up your energy fast.
  • You have to turn on the power to each outlet or plugging things in won’t do you any good. (I made this mistake a couple times)

What movie-making in Uganda has taught me.

Here is a list of things that I learned while filming for our documentary. 

  • Setting up filmed interviews will present new challenges every time. 
    • Turkeys gobbling, construction, rain in the jungle, bugs, etc.
  • Filming during a church service should never be referred to as a “mass shooting”.
  • I should look into a profession in boom mic. operation. 
    • Holding still despite bugs crawling on you, 100 degree weather and your arms going numb is a gift.
  • When in doubt let the camera do the thinking. 
    • Set everything to automatic and then fix the problem areas. (This saved me a few times.
  • The tripod is your friend.
    • No matter how far you have to hike with it or how annoyed you get attempting to level it on uneven ground, scenes not shot with a tripod are unlikely to be useable. 
  • B roll does not mean just filming kids.
    • They’re adorable but B roll should be relevant. 
  • If you think taking notes in a reporters notebook makes you look more legitimate…
    • It does.
  • Priests are long-winded.
    • These are the interviews that always went the longest.
  • Bad translators can be extremely frustrating.
  • Rembrant lighting is easier said than done. 

A few days ago I was watching the sun rise over the Nile.

Now I’m back in Omaha.

While it feels great to be home I’m a little sad that my African adventure is over. I’m sure I will travel again but in the meantime I have plenty to do. 

One of those things is get going on this blog. I have plenty of updates to make. 

I’m going to drink some tap water and take a nap first though. 

Greetings from Omaha! 

-Very tan, very tired, and full of stories Milana. 

A quick update

Just a quick update. I won’t be able to post again until I return to the states. We will be out of internet after that. I have a few posts written down and I’m sure I’ll write more in the next few days. Come back and look at my posts when I return. I will have many new ones and I will add pictures and links to the old ones. 

Thanks to all of you who are supporting me in this adventure.

See you soon. 🙂 

Third world?

I am currently sitting in the lobby of a nice hotel. I hear a television downstairs (American Idol is on). Behind me is a beautiful balcony I am on a Mac. In the room my classmates are using iPods, iPads, smart phones…. There are tile floors and silk comforters on the beds. There is a pool here (supposedly). I fall asleep listening to my iPod and wake up to an alarm on my cell phone. I eat at a table with cloth napkins and fancy plates. I am served by hotel staff and allowed as many helpings as I please. I read books on my kindle on the bus. (Did I mention we take this bus everywhere? That we have a driver?)

 

Why am I telling you all this? Because I am conflicted. I don’t know how to feel about. I’m in a third world country. I visited refugee camps where the children can’t afford to go to school, wear shoes, or have clean clothes. Just outside the hotel grounds there are families that are probably not eating as well as I am. 

 

Should I be living like this in a third world country? Is it hypocritical? Is it just of me to visit these places with fancy camera equipment and tell these people that I care and then drive away on a bus so I can go eat a buffet style dinner and sleep in my queen sized bed? 

 

That’s the hardest part. The driving away. The driving past. I have driven away from families that have babies dying from malaria that they can’t afford medication for. I have driven away from children who can’t afford to go to school. I have driven away from people who want me, need me, to help them. I have driven past children dressed in rags on the side of the street. I have driven past families living in small dilapidated grass huts. I have driven past people who are suffering.

 

I have driven past, driven by, and not once have I helped. Am I just another “tourist” who is abandoning these people? Will I go back to my comfortable home and beautiful school and forget about all the faces I have seen? 

 

This post has been many more questions than answers. When I find them I will definitely share but for now that is what my head is filled with. Questions. Questions without answers. I am feeling overwhelmed by the medley of emotions within me. 

 

I will make this video and I will be a witness for these people and a witness to their stories. But is that enough? Couldn’t I do more?

The universe is made of stories, not atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser

Since being in Africa I have seen so many faces. I have seen so many people. I have seen so many stories. It pains me that we are unable to hear all of them. While this is a common feeling for me it has intensified since my arrival to a country full of people who have suffered so much.

 

At the Rachele Comprehensive Secondary School we heard the story of a boy who was abducted by rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army at a young age and forced to commit atrocious acts as a child soldier. At a refugee camp we heard the story of a woman who had been shot three times (and is consequently handicapped) by rebels soldiers when they attacked her humble village. We heard the story of Mama Angeline whose daughter Charlotte was kidnapped from her boarding school, St. Mary’s at 14 and not returned to her for seven years. 

 

These types of stories are not uncommon here. We have experienced some heart-breaking scenarios and witnessed poverty and strife in ways that I could never have imagined before this trip. 

 

I wish that I could hear every one of the stories that people want to tell me. I wish that we had time to walk down the roads that we drive down and, instead of passing people, stop and talk to them. I want to befriend them. Learn from them. And tell them that their story matters. 

Holding Hands. Holding Hearts.

Something I’ve noticed over and over here is people holding hands. The first day on the bus I saw two women holding hands. Playing with children I see siblings and friends holding hands all the time. One time two boys who looked about 12 years old and appeared to be best friends were holding hands while playing with us outside our hotel in Lira. A little girl took a walk with me and even though she knew no english and we couldn’t communicate verbally, she smiled up at me and held my hand as we walked. After I interviewed Mama Angelina I asked to have my picture taken with her (she is a very inspiring woman). She surprised me by grabbing my hand when I stood next to her. We proceeded to hold hands behind our backs while photos were taken. 

 

During the Lord’s Prayer at mass our group held hands but nobody else did. I think this is further proof that, to the people here, hand holding is not something to be done at a designated time because of tradition but something done out of love. 

 

Holding a persons hand is a very simple act that can mean many things. The young girl holding my hand showed that she trusted me. Mama Angeline holding my hand was an act of love (and I don’t think my smile in a picture has ever been more genuine). 

 

When was the last time you saw boys holding hands out of friendship in the United States? When was the last time you saw grown adults holding hands out of friendship? What does this mean? 

 

I think we should hold hands more.

 

Holding hands is a physical connection that can represent our deeper connection to other human beings in love and solidarity. 

The Universal Church

On Sunday morning we went to a Catholic mass in a big church in Lira. The 9:00 mass was in english but I still had trouble understanding a lot of it because of the unique accents people have here. 

Despite not understanding every word I found the mass moving. The energy and joy in the church was palpable. There was singing and dancing and every time we rejoiced about what God has done for us the congregation broke out into applause. It was as if we were giving God a standing ovation. I wish masses in the U.S. were so filled with raw emotion.

There are 5 masses every Sunday and at every one the church and the courtyard and front lawn are packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, all happy to have the opportunity to worship and to pray to a God that they love so much.

This reflection is not so much about the abundant faith of the people here, who have faced so much hardship, but about the idea of the universal church.  

Attending mass in another country I’ve experienced my first instance of understanding why “Catholic” means universal. Towards the end of the mass Bishop Joseph, the celebrant, introduced us to the rest of the congregation as “our brothers and sisters from the states”. He encouraged them to welcome us, emphasizing that what mattered was not the color of our skin or where we were from but that we shared the same faith. 

It was an amazing experience to realize just how universal the church really is. Even thousands of miles from home, in Africa, I have brothers and sisters in Christ.

All the people of the church welcomes us. The sign of peace was one of the best I have experienced. I shook hands with numerous people.

To shake the hand of a person in a country recovering from intense civil conflict and wish them peace in their lives and then to have that wish returned to me was an experience that I can not begin to describe.