Tag Archives: Lira

Soccer Madness

A view of the soccer stadium on game day.

(From an dateless journal entry while in Lira)

It is hard to believe the United States does not celebrate the sport of soccer in the same way in which many other countries of the world do. It is also a shame. Even though I have minimal soccer skills (ask my classmates who watched me desperately attempt and fail to score one goal against a bunch of children less than half my size), being able to recognize the rules and setup of a sport brought me closer to the children we were with.

Soccer is so much more to them than a sport. The first night we played, we did not even play the game with a soccer ball; we played with a plastic water bottle. They barely noticed because for them soccer is not about who wears the best jerseys, which brand of shoes works best, or the quality of their ball. Soccer is a time to celebrate in a friendly and competitive spirit as well as distract themselves from their daily struggles. Soccer relieves their stress, anxiety, and possibly even pain. I know watching this random white girl prance around like a baby gazelle chasing after a ball gave them a good laugh.

Although it was a slight jab to my dignity, I laughed with them; I played their game with them and I related to them in some way for that hour or two out on that field. It did not matter that we were from another country, older, and twice their size. They immediately made us their teammates and welcomed us onto their field, a place that felt almost sacred. (End of entry)

In an anthropology course, I read a book by Janet Lever called Soccer Madness which discusses soccer’s role in society in Brazil. However, as I watched the motorbikes packed with people in their bright yellow jerseys headed to watch the soccer match last week, I could not help but notice a similar role in the community in Uganda. Lever states that sporting spectacles such as soccer “belong to the world of the sacred rather than the profane; fans who say sport provides an escape from ‘real life’ in effect sustain this religious distinction …. Like the effect of a religious celebration, sport fosters a sense of identification with the others who shared the experience.”

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

To those with nothing, soccer is everything.”- Celia W. Dugger

By grace we shall live

I’m going to go ahead and say that most people in the United States have the privilege of watching their children grow and mature successfully into adulthood. Likewise, most children in the United States have the opportunity to learn from and have a relationship with their parents. The bottom line is that life expectancy is significantly higher in the United States.

When I set out on this journey (and what a journey it has been), I had no idea what to expect and left with my mind open to learning things that never even crossed my mind. I definitely thought I would go back home with a profound sense of how incredibly lucky I am. I’m pretty sure it’s clear to everyone who visits the developing world for the first time how truly lucky they are. But what I didn’t expect, was to go home feeling angry.

Obviously there are things in life that I cannot change. But these people, they lose many of their children to war and disease. These people lose their children before even having the chance to get to know them, much less be proud of them. Even as I look around the city and in the villages an age gap is definitely visible. Hardly anyone is my age, and if there are, there are very few.

For these people, it’s not that they just lose a family member when a child dies – they lose everything because family is all they have.

It angers me to think that there are parents in the United States, who have the world at their fingertips compared to Ugandans, that consciously make the decision every single day to ignore their children and do absolutely nothing to help them succeed.

I’ve been told that losing a child is one of the worst things in the world. I can’t imagine how much worse it is for the billions of people in Uganda who lose their children when their children are literally all they have. So how does someone in the United States, someone who has everything, deny themselves one of the greatest gifts the world has to offer? How does someone reject a choice that half the people on this planet don’t even have?

 

Trying to capture video at Abia -- get swarmed by kids.

Can I get a Hand?

Today I decided to try something a little different. I’m not really a fan of the whole blogging thing (which I probably should start being given the depressing future of journalism in that medium), so I’m trying to find ways to spice the experience up, both for me and for whomever takes the time to sit down with a cup of coffee (or other poison) and define their entire existence on every word I say (at least, I’m assuming that’s the case).

Which is why today, I wrote all of the important things I learned today on the most obvious place. Ladies and gentleman, I give you: my hand.

For some reason, I found myself in the embarrassing position of really needing to remember something someone said, being without any kind of paper, and coming to the dark realization that the reason I did so badly my first year in high school was precisely because of my horrendous memory. So, I did the only sensible thing one could do in a crowded room, I wrote on my hand. Which made me think of an interesting way I could present the things I learn on this trip. I figure, our hands do so much for us, why not abuse them a little more by covering them with ink?

Today, I learned several things, I’ll go by limb.

Palm: “We do what we can, it will not solve all the problems, but it will help others, and in turn make us more human.” – This was said by the Bishop of Uganda, Father Franzelli. I think this is the nature of “doing good.” In a lot of ways, one person can’t really do a whole lot to change the world. That ability is in the hands of either the many of the very especial few (Mother Theresa, for example). In a lot of ways, I find that there is absolutely no point to doing any kind of good. We may feed a child for a day, but that child may still die tomorrow. We may help a person from jumping off a building, that doesn’t mean we won’t find that same person up there again. We may tell ourselves that clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and raising awareness is making a difference, but in the grand scheme of things, we have accomplished nothing. Yet something like this makes me realize that no, in most situations we can’t do a lot, but we can do a little. In that little, we still take the time to help someone, and in turn we help ourselves fulfill our human nature. I like to think of the story of the man who walked along the beach throwing starfish that had washed ashore into the sea. Someone said, “why do you do that? You can’t make a difference.” To which he responded by picking up another starfish, throwing it into the sea, and saying, “well I made a difference to that one.”

Pointer: What do they need? This is something I thought about as we visited a camp inhabited by displaced persons. I realized, at some point, that that’s the question that needs answering. What do these people need? Food? Water? Education? Health care?

Middle: How many have died? This was something that came to me when one of the speakers today talked about how they had been terrorized by the rebels (people led by Joseph Kony), and how in the past year, things have been better. But I thought to myself, how many died during that year? What aren’t they telling us?

Index: “We have come to realize the significance of women in development.” This is something that may not be very relative to what’s going on here, but it is something that I think needs saying. This may be sexist of me to say, but I think there are a lot of women who understand things like nurturing and care more than men. Not to say that men can’t, but it seems to be a very engrained thing to the female mind. As such, I think that in a lot of ways, specific women have done more to make our world a better place than anyone else. Off the top of my head, I can think of Mother Theresa, Simone Weil, and of course, Mary the Mother of God. While I think everyone has an obligation to make the world a better place, I think we can learn from these special women about how to do so.

Also, my thoughts and prayers go out to the Dorsey family during this difficult time. May God bless them.

The other side of the radio

“It’s you and me singing the same song right now and maybe this will bring us together somehow, and maybe there’s a million people all singing along…and maybe someone’s saying a prayer for the first time. That’s enough reason to keep me singing my song, on the other side of the radio. We’re changing someone’s world from the other side of the radio…and maybe this will bring us together somehow.”

I had these lyrics from Chris Rice’s song, The Other Side of the Radio, on my mind today as we went to interview some people from Radio WA. Some things we asked them were about the impact of the radio before and after the war in Uganda. The answers were astounding. In this case, the radio in Uganda is more than entertainment. It’s used for education, problem solving and more.

During the war, the radio was used to communicate with the children who were abducted and forced to become child soldiers. Families and communities used the radio to send a message of courage and hope to the child soldiers and encouraged them to escape the bush and come home. The radio saved over 1,500 child soldiers this way – most of which would never have thought of escaping until they heard their parents’ voice on the radio because of the atrocities that they had committed against the community.

With the kids at the school next to a Radio WA tower

Sunshine, the world, and all your dreams

After visiting the Ave Maria school in Lira, and hearing the students there sing, I think I felt more comfortable than anything else. Most people feel overwhelmed when witnessing a welcome and presentation like that, but for me, I was more excited than anything else.

This trip is all about the music so I tried to focus more on that than on the fact that at least one third of the students were infected with HIV and may not be alive for much longer. So, why not be a part of making it one of the best days of their lives?

Music is more than just making  noise with instruments, voice or dance. It’s emotional, powerful and deep. And for me it was a connection; it broke down the barrier between our worlds.

I mean, obviously I can’t even begin to imagine or comprehend the trauma they have been through, but I think these people always search for the best in everything. Not an ounce of negative energy could be felt from these students – at least when we were there.

I think, more than anything, that they just wanted to share their world with us. And since music is a significant part of their life, it was most important that they share at least the music with us. I mean, we can’t give them everything, but we can give them the attention we don’t even deserve.

The group at Ave Maria Vocational School.

A friend is another self

Today we went to the Ave Maria Vocational School in Lira. We went with the intention of listening to a couple traditional African songs and dances, then getting a couple of interviews. But the thing about Uganda is that things never go as planned.

As soon as we stepped out of the bus the students started singing, which meant whipping the cameras out as fast as possible. Any attempt to go over good shooting tips and talking multi-camera strategy with Tim went out the window. We arrived at about 9:30 a.m. and the students didn’t stop dancing until we needed to leave for lunch at 2 p.m.

Lunch was a much needed break for the group so we could have time to reconvene and strategize. But of course things never go as planned.

After lunch it was more singing, dancing and even skits were prepared for us – with no choice but to just go with it. John was made an elder (officially) of the Lango tribe and we all received gifts from all the other elders and the director of the school.

And there’s nothing like ending the day planting a tree at the school (each of us) and drinking a cold one with the elders.

Planting a pine tree at Ave Maria Vocational School

That’s What Makes You Beautiful

I don’t know if it’s the mass amount of photography terms and techniques that have been thrown my way in the past few days, or the fact that this is my second visit to the developing world that gives me a different perspective, but everything about what I see creates beautiful pictures.

As we drove through all the small towns, I couldn’t help but notice all of the raw and organic beauty around me. I promise I’m not just using those terms to sound all fancy and sophisticated, it’s a whole different kind of beauty. Something about looking at people who live in a culture that has yet to be slapped in the face with the concept of “ideal” body image and lack an emphasis on physical appearance, catches my eye. I feel like no American person would look as intriguing just sitting on a motor bike, or standing on the side of the road as the people here do. Not to mention, there is no such thing as an American taking a minute to just sit or stand in a public place like that. And if they do, they’re usually seen as crazy people, not potential works of art.

Children waving to the bus as we drove by

Speaking of catching my eye, I make a lot of split second eye contact with the people as we drive by. And for that one moment, I forget about where I am and how different our circumstances may be. For that one moment, we’re just two people, two humans exchanging a look, wondering about who the other person is. It gets overwhelming to visit all of these places packed with people because I constantly see faces and immediately wonder where their life is going, what they do with their time, what motivates them to keep living a life so vastly different than my own.

People are everywhere. And when I say everywhere I mean everywhere. Sitting outside houses, stores, on the side of the road, on top of trucks, riding bikes, everywhere. Even in the middle of nowhere (and by that I mean along the miles and miles of rainforest) you will always see men on bikes, women carrying fruit, even young children walking alone.

On a lighter, less deep and philosophical note:

I highly enjoyed our eleven hour bus ride to Lira. No, seriously (excluding that chunk where we moved about 100 ft. in half an hour trying to leave Kampala, good times). It was almost like a dysfunctional family road trip, only rather than visiting the Grand Canyon, we drove across the Nile River with baboons chasing after our bus as we tossed bananas out the window for them (True story, I know I can barely believe it too). All that was missing were some quality family sing-a longs. Next time, guys.

Keep on keepin’ on,

Gabby

The closer you look at something, the more complex it seems to be.” –Vint Cerf

We are all bozos on the same bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.” –Wavy Gravy (Yes, I just quoted a clown. More proof I lack the ability to actually be fancy and sophisticated.)