African Time….

This past week has been very busy and productive thanks to my local contact. It is just the second week of my field study, but I have already managed to conduct several interviews with both community leaders, professionals working in psycho-social care, and state officials. Last week one of the interviewees included a bishop from the district who is seen as a hero around here. He is one of the religious leaders that have taken a very active role in promoting reconciliation and aiding the reintegration process. I have even interviewed three formerly abducted persons about their experiences of return. While I am quite happy with the results, some challenges remain. First, African time is both a blessing and a challenge. I love not scheduling my whole day which makes me feel less stressed than usual. At the same time, calling interviewees at the time of our meeting to find that they cannot make it or are several hours late is not my favorite way to spend my time. Secondly, the day I was interviewing former abductees, my interpreter got sick (he is feeling better now!). Thus, I had to make use of another guy from one of our partner’s office. It was my first time doing interviews with the use of an interpreter and I am not sure whether I am fully satisfied with the translation. I, at least, felt like some details might be missing. The solution is that my interpreter will go through the recordings and transcription this week.

In the evenings, I had dinner with the founders of Gulu War Affected Training Center and Backup Uganda. Both were a very pleasant experience that must be repeated soon. On Saturday, I went out with my roomies and some friends to the restaurant O’ café for the Open Mic Night. We had Rolex (a wrap with eggs), some drinks, and enjoyed the dances, music, and spoken word performance. It is a biweekly event that is also used as a venue for raising funds to cover the medical bills of some local beneficiaries.

Now, I am looking much forward to tomorrow’s Labor Day celebrations and to visit my friend from the preparation course in Hӓrnӧsand, Matilda, who is doing her field study in Jinja. I am keeping my fingers crossed for good weather, so we can go river rafting and cruise the Nile.

Traditional huts and preparation of sim sim and millet (among others)

Delicious Ethiopian food at Abyssinia (highly recommendable!)

Laundry day in Uganda

Open Mic Night at O’ Café

 

Kop Ango! from Gulu

I have arrived and settled in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa! And what a welcome. I do not believe that I have ever met as kind, open, and welcoming a people before. Everyone is very eager to chat and help if needed.

After a long but comfortable journey with Qatar Airways (Copenhagen – Doha – Entebbe), my host, Paul (the brother of my classmate and friend, Peter) picked me up at the airport. I spent the first 3 days in his home in Seeta village outside of Kampala, being welcomed by his loving family and housemates. The connection to the family and community is very important and I felt honored to be welcomed and addressed as Auntie or Sister.

On Sunday, I met my contact, Mr. Godfrey Canwat (the Executive Director of Hope and Peace for Humanity), and my two Swedish roomies, Hedvig and Shima, at the bus station in Kampala and we set out for the 6 hours bus journey. Our house in Gulu is very central. It is just a two-minute walk from the office of Hope and Peace for Humanity and less than 5 minutes from Gulu Main Market. At the market, you can get everything! The fresh, gigantic, and tasty avocados are my favorite. And they come at a price of less than 2 SEK. In the house, we also live with the French volunteer, Aude, and (at times) Mary, who is the daughter of the landlady.

Gulu is often described as the “Capital of the North.” The district of Gulu was among those most affected by the war (1986-2010). A conflict that has complex roots and continues to impact the population. Sunday, the 15th of April, was the Good Deeds Day – a day to do good for and with the communities. As Sunday is a day of rest in Uganda, Hope and Peace for Humanity and their partners invited us to celebrate it, Monday the 16th. We went to Atyang village where we did different good deeds with community members including cleaning the public toilets, planting trees, slashing (cutting the grass using traditional slashers/knives), giving kits with mosquito nets to expecting mothers and much more. The Good Deeds Day is a day where individuals do something good, large or small, “to improve the lives of others and positively change the world.” While this is a global annual tradition, I aspire to, and encourage others to, try and do good deeds every day.

For now, I am enjoying the hospitality of the locals in Gulu, getting used to the “Ugandan” time, enjoying the local cuisine (Matooke, Posho, Kalo, and Cassava), and waiting impatiently for the mango season. We have our very own tree in the garden! On a last note, and to much amusement for the Ugandans, I managed to get sunburned on Monday. Lesson learned – my sensitive skin is now protected even in the cloudy, rainy weather.

I am looking forward to the next two months in a place where I already begin to feel at home.

The amazing organization that is helping me out. Read more about their projects on www.hphuganda.org.

My outdoor toilet and an avocado tree in Seeta village

My study place in Paul´s garden (Seeta village).

The local bus from Kampala to Gulu where local and Christian music is played on the screen.

Some of my lovely roommates. From the left: Shima, Mary, and Hedvig.

The fruit and vegetable section at Gulu Main Market.

Planting trees at the community health center.

Doing some manual labor to support the local community in Atyang village.

The team of the day, including Hope and Peace for Humanity´s employees, volunteers, and partners as well as community members.

A perfect breakfast setting.

Såren efter en långdragen konflikt

Hej allesammans,

snart har det gått en vecka sedan jag ankom till Uganda. So far, so good. Jag är bosatt i norra Ugandas ”huvudstad” Gulu. Min kandidatuppsats kommer att handla om forna barnsoldater som är delaktiga i rehabilitering genom en icke-statlig organisation som heter Community Network for Social Justice. Denna NGO är väldigt liten och verkar i mindre samhällen där det finns barnsoldater. Idag är flertalet utav de forna barnsoldaterna tonåringar eller unga vuxna. Att tala om psykiska besvär i Uganda är väldigt stigmatiserande. Vad denna NGO gör att dessa personer får dela med av sina erfarenheter genom gruppsamtal eller privata samtal.

Idag var det min första dag ute i fält. Jag var i staden Atiak, Amuru distriktet. Landsgränsen till Syd-sudan är relativt nära. Vad denna stad är ”känd” för är Lord’s Resistance Army’s  (LRA) massaker 20-onde april 1995. Ungefär 300 människor dog. Totalt så har Atiak och resterande norra Uganda levt i konflikt (hög och låg-aktuell) i 20 års tid. Vad jag gjorde i Atiak var att träffa och presentera mig för flertalet lokala ledare i staden. De alla välkomnade mig och sade att de skulle hjälpa mig så gott de kunde. Sedan bestod min dag av observationer i Atiak. Jag tyckte att det var lugnt och rofyllt i staden. Men till och från slog tanken mig när personer passerade förbi mig med trasiga, smutsiga och illaluktande kläder – att detta är en stad som har lidit och lider av en avslutad konflikt. Flyktinglägerna är borta och människorna är åter till sin primära bostad. Människorna är fattiga och flertalet bor i lerhyddor med halmtak.

En man fångade mitt intresse när jag skulle besöka Atiaks Lwani Memorial College. Han låg och grävde under ett träd som såg ut som en bikupa (svårt att förklara). Han var smutsig och såg härjad ut. Min key informant, och fältmedhjälpare Chris stannade och pratade med honom på Acholi (språket som talas här). De alla skrattade och sedan körde Chris vidare. Jag frågade då Chris vad han höll på med och till svar fick jag ”He’s digging for a rabbit”, ”a rabbit?” sade jag och såg fundersam ut. Då fick jag förklaringen av Chris brorson att denne man var psykiskt skadad efter LRA och att han har inte varit sig själv sen dess. Såren från en konflikt finns fortfarande kvar i Atiak.

Chris utanför sitt barndomshem i Atiak

Chris utanför sitt barndomshem i Atiak

"Apan i buren" försöker smälta in med afrikansk klänning

”Apan i buren” försöker smälta in med afrikansk klänning

Minnesmonumentet för massakern 1995 i Atiak

Minnesmonumentet för massakern 1995 i Atiak