Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Springing into Understanding

It has been a wild run-up to spring break. The end of the year is coming up fast, and there is still a lot that I want to experience here in Uganda (aside from marking massive amounts of high school English papers!) While living here I have been granted the great opportunity of seeing beautiful sights and meeting all sorts of people. I know my time here has encouraged me to grow in many ways, but most especially in the realm of understanding.

Although in this global economy people are always talking about cultural differences and transitions, I have learned more about the differences between myself and my fellow man in this one year than I could have possibly imagined. It also seems to me that the biggest differences come between the cultures of ‘Western’ nations, not the cultures of the developing world.
Here’s my proof: This week one of my housemates hosted a friend of hers at our house for a night. It wasn’t a big deal at all, but I couldn’t help noticing the absence of what would be expected behaviors in my own country. I’m quite used to living around Dutch conversations that I don’t understand (these days, unless I’m asking a question, I generally have no idea what is going on. But that’s why I love reading so much. The books always speak my language!) After the guest and her daughter had settled in, I came downstairs for a few minutes. First I tried to calm our dog (who was panicked with glee at the sight of a young child,) and then I thought to sit down for a moment with the company. After a moment or two I realized however that the conversation continued in Dutch around me, and that our temporary guests would not be introduced. As I do not speak Dutch, I quickly abandoned my attempt at conversation, feeling quite foolish indeed. Probably such things are not a big concern at all in Holland, but my own culture is quite the opposite. With us it is almost a point of pride to make introductions. I have heard for several months, as a passing observation, that few other nations can compare to the garrulousness of Americans. One must learn and adapt!
My wonderful boyfriend, of Rwandan-Ugandan stock, is constantly reminding me to be patient with such cultural adjustments (he anticipates more between our trans-Atlantic lives than we have actually found yet.) I laugh as I repeat his words to myself- I doubt he ever thought they’d be needed in my own house! Still, as I pray for patience and understanding, I know that every challenge builds character. I pity friends and family; I’m going to be quite a character when I get back!

Living Room as Classroom

Spring break means a journey back to the village to visit friends and extended family. One of my students from last year has begun secondary school, and I can’t wait to see how he is getting along. I am helping the family with his school fees, and plan to take him shopping for some new shoes and notebooks as well. Education is such a big deal in rural areas- it’s amazing to see the power of learning so celebrated. That and this particular young man will be quite a lot smarter than me one day soon!

The Young Scholar

After a few days in the village, it is my hope that my gentleman and I can spend some time visiting the historical sites located here in Kampala. I have never been to the shrine of the martyrs, nor have I learned very much at all about the Kabaka, Kampala’s ancient line of traditional kings. In fact, the only things I really know about the Kabaka are that traditionally, any woman who lived in the kingdom was considered to be one of his wives, and if you look at the king in his ceremonial robes, he kind of looks like the Pope in red cloth. If I’m able to take such a tour, expect some nifty stories to come!

Kabaka, Source:

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