Old friends, strange looks and an amazing Acholi family: Back in Gulu Baby!
My apologies for the delay in posting my first blog since I have arrived in Uganda, the electrical power in Gulu has been as unreliable and unpredictable as Oprah’s weight. I now offer my apologies to those reading this who may be devout Oprah fans.
However, I digress…
I have arrived in Uganda! Amidst a possible Ebola outbreak, threats from the terrorist group Al-shabaab over Olympic gatherings and an upset stomach from some questionable airplane food I am in great spirits!
I met my very good friend Alfred at the airport in Entebbe and I can only describe our reuniting together as something you see in the movies. Laughing, hugging, even a slow motion running montage to ‘chariots of fire’ (A much happier scene than the Israeli hostage situation that took place in the very same airport over 3 decades ago with Dictator Ida Amin).
Alfred, his lovely wife Alice and their hilarious son Boniface are part of my amazing Acholi family that I am staying with in Northern Uganda during my Peace Fellowship. I met Alice last year through a teacher program I was involved with and when she found out I was coming back to Gulu she welcomed me to her home like I was one of her own family. Alice is a strong and compassionate who has become my Acholi mother. To do the incredible experience of staying with this family justice I will dedicate an entire bonus blog to them in the next few weeks!
M Acholi family, Alice, Aflred & Boniface
It has also been great seeing many of the Acholi friends I made last year, especially from the Gulu Disabled Persons Union. The culture is extremely welcoming and receptive towards visitors. Once you have made a friend in Gulu you have made a friend for life. What works out well for me is how polite and considerate the Acholi are. Whenever something remotely unpleasant happens you will be greeted with a sea of the most sincere condolences you will ever hear. For example, I was walking through town at night with Alfred and I fell in a trench (Night in Gulu = total darkness for foreigners). Alfred thought I disappeared like David Blane. By the time we figured out what happened every onlooker within a 30 meter radius was saying sorry to me. As a clumsy individual prone to tripping and walking into things I must say it is great to have my uncoordination praised!
However despite the consideration and warmth I am also receiving many strange looks. To show my appreciation for Alice’s hospitality I have been contributing to many of the household chores, including washing clothes, fetching water and some basic cooking. Apparently such duties are reserved for women and children. As a result I have been the subject of many furrowed eyebrows from baffled onlookers. Perhaps I can be the Rosa Parks of Gulu with respect to men getting off their butts and do something! I was even playing a children’s game involving catching a rock with some of my little neighbours that drew much laughter as this game is only played by girls.
Click this link to open up a quick video I made of the rock game!
Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU)
I am very excited about my work with the Gulu Disabled Person. After meeting with the chairperson (Onong Simon), the coordinator (Fred) and the program officer (Ojok Patrick) with regards to the needs they are looking to have met it looks like I have my work cut out for me. To facilitate the general creation of human rights for persons with disabilities (PWDs) we are looking to build a few accessible toilets in the surrounding parts of the regions where services for PWDs are extremely limited.
Another issue the GDPU is looking to tackle is to improve the livelihood PWDs. If you have a disability in Northern Uganda equitable opportunities are hard to come by and discrimination is commonplace. As a result PWDs in Northern Uganda are often associated with being the poorest of the poor according to former Gulu M.P. Margaret Baba Diri. Through a scholarship proposal designed to give PWDs equitable educational opportunities that are usually nonexistent we are looking to break the cycle of destitution and discrimination associated with PWDs in Northern Uganda.
Other projects that I will be working on include the construction of a wheelchair accessible basketball court in the former Internally Displaced Camp (IDP) Pabbo, capacity building with elected village officials with disabilities, expression of PWDs through the artistic construction of a massive scale quilt, telling peoples stories through photography, the written word and video as well as updating ICT support.
Wheelchair basketball in Gulu has been great for improving the quality of life for PWDs. Hopefully we can do the same in Pabbo!
Wow! It seems that I have a lot of work to do so until the next blog,
APWOYO MATEK (thank you) and peace,
Next Blog Topic: Understanding through Advocacy and Awareness: Crucial Steps by PWDs for Social Change
Posted By Dane Macri
Posted Aug 10th, 2012