Wednesday, July 30, 2014

You Might Win Some

Six weeks into the beginning crochet class, things are going well.  My students are eager to learn and I have found that I love teaching.  The yarn I had shipped is running out too quickly, but that is a good thing because it means that my students are practicing morning, noon and night.  Some of the students have invested in battery-operated night lights so they can crochet after dark.  Their willingness to learn this skill and their hope it will bring them and their families a better life weighs on my mind in a way that gives me vision for what to teach each day.

My students have become a family.  They help each other, they love each other, they support each other.  And I love each woman.  I respect their strength, their openness, their hardships.  Every class meeting starts with shaking one another’s hand around our circle.  Most of them follow Ugandan tradition of kneeling when they shake my hand.  I kneel to them in spirit, because if I knelt to even one of them, I can’t guarantee that I could get up.  I have told them as much and they laugh with understanding.

Beatrice and Agnes #3 have left their families to come just to take this course.    Beatrice has two small daughters that she brought with her, Purity and Esther.  As a mother, she is experiencing the heartbreak that Purity (age 5) has sickle cell.  In rural Uganda the only treatments available for Purity are folic acid and pain killers to help her with the pain.  She  gets sick easily, but mercifully she is very resistant to malaria.  Her younger sister Esther (age 18 months) is very healthy and a sweet, sweet child.  Beatrice has two other children that remain at home.  Agnes #3 has three children, the youngest is 3 years old.  I know that these women are sacrificing so much to take this class and it is humbling.

Ann Okurut has 4 children, the youngest is about to finish high school.  Christine (Toto #1 – Toto is Ateso for mother) has 10 children and is expecting her 11th.  She is due in September.  Irene has one daughter, Mercy, and she is expecting her second child, due in early October.   Teddy #1 is a nurse and the office manager of the clinic here at PACODET.  Teddy #2 is not yet married, but the class jokes about taking her on market day to Abilla (a village close by) and finding her a boyfriend.  Agnes #2 is also unmarried and she is completing her nursing training here at PACODET.  And there is also Benna, Florence (Toto #2), Phoebe, and Dinnah.

Most of the class has perfect attendance.  Phoebe and Dinnah aren’t coming now because they are newly pregnant and have terrible morning sickness that seems to last the whole day.  They can get caught up when they are feeling better.

But then there is the Other Ann, Ann Apadet.  She is pretty and she is very reserved.  I know from my boss Stanley that she has a very hard life.  She has one daughter, Sharon, and she has said she is expecting again.  She said in the last class she attended that she was one month along.  A few weeks ago I learned that Sharon was born very early, weighing a few ounces at most.  Sharon was hospitalized for the first few weeks of her life and kept in an incubator.  Ann’s attendance in class has been spotty at best and as a result she struggles to keep up with the class.  Her grades are so low at this point that she will not be able to advance to the Intermediate class.

This week I found out that Ann had run away from her home here in Kapuwai.  Her husband has been in Kampala for some time now looking for work.  Apparently, her husband called her and his brother answered her phone.  Customs for visiting married women are different in Uganda.  Her husband asked his brother what he was doing in their home.  Words were exchanged.  Ann left in fear of what her husband would do when he came home.  If Ann is actually pregnant, she is in great danger of severe abuse or worse.  Ann went to her family home several hours away. Not many people have considered that Ann may not have had a choice regarding participation in the sex that led to her latest pregnancy.

She is lost to many things now, not the least of which is the program.  If her husband catches up with her, she will most certainly lose Sharon.  In Uganda, children are the possession of the father.  I pray her husband will never catch up with her.

You might win some, but you just lost one.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

And the winner is . . .

This past weekend the Board of Directors of PACODET visited the campus of PACODET and we held a contest.  Each woman submitted her 1st project, a baby blanket, for the judges to select the most well-made blanket.

Below is a picture of all the submissions to the contest.  And the winners are:

                        1st prize:         Teddy Guto (winner of 5,000 UGX)
                        2nd prize:        Christine Acam (winner of 3,000 UGX)
                        3rd prize:         Irene Agadi (winner of 2,000 UGX)

All of the women do exceptional work and they have such a wonderful sense of color and design.  Congratulations to them all!

Angoro Lu Itegelikina

Two weeks ago I had the class choose a name for their co-operative.  During the planning stage of this project, I called it Pallisa Artistans Co-op, called PAC.  But once I began working with these wonderful women, I realized that they were strong and capable and they needed a name to reflect who they are, not who I think they should be.

After some lively debate, they settled on Angoro Lu Itegelikina, which is Ateso for Women of Substance.  There couldn’t be a more perfect description of this group.

They also selected officers for the group.  I told them they needed to elect a President and a Treasurer and I explained the skills each of them needed.  I left the room because I didn’t want my face or my body language to influence in any way who they chose for these important jobs. 

When I came back, these were the results of their election:

President:      Ann Loyce Okurut
Vice-Pres:       Irene Agadi
Secretary:       Teddy Amongin
Treasurer:      Christine Acam
Time Manager:          Ann Apadet
Food Manager:          Christine Acam
Entertainment:          Agnes Asio (#1), Agnes Amulen (#3) (assistant)
Games & Sports:        Agnes Abia (#2)
Health:                        Teddy Guto
Pastors:          Florence Amangat, Beatrice Kavunani

Here’s a recent picture of the group, minus Agnes Amulen and Agnes Abia, who went home for the weekend.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Number 1!!!

July 14th is something more than just Bastille Day.  It is the 21st birthday of one of my students, Agnes Asio, affectionately known as Number 1.  Agnes is Nyero, Uganda, in Kumi District, about  2.5 hours from Kapuwai.  She is a nursing student at PACODET's Community Health Nursing Program.

She has a sharp, sharp wit and she is wise beyond her years.  She is my closest friend in Uganda, although I have many really good friends here.  We laugh at each other constantly.

She has told me that her father is a peasant.  The Ugandan English accent takes getting used to, so I misunderstood her to say that her father was a "piss ant".  We worked out what she was actually saying and had another of our many, many laughs together.  At some point I will do a post about all the things I have misunderstood.  As you can see by her picture, she is stunning.  Were she born in different circumstances she could very easily be a supermodel.

She is called Number 1 because Agnes is a very common name for women in Uganda.  There are three at PACODET now.  I started calling them Agnes 1, Agnes 2 and Agnes 3 based on the order I met them.  Everyone around took to calling them Number 1, Number 2 and Number 3.  It is quite funny to hear them calling to each other.

If you have time, send me an email wishing Agnes a Happy Birthday.  She will adore these wishes as she doesn't really comprehend how the web works.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Mo-Sqwee-Tos, that’s what my friend Agnes Asio, a/k/a Agnes Number 1, calls the  insects that my life revolves around now.  As of this writing, I have about 60 bites all over my arms and legs.  I have so many mo-sqwee-to bites that my back broke out in hives and I had to do a Benadryl binge for a couple of days.  My back is better and the Mo-sqwee-to bites are improving daily.

On my first night in Kapuwai, Agnes #1  warned me about the necessity of sleeping under the net every night and to always cover my legs when I am outside after the mo-sqwee-tos come out, which is around 6 p.m. every night.  Some nights they are so bad that I can’t sit outside and talk with everyone while Agnes Number 3 cooks dinner for everyone.  I detest the nights I can’t sit out with everyone – there is so much laughter here. 

After I had been here about a week and was covered with mo-sqwee-to bites head to toe, the women of PACODET determined that I must not be securing my bed net properly.  They came into my apartment and showed me that after I get into bed I must check for mo-sqwee-tos inside the net and then secure the net under the mattress.  After that talk my mo-sqwee-to bite situation improved markedly. 

My friend Tom Barton is taking me on Thursday to the next village over for their market day. The market at Kameke has these clay pots that you put water into and through the magic of evaporative cooling, they cool anything you put into them like a refrigerator.  When I find a Coke, I’m going to buy about 60 of them.  Of all the things I thought I would miss from home, turns out that I miss soft drinks the most.  On the average day I drink about 2 liters of water.  Before I left, I was drinking that much Diet Coke everyday.

I can’t wait until Thursday.