Monday, July 20, 2009

{do you like me? circle yes or no}

Here is the most recent update from our Awesome Possum summer intern, Kelley. I hope you read with as much enthusiasm as I did:

These last few weeks have felt more like the beginning of an awkward middle school relationship than anything. Uganda and I really really like each other. From the moment we met, we’ve been flirting and laughing almost nonstop. It’s been fantastic. However, when we sit down to talk, we’re both fumbling around to find common ground. There are so many barriers that prevent that connection that I know is there. Somewhere. Usually we just end up sitting across from one another smiling and laughing like two giddy eighth graders.

My time with the Sseko girls has quite accurately captured this journey for understanding.

I’ve spent numerous hours with these girls and I love every minute of it. We talk and laugh and have a wonderful time together. But those walls are still there. Miles of Atlantic Ocean and a few hundred years of history have sort of influenced the places we’ve grown up. We’re different. There are so many things that I don’t understand about them. Case in point-how four girls can share a room and not fight. I pressed Mary for a good twenty minutes when it was just the two of us, trying to get the juicy details and she just laughed and gave a very Mary sort of response, “I’ve learned to value these girls as much as I value myself. When you do that, you have no reason to fight.” (I couldn’t help but have a flashback to a freshman year fiasco while she was talking- it might have been over clothes or maybe it was high heels?) They can’t fathom a room to themselves; I can’t fathom sharing everything my entire life. Entitlement meets selflessness. I’ve never been more aware of the influence of American ideals on my life as they meet a very different set of standards. Not everyone lives like we do. It’s funny that I had to come halfway around the world to believe it.

Breaking down those walls takes time. That connection is there. I see glimpses of it when we laugh about the same things (which is usually at my expense while attempting to peel matoke or do the kaganda dance or sing a heartfelt version of Total Eclipse of the Heart). Maybe you can never knock down cultural barriers, but I bet you can climb over them and meet in the middle, which I think we’re doing…and I’m really excited.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

{g-nut butter, jelly}

(...for those of you who have not yet had the privelage and honor to taste a g-nut, it is the Ugandan version of a peanut. only the older, way cooler, tastier, purple cousin...)

here is an update from our Summer Intern, Kelley Swartz:

"We had a sleepover Ugandan style last night. It was complete with a power shortage and no electricity, singing, story telling, intense games of Spoons, dancing, and much laughter. They taught me the Kiganda dance and I, in return, taught them the peanut butter jelly dance. We shared “life news” as they call an update on personal matters that evolved into discussing life dreams and aspirations. I quickly picked up on the incredible character that each of the girls possess. Rebecca is strong. Mary is wise. Mercy is discerning. All three of them possess the ability to articulate profound truths in the simplest phrases that stay with me for days. Mercy was describing her desire to become an Engineer, and the type of classes she would be taking at University. Ever the history and english lover, her course sounded painful to me and I simply responded, “That is going to be hard.” And Mercy quickly responded, “Everything is hard” to which Mary softly added, “But God is able.” I have only been with these women for a few days, but I’ve already come to realize that they have changed my world and it will never be the same again. "

**Please note that the fabric around Kelley's waist is there to accentuate her "lady hips" during the Kiganda dance. Ah, I have such an affinity for cultures who like their women to look like...women**