Tag Archives: development

Friends for Eternity

25 Oct

Ohmygoodness! It’s the last day to apply for the Junior Fellowship program! The application closes at midnight TODAY! Here’s the ninth/final post of my 1 Image, 3 Sentences countdown series, and I’ve saved the best for last. If you have any questions, don’t worry! I’ll be checking comments (below) and my email (juliamilner@ewb.ca) frequently right up until midnight. It’s never too late to ask for some extra support 😉

BeforetheJourney

This is the whole team of AVC Junior Fellows, right before we boarded our flight to Uganda!

For me, the most wonderful part of the JF experience was the community of great people that I got to be a part of. We were practically strangers when we came together in Toronto, we were great friends when we left for East Africa, and by the time we returned we were family. Hannah, Ellen and I became particularly close in our work with the AgInputs project, and we still Skype, send each other random music videos, and reminisce about our many shared adventures. 

If you’re interested, you should definitely check out Ellen’s blog here and Hannah’s blog here. Our experiences were sort of parallel, yet completely different.

If you’re interested in the Junior Fellowship program, be sure to check out http://juniorfellow.ewb.ca/

Isn’t Africa Dangerous?

23 Oct

Only 3 days left to apply for the Junior Fellowship program! The application closes at midnight this Friday! Here’s the eighth post of my 1 Image, 3 Sentences countdown series. If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below, and I’ll reply a.s.a.p.

Emergency Supplies

A number of people have asked me about the risks of travelling in developing countries, so I just want to make it very clear that I was safe and healthy for 95% of my time in Uganda (and the other 5% was a result of my own stupidity). This is a picture of  some of the things I packed and never needed, including treatments for malaria and chronic diarrhoea, first-aid supplies, laxatives, a clean Canadian syringe, and more treatments for diarrhoea. My secret: taking my anti-malarials and multi-vitamins every day, avoiding sketchy street-food, and following the advice of my host-family and experienced EWB staff.

If you’re interested in the Junior Fellowship program, be sure to check out http://juniorfellow.ewb.ca/

The Dance-Off

21 Oct

Only 5 days left to apply for the Junior Fellowship program! Application closes at midnight this Friday! Here’s the seventh post of my 1 Image, 3 Sentences countdown series. If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below, and I’ll reply a.s.a.p.

Skip ahead to 1:17 to get straight to the performance!

My host-sister Irene took me to a primary school one Sunday, to see an inter-school dance competition. It was fascinating and energising to be a part of the clapping, dancing, all-Ugandan audience. Also, you might recall that I made reference to a different side of this experience in my post about religion.

If you’re interested in the Junior Fellowship program, be sure to check out http://juniorfellow.ewb.ca/

The Most Soothing Meeting Ever

18 Oct

Only 8 days left to apply for the Junior Fellowship program! Time is running out! Here’s the sixth post of my 1 Image, 3 Sentences countdown series. If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below, and I’ll reply a.s.a.p.

MitiFarmerFieldSchool

I visited Miti Farmer Field School for their monthly meeting, and interviewed a number of farmers from the group. I loved that the meeting was set up right in the middle of somebody’s coffee garden, so that everyone could sit in the shade. I wonder if people working for Canadian companies would be less anxious and depressed if they held more meetings outdoors…

If you’re interested in the Junior Fellowship program, be sure to check out http://juniorfellow.ewb.ca/

The Business Growth Specialist

14 Oct

Happy Monday! Only 12 days left to apply for the Junior Fellowship program! Here’s the fourth post of my 1 Image, 3 Sentences countdown series. If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below, and I’ll reply a.s.a.p.

Lawrence Adia

 

This is Lawrence, the person I worked most closely with this summer. He’s going to be working for the AgInputs project as a Business Growth Specialist (BGS) for the next 4-5 years, and I’m certain that he’s going to do a lot to improve the local Agricultural Inputs industry in that time. This swing was at our favourite restaurant in Masaka, which has a great view of the town and wi-fi!

If you’re interested in the Junior Fellowship program, be sure to check out http://juniorfellow.ewb.ca/

Architecture and Development

30 Jul

One of my goals for the JF experience was to figure out the role of architecture in development. It turns out that was a stupid goal; it’s not exactly something you can “figure out” in 3.5 months. The things I have figured out are pretty straightforward. There are buildings here (duh!). All kinds of buildings. Some are good, some are not so good, most fit into a fuzzy grey area. Most are only partly built. That doesn’t stop anybody from using them. Ok, now just look at my pictures of buildings and building-type things.

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Not My God

22 Jul

As the traffic in Wandegaya comes to a halt, a man on a motorcycle casually puts one foot to the pavement. He absentmindedly chews on the plastic rosary that hangs from his neck, as he waits for the intersection to clear. A woman in neat business clothes stands on the median. She preaches in Luganda to the traffic, the Bible in her hand acting as punctuation for her gestures. She directs her passionate tirade at the man on his motorcycle, and he gives her a look that expresses everything: “Can’t you see that I am Catholic too?  Don’t you know that everyone here already has a faith? Stop wasting your time.” Traffic begins to flow again, and the woman’s voice is drowned out by the noise of people moving on with their lives.

—— 

“Julia, come. I’m scared,” Irene says as she pulls me away from my work.

Before I know what is wrong, I hear sobbing and gasping through the wall. Sounds of anguish that seem to have no beginning and no end. Irene nervously leads me around the corner, into Fiona’s bedroom. The girl, normally so strong and full of joy, lies shaking in the fetal position on her small bed. My eyes automatically scan the room for hazards and examine her body for signs of injury, but thankfully there is nothing to be seen. Her cries crescendo to a point where inhuman wailing is mingled with too-deep gasps for air. Irene rushes to fetch Grandma from next door, leaving me alone with Fiona’s suffering and my own feelings of powerlessness. I carefully reach out to place a hand on Fiona’s shoulder, and begin to mutter reassuring words. Fiona doesn’t seem to notice, but the reassurance is mostly for myself anyways.

 The next instant, Grandma appears at the door. She carries herself with an air of authority and ancient wisdom, so I am certain she must know the cure for whatever is wrong with Fio. The old woman walks in, examines Fiona as if this is an ailment she knows well, and then begins to administer her remedy; she kneels to pray. I had forgotten that Grandma makes her living by travelling around preaching and “saving” people.

 Within minutes – as if they instinctively knew something was wrong at home – the whole family has gathered. As I watch my family praying to dispel the evil spirits that have taken hold of Fiona, I feel a profound appreciation for the power of Faith in situations where there seems to be no other answer. But I still wish that they would call a doctor.

 —–

I asked him if he could define the religion of the forest more closely.

 He said, in a precise academic way, “We cannot call it a religion. It is a set of beliefs. We don’t pray to God because in our understanding God is not accessible to humans. It [he meant the idea of God] has many other problems and has no time for humans.”

– The Masque of Africa, V.S. Naipaul

 —–

Sunday morning. I sway and clap along with the church choir. I am the only foreigner amidst a sea of penitent Ugandans, but for once it is not the colour of my skin that makes me feel like an alien. It is my disbelief that sets me apart. I am humbled by the strength of this community, and wonder if it is yet another act of privilege for me to choose spirituality over organised religion.

 Giant murals of The Last Supper, St. Peter, and The Virgin Mary look down upon the service from above the altar. “Who painted you?” I think, as I examine their distorted proportions and garish colours. “Why are you the only other white people here?”

 In Rome, I saw the same subject matter painted by the master artists of the Renaissance. Their works were rendered with so much inspiration, it felt as though the heavens might open at any instant, with angels and saints waiting to welcome us into their transcendent realm. Here in Kalisizo, twenty foot tall, white-skinned angels seem more oppressive than inspiring.

 —–

 And now, though the name was given her by her father, she felt a love-hate for the name Susan.

“I feel that it is so much part of the colonial experience, which was not pleasant. When a person or race comes and imposes on you, it takes away everything, and it is a vicious thing to do. Much as I think the West and modernity is a good thing, it did take away our culture and civilization, and even if it is gentle it does make us doubt our roots. For example, the missionaries brainwashed you into rejecting the gods, and imposing their own ideas, dogma and doctrines, saying that theirs were the best. There was no two-way dialogue and them trying to understand how our minds and heritage or culture worked. I feel that people had a civilisation. It was different but it was their own. I taught myself to write in Luganda.” After writing her poems in English. “I feel humiliated that the school did not teach us our mother tongue.”

 – The Masque of Africa, V.S. Naipaul

 —–

 Irene took me to see an inter-school festival. We would have to sit through the Bible reading and adjudication before we could watch the main event: traditional dance. The organizers insisted on seating me at the front of the audience, in a big chair, while Irene squeezed into the crowded bleachers that filled the back of the room. I don’t know who they thought I was, but I did not deserve this honour.

 I will admit the bible reading bored me and I was struggling to stay awake. But a change in atmosphere brought my attention back. A girl was being tested individually on her memorization of a passage. I did not need to know Luganda or the Bible to tell that she was struggling. She stuttered, and fidgeted, then froze. An adjudicator prompted her with a question and the whole room was silent in anticipation of her answer. She hesitated, then murmured an uncertain response. The entire audience burst into laughter.

 The red, blushing glow of shame pushed through the darkness of her skin, but she managed to blurt out the right answer and hold back her tears. My heart thudded with anger at the crowd, and empathy for the girl. I do not believe that the Bible was intended to be used as a means for publicly humiliating children.

 As the girl left the room, one of the teachers sitting in the row behind me leaned forward and asked, “Do you know how to read the bible?”

 “No,” I replied bluntly.

 “Are you Muslim?”

 “No.”

 “What is your religion?”

 “I have no religion. I believe in morality, and in treating all beings with love and respect, but I do not believe in religious institutions,” was my response. I tried to be diplomatic, but was still feeling charged with anger. Some of the teachers had been the ones to laugh the loudest at the little girl’s mistake.

 That was the end of our conversation. The teacher didn’t care about how reading Conversations With God changed my worldview. He didn’t care that I cried when I saw Michelangelo’s Pieta, and when I heard the choir at New College Chapel. He didn’t care that the cathedrals of Florence and London and Vienna fuel my love of architecture. He didn’t care that my atheism is one of the most carefully considered aspects of my identity. We could have shared common values and beliefs beyond the confines of his Catholicism, but all that mattered to him was the fact that I could not read the Bible. And for once, I was not in the mood to compromise my beliefs in order to forge a fleeting friendship.

 —–

When my host-father is feeling particularly affectionate or proud, he will say to me: “Now you are a Muganda woman,” or “Now Julia is a Catholic.” These praises seem to be interchangeable. He thinks I should get baptized while I am in Uganda… Maybe I should. It would make him so happy. And it would be a satisfyingly ironic twist in the complex dynamics of religion in Africa.