For the past few days, the GROW team has had a wonderful experience in Gulu due to two key groups of people. At Pam’s house, we have been basking in Annuary, Irene, and Joanne’s extremely warm hospitality. Waking up to and coming home to ready-made meals are luxuries in themselves after our erratic college eating schedules, but we’ve also been treated to new Ugandan delicacies such as g-nut paste (a richer form of peanut butter), jackfruit-mango juice, Africana and hibiscus tea, cassava (mildly sweet potatoes), chapathi (similar to Indian roti), rice and beans, and malakwang paste (made from a spinach-like vegetable and g-nut butter). Everything here is so fresh, and as Sarah eloquently commented, “[we] didn’t know vegetables could be so flavorful!” We also owe our thanks to Emi, a University of Wisconsin-Madison GlobeMed graduate and GWED-G Operations Manager, and her housemate John, who have helped us become acclimated to Gulu from a GlobeMed and foreigners’ perspective.
On Friday, May 23rd, Emi took us to the GWED-G office for the first time! We were surprised to find that it was less than a five-minute walk from Pam’s house. It was so exciting to finally greet the GWED-G staff in person after hearing their stories through past GROW interviews. One such interviewee was Bosco, who gave us a warm welcome and the background of GWED-G’s inception (which you can find here). He also introduced the GROW Intern Code of Conduct detailed as follows: 1) Internal behavior: Interns must be prompt, respectful, and mindful of others’ work 2) External behavior: Interns should stay safe, smart and vigilant 3) Dress code: Especially female interns must avoid unnecessarily attention-calling clothing (especially after President Museveni’s recent signing of the anti-porn bill that bans skin exposure above the knee). We also appreciated his advice to start the Partnership Action Framework and media compilation early as we have a limited time here. The GROW team also met Venus who’s another previous interviewee, other non-GlobeMed related program managers, and a graduate student who was conducting research for her master’s thesis.
After a brief visit to town for wi-fi at the Coffee Hut to post our first GROW blogpost, we visited Emi’s house in Senior Quarters- an isolated compound for foreigners (or muzungus). She had two housemates who were also involved in NGOs involving fieldwork. During the brief 15-minute rain, we had the pleasure of playing with her African mutt, Tucker, and enjoyed the serenity of it all. We also learned about her neighbors: NGO workers, a Serbian doctor for the Gulu Independent Hospital, and a lot of Mormon missionaries who rotated every other month. As we learned from Pam yesterday, Gulu is home to about 5,700 foreigners, which is more than those in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. 70% of them are American and a majority of them are Mormon missionaries, although 80% of Uganda is Christian.
En route back to Pam’s house, Emi introduced us to the popular Ugandan fast food rolex (supposedly derived from “rolled eggs”). In simplified terms, it is a burrito-like wrap consisting of omelette wrapped in two chapathis, and extremely delicious!
Later that evening, we were graced with Franny’s visit as she also brought her 3 month-old son, Grayson! Franny is GlobeMed’s affiliated project manager who is currently on maternity leave, replaced by Juliet. Grayson was a very calm boy with beautiful eyes and a full head of super-soft hair, whom Franny kindly let us carry and coo at. While Grayson napped on the couch, we heard about Franny’s many interesting episodes with the past GROW teams and we relayed stories and memories of the ten GlobeMed seniors who have graduated this year! (Congratulations to the class of 2014!) During our down time, the GROW team noticed many World Cup features on TV. Soccer seems to be highly popular in Uganda. Its national team, the Cranes, has a large following, and the goalkeeper is from Gulu! We’ve also been finding a nice balance between reflecting collectively and individually, and also getting to know each other outside the GlobeMed/Columbia context.
Saturday, May 24th was mainly devoted to the GROW team’s Italian-themed welcome dinner preparation for Pam’s arrival to Gulu from Kampala. Emi took us to the Uchumi supermarket, where we acquired imported meat, spaghetti, and tomato paste. We then headed to the local food market, after passing by various clothing vendors, and bought most of our vegetables such as onions, green peppers, garlic, eggs, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots. A 10-year-old girl sold us tomatoes while neighboring vendor women watched our every move, and some locals confronted us by asking if, “there was anything we wanted” when we inadvertently took their picture. Some also even attempted to charge us for taking pictures!
This episode sheds light on the struggle that I’ve been having with media collection. Back on campus, creating our media plan seemed as simple as assigning two interns per day of the week and compiling a list of interview questions. However, once we’ve entered the community, I have become more aware of the images that I am capturing and the inherent biases that accompany media collection. When was it appropriate to collect media? And was this doing more harm than good? There is only so much that we can capture in a single frame, but even then media collection can seem too intrusive of the locals’ daily lives. I have also become more aware the images that I am portraying. As I walked around with a camera I couldn’t help but feel discomfort as an outsider with a camera and an agenda, choosing what aspects of the local community to capture and bring home. Who are we to decide what aspects of someone’s culture are ‘worthy’ of sharing? And do we subconsciously self-select images that must fit our preconceived notions of the culture? I tried to wrap my head around these questions as I unconsciously videotaped the GROW interns or offered the camera to others. However, I intend to be more wary of my media subjects, at least until we head out to fieldwork, where Pam has specifically given us permission to collect any media that would benefit our HIV/AIDS awareness and sensitization and maternal health project.
On our way back to Pam’s house, David, Emma, and I explored local stores in town- including those specializing in musical instruments and scarves- and agreed that Ugandans are generally very friendly, and the children are especially so. (Some toddlers even ran up to high-five us, as they shyly said hello). Shortly after, we were graced by Pam’s presence and were finally able to catch up on each of our travels and the current situation of GlobeMed. David even helped Prince and Preston make paper airplanes called Gilders that we had brought back from New York. We ended the day with some heavy-duty cooking using only two wood stoves running on charcoal while assigning salad, tomato sauce, meatball, spaghetti, and garlic bread duties. We hope that we were able to relieve some of Pam’s stress from traveling, and to show some gratitude to Annuary, Irene, and Joanna who have shown so much kindness to us. (Prince seemed to especially like the meatballs, even though it was David’s first attempt…so go, David!)
Here is to another four more weeks of discovery, learning, and on-going discussion!
GROW Team out.