Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day Two: Shrines, Lax, and Rolexes

8/2/12: Day 2

What a first day it has been! It all began with an early wake up from the roosters  at about 5:30am. After some eggs and sausage we were out the door. Francis, one of the FoG coordinators, took us to the Uganda Martyrs National Shrine. It was built at the exact location where individuals were executed in 1886 under the order of the King, Kabaka Mwanga, for refusing to give up their Christian principles and fight in the war. The Shrine was finished in 1975 and was constructed to resemble an African hut. It is an amazing structure and had a lot of energy surrounding it. Many individuals make pilgrimages to the site and at this particular time they were preparing for an upcoming ceremony and were playing traditional African music. pictures below.
the crew!

The crew in front on the shrine - from left to right- Joe, Allison, Julius, Caroline, Amanda, Adele, me, Ashley, Chris, Oscar, and Francis in front!! 
On the walk back we made a stop at one of the local schools in the area. The kids had gone home for holiday so the classrooms were empty. It was very humbling to see the environment in which they learned. The walls were simple brick but many had holes in them. The floors were bare concrete, and the desks were a few planks of wood nailed together. And this, I was told, was one of the better schools. I asked Francis, who is very knowledgable about the government and the workings of Uganda, what the current education status is within the country. He explained to me that there are government schools and there are private schools. As recently as 1998, they made it possible for children to attend school for free (or for an extremely small fee). This would appear as a move in the right direction for the country, but the government schools that are free, do not provide an education worth attending in many situations. As a result, the children that the new law is supposed to create opportunity for, end up staying home where they can be more useful to their families. If a Ugandan wants to continue their education beyond secondary school, they must attend private school, which is expensive. As you can imagine, this creates quite a disparity. This just goes to show that as different as this country is from the States, you find many of the same problems, just on a different scale.

Playground at the school
 Right before we left, we had the opportunity to meet a few of the kids who were still there. These were the first youngins I have met here in Uganda. It is impossible not to fall in love with these kids. They are so friendly and full of light. They also have the biggest, most welcoming smiles you will ever see. I can't wait to see all of the wonderful people I continue to meet on this trip.
The little boy we met- unfortunately I didn't catch that big smile he had!
After lunch,  Julius, who is helping push the women's game in Uganda, told us that we were going to Namugongo high school to do a lacrosse clinic. While the kids were leaving for vacation the following day, this was an opportunity to introduce the sport, peak their interest, and entice them to sign up for free regular practices. The girls were a little bashful at first and while only a few showed up initially, by the second hour the stick bag was empty and the field was full. The FoG coaches gave us free range to do what we thought would be most beneficial for the girls. Given the go-ahead, we decided to organize the girls into a few groups and do some very fundamental skill work including cradling, catching and throwing, ground balls, and shooting. The girls responded extremely well to our instruction and improved with each drill as a result. They were so enthusiastic and appreciative, which can be a great change from youth lacrosse back in the states. I find that kids do not always appreciate the opportunity to play and learn every day the way they do here. It probably has to do with the fact that they do not have many possessions or regular opportunities to play the game here. Regardless, it is really refreshing. After having only been there for a few hours, the girls were just as attentive when it was time for us to leave. They asked us when we would be back, which brings me to the one issue I have with these kinds of trips.

Some one-on-one passing form 
A little instruction at the clinic
It is so rewarding to be able to make kids smile by giving them the game of lacrosse. There is nothing that compares, which like I mentioned before, is why I coach. Unfortunately, it's really hard to introduce the game, meet all of the kids, get them excited, and then know that you will probably not seem them again. I know that they get a lot out of that one day, but I do feel a little guilty not being able to see it through. On the other hand, all of the regular FoG coaches, who are local Ugandans, are at every clinic.They ask questions, take note of what we are teaching, and are extremely enthusiastic about the sport in general. I think that is the most important part of this trip in terms of making women's lacrosse sustainable in Uganda. The more knowledge and experience the coaches here can gather, the brighter the future of the sport in this country.

Now on to the cultural highlight of my day. One of the many reasons I love pairing travel and community work is because it offers a rare first hand look at the culture of the region you are visiting. I have already learned a number of things about the Ugandan culture like how to greet someone - "oli otia". That we (we being "white foreigners") are referred to as mzungas, or "aimless wanderer". I was taught the Ugandan handshake and that you do not stop doing it until you are done with your initial conversation, which can be a bit awkward at first...I also had the pleasure of learning how to make the most delicious Ugandan meal called a "Rolex" (see picture below but do not juuuudge based on  picture). It consists of chapati (a naan like flat bread made with flour, water, curry, salt, and onions on a frying pan) and 2 "scrambled" eggs that are left on the frying pan and come out like an egg flapjack. Put the two together, roll 'em, and eat! Unbelievable. I will attempt to make some when I get state side, if anyone wants to be a guinea pig...
Oscar teaching us how to make Chapati
Well that is it for today. So much greatness in today that I cannot wait for tomorrow. I'll leave you with my three:

Three time: my parents- for giving me all of the opportunities they have,  meeting new people, and Rolexes (is that the plural? Rolexi?)



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