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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

It takes a village...

We are currently in western Kenya in a tiny place called Bumala.

We are volunteering at the Mercy Children’s Centre, a school funded by a local Edmonton organization called One Child’s Village. This school provides an education for 220 orphans who otherwise would not be afforded this ‘luxury’. Attending public school requires the paying of school fees, the purchase of a school uniform, school supplies, and yes, even a desk, making it out of reach for many children who have lost their parents, many of whom now rely on the guardianship of their grandmothers.

The teaching staff is young and energetic, the students are eager and enthusiastic and I have been racking my brain to satisfy their desire to learn new games. We have been welcomed here with open arms, and ofcourse singing! As a relatively young project, foreign visitors to the school have been few to this point, but those who have been here have left their mark as the kids can’t get enough of ‘What time is it Mr. Lion?’ and doing ‘The Jiggalo’! You’ll be happy to know that yes, only two days in, and the chicken dance is now also part of the repertoire.

While we are here we plan to help in the classrooms, hopefully providing some extra one-on-one to students who could use the extra attention, teach first aid, and help with the construction of volunteer accommodation to facilitate a future volunteer program.


As I re-read my last post, having email access today for the first time since then, I am happy to report that I have since gained some perspective. It was not so much the loss of the material possessions that had me feeling so bitter (I am accutely aware, as I take in my surroundings on a daily basis, of the truly important things), but the loss of that which cannot be replaced, like pictures and journals, that makes me sad. It is the knowledge that my personal stuff is ‘out there’ that feels violating and it is the thought that any one of you could one day receive a picture of me to match that of Troy’s birthday post in some spam in your inbox, that makes me blush.

I am however reminded that while these personal things were to serve as material reminders, experiences cannot be taken away and though it would have been nice to fill a scrapbook, my memory bank continues to burst :).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Lighter Load

It has been a while since we last updated. Mostly because my Mom told me that if I didn't have anything nice to say, I shouldn't say anything at all... So, instead of focusing on the fact that over the last two weeks we have been getting a first hand education on the finer points of theft and corruption, I will focus on the fact that my bag will now weigh a lot less as it will no longer be burdened with heavy things like cameras, computers, ipods, SD cards, USB sticks, passports, and cash (man, what a relief. cash is really heavy). It would have been a pain to come home after a year of travelling and have to sift through all those beautiful pictures of unforgettable experiences and memories, I should be relieved to have had this weight lifted. More good news is that I now only have one piece of luggage to worry about. It was kind of a pain carrying around two bags anyways and really, can you blame the guy, he needed something to haul away all our stuff in.
Don't worry Mom(s), we are safe :).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Canada Day(s)!

On July 1st and 2nd we celebrated Canada Day with the students at Ihunga, Kahunga, Kitwe, and Nyamyerande primary schools. Some of these schools having been partnered with sister schools in Edmonton as part of Ainembabazi‘s Synergy Project which promotes a cultural exchange between the young people in the two countries, the education committee interns orchestrated Canada day celebrations in an effort to teach the students here a little bit more about Canada and its culture.

I can't attest to how much actual ‘culture’ was learned but it was confirmed that we all speak the same language of laughter. And laugh we did! The classes rotated between each of our stations and from flag making to hockey playing, from ‘snowball’ fights to Canada facts sharing, from snowflake creating to dancing and games, we covered all the bases of a typical elementary school experience back home!

Troy took on the hockey station while I was charged with shaking my booty at the dancing station. I do however deny all responsibility if the Ugandans happened to come away thinking that any one of the Electric Slide, the Twist, the Hokey Pokey, the Hawaiian Cowboy, or the Can-Can are in any way ‘official’ Canadian dances…

Troy taught them the finer points of hockey, or at least of being a hockey fan, an Oiler fan specifically. By the end of the day, he had all the kids chanting ‘Let’s go Oilers!’ and they had all but mastered ‘the wave‘.

While it was our intent to share a bit of Canada, we also came away with more than a little Ugandan culture. All the kids were eager to share a song or a dance to kick things off at my station, with The Calypso being a particular favorite. At Nyamyerande, the students prepared a play for us and also shared some traditional dance, while at Kahunga they pulled us into their spontaneous dance circle and tried to teach us some new moves!

We were very grateful to have been welcomed in with open arms and while we hope we left them with a glimpse of Canada, they left us with an invitation to return for Ugandan's independence day in October :). They also wouldn't let us ride away empty handed and between the team we were gifted close to 100 avocadoes, 100 passion fruit, a dozen papaya and pineapples and a couple dozen eggs….! It seems that gratitude was indeed felt both ways.