All small towns are the same. They are small. First night out on Friday and I met some new friends and second night out, I met them again. Small town with kind people. On Friday, we went to the disco! I imagined a classic 1970s bar with disco ball and my favorite song “Play that funky music whiteboy!” But, it was just another bar/club. We were also there for work purposes. To create a baseline for how many young girls under 18 are frequenting these discos that all the stakeholders were so concerned about. I saw only a couple young girls strutting around when we were there because we went to the more expensive club (2,000 Ugandan Shillings, approximately 80 cents). Apparently, the young girls go to Le Grande where it is only 500 Shillings (you do the math :). Next weekend, we will go there.
The highlight was when we saw one of the district officials at the disco. My friend Hope decided it would be fun to dance with him. He had enough drinks to not realize that just four hours earlier we were in a meeting with him discussing how the district would work to regulate these discos. Last night, Saturday, Sarah and I went with our friend Vicky to a nice outside bar where we met his brothers who I also met last night. Vicky is an interesting guy. He is a consultant and runs his own business on agricultural productivity. He also works for the Alur Kingdom on gender programs, which is how we got to know him. And he also drives extremely slow. 🙂 The Kingdom is very influential here and is working to create laws to end child marriage and the three-day marriage ceremonies where cases of rape have been reported. The Kingdom is spread between Uganda and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) and they have just recently reconciled their differences. I saw it in the paper and didn’t know why they were not talking for 50 years so I asked Vicky. He told me that a couple decades ago there had been disagreements among the chiefs and a chief in the DRC killed a chief in Uganda and then there was retaliation for a while. He is going to the DRC next weekend for a meeting with the Alur Kingdom there and I hope Sarah and I can join.
I taught a mini-yoga class to Sarah yesterday and it was the most I have laughed during teaching in a long time. This is the greatest thing I enjoy about the Ugandan attitude: things are rarely taken so seriously that you can’t laugh. Everything is funny, including my cheesy jokes. Teaching Sarah made me realize that I forget what it is like for someone who has never done yoga to take her first class. There wasn’t much space in her room so I really had to watch what sort of instructions I gave her. After a couple minutes she was surprised by how much she was sweating and then said we should just continue tomorrow outside where I can demonstrate for her. I was so happy that she was willing to give yoga a chance because I know how frustrating it can be to do something that you don’t understand at all.
Today, a friend from Action Aid took us with some other friends to this place called Biko Retreat Center. I was really not sure where we were going; Sarah just told me we are going to somewhere that is beautiful. And it was! There was a beautiful collection of trees and flowers with large rocks reaching to the sky. The head priest of Uganda with the help of a Korean priest founded it in 1993. We walked all around the property looking at the different prayer points and landscape. There were nine different prayer points, including the world’s smallest church, where you would pray for certain things. We took a lot of pictures and had some fun. I think we may go back next weekend with food and drinks and make a whole day out of it. Now, I am going to go climb another rock that my friend Martina, from the Czech Republic, told me about, if it doesn’t start raining. Otherwise, we can hang here and watch some football with a drink. 🙂
I am feeling pretty good these days, really working on enjoying being here and feeling free. I am so blessed to work with compassionate, fun-loving, and intelligent young women. Sarah, Monica, Enid, and I are the only MEMPROW staff let for a while. The others left after the advocacy campaign was completed on Friday. On Monday, we start a two-week social survival skills training for 30 young girls. I am excited to witness the transformation of the girls brought on by this training and to teach occasional yoga/meditation classes. I am learning the beauty of openness and throwing away plans. Practicing each day to be completely here and now, rather than in my imaginary world of the future. For this moment is all I can truly trust.
At the Biko Retreat Center (From left: Sarah, Immaculate, Doreen, Eve, Richard, me)