There are things that I sometimes wonder about.
Like the way I've seen people fight for food.
I wonder why it is not a comfortable relaxing time around the table where everyone enjoys and shares and the communication is easy and afterward everyone relaxes and is satisfied.
I thought it might be because life was like this once.
The memory of hunger follows into adulthood. The requirements for satisfaction are different. Struggling to get what to eat and accomplishing it is a different sort of satisfaction. The following video is the same sort of fight but obviously nobody is actually starving. These grown men are well fed, well dressed. They are staying in a place that is well furnished but they play the same roles as the children in the other video. Even the commenters identify and "miss" this way of relating to others.
Without sounding too much like a colonialist, is it possible to consider this "fighting for food" behavior as the broken part of the brain or the psyche or even the DNA. Recent studies show how trauma effects the DNA. Is this broken? Is this tradition? Is this brokeness rolled into a tradition?
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
I wanted to post publicly about the Tiananmen Square type incident that occurred in Ethiopia a few days ago. Then I remembered—I am an American living in Uganda. Ethiopia is very close by. Their government doesn’t seem to have any qualms about killing journalists reporting the “wrong” information. I remember my husband’s deportation. Our lives were uprooted in every way possible and the proceedings did not make sense or line up with what “normally” happens. Any small protest/person that sounds somewhat legitimate but comes into the crosshairs of a regime that handles hundreds of trillions of dollars—there is no need to sweat about using $100,000 to squash that person and all his relatives.
Considering all things, I think I will let others do the speaking.
Recently an article about Alfred Olango’s killing by El Cajon police officers brought back into the limelight particulars about my husband’s case and the suspicions I’ve had about it since then. But of course any evidence is classified in some dusty forgotten room in the archives of some classified department of covert government agency that handles it.
New revelations, from the Olango case, also underscore the suspicions I have had. My husband had spoken out against the existing Ugandan regime while in states, during a time when his status was in limbo with immigration. Things could have gone the other way but consistently despite our efforts and the unimaginable money we put toward the case, every decision pushed us closer to his deportation. We were spied on. Angela Minner at the office in Bloomington, had photos of me, my car, my routine, my house.
Every conversation we ever had before and after that time was recorded. After Stephen was deported to Uganda, we had an unimaginable amount of phone calls between the two of us. The clicking on the phone was constant. Those phone calls likely saved his life. We didn’t completely realize it at the time but the fear and terror and blame that I verbalized on the phone about the complete personal financial ruin (of both of us) that followed his deportation was very real and to anyone spying, eventually it could not have been a contrived drama. I am sure I mentioned the house I kept at 40 degrees throughout the whole winter. I am sure I mentioned collecting rainwater from the roof and cutting the power to most outlets in the house. The bankruptcy. Dumpster diving for food. All of that terror and loss verbalized over the phone was followed by easy to find evidence. If all the wife fixates on is financial ruin, how can this guy be planning a coup?
And yes, that is what all African governments are afraid of—the coup that topples them from power. How did Lybia fall? U.S. funded insurgents who had enough bang power and strategic killing to convince anyone. Remember the guys who tried to topple the regime in Gambia. One was prosecuted in St. Paul in 2015.
The spies among us.
I remember having a meeting with my restaurant’s business partners the day Stephen was taken by ICE. I wondered why him, who didn’t have a criminal history. I suspected a political motive because of how he spoke against the regime of government. That day, I began to voice that suspicion to my business partners. The particular response I received from one partner who was Ugandan was very peculiar and poignant in my memory, in that she emphatically denied such a possibility even before I was even half-way through my first sentence describing the suspicion. She was a U.S. resident for years but never got her citizenship and frequently went back to Uganda. Later, I was told she was a hired spy for the regime. Why, I queried, would she report her own business partner to the regime, knowing that it may likely have a negative impact on her investment. After a year of living in Uganda, I no longer wonder. I repeatedly see people urinate in their own drinking cups, literally and figuratively speaking.
Once I got to Uganda, and began living with my husband, there was an older guy who came around repeatedly, seeking small employment opportunities from my husband. He had the air of someone trying to escape something from somewhere else. He had a small house he rented from a close neighbor. It was barely big enough for someone to lay down in. He had a wife somewhere but it was odd that he lived by himself and cooked for himself and had not much else to do or reason to be there. We didn’t have anything to hide from him. And so he watched me there. I fetched water like any other African woman in that village. I did masonry work for our compound. I tilled the garden. I did many things he would never have imagined a woman from U.S. to be doing. Then some time after, I returned to U.S. he vanished as though he was never there.
Soon after I returned to U.S. after our Ugandan wedding, the clicking noise on the phone stopped as well.
I discovered from Alfred Olango's case that very few Ugandans who are in deportation proceedings, are given travel documents by their own country’s embassy in D.C. Only 11 individuals were deported to Uganda in 2015 because specifically only 11 got travel documents from their embassy. Others couldn’t be deported because they didn’t get travel documents. So, any others remained in U.S.—refused by their own country.
The statement from the embassy in relation to Alfred Olango:
“A message seeking comment from the Ugandan Embassy in Washington was not immediately returned. The country accepted 11 people who were deported from the U.S. during the 2015 fiscal year but it was unclear how many were denied.”
According to a released report by ICE, about 224,000 individuals were deported from U.S. in the same year my husband was deported, 2010. Let’s say only a few, perhaps 11, even 20 of those were Ugandans—a reasonable estimate, given the 2015 data. It is pretty clear that the government of Uganda has a hand in who gets deported and who does not. Individuals of interest get travel documents, per the orders of the Ugandan government, in liaison with the U.S. government.
The U.S. is the prime location for all the friends and beneficiaries of the regimes of Africa to go to look around or shop. There were so many of those that came to my husband’s restaurant. Friends of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe would come and “talk politics” as they spent major money on drinks and food, while the Zimbabwean waitress would hide in the back. She feared any retaliation they might exact for any comment on her family back in Zimbabwe. I even have a photo of a Nigerian MP sleeping in a hotel bed as a friend and I were eating chicken and taking selfies with her in the background.
What should we make of this? Certainly, there is the economic and trade conclusions that the author of The World is Flat arrive at. But politically and from a military stance, how it is now possible to live and be a citizen in a country and fire bullets against its military, as it exchanges fire with the militia you join, in your homeland, while on holiday. Politically, some can make everything work together to assist them while others get caught in the cross-hairs, while governments secretly negotiate with each other, exchanging pawns. But really, none of this happened. Truly, you did not see this.
Wednesday, July 13, 2016
I think I want to be an employee in Uganda also. This morning after two months of seriously putting pressure on two supervisors to get a tree removed from my compound. Also, after the highest up supervisor has given strict orders to remove every branch. I became tired. I hatched a new plan. Outside my gates there are many people who collect firewood and are more than happy to carry it off for me. I simply had to confirm it with the office to make sure they knew I was not allowing people to steal. The finance manager, who is the only office manager on site for the past month, heard my plan, spoke to the other managers involved and refused to allow me to implement the plan and revealed to me that she had already paid the guy who was supposed to remove the tree.
Two hours later I asked my supervisor in training to handle the distribution of 8 sweaters to a particular class. The children who were waiting for their sweaters, while the supervisor-in-training was tending to a parent who had come to pick up a gift the child’s sponsor had sent from Germany. She was going into elaborate detail about what each item was and what they were supposed to serve for. The entire fixation over western crap took 25 minutes while the children who were waiting for their sweaters missed class and the two old ladies ready to carry firewood looked on in utter fascination. After lunch and after giving reviews to two teachers on their performance, I came to see that the sweater distribution was still not accomplished and that the tree was still not removed and that the supervisor in training had left for the day without notice and called 2 hours later to tell me she had issues at home and wasn’t coming back for the remainder of the day. I called my husband to see what he was doing and where he was at in supervising a project site he had been delaying to visit since Monday, due to a schedule conflict on Monday, a family burial on Tuesday and today he was now too tired to go because the burial required that he be up all night and he was catching up on sleep at home.
Me too, I say. Me too. I want to relax and refuse to do my duties at my job also and just leave any time I choose!...But instead I overwork. (Sigh)
Thursday, June 23, 2016
We don't understand miles here, so they call him, Smiles.
We got a cat. Same reason we invited a cat in for a short while at our other house. Mice. Rats. This time the rats are mega sized African rats. I know because I caught one, about a month ago. I didn’t realize my cereal box would be such a great trap but it was. The rat goes in to eat the cereal meanwhile his movements make the crinkling noise that wakes you up. So I got up and taped the box shut so I could feed him to the cats residing in another dormitory. The following morning Glory and Gracie and I carried the box to the cat and watched as we released the rat to the cat. Wow did they have stories to tell about that one.
We got the cat from a family that was moving back to the US. It is a very large male cat and we keep him in the dormitory. These girls are all over him, watching his every move. The other morning they got up at 6 am to take care of the cat that had come in from his night of hunting or whatever. “Welcome back, kitty!” They greeted him. They decided to read a story to him. Gracie laid the book on the floor in front of him and began to “read.” She redirected his head to look at the pages. She scolded him when he put his paw on the pages.
This is a very humble cat, others have commented. I think they are accustomed to the wild African variety. But my girls love him. Gracie even wants him to sleep with her. That grosses me out but what can I do when something so small and useful gives them so much joy.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
You came too soon. We barely had time to anticipate you. The day you arrived is the day you died, leaving us behind. Perhaps the world outside was too much for you. Perhaps the struggles of Africa reached you even in the womb. For this, I laid you to rest in peace knowing you are in the arms of the one who gives all comfort, to the one who’s love is everlasting.
It rained under the gray sky the day we buried your tiny body under the mango tree. The sky turned baby blue with white puffs the moment our friends and comforters sang praises. I remember that color of sky. I remember those clouds. They were the same colors when we laid your auntie to rest so many years ago.
My dearest sister and best friend, we send you this heavenly child. Be with him till I see you both again. You increase my longing for heaven.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
I wasn’t going to say anything but it is becoming increasingly obvious that I don’t fit here—with anyone. There is an expat group that I occasionally encounter and today I simply am shaking my head at what I see. There is the usual banter about where to find what, travel tips and how to get a visa etc. But recently I’ve seen a whole barrage of first world interests and expenses. I don’t get how missionaries can live this way. Someone selling their egg poacher. Who has space for such an item in their suitcase or container for that matter. Containers cost tens of thousands to get here. But people ship their Pottery Barn beds from the states in those things. A woman desperately looking for a particular kind of beaded sandal. It’s obvious that she has spent a lot of time looking. People selling dogs for 1or 2 million shillings. That is 3 times my income. People coming and going, selling their household items and there has been no step down from the mansion they once lived in, in Edina. The picture of their compound even looks like they simply moved their stone and brick house, lawn and gardens with the driveway with 3 vehicles in it and planted it in the middle of the best neighborhood in Kampala. Sometimes I wonder if they got a salary increase with moving here. Certainly the dollar stretches further but also many Western items here cost a lot more here than they do in the states. I saw a hair product I've used for the girls' curly hair sold in Kampala for $36. Something I would buy for $15 at Target.
Don’t even get me started on the things a western professional sells to other westerners. No Ugandan salary can ever pay for it. Trauma victims, torture victims will simply have to live with their demons if they are on a Ugandan salary. I was once referred to a chiropractor after seeing the price per session, I still live with the pain which started a year ago. I also wonder about the lady who recommended him. She works in my organization. I wonder how my organization sees me--am I Ugandan to them or Western?
And of course the locals won’t have me either. I am far too rich for them. But really, this post has nothing to do with fitting or not fitting. It is about living appropriately in your context with awareness.
And to go with this I have a Public Service Announcement.
I just need to announce something about supporting and donating to help organizations to the third world. Take this as a PSA, even though I feel I am ratting out some said missionaries here. Please be careful who you support and who your church supports.
1. It is good to donate food to those who are currently experiencing famine. It is not good to support food donations to a region that has not experienced famine or food crisis in the past 20 years or more because you dis-empower people and create dependency.
2. Make sure your organization truly supports orphans and does not create orphans. Many parents give their children away so that they can save on cost of food, schooling and care at home.
3. Research and understand what an missionary you support is doing with his/her budget. If he is shipping a container of goods from US with a Pottery Barn bed in it all the way to Africa--it is only one indicator that other monies may not be efficiently used. For some western people, it looks like their compound was uprooted from one of those homes on grand ave. and placed here along with the 3 cars and such. It may be that you don't want your missionary to live in desperate poverty with the local people, that is okay but you also don't want to support them to live a level above what they were living in the US. Local perception is very sensitive to what occurs when large groups of the same people come and live a particular way among them. For Americans in Uganda, they understand them to live high on the hog, generous with money handouts without working and it taints any other message or intent coming with the missionary, they simply believe it possible to be rich by stealing or doing nothing as per the example they have before them. I actually think the problem of how western people are perceived is so big, we cannot be very effective as the front people in the country. We should instead support and send people from Latin America to convert Africa.
4. Supporting education is usually a winner. Carefully though. Varky Institute has a great initiative which trains current teachers in how to teach better. Support shipping books to Africa. I haven't read a book in 9 months because there is a book famine here. Paying school fees for kids is often tricky. Fees are often swallowed by school administrators to build their own fancy houses, while kids live in crammed dorms eating the most basic rations. Additionally, there is a lot of fraud committed when one sponsors a child. Wealthy people often pay a local auntie near an organization that sponsors poor children's school fees. She poses as as the rich man's children's mother and the rich man gets a free western quality education for his children.
Please know who and what you are supporting. Others in the know may have things to add. This is likely not conclusive.