Category Archives: Heart

Laughter.

It knows no language,
time zone,
country,
continent,
color,
size or
shape.

It simply is.

It unites.
It separates.
It energizes.
It pains.
It stitches.
It weeps.
It rejoices.
It stops.
It stares.

It simply is beautiful.

Jinja, Uganda

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Rediscovering my passion.

Midina – farmer in Kikunhu Parish and agent of Sukura, Iganga

Please don’t tell me you are “proud of me” or that I am doing a “good cause”.  I am just another person – saying things as I see them and telling people what I think – I am no genius and I definitely should not be getting any respect because I am “in Africa” (why is this so special?).  If you care to tell people about me, tell them about what I am saying.  Tell them that the perception of Uganda and more largely Africa needs to change, this is not a pity party and lollipops and handouts are not needed.  Give your respect and words of praise to farmers.  Farmers like Midina who work tirelessly but carry a smile and laugh that could light up the world; who rely on farming for their livelihood, not just as a hobby. Listen to their plights; what systems are holding them back? Why do choices between school and food need to happen? Ask questions like how can we support change where deciding between food, water, health and education DOES NOT happen? Where the word decision is between what to eat not if you eat!  These systems are so complex and the solutions will have to be equally as complex…from my limited understanding, from my limited scope of knowledge, I am trying to support sustainable systems that allow Midina to access good, reliable seed, fertilizer, pesticide yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Systems that guarantee access where there is demand and allow farming to shift from subsistence to a means to earn one’s livelihood.  Maybe I am naive, maybe I am young…fine; I will agree with you on both of those accounts but the world we live in is NOT the one I see in my head and I am not satisfied sitting back, putting my head down and pretending it is.  The only way I know how begin to figure out where to start is to experience many different things, get many perspectives and move messages around; challenge assumptions and to push for change.  But the biggest question that I have been juggling is where does change begin? Is it from the inside-out? Or, outside-in? Where should I begin? How do I begin working towards a world where the questions people must ask themselves do not challenge their existence but what they do with their existence?

 

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Choice.

As I close my eyes and picture my life in Guelph, I am frustrated by how little I appreciated my surroundings and all that I have. I am challenged by the idea of choice. Within a simple day at school, I can bike, walk or take a bus; within each of these I have at least five routes that I can take. When I arrive at school, I can get coffee at more than ten locations within a one kilometer radius and have over 100+ options for food. Today, I completed the final day of my village stay. I spent one week in one village (Otorulee) and a few days in another (Alwars). In rural life, the word ‘choice’ seems insignificant. Day in day out, the women walk many kilometres water, something that flows freely; I could roll out of bed, walk two steps and fill up the same size jug that would take at least an hour to fill in the village. The ease of living to which I have become accustomed, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. From dusk to dawn, my host mother, Mary, works tirelessly to put food in her childrens’ mouths and to offer good water to drink. She wipes every tear, settles every fight and supports other women in the community. Mary does this day in day out; her life seems predetermined. In the village, women marry at an early age, they have children, they must know how to cook and please their husbands, and must learn to grow a tough skin since the life they will lead will be paired with many challenges. This is not an option or choice, this is reality. What Mary works tirelessly to achieve in a day, I brush off in as a small chore and enter into a world where choice is endless and opportunity to do with my life what I CHOOSE is unquestioned.
Written on May 31st, 2012

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Paint me a picture.

As I rode along the flat and recently paved highway from Lira to Dokolo, I found myself lost in the natural beauty of this place. The never ending blue sky, speckled with marshmallow clouds, a rainbow joining earth and sky, the rolling green grasses blowing gently with the wind and mango and banana trees spot the landscape. I sat breathless, taken away by the beauty and life of this place and began to reflect on the beauty of people. I began asking myself, “What makes people beautiful?”. I think for everyone the answer may vary but my ponderings led me to the following end: I notice that the beauty I see in people deeply reflects my values. I identify beauty initially by a smile; from smiles that move the face slightly from stationary to smiles that take up the whole face. I see beauty in the moment where laughter unites. I see beauty in discussion or in someone lost in deep reflection. What makes people beautiful to you?

Written Sunday, May 20, 2012

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First look.

Last night I arrived in Uganda after long hours spent travelling (a day and a half if the change in time zones is counted!).  I would say finally but it doesn’t feel that way.  This has been a journey of stretching and pushing myself and continues to be this amazing adventure where I spend every moment embracing something that I love and believe in.  Today, we (Chris and I; go Uganda JFs!) got to go on a scavenger hunt in downtown Kampala; an adventure which proved fruitful and a pain in the same breath.  We were tasked with finding a phone and plan, internet stick, cloth, food etc.  Simple enough when all your surroundings are familiar and you are dealing with a currency that is not foreign ($1 CAD ~ 2500 shillings; good mental math practice!).  Not to mention, Kampala is a bustling city! There are buses, taxis, high-rise buildings, stores upon stores and amazingly clean streets.  The intensity of the city life is somewhat overwhelming coming from small little Fredericton, with sights and sounds continually grabbing your attention.  Just as the city life was becoming tiring at one point this afternoon, I was reminded that blessings come in all shapes and sizes.  As we hungrily wandered in search of meal, a woman asked “Where are you going?”.  What started with a simple discussion with a woman that I had never met before, resulted in this humbling experience which involved tasting my first Ugandan meal (involving matooke – plaintain mushed up like mashed potatoes, poscho – made from maize and is the consistency of porridge and a goat soup of sorts – to have with the matooke and poscho) and getting a dress in the Owino market.  Rose, an amazing woman with a beautiful smile, an English school teacher and mother of two, reminded me of how wonderful people can be and left me wondering why in western culture we can be so self-driven.  We get so caught up in our fast-paced lives with wall-to-wall appointments that we don’t take time to ask, “Where are you going?”.  We lose sight of the amazing opportunities to make someone’s day or to invest in a relationship with another human being.

*written Tuesday May, 15

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Unintentional learnings.

A chapter experiment turned learning and growing experience for effective involvement of general members stemmed out of a game created to help the chapter get excited about the fact that I am heading to Uganda for my placement.  Beginning with an activity, groups of two and three selected areas to research (including art, history, food, industry etc.).  The energy mounted as members responded enthusiastically to a points system created and dove into their research.  This activity not only provided a great learning experience for myself and the chapter as we discovered Ugandan economy, politics, art and much more but also provided an alternative workshop style.  Moving from the more typical workshop style (intro, creation of common platform about a subject, diving into an activity to clarify understanding and wrapping up with a discussion or questions), this activity explored the ability of the chapter to adapt to situations where there was limited explanation.  Chapter members were thus pushed to set their own boundaries and had the power to direct their learning.  This shift from a more structured format allowed members to shift the power dynamic that commonly exists in presentations, resulting in the presenter knowing much less about the subject than the participants.  The sense of empowerment and enthusiasm that developed in the presentation is a strong indicator to explore alternative models of member learning and challenges the standard templates that are commonly used during workshop development.  Some potential factors that could have led to the strong uptake of this type of workshop (which demands self driven learning by participants) could include: the age of the chapter (activity occurred at the end of the month), the strong friendships (trust based relationships) and that the build-up and investment in member learning throughout the year.

I would love to hear some feedback and ideas around successful workshop structures, understanding the implications of the audience on the structure, performance indicators for workshops (and when the workshop success cannot be directly attributed to its setup), participants feedback/ideas or anything else that floats your boat.

A few interesting facts about Uganda that came out of the workshop:

  • Women in parliament:  24.9% in Canada vs. 30.7% in Uganda
  • In the past 30 years, industry has gone from 56% agriculture to 52% services and growing manufacturing industries.
  • Economic growth rate (estimated): 0.8% in Canada vs. 5.2% in Uganda

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What’s in a name?.

“Routes to roots” builds on the idea of discovering new roots, exploring new ideas, perspectives and redefining my sense of home as I live in Uganda for four months this summer.  More literally, this title can represent my adventures as I travel to new cities, towns and villages, discovering others history, culture, story and roots.  This title also builds on the personal development and growth that I will experience this summer as I challenge my own paradigms, opinions and perceptions.  The title of my blog has many meanings for me and I hope that it will spur the imagination of those reading my blog to also share what it means to them.

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