Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hoskins and Breen—sketch comedy duo: Mission Theater Nov 9

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Artist Appreciation Party @ the Gerding Theater: Oct.29

MarchFourth Marching Band @ the Crystal Ballroom : Nov 4

Friday, October 5, 2007

back in portland

wow. i'm back in portland and its so surreal thinking about the whole trip. i loved being able to see so many different regions of uganda and begin to connect with all the communities. i LOVED the team i traveled with!!! diana is really a wonderful human being, so fun and full of adventure and doing some amazing things with the foundation (w glen boyd foundation) by connecting many great people/programs/resources together. james was so solid, forthright, hilarious, charming and so great to be with! and betty, i'm just plain in love with betty. she is so warm, loving and full of depth and soul. i learned so much from this amazing team i got to be part of.

one of the main things i've learned on this trip is how competent, capable and resilient the people in these communities are. they've lost their freedom, their land and their ability to full express their culture due to the close proximity they've been forced to live in inside these idp camps. as they are beginning to move home and to resettlement sites, there is more hope and joy present but they've lost so much. one thing i've recognized is how much media limits our view of africans in general. we seem to be accustomed to the idea that they need saving. its just not an accurate picture. i've met so many professional, proficient, disciplined men and women who are leaders in their communities and proactive in their pursuit of reclaiming their lives on a post-war region. mercy corps is very much a partner with these communities as they help to support ugandan led programs. it's been amazing to see!!

i think portland is all about sustainability and self-sufficiency and are like-minded in spirit to those communities in northern uganda.

it's important that people are aware of the devastation that has occured. but it's also equally important that we find out about the "silent successes" happening every day in these communities and celebrate them!!


the women of luchan rebe ~the poor unite

yesterday i finally got to meet the women from locan rebe. the translation is "the poor unite" which is exactly what these women have done. they are all mothers from northern uganda -lots of them from the region around pader, where we visited the resettlement sites. they've lost their husbands and kids to the war and like all the others were forced to relocate to the idp camps and live in the inhumane conditions there for years. somehow, this group of women found each other (networking would be next to impossible given that the were all spread out at different idp camps throughout the entire region of northern uganda so i have no idea how they found each other). they relocated themselves, and what was left of their families, to the urban city of kampala. they started their very own business making beads, baskets, clothing...etc... when diana met them they asked for one thing, a market to sell their products. this is almost unheard of (given the level of poverty) that they didn't ask for grants but instead an opportunity to create their own income.

there are 170 women altogether and they support a community of 500 orphaned children. for the concert series, we purchased 1000 beads. 500 necklaces and 500 bracelets. the women have never had a transaction this big and have had to learn a ton around accounting in the process.

our big hope is that everyone attending every concert will purchase these beads and we'll sell out by the last concert!! that way, we'll go back to them and order more to distribute throughout portland. these necklaces and bracelets are just beautiful and represent something so meaningful for these women. they're reclaiming their lives and their children's lives with every bead they make. (they're made from recycled calendar paper)

when we first arrived to their shop, we turned down this back alley that looked pretty trashed. giant potholes full of mud, lined with torn down shacks with dilapidated roofs. but these women created an amazing atmosphere of celebration in this alley. they're all from indigenous regions so although they are now living in the very urban city of kampala, their culture is very much a part of what they do and how they live. (which isn't as common in the more "modern" cities) when we arrived they were singing, dancing and playing drums to welcome us. a woman named betty (different than the betty we were traveling with) spent all day fixing an amazing meal of chicken, curried peas, sim sim (a delicious sesame seed dish), matooke and so much more. we weren't expecting to eat and we had just come from a huge lunch, so every was pretty difficult to put down. but it did taste awesome even thru the pain... (i strategized on spreading the food out just so, so it looked like i ate way more than i did, i felt like i was in 7th grade again)

the leaders each got up and introduced themselves and then they presented diana, betty, james and me with gifts. it was like we were royalty, it made me feel weird but i knew it was HUGE honor. they gave me such a gorgeous traditional dress (!!!). they had already given the others new names and told me my new name was "ayero" -the selected one. this was the leader, betty's mothers name so it meant so much to me. we all danced a ton together and then a few of us went in the back to finish the payment transaction for the 1000 beads. i can't imagine a bigger honor than working directly with these women. each of them has redefined their lives and community and to have the concert series be part of that is beyone significant. it was a pretty emotional event for all of us...

we had to leave for the airport and and said our goodbyes. these women were soulful in the truest sense. i LOVE that these concerts will feature their stories and their beautiful work.!!!!!

St. Andrews

the parish at st. andrews put together a big formal dinner for our final night. right in the back of the church in a square patch of grass where the chickens ran around all day. they set up a circle of chairs. the event was designed to be a thank-you/goodbye to kendra and her parents as well as a presentation of gifts. we sat down and one by one the staff stood to introduce themselves and formally thank kendra and her parents, as well as diana, james and me. this was a long involved process and the food was in the center of the circle smelling very amazing which was distracting. but it was still a big honor to hear their introductions and gratitudes... it's just that my focus was on that food...

the formality of things shows great respect and forethought and the priests were in great humor (which may have been assisted by the constant passing around of MORE beer). one of the teachers kept calling me "stephan". he loved music and requested i sing about 9 different times throughout the meal. which i was more than happy to do. it was fun for me and a big novelty for them but it was hilarious hearing "steff hahn! may i request you sing another song for us?" my new nickname became steff hahn within the team. we presented gifts, then i sang, people got their food, i provided music for this as well, and sang another song, someone gave another speech, steff hahn would be requested to sing again and the evening went on just like this... the teacher making the request was a great guy. so fun to talk with. it's sad to leave since i made some many great connections with a bunch of the students... fred, josephine, ivan, alysias, victor, john and esther... they're all such amazing people. i hope i get to see them again in the future.

back to wimunu pe cek

back to wimunu pe cek (a missed blog from before so the references will be out of order from the rest of the blogs... )

i love the culture here. it's a huge part of everything. there's such a strong communal feeling every second of everyday. once we came back to wimunu pe cek (i think that's where i left off) we gathered once again in a big circle and there was a discussion about how the filming went. you could tell they were proud to share the specifics of what they captured. these discussions were very formal, when info is presented here, there's a lot of formality and protocol. leaders re-introduce people and gratitude is stated in a formal way. the women were more open about sharing than the men. a woman who was the leader of her filming crew named beatrice (LOVED beatrice) spoke about who they interviewed and where. she was thoughtful, well-spoken and full of humor.

i had a copy of the oregonian's travel section and took a moment to explain to the group the tradition in our city of taking a picture in a different country with the oregonian's travel section in the picture. so, all 50+ of us gathered in the sun for a picture and a couple of them held the paper up high. i hope it makes it into the oregonian! it's a great picture.

we said our farewells and made the road trip back to mercy corps in the city of pader.

later that evening mercy corps put on a formal dinner for us at their headquarters. it was festive and delicious. again, we had formal introductions and acknowledgements and expressions of gratitude. the team in pader is just amazing to see in action. they're mostly made up of ugandans which is why they are so effective i think. roger horton was the main guy and was full of information about the programs our money raised will go towards...he was awesome.

then we went back to alice's place (the woman who runs the ccf program with the child mothers) and gathered for a concert (given by me) under a big tent. it was dark and loud from the intense rain , but they brought out a couple lanterns and we made the most of it.

all the ngo's in the area were there and the concert was loose and so much fun! a bunch of the young women from alice's project were there as well, so many of the audience members didn't speak english very well. i told some stories before the songs which when translated evoked a ton of laughter (even when the stories weren't intended to be funny at all) so i have no idea what was being translated before each tune! 2 hours and many many songs later, we decided that this should be considered the concert kick-off appropriately beginning in pader itself. it was really a magical night. the staff at those ngos NEVER get concerts, in fact it's rare and almost nonexistent for ugandan musicians to actually sing their songs live. most "live" concerts include bands with pre-recorded music/vocals and the vocalist will stand in front of the audience and lip sync. so it was extra special for people to hear a live musician and live vocals.

the next morning we had just enough time to visit obolokome and wimunu pe cek (the resettlement sites) one more quick time before flying back to kampala. our team (of diana, betty, james and me) split into two so we could cover more ground. betty and i went back to obolokome to visit the schools and talk with the elders while diana and james went back to wimunu pe cek to continue interviewing the youth.

betty and i arrived at obolokome . -i have to interject here that EVERY road trip to and from the sites are very lumpy and very long adventures in and of themselves. dolly parton and kenny rogers are ALWAYS playing on the radio. i think i heard coat of many colors 27 times at least. it kept things perfectly ironic somehow to leave these sites and then ride in the jeep blasting dolly's coat of all the colors. and meanwhile passing by women carrying huge loads of rice and kasava root balanced on their heads while we pass through these floody areas where the water comes up above the tires of the jeep. -

so because this was our 3rd time back we were immediately welcomed and recognized many faces. i joined a group of school children under a big tree. they were studying english and there was a chalkboard leaning against the trunk. richard (a staff member of mercy corps from the same region of pader) was with me and translated while i spoke with the kids. someone rang a giant bell and all the kids gathered around . we were going to have a song session with all the kids. okomo david was the music teacher and he taught me their school song so i could play along on the guitar. a few hundred kids were sitting around us and they were so well behaved. so different from kids i've seen in our school system. (!) david was an awesome teacher and helped me teach them some songs as well. the kids were so full of life, fun and passion. they have been through so much but they're still just kids being kids. making fun of each other and giggling throughout... i spoke to them about songwriting and how it's a great way to express your feelings. one of the kids stepped forward and said he wrote songs/words/melodies.

afterwards a young man named donno (or donald) and i went a few hundred yards away so he could share a few songs he wrote with me. we went under a mango tree in a small opening b/w 5 huts. he and sat on these little wooden chairs and he looked me right in the eye as he sang a few songs for me. i LOVED this guy donno. he was so excited to share these songs and described each of them. i figured out some of the chords and it became a "jam" session. i asked him if he could teach me a simple song. he taught me

atema tema oolojo. atema tema oolojo, atema tema oolojo
kioolii me nono... and so on

which means

we are tired of temptation
they capture you for no good reasons
whether you are a girl
whether you are a boy
they capture you for no good reasons

we sang/played/danced together under this mango tree. once again such sad content about the war... but the happiest sounding song. you'd think we were singing about the sun high in the sky by the sound of it. mothers and their little ones gathered around us. like i said i LOVED donno. he was so open and full. we laughed at how much i screwed the words up as did most of the women around us.. but it was a blast.

i tried to memorize him, the community, the school with my eyes. its hard to describe what it feels like to hang out in those communities. you feel so protected. and cared for. physically, emotionally, spiritually. i know there's violence and gender issues in those camps... but they weren't out in the open... so all i could feel was the beauty of the land and the playfulness of this community.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Back to school

Today I got up and heard fred outside singing his please don’t cry song. ok, its such a frickin sad song. and he’s chirping away like he’s singing about anything but what its really about…

He gets so excited when he sees me, he literally jumps. I adore fred!! he is so full of life even though he’s lost so much.

I spent part of the day with Kendra, Thomas’s wife who is here at the school with her parents giving lessons on different careers and preparing the older kids for interviews. They all have fake jobs with credentials and experience written out in form of resumes and applications. And they put on a mock interview with a few of them. Diana, james and I were the judges. It was fun to hear their creative answers to hard interview questions. Kendra’s program was awesome.

I got to see the zoom Uganda girls!! They sang Julie a song (we video taped it) and each gave her a personal message. That afternoon I worked with 6 students on guitar lessons. Fred, Josephine, victor, john, ivan, esther and alysias. Ok these kids were awesome fast determined learners! We went over a few basic chords and I taught them how to read chords so they could be independent in the future. We also met up the next day as well. !! I grew to know each of them a little bit and I was really impressed by their determination. Most of them have never held a guitar in their arms before and we got through a lot of info considering the little time. They have one guitar at the parish and will soon have two… (a friend of mine here in Portland donated the guitar/case/capo/songbook/tuner/strings...etc. and is going to be psyched when I tell him who its going to!!) I’ll be leaving the guitar in kampala and one of the priests will pick it up on Thursday…

I meet a fellow singer-songwriter

fred told his history to me and sang me a few songs. His mother died when he was only 2. his father when he was 4. he also had 4 brothers and sisters and all have passed from aids. He is the single survivor in his entire family. He says he feels alone in the world without “parental” care and love. But he also feels so lucky to be at the parish and loves the people there. This scenario is common here. The song he sang went

My world is crying
My world is weeping
My world is crying
Ohh ahh

Please don’t cry
Please don’t cry
Please don’t cry
Ohh ahh

And he sang the whole thing with bright eyes wide open and a smile on his face.

He also told me he doesn’t have it. Aids. He recently was checked and he doesn’t have it. He looks young maybe 18 years old. He loves writing songs and believes he has survived for the sole purpose of sharing his family’s story through song. He says he is very serious about aids and tries to get his friends to be also.

He’s in his senior year about to graduate and he takes school very seriously. They ALL do. I went into one of the classrooms and this young girl (12 years old at the most) was writing a paper about neuro-transmitters and how reflexes work in the nervous system. Its amazing how disciplined these kids are. So focused on their school. Most of them walk long, long distances, too. Ranging from 8-15 kilometers one way. And they all look clean and proper in their uniforms. They take such care to look formal. It’s cultural here, everyone dresses in formal wear and everything is always perfectly clean and starched. Even if they are wearing the one shirt they own. Its mind boggling to me how they do that. I feel like the sloppy mzungu (white person) by comparison. (!)

One thing that’s interesting to me is how it’s hard to keep the balance of human to human equality when a donor is giving aid to communities like these. It definitely lowers the status of the receiver. Always. And this lower status doesn’t serve anyone. Especially in the long run. Mostly it seems to create more need for the aid. The more involved the community is in whatever program is being funded the better. So if the program is developed. Implemented and sustained by the men, women and youth within the community it raises their status. Its such a simple innate thing that somehow gets overlooked a TON in the world of humanitarian aid. And the result is more dependency. This is why mercy corps is so awesome. They believe if you stay in a country for longer than 3-5 years they’re not doing their job. I love that.


We’re here in kalisizo in the region of rakai in a small town called matale. the land is gorgeous around here lush with banana trees and green rolling hills and valleys. This region has the highest prevalence of aids anywhere on the continent of Africa. I asked a leader of a cbo (community based organization) why he thought the rate of aids was so high and he said it was a combination of a few things…
1)there’s a lake for fishing which creates more income to spend on prostitution
2)rakai is right by the border so there are a lot of truck drivers passing thru
3)aids has been around for so long and it’s so common so people are accustomed to it (the very first case of aids was found in this region)
4)people still believe that its witchcraft or an omen brought on by bad deeds
5)the educational meetings around reproductive health and prevention are attended by men only because of the gender issues

and there are thousands and thousands of child head of households because both of the parents have died from aids. these kids are called double orphans.

It’s so hard to fathom statistics like these… and to spend time with the amazing community at St. Andrews that has been thru so much. St, Andrews is a church/school/boarding house and we spent 3 days with them. A friend of mine from Portland named Thomas is from here. Also, Julie Resnick who did an incredible photo-voice project called "zoom Uganda" worked with a few students in this school. I have the zoom Uganda calendar up in my kitchen and have their faces/stories memorized so I’m excited to meet them in person!

Its really quiet and peaceful here. I’m off to go play some music with a young man who goes to school here and hopes to make a living being a musician. he's written a bunch of gospel tunes about aids and i can't wait to hear them! we're meeting in a couple minutes on the back steps of the church.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

wimunu pe cek

we went to a re-settlement site called wimunu pe cek to meet with youth. diana was going to try out a brand new project called "video voice" inspired by the film born into brothels. (julie resnik did a similar project with cameras in southern uganda called zoom uganda). diana explained to the youth that she wanted to give them the video cameras, train them how to use them and let THEM tell their own story through their own eyes by interviewing different people in their community. it was so fun to see them light up with the new knowledge of how to use the cameras. they picked up on everything amazingly fast. we had the meeting to discuss this opportunity with them under a tree. we sat in a big circle and i think they felt respected by the gesture. it was very cool to see their reaction and pride in telling their own story. and being trusted with the well being of the cameras. we left them with the video cameras and went back to obolokome.

when we got back to obolokome we were greeted by some of the same leaders as before. it was fun to re-connect with them and know some of their names. they are so welcoming! we all gathered by a large tree and waited for our "cultural exchange". this was such an incredible experience! as we waited, i tried to play some soccer with the kids. with their paper bag ball... it got confusing because there were so many kids. we unfortunately interrupted their school, so a bunch of the kids were with us instead of class. there were 3 groups that performed for us as their community of a couple hundred gathered around us in a big circle. these female dancers began with a loud song; i think it might have been a rain prayer. some of the ugandans we were traveling with were joking with the dancers that the prayer must be working because of all the flooding in the area... then there was a male band playing all sorts of instruments i don't know. one was called the hand piano and was a small piece of carved wood with strips of metal that were different lengths (for different pitches) and they were tied down in such a way that when you flicked them, a tone rang out. also tons of drums. and instruments that sounded (but didn't resemble) like an upright bass. they danced as they sang and they were my absolute favorite. really great melodies. the women pulled us into the circle to dance with the group. one of the women, alice was her name, would demonstrate a dance move that involved the shaking of one butt cheek (!). she motioned for me to try it as well and i could hear a huge group of people behind me explode into laughter so i stopped trying out alice's suggestions... alice and i spoke more later (with the help of our advisor, betty) and it was awesome to connect with her. she was very intense and kind. she showed me which ones were her kids, one of them in a spiderman sweatshirt. when we did say goodbye she voluntarily pulled me in for a hug which meant the world to me.

after dancing and trying to sing along with them... i pulled out my guitar and everyone made a (tight!!) circle around me. it's hard to know the right songs to sing for their community, but i knew spirituals would work so i did amazing grace, let it be... i think for most if not all of them, it was their first time seeing/hearing a guitar and our style of music so it was a big hit. they knew the melody of amazing grace and sang along in their own language. betty began dancing with one of the elder men and everyone cheered. they kind of waltzed together in the middle of the small circle.

then we all sat down and they asked us if we have any questions about their culture. this part was awesome. betty had been informing me of all the song meanings so i asked why the melodies and spirit of their songs sounded so positive when the words were about such sad things as loss, grief and hardship. they said it's because the songs are all about hope. their hope for better futures.

the devastation that has happened in this region is so hard to fathom. these families had lives full of culture, lots of land to sustain themselves, schools, small communities spread out with room to grow...

they've lost ALL of that. they've lost family members, they've lost their freedom. being at the idp camps they lost their ability to celebrate culture to the full extent they were used to. they lost their schools. many kids missed years of school while they were abducted by the lra, and when they finally did rejoin their community, they were too old to continue where they left off... so they lost their education. they lived in huts in idp camps completely crammed together. this resulted in so much gender violence, disease, alcoholism...

but the amazing thing is how resilient they are. for one thing, i think life has become better in the resettlement sites. they have a bit more room now to spread out even if it doesn't compare to what they had before the war. you can feel mercy corps' presence in the camps. there's hope and joy even through all the devastation. i imagine how our community would respond in a situation like theirs... it's been inspiring to see.

...we said our good byes and went back to wimunu pe cek to see how the youth did with the filming. when we walked up, we saw a group of men standing around a hut interviewing a hunter who was surrounded by resting hunting dogs. a little boy walked by with a rabbit he had just caught. it was awesome to see them completely in to the filming. there was a narrator, a videographer, and the person being interviewed. when we watched some of the footage later, many heads were cut off; they seemed to be drawn towards necks and down. but all in all their footage was amazing and so informative!!! they showed their garden, their nursery, the school and a ton else that i don't know about because i have yet to see it.

i got to connect with one man in particular named michael. michael is 30 with 2 kids and finished his secondary education (meaning high school). he studied sciences and was a farmer, although he had other desires. he talked about his kids and how he didn't want them to be farmers. when we met with everyone under the same tree as before, michael presented a very comprehensive report of exactly what the groups filmed with descriptions of the interviews and everything. he just wanted to do this on his own and presented it to us. such a great guy to connect with. its amazing how formal they all dress. crisp clean shirts that and you wonder how they keep them so clean given the huts they live in. they take pride in so much order and cleanliness it made me feel so sloppy by comparison. i was so impressed with michael. i wished i could've met his wife and 2 kids... more later.... i'm off to the market right now here in kampala...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

my favorite day of my life.

day #2 in pader
last night was quite an experience. big loud thunderstorms and the african sky lighting up in spasms. the generator went out and in the middle of the black night i scrambled to use the bathroom hole. i almost stepped in it at one point! the thunder was louder than i've ever heard. the rain burst down from the sky all at once when it finally came down. i lay frozen in bed under a big mosquito net imagining myself deep in the bush of northern uganda.

so this day might have been my favorite day of my life. we woke up and met for a quick breakfast of egg and chiapati (i'm certain i'm screwing up this word) - a tortilla like bread. i think it's indian. the team i'm traveling with is amazing. diana, our leader, betty and james. betty and james are from villages in northwest and eastern uganda. so as we gather information and connecting with the people in these camps, they are paving the way for that connection constantly. they are so much fun to travel with and i'm constantly laughing with them. betty is soulful in every sense of the word. she's warm and wise, strong and soulful. and watching the elders, them mothers and the children open up to her is awesome.

our first stop was at ccf (christian counciling something-that-begins-with-F). a woman named alice runs this amazing program for child mothers who were abducted by the LRA. this means they were children when they were taken from their villages and many were given to the LRA commanders as sex slaves. so now they are back in their communities as mothers of 1 or 2 or more children. they are learning different trades for themselves and have sewing machines to make clothing to sell. i got to interview a young girl named monica. absolutely stunning girl. she was breastfeeding one of her babies the whole interview. we have to be careful not to ask specific questions about their experience when they were abducted because it's too sensitive of a topic. monica, like all the other youth we've spoken with had to quit school to take of her children. she spoke about how she just wanted to figure out a way to get back to school. all the youth wish for the same thing. education is the single most important thing in these communities. they value it over everything.

i sang amazing grace and then they sang a song of theirs for us. we all stood up and danced together, our team and the large group of young women, most of them with a child in their arms.

there's SO much more about this day. we went to 2 other sites and did a "cultural exchange" of music and dance. i danced my butt off. it was so much fun. i have to sign off for now... so i'll finish more on the next blog!!

obolo kome

Day #1
wow. we just got back from a re-settlement site called obolokome. i think the translation means the poor unite. it's hard to wrap words around everything i'm seeing. these re-settlement sites have better conditions than the first idp camps (called mother camps) because there's a bit more room but nothing compared to their normal village life where they had tons of land and small communities spread out across a large region. their true village life and culture that goes along with it can't be fully realized given the very tight constraints. but, the trade has been safety while in these camps.

there's still a ton of joy wherever you go. smaller kids are running around taking care of their baby siblings. they live in mud huts with something like straw roofs. and the school is in the very center of the site. kids made a soccer ball by rolling plastic bags and tying them together in a round ball shape. women sit outside their huts and open corn/nuts/eggplant to dry out in the sun. chickens and small goats are running around. kids are gathered under the shade of trees and follow closely behind us walking thru their sites giggling every time we turn around to speak to them. some of the littlest ones started to cry if i smiled or waved. i think i scared them by looking so different. a swarm of kids gathered around me and i asked if i could take their picture. afterwards i showed it to them and they shrieked with curiousity and joy. it became a game we kept up for a few minutes.

we came to one hut with an elderly woman sitting on the ground peiling corn. i didn't see many elderly people in general so they stand out. betty, an advisor who is from arua, the northwestern tip of uganda, sat in the dirt with this woman and they began a long discussion about life in the camps.

we walked over to the school where diana interviewed a group of students asking about their hopes and dreams of what they wanted to be when they finish school. these gorgeous kids with huge smiles lit up and answered, "teacher, doctor, leader" one after another. the school has a nursery and a garden. they're learning all about agriculture. i spoke with one of the teachers in the school. he teaches agriculture and mathematics. he said classrooms are full of 75 kids.

its so hard to capture the feeling of community in these camps. they're all for each other and with each other all the time. the contrast of how solitary our lives can be in the states is amazing. our culture seems so based on our dire need for privacy and we could learn a ton from these communities.

tomorrow we will go back there and they will sing and dance for us. i will also bring my guitar and reciprocate!!

on our drive back to mc headquarters we saw women carrying children on their backs and HUGE sacks of kasava root on balanced on their heads. these bags are the size of a really large back of soil and i have no idea how they balance all they carry for so many miles. they make this 4-5 mile trek so often. and school children in their uniforms were walking the long road home. these kids have so much joy in their faces pouring out of their eyes. what's amazing to me is how resourceful and organized these communities are. the picture the media paints in the us is so limited. it's easy to assume that they are hopeless and helpless given the facts about their lives and political history of the last 20 years. but it's not accurate it all. these are brilliant people in thriving communities making the most of their lives which have been so displaced by the war. i have a hard time with the name of our concert series. i wouldn't call these people a disaster -just the opposite. it's remarkable.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Kampala Day One

wow. this is so surreal. waking up in africa. so far from everyone i love.
the smell in the air here is musky and sweet and full. last night on the way into kampala, we drove along a bumpy road lined with groups of people walking/biking/hanging out. tons of small communities all out in the evening. there's small huts made out of tin by the side of the road. and there aren't any rules on the road so drivers communicate by using their brights. takes a bit of getting used to!!

as we got into the city, there was a little boy of maybe 6 carrying a small baby in his arms begging for money in the traffic. it's hard to know the best response. their parents put them out there... seems so dangerous...

we had a later dinner with calvin, a friend of diana's from soroti (eastern uganda) who spoke passionately about the definition of poverty and how it's changed in uganda. he spoke about how the westerners create such dependency and degredation and the ugandans end up being informed of the poverty they live in. what's considered wealthy in their communities is family/friends/land. but he sees the effect of donor dependency everyday and how people are more focused on getting money now more than ever...

calvin is the son of a chief and one of 24 children! he is a leader in his community and incredible to speak with!! 's so interesting learning about the politics of humanitarian aid and the negative social effects it can have on these communities, even if it's well intended.

we're off to northern uganda today in pader where we'll meet with mercy corps in the idp camps!! i can't wait!

still can't believe i'm here in africa...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

off to africa

i'm leaving for africa tomorrow morning. i still can't get used to it! i'm so excited to meet ugandans and get to know more about their culture/food/music/lives/stories. i think it's going to feel surreal there at first...

on sunday i land in entebbe (where the international airport is) and meet up with diana dokos (from the glen boyd foundation, they're sponsoring this trip for me to join them on their learning tour). on monday, we're heading up to pader in northern uganda where mercy corps has their ugandan headquarters. we'll visit the idp camps up there, see the programs that mercy corps has underway. i'll get to see first hand where the money from this concert series will go to. i recently heard that northern ugandans are really excited about our concert series this fall and know all about it. i love that!!

when we get back from pader, we'll head south to kalisizo to stay for a few days. thomas lwebuga, a local ugandan who now lives in portland, grew up in that area. his wife, kendra, will be visiting at the same time and has invited us to take part in a program she has put together for a school called st. andrews.

when/if i do have internet access, i'll post more blogs about the trip!

if someone would've asked me one year ago if right now i'd be producing a humanitarian concert series and heading to africa, i would've thought they were crazy. (!)


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Voices for Silent Disasters

It's official! We can blog! Check back often for updates from Stephanie and Gordon.