Friday, September 25, 2009

Post-Riot Thoughts and Culture Shock

I realize that the amount of blogging I’ve done has slowed down a lot. Why? Well, the answer perhaps doesn’t make sense: Internet. Not less access to internet, but more access. I know, confusing. We at last got internet at our house (YAY!) which means I don’t have to go all the way to a coffee shop to get internet. When I did, it was this focused time of internet where I had to do everything I needed to do on the internet at that specific time. Now…not so much focused. Anyway, I’ll try to pick it up!

Last Tuesday, we had some errands to run in downtown Kampala. It was three days after the riots and we expected the effects of the chaos to be everywhere. Oddly enough, you couldn’t tell that just a few days prior that it was a free for all of insanity. Everything was back to normal, including the roads filled with cars and people trying to get to where they needed. A few days prior, the only ones that dared to go down these streets were the rioters themselves. Life has gone on…but everyone is talking about “next time”. Encouraging, right? With none of the issues resolved, all the anger that spilled out on the streets two weeks ago is shoved just under the surface. Everyone has their own opinions and thoughts about what happened and what will bring.

When I see someone for the first time since the riots, I always ask if they and their families were safe. In my last appointment with my chiropractor, the riots were an obvious topic of discussion. Him and his family were safe but they’re also Bagandans (Bugandan? I still get confused with Baganda, Buganda and Luganda all meaning the same group of people but in different ways). It was fascinating to hear his side of how it all went down. He obviously wasn’t out there rioting but agreed with the frustrations that took place. His most interesting observation (for me, at least) was why the Kabaka, king of the Bagandans, did not answer President Museveni’s phone calls in the past two years. I had heard that fact earlier and had wondered why the President’s calls were ignored. My chiro compared the situation to the Queen of England. If you wanted to talk to the Queen, you would not call her directly but present your concerns to the Prime Minister. Therefore, one would not contact the Kabaka directly but the Prime Minister. Not being from a monarch, this whole concept is foreign to me. I also disagree with his comparison since the Kabaka is still subject to the President here. Since he was adjusting my neck at the time, I just made comments like, “interesting”. J

Last Saturday we had Saturday Club. It was so great to see the kids since we’d cancelled the Saturday before due to the riots. I had been dying to know if they were all ok in the riots. Two different situations came up with these questions that highlight some insane cultural differences. For privacy reasons, I’ve refrained from using names of kids on my blog and will continue to do so until I’ve gotten it cleared that it’s all good to do so. Even so, I probably won’t for their sake. Onto the stories. One of the girls I had talked to on the Sunday before so I knew she was safe during the riots. On Sunday, her face was beat up. There were obvious scratches and some other wounds that I couldn’t identify what had happened. When I had asked her about it on Sunday, she explained that her mother had beaten her. When I asked why, the answer wasn’t completely clear. On Saturday, her face was still looking rough if not worse. I asked her about it again and she replied that her mother had beaten her again. Another girl that I had yet to see since the riots was there. I asked her if she kept safe during that time and how her family was. She said that a policewoman came into their home and beat her and her family. Both stories shocked me. I mean, there are huge debates on spanking in America going on…beating? Out of the question. Could the girls have been lying? Making something up to cover for something else? Exaggerating? Of course. I have no idea what was behind both of these situations either. There’s much that was not said in both situations. Both situations are culturally normal though. Another child was brought up in a meeting that isn’t doing well in school and doesn’t want to go because her teacher beats her on the head every day. The suggestion was made that perhaps the teacher could beat her elsewhere so it doesn’t affect her head. It’s culturally normal here.

You can insert a big dose of culture shock for me right here. In all the above situations, I’ve wanted to be like, WHAT IN THE WORLD!?!? I’ve yet to process my thoughts on all of this. Does the normality of domestic violence and in school have any connection to the insanity of the riots? Thoughts like that…still in process.

I’ve had various conversations here about the cultural differences that we all have between us, which can be some funny and interesting conversations. There are commonalities though. I was reading in Philippians today about how we need to stand firm “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27) and “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phil. 2:2). Chapter 2 continues to talk about how we are to follow Christ’s example and humble ourselves. I can be as prideful as I want about my American values, priorities and culture and it will get me where? Nowhere…well, maybe back to America. I boast in Christ alone, unite with my fellow believers to strive for the faith of the gospel. This requires following Christ’s example by emptying and humbling myself “by becoming obedient to the point of death”.

“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for HIS good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil 2:13-15).

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

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