bugged by beetles

this time of year is a trying one for me. the insect population seems to be higher than any other part of the year–and there is not a lot i can do to keep the annoying arachnid, cursed coleoptera, or disgusting diptera out of the house.
it has become a habit of mine to read by candle light before i go to sleep (see the infamous “mosquito net +  fire” post for the reasoning behind this somewhat dangerous practice.) but in the recent month and a half the length of time i am able to read has decreased greatly.
generally i would be able to read by candle light as long as i desire, but as of late i can barely get through a few pages before the frustration level explodes out of my mozzie net snuffing the candle in a great gust of exasperation.
there is a tiny little beetle that somehow manages to squeeze its little crunchy body in between the holes of my mosquito net. this wouldn’t be such a big deal if it were merely one or two of the little blighters, but in fact the number sky-rockets into the twenties and beyond quite quickly. and they are stupid, and crawl around my bed and sometimes they bite.
surprisingly the insects that bother me least are the tiny moths that manage to squeeze through the net–generally i am afraid of moths and really hate them–but at least their stupidity leads them directly to the flame of the candle and they expire in a puff of blue flame and gray smoke, and in a timely fashion. but these stupid beetles… oi.
so nearly every evening i am thwarted to continue to read in my bed without having to get back up and turn off the light. so i blow out my candle and pout. sigh.

its enough to make a girl set her net on fire…again…


peace trees (warning-graphic)

**warning-this post contains photos of a slaughtered calf-consider yourself warned**

elders gathered under the tree

recently i was given the opportunity to attend the re-activation of a peace-in a nearby village. i, of course, took the opportunity to attend this gathering of elders and to be able to see first hand some karimajong tradition.

as portrayed in the first photo, the elders of this village came together under this impressively large tree to pray/divine, listen to/give speeches and sacrifice/roast a calf.

the sacrificed calf

an important part of the the traditional gathering of the elders in karamoja is for the most important/oldest of the elders to consume the blood of the sacrificed calf. the following picture shows something that i had never seen before: the blood being consumed directly from the calf’s body. (the other experiences i have in such gatherings i have witnessed the blood being drunk from a calabash and often also mixed with milk.)

drinking from the calf

the meeting/gathering lasted for many hours–there were many speakers and a lot of history told about the tree and the raiding of cattle and the violence that people tend to fear karamoja for. the elders were crying out to each other to end the violence, to stop the killing and the raiding.

they were crying for peace.

a speech maker and the gathered elders

toward the end of the afternoon a woman made her way to the center of the circle and began to speak–my knowledge of the ngikarimajong language is minimal, so i was only able to understand a little of what she was saying. from her words i understood i knew that someone had died, and that she wanted something… from her tone and body language i knew that she was upset. she was angry and sad. she was frustrated and felt unheard.

as my housemate and i sat puzzling over what she was truly saying some men came forward and tried to lead her out of the circle–but she had not said all that she wanted to say and she resisted. the men were kind in their physical attempts to remove her from the circle (i cannot speak for their words, i could neither understand nor hear them well) but she was quite forceful in her attempt to remain in the spot of the speaker–repeating herself over and over again.

something was said to her that broke the chant and her attempts to push forward and she allowed the ever-growing group of elders around her to lead her from the circle, where a smaller circle gathered around her where she was allowed to continue to speak her mind.

our curiosity had grown exponentially and so housemate went over to see what was going on. upon her arrival back to our seats she told me what she had learned: the woman who was speaking had lost a child to raiding–and she wanted to know when she was going to get to body of her child so she could give a proper burial.

this woman, this mother was crying for her child. she wanted to bury the child. but she also wanted revenge. “if they kill my child, why are we not killing them?!” she demanded. we learned that the circle of elders around her, especially my housemate’s boss–a co-founder of a local peace initiative–were trying to speak of the importance of peace, and of not taking anothers life.

(i don’t know what the outcome of that conversation was–i suspect that her pain was still raw and vivid–and her anger true and valid.)

the meeting continued, and soon ended–the elders shifted themselves out from under the tree to await their roasted meat, sitting in a formation of superiority that has probably been the same for hundreds of years. certain parts of the calf are given to certain elders of certain status.

usually i find myself pondering this set up–and playing rogue anthropologist (since i have zero training in anthropology OR sociology) but this time my mind and heart were stuck with the woman who just wanted to be heard–my train of thought took a turn–much like this post has–and focused elsewhere.

i was strongly convicted of my poor language skills, i could not just go and talk to the woman myself, i had to have help. but, perhaps even worse i couldn’t remember any distinguishing features of the woman to even go and find her among all the other women. the familiar tug of “just go and be” was strong.

in that slightly panicked-excited-yet-peaceful state i find myself in when pulled in this way, i looked around for this woman. i had every intention to seek her out and at least sit with her and see where my minimal language could get us. but if nothing else, listen. listen to her words. and to her heart.

but i couldn’t find her. and i could find ramano to help me find her.

as it dawned on me that i probably was not going to find her today, i turned to watch the group of dancers who had gathered around the tree. they were singing and jumping–pounding their feet on the ground so that the bells at their knees would ring loud and well. and i wondered about the peace tree.

peace for whom?

not for me that day.

and not for the unnamed woman.
and certainly not for her lost child.

signs of peace: peace signs

throughout karamoja there are signs for peace–literal billboards promoting peace on the outskirts of many of the major “towns” in the region. recently i photoed two of these signs when traveling from south karamoja to north karamoja:

nakapiripirit peace sign

the large sign is the peace sign and the smaller one is the nakapiripirit towncouncil sign. if you know the area, this is the sign posted from the namalu side of nakapiripirit town…

a closer view of the nakapiripirit sign

it reads: njatomian mam jik! ekisil, ee!
guns, no! peace, yes!

forgive the smallness and less than stellar quality of these photos as they are all taken from my camera phone while i am waiting on the new-to-me camera to arrive from the states. i’m having adventures in camera-phone photography–i’m always up for new challenges!

moroto peace sign

the bilboard just outside of moroto on the kotido side.

moroto peace sign, two

it reads: kinyaku atom, tocam aikisiom
return the gun, embrace education

while i enjoy this billboards, their pictures and slogans, i wonder how effective they are–especially when those they are targeting with these messages tend to not know how to read their own language, let alone english.

perhaps i shouldn’t underestimate the power of pictures and symbols.

actually, thats not normal

while recently careening through the kampala’s capital traffic on the back of a boda-boda (motorcycle “taxi”), typing an sms, directing the driver towards the mcc house and holding my fresh tropical juice blend so it wouldn’t spill i had a thought.

and that thought was this: “no, actually, this is not normal.”

we arrived at the house i payed the nice man, declined his offer of marriage and retrieved my journal so as to make a short list of things that i typically do not give second thought to that are, as you may have guessed, actually not normal.

* with the enforcement of traffic laws in the area being lax, at best, sometimes we (and just about everyone else in uganda) find it quite easy to skirt them. regardless of the potential harm we are putting ourselves in. at any given quarterly team meeting in the capital there will be at least 3 vehicles, sometimes even 4, available for large group outings.  rather than take 2 vehicles (we have plenty of drivers) out to dinner–often times we will cram the entire team into the vitara.

the vitara seats 4 very comfortably and 5 semi-uncomfortably. i believe at one point we had 10 people in the vitara. 2 people sharing the front passenger seat (they DID wear the seatbelt) 4 on the back bench seat, the driver and 3 people in the “trunk.”

why not? team building and togetherness all in the name of food. usually these days its sushi…

* last  month i learned that when building a new building in karamoja, it is apparently “good luck” to bury a human head in the foundation of your new building. and this cannot be just any human head, but must be a human head from a person that you yourself as the owner have killed for this exact purpose.

how this is good luck, i have no idea.

as a side note- when we were repainting our house we re-noticed some spatter on one of our walls that looks like blood. “surely not.” we thought. however, i could not scrub said substance from the wall with any of our cleaning products and good old fashioned elbow grease. and i’m a good scrubber.

we joked when painting the other side of that wall because the paint wouldn’t stick–saying that there was probably a human head between the walls. the square where the paint wouldn’t stick was definitely large enough for a head to be behind it… it was a few days later we learned the “good luck” charm of the head in a building and, needless to say, got a little freaked out.

* while hanging out with children recently i have started to check to see if their ears are pierced. not because i want to impart knowledge of funky earrings on the karimajong people, but because if a child’s ears are pierced they will probably not be used in a sacrifice. this has become a problem in the area. and i do not tend to give it second thought, i just check and breathe a little sigh or relief when they are pierced…

* when taking a boda-boda (which we have already established as being a bit crazy as well as not normal) with a collegue or friend and not wanting to take a boda each, for whatever reason, the two people cram onto the boda with the driver. this is a tight squeeze…very uncomfortable and quite awkward. i have seen 4 grown people on a boda before. not. normal.

a day to go down in history…

today, april 8th is a day that will go down in history. at least in the hearts and minds of my housemate and i:

our solar power is finally finally finally hooked up properly and our fridge, that we bought nearly 3 months ago, is finally finally finally hooked up and is cooling as i type.

its a day to celebrate! (its truly the little things in life, especially when living in east-africa!)