Field Day, Feast Day

This post will actually be short and mainly be told through pictures. Here goes.

The Acholi, like many people, enjoy feasts and festivities. And considering the years they lived in fear and war, boy can they throw a partay! (We Americans were not that bad either, but more on that later.) School closed during every celebration while we were there. When we arrived, the town was celebrating the Ugandan Martyrs Day, a day commerating the deaths of 22 Catholic converts who died for their beliefs in Christianity. About a week later the secondary schools in our district competed in track and field events. This was an all day affair in the sorching heat. I will take the time to brag here: Our team came back champions and I felt bad for my colleagues’ teams. (Yeah right!)

These meets were qualifying meets for the National competitions that were to be held in Gulu for the first time in about twenty-five years (remember, Gulu is in Uganda’s wartorn Northern region). Pece is a stadium that holds approximately 30,000 people. There are few bleechers and the track is delineated in the grass. During the course of the event, there were many events occuring simultaneously and I was somewhat upset that I missed the javelin and diskus throws. It was sometimes hard to know what school a team was from because the uniforms are varied. Generally, there are no team colors and the economic status of an athlete is manifested in their running attire. Many students, especially the girls it seems, piece together a uniform of whatever they find that will allow some freedom of movement. Remarkably, some students ran in brand name sneakers while others ran in their bare feet. It was a rousing, albeit hot day and I enjoyed bonding with the students.

The last celebration done by the Ugandans was Feast Day. I am not clear why this day is celebrated, but festivities were done in grand style. The day started early with students and staff preparing for 300+ guests. The Home Ec students prepared food for the students and I believe some food was catered. I was a server for the day, again standing in scorching sunlight (I am originally from Florida so why did this bother me?).  Still, I really felt like I was a part of the people that day. It was bitersweet because we were leaving Gulu the next day so all the girls wanted to take pictures and get my address. I really wanted to cry, especially when I realized I would not hear their beautiful voices for a year or more. We were supposed to record the girls’ singing that day but we were behind schedule so we were not able to record. Simon said (no pun intended) he’d attempt to record the songs then bring the camera to me in the morning…you’ve heard the story already and hopefully have listened to the video. The point is, I was unconsciously missing the ladies already and I became the classic worry wart. Anyway it all worked out and I play the girls’ video frequently when I am sad.

That’s the story.  I share the people and pictures with you in the pages marked Field Day videos, Feast Day pictures and videos, and traditional dancing. Enjoy! Apwoyo!

Published in: on September 7, 2009 at 4:33 am  Leave a Comment  

The exchange through song.

In addition to sharing food , I had the privilege to share song and music with my students. What an experience! Madam Ogwetta, my Ugandan partner teacher in English, started it all when she asked me to sing the first day I met her S4 girls.  Djore, I’m sorry but I could not remember a single thing from the Gospel Choir. Please don’t kick me out. I finally thought of Gabi Gabi, a South African praise and protest song. This became our signature tune. I also taught them Uyai Mose and I Need You. Then I attempted to teach them Wanting Memories and You Brought the Sunshine but there was not enough time and  I had to make sure I was teaching Drama and English, the subjects I was there to teach. My song ministry continued when I told Sister Dinah, one of the Nuns, about the song with her name in it. She asked me to teach it to students and I doubt you have heard a better version of Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah. I rounded out the song instruction with an attempt to teach the Peace Club Mark Miller’s Make Me An Instrument (the slow version) but we just didn’t have the time. As my last week approached, I reminded the girls that they had not taught me a single song. They taught me Nimaro, Unless a Man, Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So, and a song that I don’t know the name of but that was one of my favorites. On my last day with the students, I realized I really didn’t know the songs they taught me and I was hoping to teach Nimaro to the Marble Collegiate Gospel Choir. I was beginning to miss them and I hadn’t left yet. I just couln’t leave without their voices recorded but time was running out. I had to go pack, so , out of desperation, I left my camera with Ajum Simon, a partner teacher with Dana Plotkin, an American Teacher Exchange colleague. He said he couldn’t promise me but that he would try to record the S4s singing the songs they taught me. He and the girls graciously recorded the songs for me. I have included the video of their session. I know you will enjoy these voices as much as I did. Listen to the entire thing because the girls repeated some songs so that I could teach them to the Gospel Choir.  That way you will hear all the songs. Well, that’s all folks!

Laker Runita


The Songs

I was not sure of all the lyrics for this South African praise song. I also was not sure how to pronounce the words correctly. I taught the song anyway and it became our anthem.

Gabi Gabi                                                                               

Gabi Gabi

Bash a bal sa wan

Gabi Gabi

Bash a bal sa wan

He frees all the captives

And gives the hungry bread.

He frees all the captives

And gives the hungry bread

God Almighty!

Liberator Lord

God Almighty!

Liberator Lord

Repeat He frees, then back to Gabi Gabi


Uyai  Mose   

Uyai  Mose                             

Tene mate mwari

Uyai Mose

Tene mate mwari

Uyai Mose

Tene mate mwari


Uya Mose Sweno.


Come all you people

Come and praise your maker

Come all you people

Come and praise your maker

Come all you people

Come and praise your maker

Come now and worship the Lord.


Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah (My version)

 Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah

Someone’s in the kitchen I know o o o.

Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah

Cookin’ the food just right!

Mary Kay’s version

 The same as above except change cookin the food just right to strummin’ on the ole banjo!

The Ugandan Songs

I saved the best for last. Here are the songs they taught me.



Nimaro pa Lubonga pe lokee…

I komwa

Dong wa maro en  (repeat melody)

Pi maa mereee….

I komwa


Dong polo ki ngom dong opong

Ki deyo mereeeeeeeee (x2)


Deyo, Deyo Obed bot Rwot

Deyo Alleluia  (repeat several times)


Glory Glory be to God, Glory Alleluia

Unless a Man


Unless a man- a man is

Born again (echo)

He will never enter into the Kingdom of God (2xs)

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 4:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Food the way it really should taste.

I initially was worried about the food and water in Uganda because I’d been told to avoid so many things. I felt the warnings were overstated; however, they turned out to be necessary because one person with our organization actually got Malaria and parasites. It was pretty serious but she got over it. But back to this post. I didn’t have to worry about the food because I lived at the Invisible Children Intern House. Doreen, a spectacular Ugandan cook, made western style dishes for our group almost every morning and every night.( On Sundays we had to eat out and the schools provided lunch every day during the week.) For breakfast we generally had Mandazi’s, a donut like pastry popular in Kenya and Uganda, hot African tea, omelets and eggs of some sort, mango, banana, pancakes, and on occasion bacon and sausage. Dinner was mostly vegetarian with chicken and beef thrown in for variety. Doreen made what seemed like stir frys of different vegetables she purchased from the market such as string beans, carrots, onions, tomatoes, green peppers etc. She usually had some sort of curry or other sauce that she put on the vegetables that made them absolutely scrumptious! Her Mexican night was to die for and her chips (french fries) were excellent. In some ways I felt as if I hadn’t left the United States.

So that was the food we ate at “home”. What about at restaurants and the houses of our friends? What did we eat there? Well, there are many westerners in Gulu, and there are many restaurants that cater to western tastes. Also, there is a sizable Indian population in Uganda so the food reflects this fact. At Kope Cafe, we could get pizza (cheese is rare in Gulu and I believe they have one choice, a kind of goat cheese), curried chicken, chapati, talapia, chips, cassava, coke, mountain dew, fanta, and local brand sodas. There was more on the menu, but this is what I remember. I also went to more “indigenous” restaurants. There I had stewed beef, goat, or chicken, millet, and posho and beans. What is posho and beans?

Posho is a Maize (corn) flour mixture that looks and tastes sort of like grits to me. It has a coarser, grainier texture. We ate this every single day in the schools without fail-ok sometimes we got rice and beans instead. Sometimes the beans were mixed in Sim Sim (sesame seed paste), usually on Fridays. We’d also have some greens that tasted like spinach mixed in sim sim sauce on occasion. For some, this menu became boring. Not for me! I love Posho and beans and I am going to see if anyone makes it in New York. I”ll keep you posted.


Ummm! Posho and Beans!

Posho and Beans
Posho, beans, the greens with sim sim, and I think either sweet potato or cassava.

The name of this post is Food the way it really should taste.  I chose this title because the food in Uganda, especially Gulu has lots of flavor. The potatoes are the best I’ve ever tasted and I don’t usually eat potatoes (the chips are slammin’!). Mangoes, bananas and other fruits are mouth watering. I think the reason for this is that the soil in Uganda is fertile and has not been tainted with pesticides and killed from over-planting.  Also, most people in Gulu cultivate their own vegetables and raise their own chickens and goats so most of the food you eat is fresh, usually picked or killed that very day. I am praying that as they grow, Gulu won’t lose this aspect of their culture. There’s got to be some place on earth where you can get unadulterated food that’s not grown in a petri dish.



OK, OK. I  know you want to know. Did I eat anything “weird” while abroad? I am going to attempt to handle this question delicately because this sort of  question usually supports vicious stereotypes and I hope by including this topic here and writing the title the way I am not perpetuating any stereotypes. But I feel that this was a cultural exchange and to not include all the details will not do justice to my experience. I will approach this subject how I approached and approach it in both my US  and Ugandan classrooms.

Uganda, 2009

I am teaching Home Economics and my three students, Bibian, Mercy and Irene are listening intently. I don’t remember what we were talking about but I am flipping through a textbook and they see a picture of a lobster and go Eew! I tell them that this food is very popular in some parts of the States.  They stare at me in disbelief. I tell them that there are things they eat that don’t sound appetizing to me and that  would make many Americans go Eew! I told them many of us would not eat the flying white ant or the small grasshoppers that they eat. I explained to the girls that people everywhere eat things others think of as unappetizing. I tell them that I eat chitterlings (chitlins) and they ask me what it is. I tell them pig intestines and  they laugh, give me a major EEEW!, and scrunch up their faces. I ask them would they be willing to try the lobster or the chitlins and they aren’t sure. I tell them that I was willing to try the white flying ant and the grasshopper if it were in season. The white flying ant was in season but there was very little rain. When it rains there are swarms of the ants flying around. There are so many you literally can’t see. The night it rained a lot this happened and I couldn’ believe it! I could not sit in the living room. We had some high school and undergrad students from the States visiting and they caught some and try to burn them alive with matches. I told them I was sure that is not how you cooked them. I told them I would ask my teachers how to prepare them and let them know. I was told that you pull the wings off and then fry them in some oil with salt and pepper. Unfortunately for me and the students, there wasn’t another rainy night so we were unable to try the recipe. Two of my colleagues did try some. One ate them raw and the other went to a dinner where they were served cooked. They both said they had a nutty taste to them. When I go back, I will try them if they are available.

In NYC, I teach a similar lesson and I usually go for the gross factor. However, my goal is always to share food culture and to dispel negative views and beliefs about who eats “strange” foods. Generally speaking, these negative attitudes are directed at third world countries and ethnic minorities. My students in the US are from these groups and they say they eat things like grasshoppers, frog legs, snakes, snails, blood sausages, goat, deer and the like. I debunk the negatives by telling them about chitlins, which grosses them out. I also talk about eating roast duck, drinking carrot and spinach juice, and eating escagot and caviar. The reaction is the same, eew! I tell that I’m willing to try every food once (maybe not completely raw meat) and if I don’t like it, so be it. I explain that every culture eats things others may not like, but they should not judge people negatively because of their food. It’s just what they eat.

 So, What do you eat that I might not like?

The White flying ant

The White flying ant

Mac and Cheese, Sim Sim Balls and Mandazis

That’s not all we did in Home Economics. We could cook too! We had a day where we exchanged recipes. I taught the students (Bibian, Irene and Mercy) how to make Macaroni and Cheese and they taught me how to Make Mandazis and Sim Sim Balls/Squares. We would have made Sweet Potato Pie but sweet potatoes were out of season. Also, if they ever make a sweet potato pie it would be white instead of orange. White sweet potato? Yes. The orange variety is rare in Uganda. The grow a white version and it is sweetest during November/December. Lydia, my Home Ec partner teacher said she would make it then. I sure hope so and I wish I was there to taste it. These two American recipes are expensive to make in Uganda because of the scarcity of cheese and potatoes. I felt bad that these were the only recipes I knew and loved that we make in my family. I know they couldn’t make collard greens because they don’t exist there. OK let me start from the beginning. When I met Lydia, she asked me to give her recipes for some foods that we ate in my family. I told her that I am really not a cook but that I liked dishes like collard greens, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potato pie. I also told her about the mean 3-4 layer chocolate cake my Mom makes. Lydia was excited. We narrowed it down to the Mac and Cheese and sweet potato pie because those ingredients were simple and available (but not readily as I stated previously). The issue with this is that whereas, I may be able to make the recipes they shared with me without a problem-generally things are more readily available in the States-they may not be able to make my recipes as often. I decided not to fret over it; Lydia wanted to make them. Anyway, without further delay, I give you the Food Exchange Recipes.

Ugandan Recipes


Sim Sim Balls(or squares for the thin-skinned, faint of heart cook)

 1.  2-4 cups of Sim Sim (sesame seeds)

2.  Brown or raw sugar

 Roast the sim sim. Melt sugar (put in a dry pan over heat-just the sugar). When melted pour in sim sim. Mix well. Little by little it will take shape. Careful! The mixture is hot, have cold water nearby to dip hands into before attempting the roll the balls. If unable to make the balls, then take a rolling pin and flatten the mixture out. Then cut it into squares.

 This next recipe actually can be found on-line. I included two recipes, one from a student and the other from Lydia, my partner teacher.

 Mandazi Recipe # 1 (student)

 You need:

  • Flour
  • Baking Powder
  • Sugar
  • Warm water
  • Cinnamon or mixed spices


  • Put 250 grams of Flour (wheat, maize or sweet potato) in a bowl.
  • 1 Tbsp of Baking Powder. Mix
  • 100 grams or less of sugar. Mix
  • Blend in water (warm water)

 Make your batter as thick or thin as you like.  Drop the batter into the hot pan.


Mandazi Recipe # 2 (Lydia)

 Need same ingredients as previous recipe. You may substitute milk, eggs and milk, or eggs and water for the water you put in the other recipe. As state before you can also put in different spices. Cinnamon , nutmeg, allspice, and ginger work well.


  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • Margarine, butter or oil. 50  grams of Margarine or butter. 3 tablespoons of oil.


 Rub in oil with the flour. Put sugar. Mix your liquid of choice (see introduction above) and pour it in the middle of your flour and oil rubbing. Knead-add the liquid in gradually. Let stand. Dip hand in hot water when you are ready to put it in the pan to avoid sticking batter.

Ingredients: Chapati
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon salt
warm water, as needed
1. If the ingredients have been in the refrigerator, allow them to come to room temperature.
2. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt.
3. Slowly add enough water to make a thick dough.
4. Mix in one spoonful of oil.
5. Knead the dough for a few minutes on a cool surface, adding a few spoonfuls of dry flour.
6. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
7. Lightly grease a griddle or skillet with cooking oil and preheat.
8. Divide the dough into 6 orange-sized balls and flatten them into six-inch circles. Fry them in the griddle or skillet until each side is golden brown and spotted, turning once.
9. Serve them with butter and any soup, stew or curry dish.

Servings: 6

Excerpted from:

How to make Posho/Ugali/Kawunga/Busiima/Nshima


  • 400 g white maize flour
  • 750 ml water
  • 1⁄2 t salt


You will need a strong wooden or plastic utensil suitable for mingling
a very stiff mixture.

  • Bring the water with the salt to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium.
  • Carefully and slowly pour the flour into the pan while vigorously mixing to avoid any lumps forming, to form a smooth mixture. You will note that it very rapidly thickens to a very stiff consistency. You may need to hold the pan down with one hand.
  • Keep mixing and turning for 5 – 10 minutes. Look at the middle picture to see what it should roughly look like. The heat should be such that you can mingle for that length of time without the layer at the bottom getting burnt.

Serve hot.

If you have no way of measuring the ingredients, this is what has worked for me: 1 measure of flour requires a little less than twice the volume of water. So 1 cup of flour needs about 2 cups of water. You may need to experiment a bit …

Excerpted from:

American Recipes

Mac and Cheese

2 quarts of water

1 ¾  teaspoons of salt

2  ½  cups of macaroni (elbow)

1 tablespoon of butter or margarine

1 egg

1 pint of milk

Salt and pepper

2 ½ cups of Mild Cheddar Cheese


Bring salt and water to a rolling boil. Add Macaroni (10 ounces) and cook for about 10 minutes or until firm but not soft. Remove from heat and drain in a colander. Place macaroni in a casserole. Stir butter into hot macaroni. Break egg into bowl and beat with a wire whip or fork. Blend in milk, salt and pepper to taste. Pour mix over the macaroni and blend in 1 ¼  cups of grated cheese. Allow mix to stand approximately 15 minutes. Top with 1 ¼ cups of grated cheese. Bake in oven for ten to fifteen minutes at about 350 degrees.

From Morrison’s Imperial House



 Sweet Potato Pie

Orange sweet potatoes are rare in Uganda, Therefore, to make this pie, they would most likely use the white variety. Didn’t know they existed? Me either. Lydia said she could probably try this around November or December when the white sweet potatoes are the sweetest. I’d sure like to be there to try it.


3 small sweet potatoes

¼ pounds of butter

1 cup of milk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 ¼ cups of sugar

½ teaspoons of allspice

1 unbaked pie shell


Grate raw sweet potato. Melt butter and add other ingredients. Stir in grated potatoes and pour in shell. Bake 10 minutes at 425 degrees F. Then 50 minutes at  325 degrees F or until custard is set in middle. Cool on rack to prevent soggy crust. For a variation sprinkle the top thinly with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter before baking. Also generally, the sweet potatoes are cooked before they are put into the pie shell. This recipe says the raw sweet potatoes make for a different flavor and texture than the more traditional way of making it.

Mrs. A.M. Crowell, Jr

Hey, I know these are not my Mom’s recipes. You’ll have to talk to her about that. I tried to get her to share and this is what she had my cousin send me! Hey but the Ugandan Mac and Cheese was the bomb!

Bon Appetit!

The girls measuring for the Mandazis, Lydia supervising.

The girls measuring for the Mandazis, Lydia supervising.

Published in: on August 14, 2009 at 2:23 am  Comments (2)  

Boda, Boda!

Ichoo Maber,

One of the biggest features of Gulu is the Boda ride. A boda is a motorcycle that is used as a taxi and in Gulu, is the number one mode of transport aside from hoofing it. It is not for the faint of heart for there are many near accidents. I remember one incident when I thought I was definitely a goner. I was on my way to Sacred Heart and for some reason the Boda driver thought I was in a hurry because he speed demoned down the dusty, red clay road. I held on for dear life-oh I forgot to mention that women sit sideways for modesty reasons (they mostly wear skirts).  We were going around a roundabout when some nincompoop decided it was a good idea to step in front of the Boda. We were going too fast. I closed my eyes and braced for impact. Miraculously, we did not collide. The Boda driver called the pedestrian crazy and we continued on our merry little way. Whew!

Bodas are very interesting to watch. How so? Well it has to do with how people ride them. There is the curiosity of the number of people able to ride a Boda. My colleagues and I saw as many as five people on a Boda and we dubbed these the Boda bus. Then there is what cargo a Boda can carry. Bodas are not only cabs. Some Ugandans own a Boda and use them to transport anything from chickens in a crate to couches. One of the biggest things we saw on a Boda was an upright refrigerator, and one of the most peculiar-another Boda.

I have a video clip of me riding a Boda and it is filmed from the vantage point of the rider, me. Aside from a few excess exclamations (hey, I’m a drama queen), it is a fairly accurate account of my journey to work every morning. I will try to include it on this blog, but in the event of download issues, I will post it on Facebook.


Laker Runita

P.S- for those of you who don’t know, my Acoli name is Laker, which means Princess or Queen. It is common for you to use your
Acoli name first then your Christian name second. I guess Runita is my “Christian” name.


Prayers for Boda driver Ariem Simon.

I’m  including this entry here because our subject is Bodas. It’s regarding a haunting Boda ride I had going into town during the middle of my trip. I have forgotten my precise reason for going to town but I remember Ariem. He must be in his mid-late twenties or early thirties at the most. We we talking as often happens between Boda drivers and their riders. Perhaps I was asking him how I, an African American was viewed. Was I a Muno? By some accounts this is the the Acoli name for white person and others a name meaning westerner or foreingner. At any rate, as we neared town he started telling me this was his last night in Gulu; he was moving to Kampala. He told me he was an orphan and had no one. Kampala is a big city. I wondered and asked what he hoped to accomplish there. He said he would drive the Boda there and hoped he would make more money. He was from Gulu and from the way he talked, I started to worry about him in the big city. He was not animated the way many Boda drivers I met had been. I often wonder why they are so animated when many were abductees and former soldiers in the war (that’s what I was told, I’m not certain). Anyway, Simon was very soft spoken and had a far off quality about him. I couldn’t help wishing that I had the means to help him somehow. We had been warned against throwing money at situations with no real thought about sustainability. I found myself wondering how I could help, he seemed so lost. We arrived at my destination and he had a hard time saying goodbye. Not knowing what else to do, I gave him a little extra for the ride (my colleagues would balk because this practice does not bode well for locals who can’t afford the inflated price) and told him I would keep him in my prayers. With that he reluctantly rode off. I am still haunted by this experience, so I would like to ask you to pray for Ariem Simon as well. Apwoyo.

Published in: on July 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm  Comments (3)  

Free Fallin’! Bungee jumping over the Nile River.

OK, OK. I didn’t jump…this time. I got as far as giving the woman my credit card when I realized I’d probably be a bundle of tears and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.  Bungee jumping is on my bucket list and I hope to have a jump before age 50. I want to jump over Nile so I need to hurry; Adrift may have to change locations and who knows if they will have the Nile High Bungee at their new place.  So, how did I become interested in such a hair-brained idea as Bungee jumping? After all I’m totally not the adventurous type.

The truth is I was interested when I first learned I’d have the opportunity on this trip to Uganda. I was swayed from the idea when a student of mine in New York advised against it, saying it was painful. This kid seemed fearless so if he said not to jump, I wouldn’t. Then the day of reckoning arrived and five of my colleagues decided to take the plunge. My brain assessed the height (44 meters) of the jump and decided it wasn’t so intimidating after all. I still decided it wasn’t for me. I be the great cheerleader on the sidelines. After witnessing my colleagues’s jumps, I got the hankering to give a go. Heck, I like roller coasters and besides, you are bound by the legs-you couldn’t get hurt. I teach my students to be fearless, what better way to live up to that than to hurl myself towards the mighty Nile? While these adventurers of my group decided to face the Nile more directly through Whitewater rafting-I can’t swim so this was definitely out-and I faced the wrath if Adrift’s new speedboat, I contemplated the jump seriously. I considered my students and my own desire for the spotlight. I could see the admiration from students and peers as they watched me plunge 44 meters towards the Nile. It was sweet. Intoxicated with these visions of grandeur, I bravely informed my group of my intentions. They were ecstatic! Ru wanted to bungee jump. They encouraged me. I went to pay for the jump and lost my nerve…sort of.  What really stopped me was not necessarily nerves but this. During the Safari, I decided to overcome my fear of climbing by getting on top of the Matatu we were riding in for a more spectacular view of the animals.  As I was climbing, I stepped and slipped on a loose bar located in the back right window of the vehicle, nearly impaling my lower abdomen on a rusty nail protruding from the top of the vehicle. I had survived that with only a minor cut, what could happen if I jumped? I fought myself back and forth but in the end, decided I might tense up and be hurt somehow. Also, as I stated earlier, I didn’t want to collapse into a bundle of tears.

So, that is the story of my decision of to jump or not to jump.  I’m sorry of some of you are dissappointed. I’ll keep you posted on my bucket list accomplishments. I have included the jumps of all five of my colleagues for your perusal. Some of them I shot at the wrong angle, but I believe they are still interesting to watch. Enjoy!

Ok, so I’m having trouble uploading the video. This will be continued.

Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 5:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Leaving Gulu

It seems that every time I am online I am in a hurry. I had some issues with logging on to WordPress so I will not complete this post. This Blog will be out of order as I have had little time to write. These are my last few days in Gulu and it is Bittersweet. Bitter because I have been well received and I don’t want to go. Sweet because I have had a wonderful experience. I will try to write later with my reflections on leaving. Now I must go so I can spend the rest of my Ugandan money. Achoo Maber.

Laker (My Acoli name) pronounced la que

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 8:15 am  Leave a Comment  


     Ichoo Maber, from Gulu Uganda! I have been four weeks in Gulu and am now finding the time to share with you my experiences. This blog is not intending to win a Nobel Prize nor, my English teacher colleagues, is it intended to be grammatically correct. I will simply relay the happenings around Gulu town. I might post another entry before I leave Gulu, I might not. At any rate, here, finally is my blog.


     A region torn by a twenty-year war. Fear and worry about the return of the war. Rampant malaria and diseases. Infested water that needs disinfecting. A town almost entirely cut off from the modern world. A city of danger and despair. That is the Uganda I expected to see.


      People in the process of healing from a twenty-year war. Relatively “modern” living conditions. Dusty clay roads. Boda Bodas everywhere. Dusty boda rides. Scary Boda rides. Beautiful babies. Kids and women with heavy objects on their heads. Matazas for breakfast. Posho and beans everyday for lunch. Beautiful singing. People with easy, beautiful, welcoming smiles. A place I would come back to visit. A place I could live in. That is the Gulu I know and love.


     I can’t believe that it’s almost time for me to return to the states and though I miss home and all my friends, I don’t want to leave-not yet. A month and a half is not nearly enough time to embrace a people and a culture. I have been completely welcomed by Ugandans and have just started to slip into a routine here.


     Gulu district is a beautiful region with picturesque grasslands called the bush and dusty red clay roads whose dust gets stuck in your hair, on your skin and on your clothes. I am writing this blog while getting ready for a Safari. The Mutatu is here and I must go.


     That was actually a week ago and the Safari is a whole story to itself. Keep checking back here for the complete scoop. Now I’ve spent five weeks here and I’ll continue to discuss my time here in general. Let’s see, where did I leave off…Oh I was talking about the dust.


     To reiterate, there is lots of dust here and it sticks to everything. I can’t believe it. I’ve had so much to say and now I can’t think of anything.  Well, I guess I’ll start by tackling different topics. The first being London, England.

Where Did They Go?



     So it was May 31st and I was actually there. London, England! First Wave Teacher Exchange participants deplane and head off for a few hours of adventure in London. We had about a six-hour lay over in London and decided to go explore the city for two or three hours. We needed some cash so we went to the ATM to get money. It was here that it happened. After some difficulty, I finally got money from the ATM machine and headed back to the group-only they weren’t there. They had disappeared. Poof! I couldn’t believe it. I searched for them downstairs at the downstairs London subway entrance not there. I went back upstairs to see if maybe they’d gone to the bathroom. No one there. They really had left without me. At first, I was upset, but I had no time to fret if I was to see London. I was a tough cookie; after all, I was from New York. I could handle this. I found the information desk, asked for maps, and boarded subway for my adventures in London.


     The London subway is called the tube and reminds me of the New Jersey Transit trains. I was struck immediately with how similar this first experience was like my life in New York. The trains were crowded with tourists and natives in a hurry to reach their various destinations. When I got off the train, I realized the information clerk had directed me to the shopping district. There was nothing special about this area; it looked like any shopping area in the world. I was not impressed. I had no idea where to go and I could not eat in a restaurant because I did not take out enough money. I was afraid of spending too much money and not having enough for my stay in Uganda. Why had the clerk assumed I wanted to shop? I can’t stand shopping when there is so much history to see! I bumbled about for ten minutes of so, believing this would be all I’d see of London. I did not have a watch, as they are not needed in New York with cell phones and clocks everywhere. I thought of returning to the airport when I decided that I was not going to be defeated! I looked at the map to see where the main attractions of London were located. I really wanted to see Buckingham Palace and realized that, according to the map, it was in walking distance. I decided to walk. I stopped along the way to take a picture of London taxis, they were so cute! They reminded of cars from the thirty’s but smaller.


      I proceeded to walk in the direction that was indicated on the map and did not run into Buckingham Palace. I started to worry that if I kept venturing too far from my original starting point that I might get lost and perhaps would not make it back in time for the plane. I was stubborn, though and decided I should press on; I had to see something of London. I eventually landed in this amusement area with a large Ferris Wheel and numerous street vendors and buskers. I decided to check this out. In some ways, this area of London reminded me of Washington Square Park in New York and I felt at home. I wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel but, as I said, I was frightened of spending too much money. I walked to the other end of this complex and saw a familiar sight, Westminster Abbey. I was glad to see an attraction located where I could retrace my steps and I decided it would be great to see so I walked over to it. I walked around it and realized that this was the House of Parliament. I was determined to see Westminster Abbey. I noticed that, like New York, the tube was connected decided to bravely stray from my path. I saw several buildings named Westminster Abbey and after some walking, I gave up. I really did want to see Buckingham Palace so I re-consulted the map and discovered that it was not that far away. I found a clock and realized I had about an hour and a half before I needed to head back to Heathrow. I started hoofing it to Buckingham Palace.


     I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked. No Palace. I looked at the map and checked my streets and it still indicated that I was on the right track. I doggedly pressed on.  Finally, I saw the main street of the palace. Yea! I walked faster. I still was twisted but finally made it. Buckingham Palace! Right in the middle of London. I thought it would be somewhat outside of the city. But it was in the middle and easily accessible. For this to be the royal palace, I thought it was grossly under protected. There were just guards at the main gate. I also, thought it was unimpressive and unremarkable. It looked like governmental administrative offices and not a world renown Palace. I got a picture of me in front it and then left. I had the tube to catch.


     The rest of the time in London included a walk through to catch the tube back to the airport. Of course, this took time because I got semi lost again. Eventually, I got to the line and boarded the train back to Heathrow. I had seen Buckingham Palace! My messed up day turned out to be awesome after all!

Published in: on July 8, 2009 at 8:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Getting ready for Uganda – Ramblings

It’s been a while since I’ve written or visited my blog. I’ve been living life…finishing my first semester at NYU, attending to family matters, fundraising…I haven’t had much time. Now it’s 11:59 pm on Saturday, May 23, and I need to go to bed soon. I just thought I’d better put up a post or something before the blog directiories delete me.  So here is what’s up with me.

I am officially finished with my first year of Graduate study. Yea! It has been a great first year with lots of challenges to my idea of what a teacher should be. I hope I will be able to explore some of my new beliefs in the African, post conflict environment. However, this blog is not about teaching methods, so I will end this thread here. I think I named this post Getting Ready for Uganda so that’s what I’ll breifly discuss.

I have been reading the texts required and not required for this study/teach abroad. The list includes:

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,  Applied Theatre: Creating Transformative Encounters in the Community, The Arts and the Creation of the Mind. These are my required texts. Books I’ve taken it upon myself to read include: Issues in African Education: Sociological Perspectives, Africa: Progress & Problems-Education in Africa, and Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction. I’m hoping to finish the required reading texts by Saturday…no, I don’t have a lot of time…

…That actually seems to be the theme for me right now. The trip seemed to have crept upon me. Today I went shopping for my Uganda clothes. My skirts and dresses have to be below the knee, even when sitting down and blouses have to have capped ( short sleeves ). No shoulders showing. Ok. How difficult can this be? Right? Difficult. I bought cute skirts and I’m having a time finding matching shirts. LOL. I am going to continue my shopping spree tomorrow, see what I find.

Well, these are indeed ramblings. I will return with reflections on what I hope to accomplish with this blog.





A word about donating

Hey all,

Take these things into consideration when making a donation to help me teach and study in Uganda. I have two sets of payments to make: payments to Invisible Children for program fees and a payment to New York University for my tuition. A donation to Invisible Children is tax deductible and a donation to NYU is not. I am suggesting donors divide their contributions in half, therefore payments will be made to both categories and you receive a tax deduction.

Also, the First Giving page is the easiest, most convenient way to help; however, they charge a fee of 7.5% to your donation for expenses.

I thought this information would be helpful.



Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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You can also donate directly through the Invisible Children Website at:

  • Choose the link One Time Donation
  • Fill in the form. At the end of the form it says additional information.  Check I would like to make this donation on behalf of someone else.
  • A drop down screen will appear asking for the first and last name of the person you are making the donation on behalf of. In the first name box, put Runita and in the last name box put Jones-T/Ex. You must write the last name this way otherwise the donation will not benefit my trip, but it will go the the main organization.
  • It will prompt you to e-mail me to inform me that you made a donation on my behalf.  My e-mail address is: Please do this also, I must mail in the names of people who donated through the invisible children website.

Payment by check:

  • Make check payable to me if a tax credit is not important to you or to Invisible
    Children, Inc. if you want to receive a tax deduction. On the Memo line put Runita Jones-T/Ex.
  • Mail to:

              Ms. Runita Jones

              P.O. Box 622328

              Parkway Station

              Bronx, NY 10462

That’s it!  Invisible Children, the northern Ugandan people and I all thank you immensely for your support.


Runita Jones

Published in: on March 7, 2009 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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