Monday, 26 March 2012

The Water is Finished.

The water is finished. The power is finished… In all of Gulu. This means that the central water pumping system is out of service, and the tap I usually get my water from (or any tap for that matter) is dry. The line to get water out of the borehole wraps around the entire mosque it is in front of, and I don’t want to spend the next two hours being stared at. As it is, I have a pounding headache I cannot get rid of, and I’m stressed by every little (catastrophic) thing that each short day is filled with. For example, the day before last, I was unexpectedly involved in a funeral of a ten year old girl who died without known cause, after being sick for only a week (see previous post). The following day, I got told I was going to hell by my coworkers since I came out of the closet as a Jew. The same day, I watched a goat being slaughtered, and stood in the same compound three children were murdered in the night before. (The goat gets to go to heaven by the way). Today, I shifted through the dust storm to visit my girls at school, only to take one to the hospital to find out that she has E-Coli. Beyond that, the heat is killing me, and if I could find a semi “somehow” cold drink in town, I would automatically die and go to heaven. That’s it, I’m going to buy bottled water to “bathe” in (at least I have the option), and will throw the dirty aftermath into the “toilet” so that I don’t have to put on a glove and fish the toilet paper out like I did last night. Peace Corps is awesome!

A Funeral and a Parade

On the way to a “World Water Day” event, a colleague asked me if I minded if we “made a quick stop.” Thinking that this meant to buy phone airtime, or maybe a cold water, I obliged. I should know better by now that nothing is ever going to be what you think it’s going to be-or even what people tell you it’s going to be… You can imagine my surprise when we arrived at a burial. To my right, men were digging a grave behind the hut, next to the others. To my left, lay the house that carried the body of the girl who died unexpectedly, without known cause after being sick for only a week.  And in the distance, young school girls, no older than ten, wailed in grief by the loss of their friend.  After paying our respects to the family and to the body of the young girl that had passed, we proceeded on our way with the rest of the day’s program, like nothing had even happened. This nonchalant attitude expressed by the casualty of our “stopping by” reveals just how much death is a part of this culture. When I gave my sympathies to the girls’ uncle who I happened to know, his response, which I have heard time and time again was a mere: “these things happen.”

When we arrived at the “World Water Day” event, I was quickly whisked away, and randomly expected to be in a parade. Talk about one extreme to the other!  Still in a state of shock, my mood suddenly shifted as hundreds of kids fled their schools to join us on our March. Women ran out of their shops, singing their tribal call of enthusiasm for which I can only describe as “aye aye aye ayeeee.” Everyone around us danced, and I was overwhelmed by the beauty that came from such immense joy over what I would consider minimal, or even a little ridiculous...

Needless to say, the day was filled with extremities of emotion, like most days are. We were told that the Peace Corps would make you (more) bipolar, but I never expected to be crying at one moment, and dancing during the next. It’s something however, that I am getting used to… sort of.
Today’s events made me realize something about this culture that had not quite made sense to me before. Where days are filled with mundane tasks (fetching water, cooking food, washing clothes, working in the field, fetching more water, making the fire, worrying about money, stuck in repetition, only living to survive…) there is little time or need for what we would consider happiness. So when there is something out of the ordinary, it provokes a strong sense of emotion… whether it be wailing in grief, or dancing with joy. The emotion is only allowed to last a moment, for the moment after the parade ends, or the day after the burial, one is expected to move on, as there is no other choice. Life must, has always, and will inevitably continue.