Every morning I wake to the sound of the goats bleating outside my window, and the generator turning on for its few hours of day time work. My room has concrete floor and fits a small twin bed canopied in a white swath of mosquito netting, a table, and a chair. On the table I have arranged my books, class materials, clock, toiletries, and few medicines (so I remember to take them!). My window looks past the edge of the property, where goats and a few chickens wander, out to where our neighbors live in their small, thatched huts (tukles). The tukles are arranged in groupings by family, with each one functioning, effectively, as a room of a house. The tukle nearest my window has been painted around the bottom in recognition of a recent celebration. I can wave to the mother as she sweeps in the morning, and watch the girls bring the water from the borehole, yellow jerry-cans balanced carefully on their strong heads.
There are 14 other rooms like mine, all in a row, with shared bathrooms at the end of the corridor. All of us women live here – the men are one building over. Every night kerosene lanterns sit outside each room, lining the corridor and casting a warm glow through the hallway. I’m usually asleep before the generator turns off at 11:00 p.m. (it runs for 4 hrs in the evening), But if I stay awake, I read or write by lantern light. It is very comfortable here.
The center functions as a training site, but prides itself on being part of the neighborhood, so to speak. We are roughly 2 km outside of Arua town, but pretty rural. The people are very welcoming and kind. They don’t give us a difficult time, and no one begs us or asks for anything, which I feel is pretty amazing. But we don’t take pictures and absolutely do not give anything to them, in terms of money or gifts. This community, although poor by many standards, is self reliant and capable. Giving, although well intentioned, could, in effect, create a very negative situation.
A few nights ago we had a big party. We opened the gates of the center, and all of our neighbors came over to dance. There are several traditional dance and music groups in the area, and they performed/danced with us. Some of the kids dug a pit and built a xylephone into the ground using pieces of wood. It must have been 6 feet long! When it was done, 8-10 of the children gathered around and starting playing the newly created instrument. Boy could they play! Music filled the neighborhood, and we all danced well into the evening, until it was time for the little ones to go home to sleep. We’ve done this several times, and it’s so much fun for all. I think that one or two of the pictures I previously posted (or Minh posted for me!) are from these dance parties.