In my final blog I am going to talk about hope and how we can keep hope in our own daily lives, even when it seems impossible. One aspect of hope I have not previously brought up is religion. Religion is extremely prominent in Kagoma Gate and in many villages all across Uganda. There are three established religions in Kagoma Gate—two Pentecostals and one Anglican Church. There are other religious beliefs and practices in the village but these are the three largest. At first, it seems like religion is what enables the villagers of Kagoma Gate to have radical hope. However, when looking at what they hope for in their lives, no matter the religion to which they belong, their hopes and dreams were always related to family or others around them. Relationships with others is what I believe enabled the villagers to have radical hope. As I have discussed in previous blogs, villagers wanted their futures to be with their families or they wanted a bright future for their family members. It was often family that enabled them to keep “radical hope” or, in some cases, to not have any hope at all. The lady I discussed in earlier blogs said she had no hope, was religious, and was a member of the Anglican Church. But she, unlike other members of the church who had family, did not have hope. With no one to care about or for, she had no hope.
So how do we keep this hope in our own daily lives? Continue reading
I have been home for almost a week now and this week I have been focusing on the acceptance aspect of my research. In short, I found that the villagers were able to create and live in a village of such diversity by sharing their stories. This enabled them to find common ground. Although they were from different tribes and different countries, they all had faced extreme atrocities. So many of the villagers had lost one or both parents, a spouse, children or other people close to them. So many of them have faced violence, starvation, illnesses, and long journeys to seek refuge. When experiencing events and pain such as these, the tribe you belong to quickly becomes irrelevant. The villagers did not even think about the origins of their neighbors. Each villager was looked at as a human being who had suffered greatly and was only trying to survive. So together they all began the journey to overcome their struggles and get through each day.
While the villagers have faced hardships that many of us, cannot come close to fathoming, there is so much we can take from it. In my proposal for the Kenan Summer Fellows Program, I described my experiences working with Latino migrant workers in my community. One of the key things that enabled me to relate to them was telling stories. Although they were from many different countries and cultures that were so different from my own, when it came down to it, we were the same. We all had family we cared about, goals we wanted to achieve, and stories we could relate to in some way. A person can still laugh or cry, or have the same emotions, regardless of where they are from—its part of humanity. If we could all see this more often, many of our problems would be eliminated. All it takes is looking at a person in their simplest form—a human with the ability to feel emotions. Continue reading
As I just finished transcribing my interviews from Maryland, one of the biggest themes I have noticed is the vast difference for the young and old Bhutanese who are resettling in the United States.
“I cannot live without God, because I have faith in God and if I forget God then I cannot live. It is my culture and from the beginning I am following this culture. It is my life actually.” —- 74 year old Bhutanese refugee woman
I was surprised by the religious conviction of the elder refugees, who often cite religion as their happiness in life or even their reason for living. The first woman I interviewed in DC surprised me with her immense faith in God and how she just repeatedly said that the only thing she cares about in life is God. She was also very eager to show me the mandir or small temple in her home, which is typically found in most practicing Hindu homes. One of the questions I have asked during my interviews is for the interviewee to identify a religious object that is important to them. This 76 year old woman immediately showed me a necklace she was given to by her guru (spiritual master) 30 years ago. She has worn it everyday since to keep God close to her, and inside the necklace is the photo of her guru. In the photograph below, she eagerly shows me a picture of her guru:
One of the things that makes Kagoma Gate so unique and intriguing is the villagers’ ability to see past their different origins and cultures and live among each other peacefully. However, when I ask the villagers about this diversity, it appears to be an irrelevant question to them. One of the questions I ask is what is it like living among people from so many different places such as Rwanda, Sudan, Congo, ect. All of them say it does not bother them. Based on observations I believe this to be genuinely true.
An example of this is the interview setting of one of the elders from Burundi. He did not remember his age but assumed he was around 70 years old. Being his age, especially after all the struggles he has overcome throughout his years, his body was not only exhausted but his mind too. It was difficult for him to understand and answer questions. Slowly, villagers including one of chief’s of the village and his neighbors began to stand and sit near us talking. At first I thought of asking if they could stay back for privacy but I noticed that the old man became more comfortable with them there and they even helped to translate the questions in to ways the man understood better. With their help, the elder provided more thorough responses.
The elder told me that his biggest challenge occurs when he falls sick but his neighbor continues to help him. Continue reading
I spent this gone Friday and Saturday with a South Sudanese man who has just returned from South Sudan. I was amazed that he spent so much money just to go back and celebrate the independence with family and friends. I admired his patriotism. We talked about the current state of the new nation and what was the general public feeling and assessment of the government thus far. He said people are hopeful and confident that government will deliver, given time and “the benefit of the doubt.” Then he said something that was, well, off topic, but quit relevant to the research this summer.
He said that while in South Sudan he felt more American than he ever felt while in America. Continue reading
During our first small group discussion last weekend the topic of our conversation changed, rather imperceptibly , from examining the benefits of raising children in America to evaluating the importance of traditional marriage. I shouldn’t be that surprised, though, for the participants were mostly married people. I am not at liberty to disclose their names, of course, their occupations, their backgrounds, but there was a total of five: three men, all married, and two women, one married, and one at the threshold of being so (she just finished college and gentleman-callers, with serious intentions, are making themselves known!).
It wasn’t that unfortunate a turn, really, the topic change. Traditional marriage, we learn, entails more than patriarchy and polygamy. It presupposes expectations and imposes obligations to creating and maintaining the good family, the prerequisite for the good community. This is the argument that the male participants advanced. Although they were educated in the United States, their families in South Sudan arranged their marriages. They married the traditional way. They didn’t meet their wives, call on them, fall in love with them, and then propose—the way it is done in America usually and sometimes in South Sudan—no, not at all, they didn’t have to go through that ordeal. Nor did the wives. Everything was arranged. Continue reading