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
“After all, nothing is with me now, except for me. To pass 5th was great, 8th a bigger thing, 10th IC board in New Delhi, then Bachelors degree then Masters degree. And now everything is gone in my small drawer, everything is there. Imagine just life where it takes you what it takes you.”
Interview 15 was the most moving and fascinating interview I had. I spent over an hour speaking to a 42 year old man who comes from a wealthy Bhutanese family that owned 50 acres of land and a famous orange orchard before they were forcefully removed from Bhutan. Despite this, this man was able to get a scholarship for his Masters and Bachelors Degree and was a practicing dentist for seven years in Nepal. Now, he says that he has nothing and has experienced withdrawal symptoms and depression from leaving his career and country. He arrived in the United States in early 2011, less than two years ago.
During the interview, we were interrupted a few times because he instantly has to jump up and answer phone calls for his job as a medical interpreter. He was obligated to pick up the phone within 15 seconds and translate between Nepali and English during medical emergencies. For example, when I was there, he had to help give a woman the proper instructions to her child on the phone. Continue reading
In Jonathan Lear’s book, Radical Hope, the story of the Crow tribe leader, Plenty Coups, and his ability to lead the tribe to survival after facing cultural devastation is highlighted. The whole story focuses on Plenty Coups’ statement that “When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened.” Lear analyzed the actions of Plenty Coups and the tribe to discover what actually did happen and how they were able to keep hope after their way of life ended.
Over the past six weeks this is one of the main things I have been trying to do in Kagoma Gate. Many of the villagers have left their lives that they have always known—leaving their home villages, family and friends whether because of death or necessity to leave, and arrived in a completely foreign place with no known expectations. From the outside, just as many people claim the villagers of Kagoma Gate have no hope, people may also claim that after moving to Kagoma Gate “nothing happened”.
I have learned, though, that very much has happened. Continue reading
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
The past few weeks of the Kenan project have been very busy, exciting, and at times, frustrating.
During my last two weeks interning in DC, I met with a community of resettled families in the suburbs of Maryland and I visited their apartment complex three times. Once when I went after work, I remember getting off the metro and feeling quite unsafe even though it was only 6pm. I got into a taxi and the driver charged me double the price. Although I knew I was being ripped off, there was little I could do being a female alone in a part of the state I was not familiar with.
It was difficult to gain trust in this community, but I was lucky to get connected to the families through previous contacts who have been working with them on a continuous basis. I interviewed 7 individuals in person, 2 on the phone, and I will soon post a more detailed analysis about about these interviews, which I am still working on transcribing (it takes forever!)
This week, I am back in Massachusetts and have been meeting with community members everyday. Monday and Tuesday I spent both full days in Westfield, MA interviewing families, but also getting to spend some time with them casually—watching Curious George and Bollywood dance shows that they enjoy. Although there were more frustrations with coordinating times to meet with families, I have enjoyed being more immersed and getting a better sense of how the families live their everyday lives.
Today, however, I had a really unique opportunity to do something I love: I taught a 2 hour SAT class for a group of 16 high school Bhutanese refugees in New Hampshire. Continue reading
Throughout my time here in Uganda, when I tell people who are living near Kagoma Gate about my project, they often immediately say “Oh! They have no hope!” But throughout my own experiences with the actual villagers of Kagoma Gate, I have found that to not be true. The villagers so clearly have hope. In fact, many of the people I have spoken to have even said that Kagoma Gate is a good place to live and although they have struggles, their outlook on life is positive.
As I explained in my last blog, many of the founders of Kagoma Gate established the village after they broke their labor contract by having a spouse. People who have more recently arrived in Kagoma Gate have said to come for the same reason. Every time I go to Kagoma Gate and speak with more people and observe, the importance of family becomes more and more evident. A main purpose of Kagoma Gate is a place for spouses/families to live together. I have asked many villagers what their biggest hope/wish/dream is and the most common answers are to either see their children go to school or to return home to their family. Family always is a factor when hope is brought up.
I interviewed one lady this week who has been the only villager to state that she has no hope. Continue reading