Tuesday, July 10, 2012

3 Crazy Days

Hi Everybody!
Although our blog posts are getting somewhat more few and far between, things are going great here in Bushenyi!  Thanks for the continual support, prayers, emails, letters, packages, and thoughts!  We miss you all and think of you often!  As of now we’re almost 17 months in - 9 or less to go!  Wow!  
Over the last week we have had enough events to fill an entire blog!  In our opinion, our lowest times of PC service have been those in which we have not been busy, and fortunately for us, this has not been a problem during the current term.  Rather, we’ve been wonderfully busy!  We’d love to share with you a bit about how we’ve been spending our time in the last few weeks.  So...if you’re game, keep on reading!  But brace yourself - this might be a long one!  
As I think we’ve mentioned, term 2 at the Primary Teacher’s College is the term to hit the ground running.  It’s the only term in the whole year that students are on campus for its entire duration.  No child study or practice teaching in the primary schools - just lots of time for classes, remedial lessons, meetings, clubs, sports, music, and the like!  It’s a great term and a great time to get things done, but it’s also a bit of a whirlwind!  And last week was an example of that!
Things really started to go crazy on Wednesday.  (Happy fourth of July by the way!  Being in Uganda sure does make us love the good ol’ US of A!)  Wednesday brought a “calm before the storm” staff meeting to brief ourselves for the coming few days.  Everyone was delegated responsibilities (which few would turn out to fulfill) and afternoon classes were canceled so that staff and students could prepare for the days to come!
Thursday - “We Live & Die in Music”
Thursday was our college inter-house MDD festival.  This meant that the four dormitories on campus prepared pieces and competed in Music, Dance, and Drama.  The four dorms on the BPTC campus are named after great universities in Africa - Johannesburg, Cairo, Makerere, and Ibadan.  Each dorm (boys and girls) competed in 6 different events - singing the national anthem, poetry, speeches, plays, traditional folk song, and traditional dancing.  The day started at 8 am (but, actually after 10.  Ah Ugandan time!) and trophies weren’t awarded until the sun was setting!  It was a very festive, very long day with lots of joy and lots of MDD!  During the obligatory event-ending speeches, one guest said that as Ugandans, “We are born into music, we live in music, and we die in music.”  So Thursday was a great celebration of that truth!
The lowlights:
  • Most of the folk songs presented all had some level of violence towards women
  • The guest adjudicators gave comments at the end and had absolutely nothing positive to say!
  • 4 performances in each category was a lot to handle - especially when 3 out of the 4 plays were exactly the same!
  • I can only endure hearing the national anthem so many times...
The highlights:
  • It was fun to see our kids have so much creativity and eagerness to be involved!
  • Traditional dancing is cool!!!
  • It was an entire day where nobody sat in a classroom and listened to a lecture!
  • The day overflowed with energy and excitement!
  • A special lunch was served - instead of the traditional (and oh so boring) posho and beans - we got gnuts, meat, cabbage, matooke, rice, fruit, and even sodas!  Bon appetit!
  • Throughout the day, we witnessed various students embrace leadership opportunities and perform with total confidence - such a stark change from their day to day role as meek, Ugandan students.
The day ended with flasks (thermoses for hot/cold beverages) being awarded to individual best performers, and the overall best trophy going to Johannesburg house!  They were absolutely thrilled and embraced their victory with elation!  
Friday - "Cartwheel Crazy”
Friday the competitions continued - this time in Games and Sports.  So, again, the houses rallied their best athletes to participate in four different events - gymnastics (seriously!), netball, football (soccer), and volleyball.  Ryan and I were in and out throughout the day, as we had Saturday’s event to prepare for, but we were able to participate in some of the events and cheer on the various houses!
The lowlights:
  • Our girls are not great at football.  The majority of the game consisted of the ball ricocheting across the field from out of bound line to out of bound line!
  • Sunburn!!!
  • Staff who laughed at students rather than encouraging them.
  • Absolute chaos in the organization of the event!
The highlights:
  • Great energy and lots of participation!
  • Learning how in the world netball is played!
  • Seeing our students participate in the gymnastics section: headstands, walking handstands, weird squatty stand things, and my favorite - the cartwheel!
    • During the cartwheel the students worked together to do what I can best describe as continuous team somersaults.  One student laid on top of the other, head to toe and toe to head, and they proceeded to cartwheel across the field.  Keep in mind, these kids  are between 16-23 - grown young adults “cartwheeling” across the grass (and occasionally face planting) with the utmost seriousness!  I loved it!
  • Observing as some of our inspired staff throw decorum to the wind to attempt some of the obscure gymnastic feats.  I think the memory of our college Principal attempting a head stand will linger forever in my mind!
  • Seeing some really spectacular athletes!
  • Having time to connect with students who were not participating at the time and realize the great depth of relationships we have with some of our students!
  • Team unity - so much cheering and excitement for their houses!
The sun set as the football matches were not yet complete.  So, the finals and awards were postponed until Saturday afternoon.  But, at the end of the day, Jo’burg was again victorious!  Another fun, albeit exhausting day!
Saturday - “Soundless Excitement”
Saturday was an event we have been working up to for months, and I am thrilled to report that it turned out to be an absolutely incredible day!
Silent Voices is a local NGO who works to train the parents of deaf children in Ugandan Sign Language and trains them to help reduce stigma and isolation of their special needs children.  Additionally, it works with local schools, units, and teachers to accommodate the education of deaf children in the region.  On Saturday, we partnered with them to host a “fun day” for 150 deaf children from Bushenyi district here at the college!
The day consisted of three different stations - carnival games on the pitch, arts and crafts, and “speakers” - secondary school students who have been able to succeed despite being deaf and came to share their life story through signing with hopes of inspiring younger children in their same position.  Deaf children in Uganda face significant challenges, and it was an inspiration to realize that they can succeed despite the many barriers that lay ahead of them.  It was a chance for the deaf children of the region to have fun, explore a new place, and meet other children like them.  For many of the children, this was the first time they were able to meet another child who was deaf, let alone 149 others!  The children also got a special lunch that day, complete with sodas!  They had giant smiles as they faced their mounded plates of food!  There was so much excitement and joy throughout the day, and we were thrilled to be able to be a part of making it all happen!
Ryan and I took the lead on the carnival games and had a wonderful time! We recruited 30 of our PTC students to help us run the event.  As most of our students have not had many interactions with children with special needs, it was an amazing experience for them to get to practice working with these children in a positive and fun way, as well as see first hand just how resilient and capable they are!  So, with the help of our wonderful PTC students, we ran 8 stations of games - pin the tail on the bull, obstacle course, bean bag toss, limbo, drip drip drop, sack race, water race, and spoon race.  It was an absolute blast!!! 
The lowlights:

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