Uganda a cultural adventure for Alberni youth

Brendan Hamilton shares his thoughts about a trip he took to Uganda last month to perform aid work with VIDEA, an NGO based out of Victoria.

  • Mar. 22, 2012 2:00 p.m.

Traffic is ‘maniacal’ in downtown Jinja. Brendan Hamilton snapped this shot of people and their possessions on the side of the road while travelling by car through the city.

Brendan Hamilton embarked on a trip to Uganda last month to perform aid work with Videa, an NGO based out of Victoria. Brendan is a member of the Hupacasath First Nation in Port Alberni and News reporter Wawmeesh G. Hamilton’s son.

We’re proud to have a second Hamilton sharing his writing and pics with us over the next few months.

 

When I first arrived in Uganda I had the pleasure meeting our Ugandan resource person.

At first, thinking that this man named Yasin was just going to be a supervisor of ours. Fast forward a month. Yasin has become more then a resource person. He has become my friend, my mentor and a brother I never had (I have four sisters).

A few times a week he (Yassin) likes to pop by our guest-house, check up on us, ask how’s work, anything troubling you these days? Little stuff like that is enough to comfort me and make me forget about how far away and how much I miss my home.

Jinja has felt like home. I’ve been to Kampala and Mosaka when I first rolled into Africa. Kampala is the capital of Uganda. Thousands of people everywhere at all times, and traffic is absolute anarchy. Mosaka is the opposite; small little town, not too much there other than a few restaurants and many little corner stores.

Jinja is the best of both worlds (No, I just didn’t quote Hannah Montana’s theme song). Jinja is the second largest city and the largest tourist destination in Uganda and…there are a lot of Mazuungas here.

A Mazuunga is a term that all Ugandans use to refer to a foreigner. At first I thought it meant ‘white man’ and I didn’t like it until I found out its true meaning.

The people here are never as I imagined. When I’m engaged in conversation with a random local (person), I get asked three questions. “How are you?” “How is life?” and “Do you like Uganda?” I will give the same three answers. I…always see a local smiling, and if they’re not smiling, they’re sleeping.

I’ve come to be-friend a local guy named Peter, maybe in his early 20’s who makes “rolexes” for a living… it’s not the cheap watch you buy at Walmart.

A rolex is a chipat’e (kind of like a tortilla wrap) and some eggs mixed with a variety of veggies. I like my rolex to have carrots, green peppers, onion, cabbage and tomatoes with a pinch of salt.

The vendor then cracks the eggs in a cup, mixes the veggies, beats it with a fork and pours the contents on a iron cast plate with a convex shape.

Sounds easy, but I remember my first omelette I made which eventually turned into scrambled eggs.

My favourite activity is to go to a café, sip on a cola and read the paper to catch up on current events.

I refuse to drink the coffee here because the first cup I tried, I was given a cup of hot water and fast dissolving coffee powder. I will pass on a cup of Joe until my return home.

So far my favourite place for breakfast/lunch is either the café Flavors or Ozzies: excellent burgers and sandwiches. As for dinner, I like the Chinese restaurant Ling Lings. That doesn’t say that I don’t like local food, it just gets repetitive at times.

The first few weeks I was here there were a couple of demonstrations, both violent ones. As much as I would love to witness such an event I have to put my personal safety first and the last thing I want is to be is locked up.

I’m avoiding such activities that might get me, to quote my hero Che Guevara, in any “bureaucratic nightmares”.

The guest house I’m staying in does not have a TV. I can watch all the TV I want whenever I want back home, but I can’t explore Jinja whenever I want.

Soccer here is very big; not many people I run into don’t watch the sport.

When I was in Isalo, a rural village in eastern Uganda, I watched the local boys play a game of soccer. These guys were the most phenomenal players I have ever seen in my 12 years I played the sport. They were playing on a field that was mostly dead grass, rocks and holes while barefoot.

These rural kids had the greatest ball handling skills, shooting capabilities, and their defense was solid. This goes to show that even something as small and fun as soccer, can make a person’s day really happy and joyful.

Follow Brendan Hamilton’s blog online at hamilton-media.blogspot.ca.

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