As almost everyone in Northern Uganda says, water is life and life cannot continue without water. To emphasize how important water is to the people of Northern Uganda, I want to highlight the difficulties that they face. In the United States we don’t usually face difficulties with water because we don’t realize how heavily we rely on it because it is available at our fingertips. Some of the biggest challenges with water are that villages are very large and it’s an extremely long distance to get to water sources and the lines to use the water sources are also extremely long. There is such a small amount of water and usually people can only bring back one Jerry Can at a time so it takes multiple trips to get an adequate amount of water. The villages that people live in are often very spread apart from the water sources and sometimes a walk to the closest water source can be as long as 2 km. Boreholes also break very often because they are not maintained monthly, and getting enough money for repairs is very difficult because people in the village often don’t have any extra money to spare. Although the villages do have water and sanitation committees to organize these repairs, pipes bursting and rusting are still very expensive and the village cannot collect enough money to usually pay for the repairs. Another problem with getting clean water is that normally it takes around 20 to 30 minutes just to pump other hand pump from the borehole even before water comes out in addition to this children are often the ones that are collecting water and most of the time they don’t know how to properly use the hand pump so they often are slamming it down so it breaks really easily. A solution to some of these problems could be drilling another borehole or new wells near the villages or pumping water from the Nile through a pipe leading to the villages that surround the river. We can also see that water is extremely important to the people of north and Uganda because they have mini customs about water some of these customs include not fighting Atwater points including while waiting in line for a bore hole or waiting in line for a spring as well as when you’re at the Nile collecting water you’re not allowed to fight anywhere near the water site. Another custom is that there can be no fighting for water so someone has collected water and they are walking back to the village you’re not allowed to fight in order to take the water away from a person. Another custom is that if women are pregnant you cannot fetch water until 8 AM and if you have just given birth you were not allowed to fetch water at all in addition to this you cannot wash any eating utensils at the river or else you’ll get a taboo put on to you which basically means you’ll get a curse put onto you and your family. The reason I chose to include a picture of a borehole with a hand pump is to just show how many people get their water in the villages of Northern Uganda. This picture is an example of a well-maintained borehole since it does have the concrete around it and the concrete is it cracked however this borehole does not have any fencing around it to keep animals away from it nor does it have a card to keep the hand pump from crashing completely all the way down onto the rest of the metal structure.
Although I have been to Gulu before, there were many things that I noticed this summer that I didn’t notice my first time here. My impression of the town has definitely changed since the last time I was here. The first time I arrived in Gulu I remember being overwhelmed by the differences between Gulu and the cities in the United States. This time however, these differences no longer overwhelm me because I was expecting them this summer. Some of the most noticeable differences were with the roads and the buildings. These differences were most noticeable because they are the ones you can see immediately when you arrive in Gulu, but you are also reminded of them every time you walk or drive through town. Unlike the United States, Gulu does not have stop signs, yield signs, stop lights, or really any traffic right away rules. In the United States, traffic rules are taken very seriously and we get tickets for simply turning into the incorrect lane. Because Gulu has a lack of these traffic signs and rules, I was surprised to see that they have a driving school. In addition to differences in roads, there are also differences in buildings.
The buildings in Gulu are very close together and don’t really have parking lots or parking spaces in front of them like the more spread apart buildings in the United States do. I also noticed that walking is a major mode of transportation in Gulu. Coming from Dallas, a city where most people drive cars or take public transportation (buses and trains) to every destination, it was very different to see so many people walking to every one of their destinations, especially when the walk was a pretty long distance. People from cities such as New York City or Chicago may be less overwhelmed by these differences because these cities tend to be more compact and walking is also a major mode of transportation.
Aside from these viewable differences, I also noticed that greetings are very important in Gulu, and very often people will greet you just as you pass them on the street. As I mention this I realize that we may get more greetings from people simply because we are “mzungus”. In Dallas people are friendly, but often times people keep to themselves when walking and are mostly focused on their own agenda rather than interacting with others. Along with these interactions, I also noticed that people in Gulu will say “sorry” to you when you experience any sort of mishap. For example, if you are walking down the street and trip over a ledge, almost everyone around you will sort of mumble “sorry” under their breath or even say it directly to you. Many people also say “you are welcome” in the sense that they are happy to have you in their shop or happy to see you, not in the sense of a response to thank you. Another specific detail I noticed is that in Gulu, “to let,” which is placed on buildings, is the equivalent of “to lease” in the United States. I was really excited that I was able to discover new things about the community we were staying in. I chose to include the picture of the Uganda flag on this journal entry because I wanted to represent the community we were experiencing.
I have written about Sooners Without Borders for the past two semesters, and I am here to do an update on my experience with the program this past semester. Unfortunately, I do think that this will be my last semester with Sooners Without Borders, just because the program doesn’t meet as often as I would like, and also doesn’t do as many programs as I would like. I think I mentioned this earlier, but the organization is aimed a little bit more toward engineering majors, and since I am not engineering, it really isn’t inline with my interests or career plans. In fact, the organization did used to be called Engineers without Borders, but the name of the program was changed so it would appeal to students of all majors, but most of the students involved are engineering majors and the main trip it does to El Salvador during spring break is engineering oriented. Also, a lot of the members are older, and many are even graduate students, so I haven’t really made any relationships with people in the organization. Meetings still don’t happen every week, which I wish they did, but instead are based on when the group has a speaker. The president of the group will send out an email alerting everyone that there will be a meeting that week, however often times this meeting is sent last minute. The organization does still have a relationship with Earth Rebirth. I mentioned this in my post about Sooners Without Borders last semester, but it’s still so interesting how last spring semester we discussed doing a bottle house fundraiser for Sister Rosemary, and then I actually got to go to Uganda and see a bottle house in person. It was amazing how at the time I really didn’t know anything about Sister Rosemary, but a few months later I developed a personal relationship with her that will continue for many years to come. Collection of water bottles for these houses is really important because the houses are truly built from thousands of water bottles, and in Uganda it is extremely expensive to buy bottles of water. Fun Fact: The bottle houses are really cool inside, even when it is extremely hot outside, and there is no air conditioning in these houses. I am really excited to see the new progress that the compounds in Uganda have made with the pop bottle houses.
Last year I applied to be part of the Global Engagement Fellowship Advisory Board (this was the first time there was to be an advisory board). I applied to be a member of the Recruitment team because I really want to help promote the program to high school students. I love talking to younger students about activities that I am passionate about, and I am truly passionate about the GEF program. Because I studied abroad in Uganda last summer, I hoped to use my experience abroad to get high school students who were planning on attending OU to apply for the fellowship! I had the idea to film my experience, vlogging style, and put together a short video that could be used basically as a recruitment video to get younger students interested in studying abroad. I did get some video of my trip, but not as much as I wanted. Since I am going to Uganda again this summer, I hope I can get some more footage so that I can make a more complete video of my time there. I think I mentioned this about the program, but I just happened to stumble upon this opportunity when I was on my OU account, but I hadn’t heard of it until right before the application was due. I was very lucky to notice a little blurb about the program, but I am sure many people missed the opportunity to apply because they didn’t know about the program. I really want every student applying to OU to be aware of the program. My goal is to make a recruitment video that shows how awesome it is to go abroad, and basically inspire people to not only apply to the program if they are eligible, but also to get those students who are already at OU, who aren’t eligible for the program, to study abroad anyway. I think we really need to go out and speak to high schoolers so they know how relevant the program is. Without the GEF program, I wouldn’t be able to study abroad, so I want every student to have the opportunity to visit other countries and learn about different cultures. I cannot wait to go to Uganda in June and vlog my entire experience. I plan to make several short clips to post on here, but my actual recruitment video will be more action (go pro) style. Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to do anything with the advisory board this year, but we did have a few meetings early on to discuss what recruitment could look like. I really hope we continue the advisory board and get to do some great recruiting in the future!
I just realized that I never talked about my Spring Break trip! Over Spring Break I had the opportunity to travel to Europe. This was my first time in Europe, and my second time abroad. The only thing was that this time… I was traveling completely by myself. One of my best friends, Libby, is studying abroad in London this semester, and she invited me to spend the week with her. I could not believe that I was going to get this opportunity! I never really had plans to travel to London, but because this opportunity fell in my lap, I was definitely not going to turn it down! I took three flights to get to the Heathrow Airport and then met up with Libby. Her school is located in Hatfield, which is just a train ride away from central London. In addition to getting to explore London, we also took a trip to Paris! The two of us hopped on a flight and spent two days in Paris. It was amazing! Of course I got to visit the Eiffel Tower, but to be honest I was definitely afraid of how high up in the air we were! The entire trip was definitely a once in a lifetime trip, and I was so happy to get to spend it with one of my best friends! Some of the other places we visited were:
London Ice Bar
Shopping on Oxford Circus
St. James Park
Arc De Triumph
Let’s talk about Global Engagement Day. This was my first time being on a panel for the event, and I really enjoyed answering questions from other Global Engagement Fellows. I was on the panel about non-traditional study abroad. I studied abroad in Uganda last summer, so this location definitely qualified as non-traditional. Not too many people study abroad in Africa, and if I’m correct the other main country that does a study abroad program at OU is Tanzania (the journey program). In fact, last year when I was on the Uganda trip, there was somebody in the group who had previously studied abroad with the Tanzania Journey Program. I talked about this at the panel, but although I would like to work in other African countries, I think that during my time at OU I will only be studying abroad in Uganda. I got asked why I wasn’t planning on studying elsewhere, ans as of right now I would really like to establish a relationship with St. Monica School. The School is run by Sister Rosemary, and I would like to intern at the clinic there next summer. On the panel we also talked about safety, stereotypes, weird food items, and our overall experience. Of course, since I am going back to Uganda this summer, it was easy to say that the study abroad trip was absolutely amazing. For next year, I am excited to be on a panel again so I can talk more about Uganda, and I may even have a digital story to share this time!
At the beginning of this past semester (Spring 2017), Sister Rosemary came to speak at OU. Sister Rosemary came to speak to students about St. Monica School in Gulu, as well as about other projects that she was working on. The first time I heard Sister Rosemary speak was when I was a freshman in President’s Community Scholars. We were lucky enough to hear about her life in Uganda. After hearing her speak, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Uganda. I was really happy to sit down with Sister Rosemary and students who were thinking about studying abroad in Uganda after the speech. We met in one of the lounges in the Union and got to describe our experience in Uganda. Since I was on the Water Track, I spoke about our contributions to a water sanitation project in Gulu. It was great to talk about what we learned while on the trip, and to encourage other students to go on the trip. Although I loved talking with other students, of course I really loved getting to hear Sister Rosemary speak again. I don’t think any of her speeches will ever get old to me. She is an inspiration, and I am so lucky that I have gotten the chance to work with her.
Let’s talk about time. Time goes by so quickly. I cannot comprehend that I am halfway to a college degree. Even more, I cannot believe that I am halfway done with OU. This semester I took Criminology, Spanish, Global Security, Methods of Social Research, and Inequality in a Global Perspective. I really enjoyed my classes this semester. My favorite class was Inequality in a Global Perspective. It is a Sociology class. I really enjoyed it because it covered inequality within and between countries. I really enjoy learning about differences between countries, and my professor was really knowledgeable about the many topics we covered. My second favorite class was Global Security. I will admit, it was a little frightening learning about all of the security difficulties that occur between countries, and I kind of feel like ignorance really is bliss when it comes to this topic, but in the end it is beneficial to know how countries interact with each other when it comes to the military, cyber-security, politics, and ally relations. Before taking this class, I didn’t really have much knowledge on relations between certain countries, but now I know a lot more about how states act in the global community. This was the first class I took for my International Security minor, and I really think everyone should at least minor in some type of International Area Study. I really picked up on my Spanish this semester. I can really hold a conversation with native speakers, although I still comprehend and speak much slower than they do! I am excited to work at Braum’s this summer so I can practice my Spanish (we have a lot of Spanish speakers that come in and order food and they often expect me to speak Spanish).
*In replacement of Spring GEF meeting
I attended an event on the Syrian Refugee Crisis. The event took place on Wednesday, April 12th and was hosted in Farzaneh Hall 146.
The event began with us watching the Documentary 4.1 Miles. The documentary is a short film that follows one man who lives in Greece. He takes his boat out into the ocean and helps to rescue refugees who are struggling in tiny rafts, and often times helps people who are just swimming and struggling in open water. It was a very difficult film to watch because it documents infants, kids, and adults in the unbelievable, frightening situations of trying to escape from Syria. I would suggest that anyone who has the opportunity to watch the film does. The film is only about 20 minutes, and it is extremely moving and eye-opening. After the film we had a short discussion with a few professors from IAS. We discussed how and why we are so obsessed with security in our own country, but tend to forget/ignore the security of people in other countries, even in our ally countries. We talked about how our opinions are shaped by populist politics. Our president has ridiculed the German Chancellor because of her dedication to standing with the European Union’s values, especially regarding the refugee crisis, but really it is something we should be applauding. Germany and Sweden are two of the countries that have taken the largest number of refugees. We discussed what obligations the United States has to the rest of the world when it comes to accepting refugees, and in my opinion we are not even doing close to what we should be doing and are able to do. We really need a call for leadership and moral courage because right now the current administration is playing on peoples’ fears of foreigners. Currently there are about 21.3 million refugees. Of those refugees 5,2 million are Palestinians and 4.9 million are Syrians. It’s also interesting that most refugees are hosted in very poor countries (Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Ethiopia, and Jordan) but it seems as though countries like the United States who have many more resources should be the ones hosting refugees.
*in place of attending Fall Meeting
I attended India Nite Fusion on Saturday April 22nd at Reynolds Performing Arts Center. The event was presented by South Asian Student Association. This was the first event I attended that had been presented by this organization. India Nite began with the National Anthems of both the United States and India. This was the first time I had heard the National Anthem of India. I found it interesting that much of the crowd sang along pretty loudly to the national anthem. In the United States it seems that we kind of sing the song to ourselves when it is playing, but rarely do I ever hear people singing it out loud. I also found it interesting that during the national anthem of India, everyone kept their right hand over their chest. I guess I never realized that many countries have some of the same customs when it comes to their national anthem, but now when I think about it when I watch the Olympics I often see competitors from other countries holding their right hand over their heart during the singing of their country’s national anthem. India Nite was a dance competition between a variety of different teams. There was the Chalak group, the Soniyes, Texas A&M’s Chingaarii, Sapna, and UTD’s Sharara group. I had a ton of fun watching all of the dances, and I loved how you could see each of the teams incorporating many styles of dance. There was hip-hop, ballet, jazz, and traditional dance incorporated into each of the performances. All of the performers were so vibrant with their facial expressions, and the costumes were bright, sparkly, and looked great from the audience! After the show we went to the dinner that was part of the event. My favorite part of the meal was the naan bread! I love naan bread and I definitely had way too many pieces. I will definitely be attending more events put on by the South Asian Student Association, and I cannot wait for India Nite 2018.