DAY TWENTY-SIX

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Chris Brown and Beyonce

KAMBUGU and LETICIA  aka CHRIS BROWN and BEYONCE lovingly pet named by the children of Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy

Ok. For those who have been following my posts -you may have wondered what happened to the last 5 days of my 30.  For those looking at dates -you will be wondering what the heck happened to the year : )   Well… it certainly was not a boring year.  It was filled with great projects,  strong connections and the best kids ever to work with. Just to spice things up a bit – it was also a year that periodically threw me up into the air, spun me around and spat me out.  Thankfully, I always landed on my feet -back on track and a little disheveled with a little bit of “wtf just happened”  -but grateful that my rose tinted glasses got kicked off my face along the way. 😉

As I have mentioned before -the path I have chosen attracts both hearts and cons alike and that the best way to truly see what is on the ground – is to be on the ground.  Time and time again I am reminded that everyone can be anyone in the virtual world and everyone can be anyone -even when they are the ones walking the closest to you.

No one can really prepare you for what comes your way.  There were times when I found myself questioning my decision to travel this path  -disappointed at the many glass walls I found myself slamming into and surprised at the doors that banged shut.  Definitely all blessings and lessons in disguise.   Once in a while I do have to pick myself up by the collar but focusing on the kids that I am so fortunate to work with, and supported by strong individuals not motivated by spotlight nor greed, helps to keep me moving the most amazing projects forward.  Nothing like a little bit of weeding to move with the best.

It is always great to take a step back once in a while from both pain and pleasure to see things and myself from a different perspective.  To “see the forest from the trees” -so to speak – but never losing sight of the beautiful trees.  From where I am now looking -I can not help but be grateful that doors have shut behind those who were not meant to move with me.  “Sometimes a door must close for other doors to open,” I was told by two wise Ghana men, at a stopover in Amsterdam, en route home to Canada.  Yes.  A few doors have shut but many doors have opened, many more are opening and I feel I am still riding an incredible wave… and a song continues to play in my head, “look all around, there’s nothing but blues skies.”  ♥

DAY TWENTY-FOUR

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DAY TWENTY FOUR

Kabalagala, Uganda

“Open up the window. trees dancing for you, birds singing for you, I told them to do so because I love you. Good morning : )” Life is hard for many … but I am faced daily with smiles, laughter and beautiful words such as this. Everyone moves effortlessly and happily over the uneven grounds of Kabalagala many barefoot and not looking down.

Poverty and sadness is the Africa our media has played over and over for us.. yet I do not see the sad faces. “Bye Muzungu!” “How are u Muzungu?” “Jambo!” I see them, I hear them ..they cover their mouths with their little hands and giggle with each other as they mimic my, “Jambo mukwano!” response. Beautiful welcoming eyes and smiles – they stop whatever they are doing to quickly run to the side of the road, waving hello, to catch my eye. I can not help but smile today. Children are resilient and resourceful… they only know what is in front of them. What we deem as dangerous in the western world is the norm for toddler and adult alike here in Uganda. We have been pampered because our standards of safety are so high and it takes a while for me to navigate through and around the large holes and fast moving boda bodas and vehicles without clenching my toes as vehicles whip by as I try to keep my focus on the ground at the same time. Many of these little ones maneuver effortlessly on their own walking at the edges of narrow roads and my African friends smile in disbelief as I tell them that our pets can not eat chicken bones and fish bones as their African pets can.

In both of our worlds, our children see the joy and wonder in everything around them. In our world, we have managed to loose that sense of appreciation as we are bombarded with what the media tells us what to have, what we should wear, how we should live, who we should love and what we should do without. The African world is now bombarded with western values that have been trojaned into their world via the world wide web and television and slowly we are getting to peek into their lives as our media slowly shows us that not every African lives in poverty and despair.

How different are we at the end of the day. Sadly, We need not look farther than our own backyard to see poverty and despair. Many of our First Nations people in Canada are living in what we deem as third world conditions. In both our worlds – we have pockets of incredible wealth. We point our fingers at ourselves for being a wasteful society but move up a notch in the economic ladder of Africa and I am taken aback when I see what food makes it to their garbage. How different are we at the end of the day when money is no object.

DAY TWENTY-THREE

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DAY TWENTY-THREE

Sosolya en route
Kabalagala, Uganda

“70 Children Rescued.” My friend reads the headlines out to me and shows me the article in the daily newspaper that exposes an NGO. “It’s people and NGOs like this who make things so hard for the rest of us trying to do our work on the ground,” she comments. I don’t miss the frustration mixed with sadness in her voice.

CBOs, NGOs and INGOs -community based, national non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations. I am fairly new to this world of private organizations that support a cause but not new nor blame the skeptics who no longer want to reach into their pockets as yet another charitable organization is found to be corrupt. Truth somehow always prevails -so bought, bribed or built from the ground up… there are no short cuts for anyone at the end of the day.

We are not new to the questions of why we are doing what we are doing and assumptions that we are trying to save the world because of colonial guilt and/or feelings of first world superiority. It no longer comes as a surprise when yet another person voices their opinion that they believe we are arrogant enough to impose our beliefs and culture onto their people and children. We are no longer surprised by assumptions that many people still think that the lighter our skin colour the deeper our pockets -filled with quick-fix band-aid support and that in Canada and abroad -money “grows on trees”.  Coming from Trinidad and having friends from China, India, Jamaica, Ghana and even my Ugandan friends, who now live or study in Canada or abroad, face this assumption of wealth.

I find it amusing when I have to remind my African friends to hide me around corners when haling down a boda boda or a taxi or when they laugh and quickly bury me under hats and gear in buses when traffic police are seen up ahead. Most often than not -fees are raised no matter who’s colour is having to reach into their pockets to pay.

I know that every African friend who walks beside me has been changed a little as they have changed me. The little ones are surprised and question the difference in treatment. They are so cute when they then take on the role of my protector. My older friends smile and know that they must play this game of hide the muzungu and seek the ride, meal or item. I find I step back and play the supporting role by falling back or secretly passing money to my African friends to pay for my purchases -especially when prices are not openly displayed. Supermarkets and malls are not a problem but markets are. Sadly, I love markets -everything about markets. I am not angered by this treatment as I realize that we have endless years to tear through stereotypes on both our parts.

Why are we here? Why am I here? Yes -a cultural exchange program of photography workshops and micro businesses.. but why am I really here? For my friend, “You have lived in the other world – you know what reaching out is. I trust you more than someone who just wakes up and decides to save the world,” she is often told.

My friend is giving back. I, on the other hand, am not. However, I did not wake up suddenly and decide to save the world -I am not here to save Africa. I am not here to make myself feel better or superior because I am not able to do that in Canada. I am not here to become the next Ghandi or Mother Theresa. I am not selfless nor selfish and I am not stronger or happier than many of the lovely people I am meeting or working with here on the ground.

I am often sensitive and can be moved to tears from hurt, anger or happiness and sadly my sensitivity and compassion are mistaken, by some, as a weakness and assumptions are made that I am here to be protected. I am not here to be protected from the truth nor am I here to resolve world issues nor here to solve personal problems. My pockets are not deep and I am not a charity. Do not come to me with the intent to reach into my pocket and do not tell me how my pockets are the answer to your problems nor the reasons for your unhappiness. I am here for my children and I to see past the sadness and the poverty that our media throws at us and to see and share your beautiful traditions and culture starting with our friends  and, in turn, I hope that I can share the rich and diverse cultures we are so blessed with to have in Canada.  Together we can build tolerance and appreciation for our differences and our similarities.

Growing up in a working class  immigrant family  I was fortunate to have all that I needed but not all that I wanted.  Having lost my father at the age of eleven, I watched my mother raise seven children on her own.  My sister, Mary, was only twenty-three and at the time I didn’t realize that the older ones took on the difficult roles of both parent and sibling.   Looking back, I realize that not getting everything we wanted made us grateful for the little extras that did come around and made us aware that initiative and hard work paid off.   Am I giving back? Yes, I guess I am -To all of those special adults and siblings in my life who took the time to tell me that I could make a difference in the world if I believed I could. As a child, the most important thing was that they believed in me and I continue to keep their words close to me and share them with the children and youth I am so fortunate to work with.

This trip has opened my heart and closed it at the same time. I had begun to question my judgment of character and had begun to find it hard to trust as I found our line of work was a target for cons and hearts alike. I found that I had begun to doubt those that came close as I had judged a few people so poorly. Yet I look around at those who have been keeping pace with me and know that I have chosen wisely and will again.

I still try to shake the sadness I feel of lost closeness but realize that it is more important to see them as blessings in disguise and that I can no longer blindly trust those who seemingly wear their hearts on their sleeves. The string of cliches fill my head and rings true more so now than ever before. Necessary lessons as I move deeper into this line of work. As I move each project forward with those I trust implicitly and with those new hearts that join in -I realize that the lines between work and play have blurred once again.

DAY TWENTY-TWO

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DAY TWENTY-TWO

watching grass grow in Gaba, Uganda

Watching paint dry
Watching water boil
watching the grass grow.. all Canadian expressions used to describe maximum effort with minimum return. arg -I am watching the little dot go around and around on my laptop -telling me to be patient… I will be connected! I laugh as I see myself growing crazy with impatience : )

Mother Africa is teaching me patience… and reluctantly I sit back and distract myself by opening several other pages on a second search engine -Juggling all that along with sheer jealousy that my friend beside me is smiling (at my pain) and is moving fast and furiously on her laptop.

I look back at my screen … arg i am faced with more dots going around and around lol! ok… i surrender to the forced moments of rest. Yet I fail to stop my mind from quickly racing to all that I need and want to do before I leave. My days are numbered and my sadness to leave Uganda is softened by thoughts of seeing my children, kaia and wyatt. I smile as I remember Wyatt’s words on the day I left Toronto.  He saw the disappointment on my face as I had to keep taking things out of my suitcase at the airport that were tipping the scales past my limit.  “Don’t worry Mom – You will take it next time you go.”

Ok…. I convince my friend to take me to water and I will drink..…If I am to still my thoughts and my spirit let it be by one of my most favourite spots in kampala.

DAY TWENTY-ONE

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DAY TWENTY-ONE

Photography Workshop and Water Project
Kiwafu, Uganda 2012

Today KIDS CANADA takes our water project one step farther with the generous support of our friends at Tiva Water Kampala. Webale nyo/ thank you Daniel Ololia and Wilter Ololia for training our youth in marketing, sales, assembly and distribution.

2 hour classes for 3 days will ensure all purchases of Tiva biosand water filters, through fundraising not only from Kids Canada but from Kids Uganda themselves, will be assembled by our youth. The commission earned will help them with their school fees and business initiatives. Representatives from Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy, PTMOF, Great Valley Children’s Centre , Undugu Family Drummers and Step Up Uganda will be meeting with Daniel and his team leaders, Lilian and Charles, this morning.

Thank you Mark Quan for the inspiration and Sara Cohen for getting the project flying off the ground by recommending Daniel Ololia. Mark is already on the move with Daniel to get Tivas to the schools Mark volunteered with in Kenya July 2012. Webale nyo danx0x

DAY TWENTY

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DAY TWENTY

This first-of-its-kind Toronto-Kampala Sushi-Making Direct-Feed hosted by Sang Kim, restauranteur extraordinaire, in Toronto.  Thank you ISP Africa for generously hosting the event, Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy, PTMOF, Kyoto Japanese Restaurant, Undugu Family Drummers, Great Valley Children’s Centre Nursary & Primary School, Step up Uganda, Kasozi Standard Primary School, Gabba Model Primary School and  Sunrise Home of Kampala.

“I’m not smoking that.” BB is quick to say but laughs along with us as he realizes that we had said Sushi not Shishax, a form of flavoured tobacco smoked using beautiful glass Turkish water pipes. At Kyoto Japanese Restaurant, our Kampala sponsor for our Sushi making event, you can have either – or venture into the foods of Turkey or other parts of the world.

Ahmet Rende, owner of Kyoto,  introduces us to their deliciously prepared etli Ekmek -a typical plate of Turkish flatbread with ground meat served with a side salad of tomatoes and onions to be used as a topping. Ahmet had the chef prepare the ground beef with a little chili -needless to say we will be returning before I leave Kampala. At Kyoto it is called lahmacun -using their main language, Arabic.

Today -we hear and see Sang on the computer via skype. “What do you think of when you hear the word sushi?” Sang Kim of Yakitori Bar and Seoul Food Co. asks Kids Canada and Kids Uganda at the start of our Toronto-Kampala Sushi-making Direct-Feed event.

“Rice!!” they say in Kampala. “Raw fish!” we hear from Toronto. Sang explains that sushi actually means seasoned rice and quickly the 10 children in Toronto introduce themselves and watch as the 27 children, representing all of the organizations Kids Canada is partnering with, do the same.

Sosolya started off the event with dances from various parts of Africa and the Undugu Family Drummers showed our Toronto kids the traditional drumming and dancing of Burundi – a neighbouring country. Everyone was charmed to see all of the kids in Toronto up on their feet dancing along from across the ocean.

The event was incredibly exciting for our kids here in Kampala (and the onlookers) as they got to dip their hands into water, grab handfuls of sticky rice and feel the textures of nori. Everyone wanted to know when we were going to make sushi again!

It was another successful story of Sang’s uncanny ability to capture our attention, hold it and to fill our heads with delicious words and our mouths with delicious flavours. We are all charmed watching our little ones step off the edge and into a culinary adventure.

I smile as I see Sang has everyone in both Toronto and Kampala jumping in, not only with both feet -but with both hands and mouth.

DAY NINETEEN

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DAY NINETEEN

THANK YOU Robert Delaney
rob@transmedia9.com
FOR THIS MOST AWESOME PRESS RELEASE and for your ongoing support from day one! x0x

Toronto Restaurateur, Sang Kim, and Kids Canada Founder, Maylynn Quan, Plan “Toronto-Kampala Sushi-Making Direct-Feed”

TORONTO, April 5, 2013 /CNW/ – Toronto restaurateur Sang Kim is teaming up with Kids Canada for a direct feed between Toronto and Kampala that will teach kids on both sides the art of sushi making. This first-of-its-kind Toronto-Kampala Sushi-Making Direct-Feed is the latest in a series of events organized by Kim to use sushi to promote food culture, cross-cultural understanding, and fun.

Taking place at Kim’s Yakitori Bar (the latest venture from the creative force behind Toronto’s Blowfish and KI Modern Japanese), the Direct-Feed will link groups of children in these two distant locations will via Skype to learn how to make Japan’s most famous export, now enjoyed on every continent. They’ll be given all the necessary ingredients, taught the basic sushi-making technique, and then given a chance to bond with one another through the creative exercise of their newly-learned craft.

Kim teamed up with Maylynn Quan, a local photographer and founder of Kids Canada (kidscanada.wordpress.com), which uses photography workshops, pen pal projects and micro businesses to connect and empower youth in both Uganda and Canada. Kids Canada has organized activities jointly with organizations in Uganda, including Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy, Jeune Batimbo, PTMOF, Great Valley Children’s Centre, Kasozi, and Step Up Uganda. Quan has received various forms of support for her work from Toronto’s Downtown Camera, Dundas Public School, Toronto School of First Nations, and Toronto Kiwanis Girls and Boys Club, and Yakitori Bar.

When not writing or cooking up another restaurant concept, Kim organizes events and classes that allow people of all ages to interact by creating something delicious. His sushi-making workshops, for various organizations and individuals, have engaged thousands of people in the city of Toronto. The insights Kim has gained while leading people on the path to discovery through sushi are documented on his blog, http://www.sushimakingforthesoul.com.

Kim and Quan hope that the fun and cross-pollination they expect from the Toronto-Kampala Sushi-Making Direct-Feed will help lead all of its young participants to fulfilling futures, rich with creativity and success.

SOURCE: TransMedia9 Inc.
Contact:

Sang Kim
info@yakitoribar.ca
+1 647-748-0083

DAY EIGHTEEN

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DAY EIGHTEEN

Francis and Adrienne Mugwanya
mugwanyafamily@gmail.com

Francis Mugwanya is the Founder and Director at Father’s Heart Mobility Ministry. Francis and Adrienne’s dream: No one having to crawl to get around anymore.

This chair is for a young girl, Brenda, at John Bosco School in Katosi who outgrew hers. She does not go to school because she has no mobility. John Bosco is a Step Up Uganda initiative. Thank you again Ema for connecting us to your friends at Father’s Heart Mobility Ministry. Francis and his Canadian wife, Adrienne, are making an incredible difference to the lives of many here on the ground of Kampala.

Heartfelt thanks once again to all of the generous donors of Kids Canada -we could not do all that we do without your support -not only monetarily but with the generous giving of your time and your belief in the project!!!

Tomorrow – Sunday April 14th 10am Toronto time -5pm Kampala time – Sang Kim, restauranteur extraordinaire, will be changing the world!! He has changed mine in less than 30 days of meeting him!

webale nyo
asante sana
thank you…
x0xmaylynn

DAY SIXTEEN

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MAMA

Burundi Market -dried fish

“Karibu!” That swahili word of welcome still warms my heart. I love meeting new people. I love hearing their stories, what makes them wake up in the morning and what puts a smile on their faces just before they sleep. If I am able to inspire at least one person every so often to move forward with their dreams then I will feel I have moved my own.

“People love our mom,” I am told when I ask them how she survives with so many other dried fish vendors next to her. Mama wakes before her children and walks for an hour to her new place in the market. A month ago – the old market she worked in had burnt down -displacing hundreds of vendors. In the evening when she returns, often carrying fruits, vegetables and other provisions on her head, she is tired but her warm beautiful smile never leaves her face.  Mama doesn’t speak French nor English…but her heart speaks volumes.  Raising six kids on her own, as a single mom for the last 9 years, has made her children strong. They dote on her and hope that the new business projects we have started together will help her and the other moms in their dance group.

When we meet new people we never know who will be but a passing exchange of words or who will slip quietly or boisterously into your heart until it is time to say goodbye. As the motos (motorcycle taxis/ boda bodas in Kampala) arrive much too quickly and we rush to jump on with our knapsacks -I quickly hug my new friends from Burundi goodbye. I was sad at first that I missed saying goodbye this morning to the little ones but grateful that they were not there because the cold morning air, as the motos whipped through the streets, was not hitting my face hard enough to keep my sadness away.  I was already missing my Burundian friends by the time I was on the bus… a bus not yet filled with passengers and their hastily purchases of snacks and water.