DAY FIFTEEN

Image

DAY FIFTEEN

EDWARD -an example of inspiration: kids helping themselves and their families
Bujumbura, Burundi

“Feed inspiration not desperation.” My dear friend, Lise Janelle’s words often rings in my ears and those of my children. I live this more so, now. Kids Canada is all about feeding inspiration. My trip to Africa last October quickly made me realize that I was often not seen as Maylynn nor as an artist, mother nor a friend but as a muzungu -a bottomless source of funds for gas, meals, favours, supposed short term loans, incidentals and bio-sand water filters. I’m so tired of hands trying to reach into my pockets… be it here in Africa or in Canada.

I have learned this lesson time and time again for years yet find that the lessons continue to come at me as I have failed to “walk the talk” in my personal life. Feeding desperation creates dependency and the moment you stop feeding desperation to feed your own needs, be it desperation or inspiration -the receiver of your debilitating kindness often does not see what has been done in the past for them but only what is not momentarily there. You are not greeted with selfless support in return but surprisingly and painfully faced with anger and accusations of abandonment for stopping to think of your own needs.

I do not blame them. I had fed desperation and supported their victim within in my blindness to play the role of a supportive friend. I often remember and remind those who find themselves uncomfortably in the role of rescuer that when I trained as a lifeguard in high school for example -it was drilled into our cores to always remember to place an object between ourselves and those we are rescuing. We were told that in desperation, in this case fear of drowning, one thinks only of one’s own survival and will drown you in the process -along with themselves. We were told to move away from them, push them away if need be, and shout at them to hold onto the object and not onto you. Friends remind me that on flights we are told to place oxygen masks on ourselves before loved one. A most difficult priority to factor in when you instinctively place loved ones ahead of yourself.

Today -I am sad and try not to look back at who and what I thought was going to be so much a part of my journey but grateful for those who still walk quickly beside me – often holding my hand so that those human sized pot holes and oncoming objects coming from everywhere do not slow us all down. Today, I hold hands with PTMOF to rescue a young teen mom and her baby who have been on the streets for 4 days. Today, I once again, am grateful for my friends and family, especially for Andrew, Kaia and Wyatt -who have not screamed in anger at me or accused me of abandoning them while I walk, run or fly on my own to think only about myself for a short while…

DAY FOURTEEN

Image

muchopo

Muchopo

“C’est une tete?” I asked my friends… because I think I see teeth despite the darkness of the night and the dim lights of Bwiza, the Congolese/Senegalese area of Bujumbura. “Oui, C’est une tete du Mouton. Muchopo.” They reply nonchalantly. “Ca va?”

“Of course I am fine with that!” Guess that would be the polite Canadian in me replying as I try to keep my fingers filled with the Casava bread on the side -dense dough like pieces which have been sliced to accompany the muchopo. If I keep picking at the unusual bone in my hand -no one will notice I am not able to get over my embarrassing inability to get over the part that says that the part I am eating is the head part of a sheep.

Tresor looks at me and I can not stop laughing because his eyes search mine deeply -so obviously looking to see if there is any truth in my words. Why am I laughing uncontrollably? Only my cousin Nathalie could answer that! LOL I suppose I am uncomfortable with my inability to embrace my Trinidadian and Chinese cultures – both cultures indulge in specialties of animal parts that are usually discarded or turned into hotdogs or pet food in Canada.

My dear, sweet friends laugh and tell me that I am experiencing Africa through one of its local dishes. Bwiza does not sleep – muchopo restaurants line both sides of the street and tables are filled with locals all diving into heaping plates of muchopo and oversized (to me) bottles of beer.

Clemence and Jean Paul see me deciding on what part to approach and pass me the more “meatier” bits. Crunchy and quite tasty but I am still unable to stop laughing at my ridiculous inability to eat something because I asked what it was! I persevere as I am in training for my street food adventures with my street foodie friends, Sang Kim and Sora Olah. OK – that meatier piece was not meatier-like at all… “keep chewing -it is so NOT the tongue.” I tell myself -hoping to drown out all of the, “OMGs -it IS the tongue!” in my head!!
; )

DAY THIRTEEN

Image

DAY TWELVE

Pastor Pierre et Pastor Vital
Cibitoke to Bujumbura, Burundi

“How do you find Burundi?” I am asked. The smartly dressed Burundians that sit close to me on the bus smile warmly and nod hello. Absolutely beautiful and its people are as welcoming and as curious as those I find in Kampala.

I am asked what brings me to Burundi. I reply, “visiting friends. We work together in Kampala, Uganda.” I tell them about Kids Canada and about my “How to change the world in 30 days” blog when they asked to hear more about my work. Pastor Vitale smiles and tells me his dreams are of restoration: spiritual, economic and financial for both men and women. He dreams and Pastor Pierre implements his ideas.

When buses and cars stop -we are instantly surrounded by vendors selling newspapers, sunglasses, snacks, bread, drinks, belts -almost anything imaginable that you might need or not need at the moment. Every working mother’s dream when challenged by sleeping children and little time or energy to unload and to load little bodies in and out of a car to grab a bite or to do any shopping.

Pineapples and avocados have become my weakness in Africa. Knowing this, my friend quickly calls out for one of the pineapples… Sadly we do not have the small change they need. I watch as shillings pass by me and tomatoes and other produce are passed through our windows. A pineapple comes next and then realize later that one of my new traveling friends had bought the pineapple for us! “It is a Burundian custom to take care of our visitors,” Pastor Vitale says with a smile. “If you hadn’t already payed for your fare -we would have payed for you.”

I am filled with the warmth of his words, their smiles and their eyes.

DAY TWELVE

Image

DAY TWELVE

CIBITOKE, BURUNDI

Adding Burundi to my list of making babies cry : (
“Seriously!” I tell my friends. “Their moms laugh and tell me that their baby has never seen a muzungu before.” I can imagine how scary it must be for little ones to see someone so drained of beautiful colour : )

Visiting my friend’s family in Cibitoke- I am apparently one of the “nice” muzungus passing through their village. Most muzungus they see passing through are foreign soldiers who, I admit, would scare even me.

Jean holds my hand as many of my African friends comfortably do – mostly to keep me safe from passing vehicles and from falling into human sized holes but I tease them that I am convinced it is to show everyone that i am friendly! : )
However, It does not manage to keep the more aggressive money seeking locals away from me. I am fooled by their warm hellos but quickly we are able to cut them short as it is not unlike those I find in Toronto approaching me with their little stories of desperation.

“I’m so sorry, Maylynn…” many of my African friends apologize. “I am a little embarrassed that Africans shout out muzungu and continue to feel they can ask muzungus for money.” I assure them that I understand that my presence is often a first to many and that slowly many misconceptions we all have will change as both our worlds slowly open up courtesy of the world wide web and with more travelers passing through. More and more we are moving towards cultural exchange and the introduction of sustainable development and projects not just handouts. Slowly those I meet and share more than a hello or a smile with learn that not all Muzungus are rich nor are all Africans starving and living in destitute conditions as many are shown in the media of the past.

DAY ELEVEN

Image

DAY ELEVEN

FOOTBALL

Trying out a new pace – I admit it was hard to gear down from my Toronto time centred life where I wear many hats – all demanding that I work around and along multiple schedules. However, I am learning that Africa moves at its own pace regardless of how fast I want to move ; ) My Ugandan friends that travel back and forth admit that the speed in which we move in Toronto is much faster and exhausting. The hot African sun slows us all down and I move at a less stressful pace – occasionally riding a wave of energy when I hit someone that is moving as fast as my mind is : )

Today I slowed down long enough to appreciate this particular piece of art made by the Burundian children themselves. The 3 Rs – Reuse, Recycle, Reduce….  so much a part of our lives here in the west  yet second nature for our kids here in many areas of Africa.  So – who exactly needs to teach who?

DAY TEN

Image

DAY TEN

BUS TO BURUNDI

Never mind the “baby head” bobs one jokes about to describe the embarrassing moments when we fall asleep sitting in a car or anywhere in public – this 12 hour bus ride to Burundi had us all dancing Burundian style. Heads not bobbing but swinging side to side and around and bumps that had us jumping clear off our seats! You can check out my friends here from Jeune Batimbo during one of their practices last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSLMUDKM7

The speakers threw out loud cool African music as we tore through the hills of Uganda and Rwanda and reminded me of my bus rides through the Moroccan Atlas mountains years ago. I suppose this bus ride was not as “breathtaking” as the Moroccan ones where the edges came a little too close at speeds that were a little too fast around corners -with cool Moroccan music screaming from the speakers, of course.

The borders were the most difficult. We were shaken, thrown up in the air and woken to fill out forms and to line up in lines that suddenly grew longer in front of you if you didn’t invade the personal space of the person in front of you. An adventurous welcome into each country.

Heading to Burundi to set up one of two Colloidal Silver projects generously donated to Kids Canada by Silverpuppy.com Thank you Ken Ode, owner of Silver Puppy, who builds and sells silver generators. The second generator will be set up at Great Valley Children’s Centre in Kampala, Uganda.

DAY NINE

Image

DAY NINE

Nabinoonya Beach, Entebbe

Definitely not a beach of sand and umbrellas but exactly what I love the most – rocks to climb over and on top of to find just the right rock to sit on to be as close to the water as possible. When I need to stop to catch my breath I can think of nothing else.

Others have joined us and many are in the water swimming along with the fishermen in their wooden boats. A Sunday but all is surprisingly quiet despite the loud, cool Ugandan music in the background.
: )

Today -my friends have arranged a day for me and I could not be happier. Africa and its beautiful people are once again changing my world….

DAY EIGHT

Image

DAY EIGHT

KAMPALA, UGANDA

“We can spot a tourist a mile away!” So I was told by my French, Dutch and British friends when I was an aupair in France many adventures ago. I confess I can not. Many slip through the cracks of my tourist spotting abilities as I am limited by the obvious -backpacks, running shoes, maps and cameras. According to my European friends -American tourist wore white socks and running shoes while canadian tourists all had canadian flag patches sewn on bags or hats : )

I on the other hand, in Kampala – can be spotted a mile away -or so it seems. I am met daily by the warm, “hello muzungu!” whether I am in a car, on a boda boda (moped taxi service) or on foot… even in pitch darkness. “How can they see me??” my friends can often hear me asking? OK.. I admit… i have become quite curious about the Muzungus I can spot, too. We often smile at each other or at times, give each other personal space by not staring : ) Muzungu (MU-zung goo) means white person in Uganda. According to the urban dictionary muzungu is a Swahili word referring to missionaries and early explorers meaning “those who wonder aimlessly”. : )

Being called a white person is funny actually since I have never thought of myself as white in Canada. I am considered a POC – a person of colour. : )   For the most part it is not meant to be derogatory here in Africa in contrast to North America where it would not be acceptable to call out skin colour hellos to strangers in passing. Strangely – I am not offended -especially when children use it. However, it has become a little annoying on occasion when I am tired and would prefer the Hello Mukwano! (friend) that others have thrown my way.

Today (ok – many days) being spotted meant I was potential sponsor money. I quickly tell my new friend of the moment that Kids Canada is a cultural exchange program for children here in Uganda and in Canada but would be happy to check out the orphanage he supports.

Uganda is beautiful and so are its people. Everyday I hope Kids Canada and our ground leaders here are able to touch at least one person in our path -to let them know that not all muzungus are pockets of wealth nor out to save them. In Canada, organizations like ours are determined not to perpetuate the belief that all African children are sad, hungry and orphans as depicted in the media and in charities of the past. Today – I know that I can not do that on my own nor will I create the necessary wave but today…..i will settle for a small ripple…

DAY SEVEN

Image

DAY SEVEN

“Know what we think of people who eat with sticks?”, Emma smiles and asks me.
“We see them as people of leisure. It takes so long to eat!”

I love introducing new things to people and love people who love to try new things even more. In this case – Emma told me that in two weeks he would show us just how great he will be. My African Chinese sister smiles and after a quick demo – nails it and picks up a piece of pickled ginger. The challenge was on and two week Emma was 10 minute chopstick master!

Later I was challenged to eat African style. I love finger foods and appetizers -eating with my fingers was always a joy. So “Yes – of course I was up for it – not a challenge at all!” I thought out loud. Piece of cake -if it was cake but I ordered rice with my dish and soon realized rice would be a universal challenge in this cross cultural exchange.

Tips were thrown my way by Devis, “Mix it with the matoke (green plaintain bananas) and do this….” he encouraged as he pinched all 5 fingers together and descended on the target not unlike those claw prize machines found in arcades and sometimes bus stations. Yes – of course Kaia and Wyatt found that one. I miss them madly -my kids not the machines : )

Was it a success? They said it was -but it was more like a mess! I sure had fun though and loved that the experience added the sense of touch to the senses ordinarily triggered when one enjoys a meal -that of sight, smell and taste.

DAY SIX

Image

_MG_7401katosiSUU2w

On occasion you will sometimes hear someone comment on how small the world is. On special occasions you can experience just how small the world can be in one location -even off the beaten track.

Today Germany, Canada and the States were at John Bosco School for Orphans in Katosi. Melanie DuChateau and Kathy Darnell were there only in spirit as Tony Arsh kabuye, their eyes, ears and hearts, organized a warm welcome and lunch for us.

Devis Ssenoga from Sosolya Undugu Dance Academy led the children through a dance and I was left breathless from only watching the joining of small hands and the hands of the elders as they stretched the circle across the field against a backdrop we definitely don’t get to see in the ads of orphans in Africa.  The sound of Devis’ voice was intermittently  drowned out by the laughter of the kids and the joy in his eyes was matched by all those looking back at him.

Solome Nanuvule from PTMOF and Mark from Sosolya shared stories with our hosts. I am always in awe and inspired by individuals who speak passionately about how their past has shaped their lives -and how it will shape their futures.  Emma quickly points out on the way home -“Solome -I am impressed. You took a child from the group to show them how young you were when someone made a difference to your life and suddenly you have every child’s attention because  you have one of their friends.  You showed them that you were one of them”.  “I spoke from my heart.” Solome tells us…

We are always asked why we are doing what we do.  I find that my answer must be a little more … detailed than the others in my company today as they wonder why a Muchina is in Africa.  Once I mention that I am from Trinidad – I see them visibly relax and smile.  Somehow it now makes sense why I have a connection with Africa.  When asked if I find it hard to adjust to the African ways  -I tell them no.  I tell them that Uganda reminds me of Trinidad and that I have finally found the African side and the Indian side of my Trinidadian heritage.