Sunday, September 28, 2008

Garden City

In Kampala there is a mall called Garden City. Well, it's not a mall in the sense most of us think of them with lots of shops of all kinds - but it does have a small clothes store, a shoe store (where three quarters of the store is reserved for mens shoes - very strange), a grocery store, a book store and a few others.

Garden City is also a place in New York State. It's a village on Long Island founded in 1869, landmarks include The Cathedral of the Incarnation, St. Paul's School, Adelphi University and Apostle Houses. You'll also find the Cradle of Aviation Museum located at Mitchel Air Force Base. Although the base is no longer used as a US Military Air Force Base, the town is still headquarter to some units within the US Military.

In New York State we also find Jamaica. Jamaica is located in Queens, New York City. Under British rule, from 1664, it was the centre of the Town of Jamaica. When Queens was incorporated into City of Greater New York in 1898, both the Town of Jamaica and the Village of Jamaica were dissolved. The name comes from "Jameco," from the Jameco Native Americans, and means "beaver".

Jamaica is also an island in the Caribbean. It has a population of approximately 2.8 million, and is the home of the Rastafari Movement, now counting somewhere between 600,000 - 1,000,000 members around the world.

The Rastafari Movement emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s under the influence of the "Pan Africanism" movement. They believe the former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I (1892 - 1975) to be, along with Jesus, the incarnation of God. He is seen as the returned messiah, a part of the holy trinity, who will lead the people of Africa, and the African diaspora, to freedom. The term Rastafari comes from the Ras Tafari - Ras meaning prince or head, Tafari coming from Haile Selassie's name from before he became emperor - Tafari Makonnen.

Haile Selassie I was the regent of Ethiopia from 1916 to 1930, and emperor from 1930 to 1974. It has been said that Selassie "declined to refute the Rastafari belief that he was God", then he later "according to some sources, denied his divinity". Selassie received many honors, or orders, among them the Order of the Source of the Nile and as the Commander of the Order of the Shield and Spears.

The Order of the Source of the Nile and The Order of the Shield and Spears are both given out by the East African country Uganda, which takes us back to its capital Kampala.

See - everything is linked!
(... however amateurishly it might be done ... :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One month in Uganda

I'm still alive and doing well!

Everything is different from home, but then that was what I was looking for, and it's what I love the most about it. People are nice (even though they shout mzungu (white person) after me wherever I go).

We live in the poorest area of town and all around us the houses are basically shacks, some are made of bricks and doors are rare. We're staying in one of the new student hostels with a big gate outside so it does feel a bit like we're going inside and shutting the door on poverty, even though the lack of warm water, the mosquitos and the power going out when it rains help us remember where we are.

The weather is warm, around 25 degrees. It rains every second day, the roads turn to mud, and the rain drops are so big it hurts - I understand now why people here never go out in the rain.. I did last week, and when I got wet everyone was pointing and laughing (even more so than usual!). Not quite like Bergen - if you decide to wait till it stops raining there, you might be stuck for a couple days...

School has started and the first two weeks I attended around 10 lectures, but only twice did the professors show up. And we don't have any books! We have to get hand outs at one of the dozens of photocopiers spread out around campus - and I seem to be the only one who doesn't know where to get them. Well, that's not true, whenever I ask someone, they don't seem to know either. Then next time, as if by magic, they have them, but they still don't know where to get them! It is frustrating, and I have to say I have new appreciation for how easy everything is at home.

In a few of my classes I'm the only white person, and the only one who is new here, and it does give me more attention in a day than in a year of lectures at home. It's easy to be singled out, commented on by the lecturer, and have the whole classes looking back over their shoulder at you for the remaining hour of class. I'm kinda looking forward to being invisible again.

I'm also looking forward to Christmas, I miss warm water in the shower, washing machines, fridges and being able to do more cooking than just boiling water.

But I also know that I'll later look at these few months as an experience of a lifetime, and now that I'm in the middle of it I am determined to make the most of it.