Thursday, January 22, 2009

10 things to miss and not miss about Uganda

Thank you so much to everyone for your encouraging comments on my daughter Christine's post. This one is written by 13 year old Thomas, my first born. The reader posed questions were really useful in helping him get started. Keep 'em coming!

Hey everyone my name is Thomas, but some of you might know that, and i am 13 years old. I have lived with my parents in Uganda for ten whole years and we are just about ready to leave and head back to Brussels where i spent 3 years of my childhood. My hobbies are break-dancing just like my bro, drawing and reading. Sometimes if i am in the mood i will try to play golf.

Two people from the blogosphere have asked me some questions:

windmill asked: what role models do i set for my younger brothers?

At first i didn't understand the question very well so i asked my mom, now that i have an idea of what it's about my answer is. Some of the role-models that i set for my younger brothers are completing my homework on time and not leaving it until last minute... And sometimes, Lucas, asks for tips on girls and i help Ben with his numbers and letters once in a while and he is so smart. I hope that this answer is what you want.

Nancy asked me also how we feel about leaving Africa and the emotions that go wit it. My answer to that is:

I feel kind of sad leaving Africa because i know soo many people who i might never see again, i am relieved because now we don't have to deal with all the potholes and dust. I am happy because i get to live in Belgium again. those are the three main emotions that i feel. Thank you Nancy and Windmill it has been a great experience answering these questions on my first entry.

Continuing on from Nancy's statement, the top ten things that i will miss from Uganda are:

exquisite food
national parks
wild animals
the word matatu ( local transport )
all the people i know
my school plus the teachers
break-dance project Uganda ( a project that enables break-dance around the country )
my room
my house

The top ten things i wont miss are:

nasty milk
terrible driving
slow Internet
power cuts
bad phone network
water shortage
Mr. Museveni ( Uganda's president )
boda bodas and matatus (local transport )

Now that some of you have asked me questions i would like to ask you some.

How did you learn about party at Christina's world?

Would you ever like to come and visit Uganda after the descriptions that me and my mom have given?

Hope to hear from you soon, thats all from me for now


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Boarding School in Uganda

This post has been contributed by my 16 year old Ugandan daughter Christine (actually, her birth name is Christina, like mine, but she's accustomed to being called Christine - which saves a lot of confusion around here.) As I wrote in my last post, Christine left boarding school last year. She has been living at home with us in Kampala since April.

As a proud mom, I just have to mention that I only corrected one very small typo in what Christine gave to me to post - as I'm sure every reader will be, I am so very impressed with her writing style! (Bravo, my dear!)

In Uganda, most parents take their children to boarding school because they believe it is the best place for them in terms of education. I’m not a parent but I’ve been in Uganda martyrs secondary school, a boarding school for about two years and while I was there I didn’t like it that much for various reasons you will get to know. What surprises me most is that some parents take their kids to boarding school as early as when they are just six .To me it seems like they are abandoning their parental duties and paying someone else to do it for them forgetting that this someone is not going to convey equal love to a strangers child and his/her own. Therefore, I think these children end up missing out on something as they grow.

A school term in Uganda lasts three months and for someone in boarding school this means three full months away from home and the people you know well enough to always confide in them. Now that is one of the reasons that made me so glad to leave boarding because in those three very long months, the ministry of education of my country has assigned only one day when parents can come and spend ample time with their children. But unfortunately you still don’t get to go to home unless you fall really sick which means the whole point of going home is destroyed.

In boarding school I usually had a feeling that my brain was being over worked because we usually had like four hours every week day when we were out of class and the teachers strict supervision so this means that we would go to bed at about 9:30 pm or for some classes 10:30 pm and wake up at 5:00 am without fail because failure to do so was equivalent to a punishment for a given period of time. Because of this, I fell asleep during most of the classes therefore missing a lot of important information and thus getting poor results at the end of the year which is totally frustrating. But now that I’ve moved from a boarding school to a day school, I see an improvement in my academic performance and I think this is because I get enough rest.

Last year, many stories appeared in the newspapers about dormitories being burnt by unknown people for unknown reasons too and in one of the stories, twenty girls between the ages of ten and eleven lost their lives because they were locked in from the outside therefore, there was no way of escape. This made many parents worried about their children’s safety and their future as well and when I finally left boarding school I was so glad because I seriously don’t want my life to end just like that before I’ve seen the world, met many people and much more.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My three sons, and their Ugandan sister

Although I have traveled, worked and/or lived in 46 countries and had more adventure in my life than you can shake a stick at, by far the most exciting experience of all has been the ordinary adventure of parenthood. I have always approached it with a sense of awe - but then again maybe that's because my kids are so awesome.

Thomas at N's farm (Northern Uganda)

Thomas is 13 now, and very excited to be a teenager. He was born in Brussels but has been raised since the age of 3 in Africa. He has lived in Uganda for most of that time, but also spent 6 months living with his dad in Ethiopia last year. In addition to English, he speaks good Dutch, moderate Frisian, and he loves studying French. He won the award for top academic achievement in his class when he graduated from primary school, and was also recognized then as cub scout of the year - both of these awards kind of blew me away as a mom, since Thomas is not at all presumptuous about his achievements. He's a polite and helpful boy who is always cheerful - if somewhat quiet next to his younger brother Lucas.

N and Lucas on safari @ Murchison Falls National Park

Lucas is now 11 and loves to start a story by saying "When I was a kid..." He revels in being our family clown. He is funny, adventurous, opinionated and intensely loving and loyal toward his friends and family members. Lucas is the one that other students elect as their spokesperson if there is a problem at school; he's the kind of social leader who turns his own passions into group activities; and for all his laughter he takes the world and it's challenges very seriously. After years of not wanting to leave the people he loves in Uganda, attending school in Ethiopia for 6 months last year helped Lucas realize how easy it is for him to make new friends. More than any of my kids, he's the one who is now craving new global horizons to explore. Like Thomas, he was born in Brussels, but has lived most of his life in Uganda. When you ask him where he's from, he'll tell you he's a citizen of the world.

Ben at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center (Entebbe)

Benjamin is our delightfully smart 4 year old, whose exuberance for life showed itself early on - he couldn't wait to get to the hospital to be born, but fell out in one push (no, I am not exaggerating) onto the bathroom floor at home in Kampala. Ben has known two homes since he's been old enough to talk, and for most of that time his two homes have been in two different countries. He's been flying without mom or dad (accompanied only by his older brothers) without incident since he was 2, and loves it. Ben has spent much of the past 1.5 years dressed as Spiderman, and never met a stranger. He is a very loving child who enjoys cuddling, giving hugs and being kind. Before Benjamin was born, Thomas and Lucas had hoped he'd be a sister... they are now happy that he wasn't, and equally happy that they eventually got a sister in another way.

Christine (front) with a family friend on Christmas at Lake Bunyonyi (SW Uganda)

Christine is the boys' 16 year old sister who started living with us last year. She is my partner N's niece who came into our care when her grandmother died 1 year ago. She had been in boarding school and really hated it, so I lobbied hard to get her transferred to a day school and now she lives with us. For Christine, life with us is her first time to experience a life with siblings and she seems to be enjoying herself. When she first moved in she was very quiet; I have enjoyed watching her become more confident and come into her own. Knowing that the boys and I won't be here for her last two years of high school, my goal as her temporary mom has been to make the time Christine spends with us as full of as many good memories and shared experiences as we can pack in. Christine was quick to take up the idea of writing something to post here, but poor girl... she's written her post at least 3 times and keeps losing it to power outages - one of the things the boys and I definitely won't miss about Uganda! :-(

Wearing our Humanity before Politics tees in Kampala (2006)

When I describe myself professionally, I always mention that I am a work at home mom. Keeping myself available to create a home environment where these awesome creatures can thrive and learn about life and feel valued has been an important aspect of my workstyle since they were born. I also employ a lot of techniques from my community work at the family level - we make our big decisions together, we talk a lot about what's happening in the world, we live better by far than many Ugandans but we are careful about what we spend. We tend to spend our extra money on travel and experiences instead of on stuff, and I think the impact of that lifestyle choice has been pretty good on them. When the boys and I have traveled in the USA, they've noticed and been turned off by the impatient consumerism they've often seen in kids there. They are grateful for what they have, and I know this because they tell me often.

On stage together in a holiday show at Uganda's National Theatre

I love it that each of the children in our household has a 100% unique personality, and that there's not a difficult one in the bunch. They all get along, we have a lot of fun, and they get and give a lot of love. They are awesome, and I hope you'll enjoy what they write here over the next few weeks.

P.S. - after I posted this Thomas and Lucas decided that they'd like me to prepare an interview for them to help them figure out what to write... if you have any questions you'd like to ask them about their lives in Africa, lemme know in a comment to this post and I'll include them!


Friday, January 9, 2009

the pArtY's not over!

During the last months of 2008, I was blogging to try collect some thoughts and wind down after 10 years in Africa. Relocating to Europe in April means there's lots to do now, leaving less time for blogging than I once had. But rather than stop blogging altogether (as I'd originally intended) I've had an inspired idea for how to continue in this space: I am inviting my kids to start writing about the experiences they want to remember from our time in Uganda.

So stay tuned for the next phase of evolution at - I'll still post occasionally too, but I for one am really interested to read what my kids have to say about their lives in Africa. Should be educational for all of us!

I'll be introducing them to you in the next few posts....