Rodents and Sex Ed

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
Trip End Apr 14, 2006

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Friday, March 10, 2006

I forgot to mention about the boyband we had in church on Sunday- it was really funny! Not only were they dressed identically, but they started in a triangle formation, sitting down, and when they got to the chorus, all stood up together. They were pulling 'boyband' faces and waving their hands about too (as they do) so for us, who know who Westlife, Blue and the backstreet boys are (unlike most of the congregtion) it was very amusing!

Anyway back to Monday. We were all awoken at 3:30am by a huge crash of thunder- it sounded like a bomb going off. I've never heard such loud thunder! I had my earplugs in, the doors and windows shut, safely inside our house, and it still woke me up. Apparently everyone else got up and checked the house hadnt been struck by lightning or anything, but I just tried to get back to sleep, ignoring the continuous crashes and huge bolts of lightning I could see through the window.

When I got to school, somewhat tired from our eventful night, I decided to try something new for maths. Their lesson plans are really simple- they just have a tiny bit to learn every lesson, so I decided to combine 3 lessons into 1. I explained it first, but then played noughts and crosses quiz (which most of them quite enjoy now) testing them on it- by the end I think they understood it. I didn't have time for writing anything in their books, so I left that for tomorrow. I think it worked quite well.

After teaching Top Class how to draw a cat and a pig (and, consequently, the noises they make), Esther and I did some charts (posters) for Lovisa, the Top Class teacher. While we were doing them, she was talking to us about what we have/don't have in England. She genuinely thought that we didn't have cows, sheep, goats or any of the domestic (yes, those are the domestic animals) animals that they have in Uganda. She also, deadly seriously, said 'I thought everywhere outside of Uganda was all concreted- do you have grassy spaces like, Uganda, too?' Esther and I, wide eyed, assured her that England (and incidentally all other countries) were not just a mass of concrete and cities, and that there was in fact some countryside too. It's a little bit worrying, but I guess if you never leave Uganda your entire life, and don't watch TV- how would you know what the world looks like?

After lunch Esther and I walked down to Nansana- and when we were nearly there are big landrover stopped and offered us a lift. I didn't know the guy, and I don't think Esther recognised him either, but there was only one road to Nansana, loads of people around, he was being really friendly, and we didn't want to have to climb the big hill, so we hopped in. On the way, he asked us if we recognised him, and to my surprise, Esther said 'Oh, yes, I do now'! I didn't know if she was just being polite, but I'm mighty glad she did actually know him when he next asked 'where do you recognise me from?' Apparently he'd given everyone a lift into Kampala before, when I wasn't there. We went on the internet, and I went off to buy some potatoes (which were ridiculously heavy- got about 50 largish potatoes for 2 pound fifty), onions and ketchup (for tonight's dinner). When we got home we went through the questions the P6 had asked- we're doing Sex Ed for them on Tue and Thur, and were, as 10-13 year olds are, full of questions!

On Tuesday I did my theory lesson with the P3 Maths, and they all appeared to understand it, which was good. I did however, note an absence from the class- Rose, the girl who always grins at me and who showed me her baby sister on Sunday, has been moved back to P2. It's not that her work was particularly bad, but her grandmother (who she lives with, if you remember) insisted that she wasn't yet good enough to be in P3. I have no idea why anyone would do that, when she passed the P2 exams, but the teachers have to respect the guardian's wishes. It's not like she's too young either- she's already 11 years old, and was one of the eldest in P3 anyway. Its frustrating, but theres nothing I can do.

After break, Lovisa had to go into town, so Esther and I were trying to control Top Class on our own- and they were absolutely mental. As much as we shouted, screamed, begged and pleaded at them, they still ran around the classroom, shouting, hitting each other, jumping off chairs, hanging off our arms (as they seem to enjoy doing). So much for trying to teach them! We didn't know what to do- apparently the whole school could hear me shouting at them to 'BE QUIET'! Regina (the middle class teacher next door) came in occasionally to see how we were getting on, and she shouted once, and they all ran to their seats and sat down like little angels. I have no idea how she does it, but it was amazing! We managed to teach a little, but at the end of the lesson I had to go and get some letters we had to give out to them- and left Esther on her own... When I returned, she had literally barricaded the door with herself, to stop them from escaping- she kept having to drag them back in- and was very relieved to see me, I think!

Karen had requested that I got 3 of the boys from my class to write letters to children in her sister's school- she's trying to set up a pen pal system, and has already sent off about 50 letters last term. So I dragged them away from their science lesson (looking rather smug that they had been chosen and got out of class), to write these letters. They all did really well, I only had to prompt them a couple of times, and they wrote it out so neatly, with great pictures at the bottom, I felt quite bad sending them back to class to finish their work despite it being lunchtime. I don't know if they ever completed it or not.

After lunch we had our sex ed talk, today just with P6. All the typical questions you might expect really, but a couple of odd ones: 'Do women go on heat like cows?'; 'Why do women cry when they are fertilised?' and 'Why do men warm up before sex?' We managed more or less to keep a straight face throughout, and we all did different sections. Esther started off with 'What is adolescence', Chris and Emily did 'Boys/Girls stuff' respectively, Becca and I did pregnancy and Karen ended with contraception. We filmed a bit too, so you can all look forward to seeing that on the video when we get back! The highlights were probably Chris getting the entire class to shout 'Wet dreams' as loud as possible, while making efficient use of the board (they had handily just been studying and drawing diagrams of volcanoes previously) and Karen demonstrating, much to the children's horror/delight, how to put a condom on a banana (which was taken away by one of the boys for a snack after we'd finished). We did, of course, say that we were only telling them this in case they're going to ignore everything we and others tell them, and go out and have sex anyway. We told them that the only way to guarantee not getting preggers or contracting HIV was not to have sex- and you shouldn't have sex before you're married, anyway. Interestingly, there are billboards around now saying stuff much to the same effect- rather than telling everyone to use a condom, they're now combating the spread of AIDS by encouraging abstinence. There are big posters of people graduating, or achieving some dream or other, saying 'Have a future. Abstain.' I think its quite effective, but I don't know how many people will listen. Lovisa said that when someone dies in the family, they are replaced- for example, if someone's husband dies, another man from the same clan will be found to fill his spot. It seems a strange thing to do, but is probably deadly if you really think about it. Say this man died of AIDS- his wife will have it too, and will then pass it onto her new husband. When she dies, he'll pass it onto a new wife, and so the cycle goes on. It's terrifying to think that this is a common practice in large parts of Africa. So we told the P6s that the best thing to do is not to have unprotected sex until you are married to someone, and you have both been screened for HIV/AIDS. It's such a huge problem you don't really know where to start, but if there's going to be any headway made in beating the AIDS epidemic, people's entire views towards sex are going to have to be turned around. It makes sense that the best place to start is with the upcoming generation, in the schools.

Wednesday was a national holiday in Uganda- Women's Day!! Since almost all the women in Uganda follow their traditional roles- washing, cleaning, cooking for their husbands, and certainly not working, Women's Day is the one day a year where the men are supposed to cook. Most men wouldn't even entertain the notion any other day of the year, and I don't know how many actually did on Wednesday, but Chris, being a modern man (and left with little choice, living in a house with 7 adamant girls), agreed to cook for us today. First we all stayed in bed til about 12:30pm, during which time Chris was up and about, busy making us tea/hot chocolate, and fried eggs/omelette, which he brought to us in our respective beds. In the end everyone came into our bedroom (inhabited by Karen, Becca and me), and we sat around chatting about nothing in particular. We gave him an hour or two off, before we sent him to make chapattis for lunch, and then, after an afternoon in which I lounged about and did my washing, he made us rice and potatoes for dinner too. It was quite nice, not having to lift a finger! Apparently it's celebrated internationally- maybe in America, but I think we should have it in England too. Becca and I played with the neighbours' kids, and they tried to teach us Lugandan, I'm rubbish at it though. I met a guy named Gerard when I took round our leftover food though- apparently he runs an AIDS clinic in Nansana and is looking for sponsorship from England, since the government provides the drugs, but no money for food or anything. It means the victims starve instead of die of AIDS. Anyway he wants us to visit, or come to our house, or something. Not really sure, but then again I never know what to say in these situations. Also- a first today- I mopped the floor properly! In the past when I've tried it I can never get all the little bits up so it just ends up dirtier than it was before, but I think this time I actually did it! It's exhasting though- no mop, just a wet rag, and you bend over, moving along as you mop. The Ugandan women keep their legs straight while they do it, but then again they appear to have more stamina than us anyway.

On Thursday morning there was a bit of a commotion: Liz had a rat run over her feet (over the mosquito net) early this morning. Now, I don't really mind rats, but apparently rats in Africa carry loads of diseases and parasites, and I know I wouldn't want one on my bed in any case. Phiona and Liz chased it around the room for a bit, until it made the fatal error of running into the gift bag we'd given Phiona's present in. Big mistake. They promptly picked it up, took it outside, and beat it to a pulp. Not quite sure why they couldn't've released it outside the compound, but such is life. I didn't even wake up during all this, so I was oblivious to the plight of the poor animal. Not a very nice start to the day though, because apparently rats come in groups or at least pairs.

Apart from teaching maths, and planning the Sex Ed discussion we were having this afternoon, Esther and I had a very amusing Top Class lesson. We'd finished teaching them (all they had to do was write the letters E and F), we were somewhat at a loss of what to do. So in the end I decided to teach them some dances. There are now about 20 or so 4-6 year olds in Uganda who are skilled at the routines for 'Tragedy' (Steps), 'Saturday Night', and 'Macarena', and can recite a rendition of Queen 'We will rock you' (although they're better at the clapping than the actual singing. I'm going to try and film them next week.

After lunch we gathered all the P6s and P7s into a classroom for our sex ed discussion. I don't know how much they do in the secondry schools, but other than the actual biology of it, they don't do anything in Primary schools, so most of the teacher's thought it was a good idea and were quite appreciative (and as a result, came in to watch...) It was quite similar to Tuesday, but Becca and I included periods, and did 'Girl's stuff' in general. Some of them will probably have already started, but they're not told about protection or anything, and Phionah said that many cant afford it so just have to use loo roll. But we thought if we educated them, at least they'd know what their options were. Emily and Karen joined forces to talk about contraception in more general terms (though still of course, with the aid of a banana) and STDs. They all know about AIDS, but I'm not sure that they knew what the symptoms were, or what they should do if they think they've got it until we told them. We also got slightly worried when a question was asked about why people take the pill of God said to procreate and fill the earth. One of the teacher's took it upon himself to answer, and although he did backtrack a little bit later, he started off by saying that Christians should not use the pill, or if you're married, any contraception really, since you should have as many children as you can (to a certain extent- he did say 'our grandparents stopped at 15, because they couldn't afford anymore). 'It says in the Bible to procreate, and fill the earth- and the earth is not full yet, so you should have plenty of children'. Alarmed, Emily stood up and corrected him saying that while that is all well and good, if you can't afford children, or if you're told not to have children by doctors, or if you simply don't like children- don't have them. It does explain a little about why they have such huge families here- most of the teachers have at least 6 siblings, sometimes 10. It's hard because it is obviously their way of life to have lots of children- that's what women often see their role in life as- but it cant be helping the poverty problem, especially if one or both of the parents have AIDS, and so leave a host of orphans when they die. It's not the kind of thing we can really interfere in though, because it would be not only condescending but ignorant to tell African women not to have more than a couple of children.

Anyway, we ended the talk with 'What does the Bible say about sex?', which Liz did. They were probably getting a bit restless by then, and I don't know how much they'll listen to us anyway, but at least we got our point across that sex is for after marriage, and if you wait, it prevents a whole lot of problems. I'd be quite interested to see what they're being taught in the secondary schools here, since, as I said before, I think that it's vitally important to educate them while they're young about the dangers of unprotected sex. It's all very well going around various villages talking to them, and I'm sure it's saved loads of lives, but in many cases, it may already be too late.
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davidmacc on

Great TravelPod!

My fiance and I have really enjoyed reading your tales of Ugandan life and the trials of teaching there! We are coming to Uganda in June to get married and we wondered; how are you faring with the political situation there? There have been a few stories here and there about upset and difficulty but we'd like to know how it affects your daily life?

Keep up the good travel-podding!

Nic and Dave

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