Friday, July 9, 2010

32. Give a talk in Uganda

In the midst of my preparations for the trip to Jordan in the spring, I got a fabulous invitation from my friend and colleague, Amy, who is a political scientist at Calvin College in Michigan and, like me, studies HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. She was co-convening a weeklong workshop on religion, AIDS and social activism in Africa for the International Research Network on Religion and AIDS in Africa, and she invited me to Kampala, Uganda to be one of the keynote speakers. At first I was iffy because the trip to Jordan was already in the works, but then I realized (I'm a bit slow sometimes) that Jordan is actually a good bit closer to Uganda than Vermont is, so I could go from one to the other, and that's what I did.

As I'm constantly admitting to my students and former students, a major reason I'm an academic is that the thought of not being a lifelong learner fills me with anxiety, but as an academic, I'm guaranteed to be a student pretty much forever. This workshop was one of those opportunities to learn a whole lot from a group of scholars (in fields including anthropology, gender and sexuality studies, history, political science, public health, sociology and theology), religious leaders and graduate students from around the world. There were 25 of us, and between countries of origin and countries where people currently work, there was representation from: Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Mozambique, the Netherlands,Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zimbabwe.

The workshop was hosted by Makerere University's Child Health and Development Centre, which, together with the guest houses where we stayed, are on the grounds of Mulago Hospital, the largest hospital in the country. For anyone who's read or seen The Last King of Scotland (African politics senior seminarians, I'm looking at you), this is the hospital that featured so prominently in the story, where Dr. Garrigan worked when he wasn't dealing with Idi Amin's indigestion.

Halfway through the workshop we took a day off from presenting talks and papers and spent the morning at the Kamwokya Christian Caring Community, which was inspired by the liberation theology communities that we commonly associate with Latin America, and which has developed an impressive array of health, education and social services to a slum area of Kampala. Then in the afternoon we heard from a panel of faith-based leaders from Uganda, and had the opportunity to have extended discussion with them. Students in my global AIDS class, or anyone who has read the book 28, will recognize one of participants, Canon Gideon Byamugisha (Story #21). Throughout East and Southern Africa, Gideon (as he is widely known) has a well-deserved near-celebrity status, as the first openly HIV+ clergyman in sub-Saharan Africa, and a visionary spokesperson and leader on HIV/AIDS issues. The whole discussion, which included religious leaders from Ugandan Christian and Muslim faith communities, as well as a fascinating representation for traditional/indigenous religions from the National Healers and Herbalists Association, was great. But I think meeting Gideon was particularly inspiring, and will stay with me for a long time.

The photos I put in here include: the whole group of us (minus Rijk, our first keynote speaker who had to leave early); Gideon talking to my new friend Rebecca, who has worked in Mozambique for the past seven years; and me doing my talk. The last picture is from a tour of Makerere University when my new friend Jide from Nigeria and old friend Amy from Michigan and I decided we should pose together as three of the very small group of political scientists who have chosen to study AIDS in Africa.

52 Ways to Say I Love You

in Wolof, one of the languages spoken in Senegal, with many thanks to my friend Amy, who was a Peace Corps volunteer there before becoming a political scientist.

Hello: Nange def?

Good bye: Mangi dem.

Two beers, please: May maa naari berryi.

I love you. Nob naa laa.

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you have a good time but glad to have you back :) ....