Dancing to a different beat

Anisha is an ICS international volunteer and youth reporter who has just returned from her placement in Uganda. She writes about life on placement with her host family.

It is a Sunday morning in Kitimbwa and I am sitting outside in the shade. I can hear crickets chirping loudly mixed with the sounds of children playing, rice being sorted and clothes being washed. Favour, only five years old, is busily attending to his weekly washing. He stands in the shade near me with three basins: one for washing with soap, one for washing off the soap and one for a final rinse. He cheerfully scrubs his clothes, paying special attention to his shirt collar, and, being too small to reach the clothesline, runs back and forth draping his clothes over a fallen down tree. His maturity and actions may make him seem older but his cheeky smile and cute motor-car simulations as he washes remind you of reality.

My host brother Favour

Sam, fifteen years old, sits beside me, cooking. He prepares cabbage first, then beans and finally moves on to sorting rice. He refuses all help and unhurriedly moves around between the low wall surrounding the house and the kitchen’s dark and smokey interior. He has made the wood fire easily, pushing the burning wood into position with his bare feet. As he cooks, he talks about his aims for the future: how he wants to study mechanics, learn about how cars work and finally, obtain a driving licence certificate.

His father, Wyclef, is a boda boda driver and farmer but Sam wants to go one step further and become a taxi driver. As he tells me this, I cast my mind back to my experiences of taxis in Uganda; there are always at least twenty five people crammed into a taxi designed for fourteen. You sit, pressed tightly against another, knees and elbows poking into you, and, quite possibly, yet another half-standing, half-sitting practically on top of you. Inside the taxi, it is always dim with all of the light from the windows blocked out by the many tired and sweaty bodies. With this image in my mind, I struggle to imagine why this job would be someone’s dream.

Boda drivers in Uganda during the UN Women’s 16 Days of activism

But then again, I see how happy his father is. How settled and content he is as he wanders around sweeping the compound, cleaning the latrine or setting off on his boda boda ready for work. Maybe he has cracked the code, maybe he is doing everything right? He promotes equality in his home, such that is rare in Uganda.

He leads by example and encourages all of his children including his sons, Sam, Andrew and Favour, to cook and clean and wash, not just his daughter Cathy.

My host brother Sam

He encourages nineteen year old Cathy to pursue her dream of being a nursery school teacher and supports his wife as she works as a prominent and passionate pastor in the local church. Wyclef accords such respect to his wife that many men here would simply not be able to comprehend it. Some would even laugh. He loves her truly and simply. He is genuinely happy and, with his whole general demeanour, is making those around him happy too.

My host parents

So Maybe I can understand Sam’s dream to follow in his footsteps, to live a life like his. Maybe, through sitting here on this sunny Sunday morning, I can catch a glimpse, feel the pulse and the different beat to which this family dances.

Volunteers and our host family

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Dancing to a different beat

by wearerestless Reading time: 2 min