Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bits and Pieces – Impressions from Uganda – Part V

We are the product of our environment. Our history, our relations and the things we encounter shape our identity. That’s nothing new. It’s one of these learnings from the books. And it is one I agree with. But sometimes it still takes me by surprise when I have a closer look at what that actually means. Especially in a context like the one of northern Uganda. Imagine: A ten-year old boy comes to your office and reports about unexploded ordnances – ammunition, bombs, mines, grenates, etc. - close to his family’s home. Their homestead is close to a training range from the Ugandan army. And since the Ugandan army is not too concerned about ammunition shot into fields and homesteads beyond the actual training area, you often hear about such things being found all over the place. Or you see people being wounded by them while herding their animals, digging in their fields or going to the well. While the fact that life ammunition lies around in Acholiland is sad enough, it becomes even weirder when you hear a small child telling you exactly what was found. ‘It’s a 120 mm mortar shell. The one that carries these little bombs inside.’ Often they can even tell you if we are talking about a product from Eastern Europe or from South Africa, if we are talking about old things from the war or new stuff from recent years. ‘You are supposed to know your ABCs and struggle with multiplication and so on. You are way to young to tell one deadly weapon from another’, I think to myself. ‘But I guess you are what your environment let’s you be.’ What world is this we are living in where small children know the difference between a mortar shell and a rocket propelled grenate. But they don’t know how to read or write, what’s the state’s capital or the name of the neighboring district.

The Mango season started. All over northern Uganda you find thousands of mango trees. And within weeks they start blossoming, little fruit will appear, they will grow and turn from green to orange. At least in theory. Many of them will not make it to that stage, since the children go crazy for them. As soon as the first little fruits are visible, the young ones start climbing the trees to get them. Once the mangoes are a bit bigger, children take stones and sticks to make them fall down. But despite this hunt, there are still plenty of mangoes left by the time they are really ripe, sweet and juicy. And since the season for them is short, everyone eats as many as possible. Children are seen with their faces colored in yellow, their shirts dripping of mango juice. All along the foot paths you see the peel and stones of the fruit – and millions of flies having a feast on the left-overs. Hardly anyone moves for more then a couple of minutes without a fresh mango in his/her hand. The ones which are too lazy to pick them themselves can buy heaps of six or eight or ten for less than 10 cents.


Blogger iamnasra said...

Thank you so much for these two stories..Where the field you see children play or farmers with thier herds are noting but a silent battel field...The inocent are the ones who pay the price ....SO sad

I also enjoyed reading about mango delight. I have seen myself young again holding mango and splashing my new dress with the colour of delight...Orange is colour that awakes the eyes....

11:51 AM  
Blogger Silly Adventures said...

nasra, thanx for the encouragement to put more short stories from uganda up on my blog. hope you'll drop by again and let me know what you think of them.

1:33 PM  

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