Posted by: Stephanie | May 25, 2008

Gomesi, the traditional dress of Baganda

Hi Friends and Family,

Wednesday evening I tasted probably the best pineapple of my life.  If it seems like food occupies my mind a lot, well, it does.  To taste something besides beans or groundnut sauce is pretty exciting.

At work I have created my work plan so I have a purpose!  My official goal is to improve the communication capacity for UDEI.  One of my objectives is to create handouts and potentially a manual for UDEI extension staff to use when they are training a community group.  Right now they are using a crazy mix of other organizations’ literature, which is quite disorganized and varies from person to person.  So I am working with one extension worker, Norah, picking her brain and looking at her resources.  So far we have written about three training topics:  how to plant and care for trees (especially fruit trees), coffee, and passion fruit.  So she tells me what she knows in English as she consults her notes and books, translates the main points into Luganda, and with that I have created three handouts with diagrams accompanying the main points.  It’s exciting, especially to see her use the drafts of the handouts during the training Thursday, showing the diagrams.  One issue is that printing is quite expensive, and so I want these things to be as useful as possible.  I’m debating about different formats, or how to make them into a booklet or so that they will fit inside the notebooks that we gave to the training group we are working in.

Concurrently we are training a community based organization (CBO) in Bulayi Village about these topics.  We had a baseline survey with ten families in the group, and then last week we met with the whole group to introduce what training topics we can provide and ask when they are available.  So they told us Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 3 pm, so that is when we go there to train.

And by we I mean I also go but I pretty much sit and listen and at the end say something like “tulabagane enkya” (see you tomorrow) and the whole group applauds.  It’s nice to be appreciated for doing so little…  So I’m glad I am making those handouts, at last I can contribute something I know how to do.  And using PowerPoint no less!  It’s been great working with this group, they are so excited to learn.  On Thursday we delivered the seedlings!  Coffee, passion fruit, green pepper, this other vegetable thing, and also some fruit trees like avocado.  The idea is that we provide some plants now just catching the end of the rainy season so they can have practical training as well as the theory of how to plant and care for these things.  Also they just can’t afford to buy them.  So by providing them some plants to begin, hopefully since coffee and passion fruit have a ready market here, they will earn enough profit to pay for their children’s school fees and have some leftover to buy more plants or other things they need – to become economically sustainable.  UDEI also has a small nursery, with the idea that they will offer seedlings at half price to such farmers.

So the first picture is Norah at the Bulayi group meeting, talking about our potential calendar for the coming weeks.

The next picture of one of my “aunts” and I — so my host dad’s sisters.  They also live in Namaseenene, but down the hill from us, actually along the road I take to walk to Ssaza.  It’s nice to know people in the area.  So I went there yesterday to visit with Mariam, my “cousin” who is also the matron at the Islamic boarding school next to our house.  So I finally understand how she is related to my host parents.  We had a nice meal — they prepared groundnut sauce in banana leaves (instead of needing a saucepan) which is the traditional way.  Then Mariam asked if I would take their photos.  I said sure, and as soon as they heard they rushed to the other room to change into their fancy gomesi.  The gomesi is the traditional dress of the women of the Buganda tribe.  They all have that puffy shoulder.

“Gomesi” was taken this morning — I was talking with Mama about them and so she showed me her nice ones and then I wanted to learn how to put them on so I tried on a few too.  They are actually really awkward to wear, and to think that most married Bugandan women wear gomesi regularly!  Also a note, so Buganda is the area that I am in, Baganda are the people of this area, and Luganda is the language that they speak.  The gomesi is pretty wide spread, although some other areas of Uganda have different traditional dress.

So my time here is one third complete, it’s really flying by.

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