Jul 3, 2010

"Today you are African."

That is right folks. And they were talking to me.Super pale and blonde me.

So he might have been a tad intoxicated and overly enthusiastic about the Ghana World Cup game, but still. He told me that I was African. Although I am still mourning the loss of the United States in the World Cup, it was amazing to watch Ghana play tonight in the quarter finals.

It was amazing due to the Ugandan fans of the Ghana team. The Ugandans continuously referred to the Ghanians as "we".

Lets talk about how far away and how different Ghana and Uganda are.

I was planning on telling you how many miles Ghana and Uganda are away from each other, but Google Maps cannot calculate directions between the two capitals of Accra and Kampala. So I do not know. But I do know that they are far.

East Africa and West Africa are not only many miles away, but their cultures, histories, and languages can barely be compared. Most Ugandans will never reach Ghana and most Ghanians will never reach Uganda. Superficially, the only thing that unites them is the color of their skin and the continent they share. Yet all night Ugandans referred  to Ghanians as their brother and fellow African.

I guarantee Americans would not cheer for Mexico or Canada over a European or South American team because they share a continent. So Africans must share something that Americans do not share with our neighbors to the south and north. Something greater than complexion. If I had to guess, it would be respect. Respect built from similar struggles, struggles only understood by Africans.

The Ugandan fans tonight continually said "This is our only chance!" and "If God is African we will win tonight.". Yes, they were merely drunken cheers at a bar in Kampala, but those chants united individuals across an entire continent. A continent proud of the Ghana team regardless of win or loss tonight.

I now believe that it means more to be an African, than to be a member of any country, even a member of the United States.


  1. Hi there,
    I have read some of your blogs and yes Africa has its problems but you really should not be there if your heart is not in Public Service. I am appalled at some of the things, you are saying and writing about. You take Africans to be "second class citizens" and not reflecting anything positive and always complaining about everything. Africa is what it is, if you cant accept it you should have chosen another project(Out of Africa). Putting pictures of dying people is not ethical and you should not do that again especially without their consent.
    Africa is beautiful,young and Vibrant open your eyes.

  2. "Anonymous" I think you're seeing what you want to see and revealing some of your own biases.

    Quotes from this blog:

    "...the service was moving because I knew it truly meant something to the people in my presence. They weren't there because going to church is the "right" or "proper" or "moral" thing to do, they went to church because they continue to have faith when there are not many reasons to maintain it."

    "Yesterday, African Prisons Project celebrated the opening of a health clinic at Gulu Prison. APP sponsored the project and the ceremony was quite lovely."

    "We had to put the broken, near-death man in to a private hire (aka taxi). I held him up in the taxi."

    "Two inmates have founded a primary school and a secondary school where over 100 inmates are working on a daily basis to gain basic education skills for when they are reintegrated with society. The inmates freely grow vegetables in the yard and have been granted the privilege of accessing individual pots and pans to use the vegetables to supplement the maiz and beans they are served three times a day everyday."

    Plenty of evidence showing a heart for public service and for seeing both the positive and negative aspects of Uganda.

  3. Thanks for backing me up Montieth.

    I do not mean to be negative and I think this post is pretty positive. I loved watching the game. I felt at home cheering for a country so far from my home in a country so far from home. Yes, Africa is young, vibrant, and beautiful. I see it every day, but I also see hardships every day in prisons and hospitals. I have been using this space as a place to reflect my thoughts and feelings, and honestly the hardships are more difficult to process so I share them here. If you don't want to hear it, don't read it.

  4. Oh also, Robert is not just a dying person in a hospital. I visit him regularly. We clean him and buy him food. I have his permission. And I post those pictures to build awareness.

  5. Julie,

    First, thank you for your commitment to public service. It's indeed apparent in your words AND actions. My friend/sister, you have every right to articulate your experiences in whatever way that helps you to "reflect thoughts and feelings" and put the journey into proper perspective; and while the motherland is indeed "young, vibrant, and beautiful" it also has its inherent challenges that must be discussed--both the good and the bad-- especially with those from "our" side of the world who all too often have a biased perception of the realities which exist in this world. Thank you, Julie for opening your eyes and your heart to this life changing experience!

  6. Thank you Julie for your courage in putting your honest thoughts and reflections onto this blog for all the world to see, as well as for some to judge. It takes heart (the type of heart public servants should aspire to have) to stand behind your words even if some may find them hurtful.

    Our actions in this world don't always please everyone. Moreover, indeed, many times those who are not pleased are more than justified in their point of view. But I commend you on having the strength to speak your mind. It will do you nothing but good in life to continue doing so.

    Love you!

  7. As an African - who was born and raised in Kenya and has lived in the US, it sometimes breaks my heart to see ONLY ONE SIDE OF THE STORY emphasized about a continent people know little of and continue the cycle the media in the US shows!

    It's ok to speak/ write your thoughts as you see it. However, let it be balanced. Julie, through your profile you have a public picassa album of beautiful pictures from your safari, landscape yet that is not mentioned. For your readers who see the service work you do, don't they also deserve to see the development in Uganda or Kenya?

    It would be like me only writing about gangs and drugs, homeless and white people living in trailors to show how life in US is to my friends and family.

    It's your blog and your space, but if any cultural education and sensitivity has a voice, please give a balanced report!

  8. And if I should add, the post after this "Light at the end of the tunnel" gives a good reflection of your thoughts and experience and has a different tone.

    We can not please everyone, but hopefully at the end of the day we change a life, positively.

  9. First, thank you to my csps class 5 people for backing me up and understanding where i am coming from.

    Second, I understand completely why what I write here may upset people. But that really hasn't stopped me from saying things in the past and it won't stop me now because I am in Africa.

    Third, not to sound like a jerk or a snob, but I have seen beautiful scenery in the past, and met amazing people, and I have eaten great food. And I have done those three things in multiple countries. It is not shocking or inspiring or noteworthy for me to talk about the pretty hills I saw today or the nice woman I met at the market. It is noteworthy, for me as an individual, to write about the shocking things and those happen to involve bad things. I won't apologize for not being accustomed to seeing what I have seen here and feeling the need to write about them.

    I also happen to be doing an IPSP in prisons. They aren't the happiest places in the world. I am also not here on vacation. I have not gone on a safari, nor will I. I have not sat around Jinja eating fish by the source of the Nile. I have been visiting prisons and hospitals.

  10. I guess just as your classmates know you best and back you up...is the same way those who know East Africa best, back it up and stand up for all its beauty and adversity.

    All the best to you!