Monday, April 30, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Remember this little guy? We hosted this "4"-year-old for a few weeks at Christmas time, he has visited us periodically since then, and we, of course, spend time with him at Home of Love. Well, we've known for some time that he will need an adoptive family (he's one of the few at Home of Love where the case is SO clear) so we've been praying about him... really for years. (Josh met him during his previous trips to Gulu!)
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
I avoided the discomfort of my Acholi lesson today with a barrage of culture questions. (I have just started lessons and my teacher insists that I know more than I say I do [so does Josh!!] but my vocab is very limited – I just know how to learn a language and understand the structure, likely because of growing up bilingual and learning Spanish as an adult… I’m still painfully lost in Acholi!)
There is a great deal that I want to understand about children and families in Acholi culture. Please bear in mind that this is ONE man’s take on his culture, within his clan, within the Acholi tribe. This also represents traditional culture, not today’s shifting culture – shifting due to the high number of orphans in Acholi-land without family influence to dictate how things are done, shifting due to years of war and survival, shifting because of outside influences, etc.
Babies: pregnancy is kept quiet – it’s a private matter; although a pregnant woman will be treated carefully to keep her safe and healthy. Once the baby is born, the mother and baby stay inside the hut for 3 days if it is a boy and 4 days if it is a girl. Only an attendant is allowed in. The environment is kept sterile, water brought directly from the well (rather than a storage container) and boiled, anytime it is needed for the baby. Once the time has passed, a naming ritual takes place and the baby is brought out.
Deformities: a child born with some deformity is considered to be a special gift from God. This child is a blessing and might be treated with special care.
Abandoning children: life is valued very highly, especially children. A child would never be abandoned if there is a family structure in place. There would be great shame in throwing away a child. There are circumstances where it occurs: child-headed households where family is not supportive and not around to notice a missing baby; an extraordinarily deformed baby (a great pantomime of losing the child “accidentally” would take place to cover the actual abandonment); circumstances where the father’s family will not accept the baby (father is not the father or mother is a “foreigner”). Essentially, if there is a traditional family in place, children are cared for, even if they have disabilities.
Raising children: the village literally raises the children. In fact, in some clans, the children do not even know who their mother is – they just have a bunch of aunties who all care for all the children. This results in no one really training the children since no one really has vested interest. The goal is to keep the children alive until they are old enough to watch themselves and be helpful. The children belong to the father and the father’s family.
There are many many nuances. Before the war, orphanages were composed of children born to foreigners (meaning a non-Acholi), to sex-workers, or illegitimate relationships. Since the war, orphanages are full of children with such a variety of backgrounds it is very difficult to characterize as simply.
Josh and I keep saying that there is more to Acholi culture than we will ever be privy to know – it is a deep culture, with deep roots, disrupted by a generation of war, very nuanced. Yes, it is a shame/honor culture. Yes, it is a paternalistic culture. But it is so much more! We are blessed to have several Acholi in our lives who do not mind our mzungu ways and endless bizarre mzungu questions.