Life on the island, part II

After four nights on the island and a couple long days of travelling by a variety of vehicles, I’m back in Kampala. Since my visit to Kikongo took place over the weekend, it was a much quieter experience, though still productive. Through interviewing the teachers for the documentary, I learned a lot about the island, the culture, and the lives of students. So this post is a small sample of that, a little more extensive introduction to Kikongo and Buvuma Island.

A lot of the students come from a significant distance each day. Some even come by boat from the mainland or from other islands, which means they have to be up by 5 or 6  each morning. Some students are fortunate to own a bicycle, but as you can see below, there are very few bicycles compared to the nearly 300 students at the school, so most come by foot.

This girl and her sister were coming from 11 km (almost 7 miles), before they began to stay with the school’s resident nurse–Jennifer–working as house help in exchange for lodging:

These are some of the teachers’ quarters:

Each door leads a separate room, and the two windows on the side are also for separate rooms; so each building houses four teachers,  as well as any additional people living with them. Several students have similar arrangements with the teachers as the two sisters have with Jennifer, so even on the weekend, there is a good number of children at the school. On Sunday evening, I joined them and a couple of teachers for a game of volleyball–quite a different game than the strict, orderly version played in the States! I was never able figure out whether or not they were doing rally scoring, and could easily tell that they were more comfortable with football, since they made some spectacular kicks and head balls. It was fun! 🙂

Earlier on Sunday, I went with Sue–Jennifer’s teenage daughter, visiting the island while on vacation from school in Kenya–and the two girls to Jennifer’s “garden” to harvest beans:

They call it a garden; it’s a 10-acre plot with maize, beans, potatoes and banana trees planted all among each other. There is also a large selection of various burrs and stickers, which lodge in any obliging fabric they encounter. This is no tame, square foot garden with trellises and raised beds and handy plant identification tags. But it is a fruitful garden:

A couple days before, Sue and I went for a walk to see some of the island surrounding Kikongo. We went to the next village (they call them “camps”) over, where one woman told me that I needed to learn Lusoga, the local language, so I could find a good Lusoga man! We also saw this view of villagers drawing water from the lake:

The island communities are highly dependent on the lake for transport, water and food. The Kikongo camp is one of the landing sites where boat taxis stop on their way to or from Jinja:

Here on the left is one of the boat taxis:

They’re usually crowded and creaky, and they take a slow, meandering path through the lake, stopping at various points on the island, or even in the middle of the lake to take on cargo and passengers from smaller passing boats. Even after a few trips, though, I’m still not used to being carried through the shallow water to and from the boat! Male passengers have the luxury of riding on the shoulders of the men who carry the passengers, but women are picked up like small children. It’s definitely a good exercise in trust.

Unfortunately, the nights were overcast, and so I didn’t get to see the breathtaking starry skies I had been privileged to before, but I did wake up to this beautiful sunrise on Monday morning:

I’m reluctant to recognize that I’m well past the halfway point, with less than three weeks left. However, tempering that is the excitement of honing in on a more direct focus for the documentary, and seeing how the stories are taking a more definite shape. Even more, the knowledge that these people are opening their stories to me, allowing me to share a part of their life experience, is both exciting and humbling. So though I am not looking forward to the end of these three weeks, I am definitely looking forward to everything that will happen before! 🙂


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