Thursday, October 21, 2010


Moses went from this...

One of the things I have been struck by is the enormous disparity between the daily life experiences of people here compared to people in the West. This is something that I find really difficult to express but I think it is important to try. I’m writing this blog to record the challenge to my perception of what a normal life is like, that has taken place during my time here.

There’s a boy in my rugby team here at Hope High School called Moses who has genuine talent. I think he would easily get selected on most high school 1st XVs in New Zealand despite only having played the game for a couple of months. The other day he told me his fascinating story. It highlighted for me the rich world - poor world gap.

Moses was born in a rural area of Uganda. His father had more than one wife. He was raised by a woman who he thought was his mother along with 7 other kids. He found out later that his mother had moved to Kampala shortly after he was born. Moses’ family was too poor to send him or any of his siblings to school so he worked digging in the fields and herding cattle. When he was 7 years old his mother came back to see him. She unsuccessfully tried to persuade Moses’ father to let her take him to Kampala where he could go to school.

A couple of years later she returned and took Moses away from his village (without the father’s knowledge). Shortly after this they heard that his father had died and Moses was accepted into a Watoto village. Almost immediately he had an audition to join a choir that was to travel the world promoting the work done by Watoto. He said:

“They told me to sing, so I sang a song I knew from my village. They told me I was going to America.” Evidently he had a good voice. Before the age of 10 he had never been out of his rural village community. He said he had seen planes flying overhead but thought they were small (like a duck). They rarely saw cars and he had only seen a few White people.

So he was taken to Entebbe Airport to fly out on their tour. He told me he was amazed by the size of the planes and couldn’t wait to get on one. Once the gates opened he was first across the tarmac to board the plane. All of the kids had been given a sleeping pill to help them sleep through the night but his had no effect. He sat with his eyes wide open for the entire leg to London. this
 They continued on from London to the States. Within a month of leaving his home village he was in the metropolis that is NYC. I cannot imagine how this must have been for him. Even telling me about it seven years on, he was almost shaking with excitement as he described JFK airport, the sky-scrapers, the traffic and the people. From a world of mud huts, no electricity, no running water and one meal per day this must have seemed unreal. American cheese and ranch dressing made him want to throw up but he was more partial to burgers. As he only started school at the age of 11 he is now in his first year of high school as a 17 year old. (Jo don’t read this part) He raises rabbits and has promised to give me one- and not as a pet.
Not surprisingly his goal is to become a pilot.

Helen and I have struggled to adjust from our usually comfortable lifestyle. We often miss having hot running water or a washing machine or an oven. Yet when we compare ourselves to the locals we still live in abundance - even here. I wonder whether we will quickly forget to be grateful for our lifestyle back home. Most likely. Still I think our time here has been an excellent challenge for my perception of what we need to live or what a normal standard of living is.

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