Village visit exposes students to daily differences, human similarities

Nkugwa Godrey, who came to the islands to fish in 2004, now makes bricks for a living, as there are now nearly no fish to catch. (Yulin Yu | The Media School)

Last Saturday was a rare free day for the Daily Monitor interns. We spent the weekend in Kalangala, a chain of islands in Lake Victoria.

During the afternoon, Yulin and I decided to explore Lutoboka, the small village at the ferry landing site. We wandered down the main road of small, multi-colored concrete buildings, taking in the scene.

We walked up to a small building that advertised salon and electronic services. As we stood outside, a man walked up to us and introduced himself as Maurice, a barber and owner of the shop.

What happened in the next hour was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We were shown back behind the houses, a labyrinth of small pathways between small wooden huts built closely together. Many people were sitting on their stoops, playing with children or preparing food.

Maurice then introduced us to the chairman of the village, who was busy mending a fishing net. Most of the islands’ residents are fisherman. The chairman explained the bleak economic situation on the islands. Due to fishing regulations, there is no money to be made, and food is very expensive.

Next, Maurice took us to the edge of the forest to see a brick factory. As we walked through high brick walls, our eyes were met with thousands of bricks, some fired but some still only damp sand and clay. I will always remember the vivid red of the bricks against the green of the forest.

Walking through that small village was the most immersed I had felt in Uganda. Many of the people we met didn’t speak English, but they welcomed us warmly. It’s an incredible experience to be able to witness a completely different way of life. When you meet and interact with the people, you can feel their souls. I felt a strong desire to learn more about them and their culture.

We ended our adventure at a church performance on a stage near the water. Everyone was dancing and singing, and many people in the village walked over to join in.

Small children started coming up to me and holding my hands. Standing there and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces, against the backdrop of the setting sun on Lake Victoria, was a peaceful moment.

I felt connected to these people, whose culture exists on a small island hundreds of thousands of miles away from where I live. I appreciated the differences while seeing the similarities: These people are just like the ones I know, living lives ridden with joys and tragedies.

I hope to be able to return to Kalangala someday and visit the villagers I met in Lutoboka.