The Reframe Game.
by Max, Jack, Rose, Isaac, Bailey, and Allison
|Bailey, Rose, and neighbor children|
Before we made it to Bufutula B, while we were still relishing the novelty of Iganga in the relative haven of Nekoli’s Guest House, there was a saying that Rachel, our GHC Fellow, indoctrinated into our collective noggin. It became a mantra of ours, a way of keeping our wits in the most unexpected of circumstances and keeping heads high in the lowest of circumstances. The mantra was this: POSITIVITY, BRIGHT SPOTS, REFRAMING. By reframing, we mean reshaping the way we perceive the experience to notice what we have learned, shared, or gained from an otherwise disappointing moment. And if there is one thing Uganda and our wonderful village, Bufutula B, has taught us, it’s the value of this particular skill.
The first week we were welcomed into the village, we had our first slough of reframing moments. Everyone was extremely welcoming and kind, and we (the Internationals of our team) struggled to maintain propriety and greet in passible Lusoga. There were lots of laughs all around, and while there were many tongue-tied trials, we also managed to convince most people we were a friendly bunch and not afraid to laugh at ourselves.
The next week, we took our REFRAMING lessons a bit further. On Monday, one of our team leaders, Jack, tackled doing laundry for the first time in the village. Laundry here is no joke; it takes skill, patience, and a few buckets full of water (sometimes even a trip to the bore hole for more!). Jack tackles the task with the same dedication as he applies everywhere, with our other team leader, Max, looking on to advise as necessary. The clothes, two pairs of pants, are cleaned and triumphantly hung on the line outside the front of our house to dry -- a success all around for the Bufutula B team.
We have a wonderful home, situated across the street from Naisanga Primary School (P1-P7) and at the edge of the village trading center. There are always plenty of people coming and going, giving us plenty of practice at the whole greeting thing, and providing loads of entertainment, welcoming, and small crowds of children. That night in the village, there was something of a celebration, as some members of the community identified with a political party that had won a victory in a high profile court case. There were drums, yes, and even some drinking. We hunkered down in our common room, exhausted from a day well spent, and relishing the delicious food made for us by our sweet and sassy cook, Sarah. The pants, of course, were still out on the line in the hopes that the lingering waves of heat would wrestle the last bit of dampness from their folds. From the open doors of our common room in the darkening dusk, we could barely see the laundry line in the front, and we soon forgot about the pants. Big mistake.
Between the hours of 8 and 9 pm the pants went missing. Jack gracefully accepted this eventuality, even though it meant he was now in possession of only one pair of pants. His only inquiries as to their whereabouts were directed to us and to Sarah, the cook. And, because ours is a good village that looks after its visitors, it was only an hour later that the Chairman of the village called us, and our neighbors began expressing concerns. Before long, there was a criminal investigation on the Case of the Missing Pants, and our first village meeting was slightly derailed at the end by villagers expressing their intent to find the missing pants.
It would be easy to discuss how the tale of the Pants altered what we planned for our first week in the village. But, in truth, we agree as a team that the Pants Saga has helped us far more than it hurt us (except for perhaps Jack, poor pants-less lad). The reality is our village rallied behind us rapidly after the code of hospitality to visitors had been breached. We received far more offerings of duma (corn) and mangos than were necessary, and people came to our meetings just to apologize to us personally. Talk about a good mobilization technique!
Jack eventually found a new pair of pants, and the Pants Saga found a satisfying conclusion for the villagers. But this story isn’t about the pants. Not really. The truth was we learned how to work through the distraction of a village scandal. We learned more about the culture faster because of our rapid exposure. We worked to optimize the publicity as mobilization. And we ate loads of duma. That’s reframing.
We’ve been here for 5 weeks now, or somewhere thereabouts. And we’ve certainly learned many skills since that first week. But the most used skill has to be Rachel’s omnipresent “REFRAMING”. From a teammate finishing our HIV sensitization while having malaria, rained out sensitizations, and even our cook’s disappearance due to malaria, we’ve kept rolling and reframing.