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The documentary ‘Ka Rac Ci Rac’ was produced by The Silent Witness.

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Back home

We arrived back home safely yesterday afternoon after a long and tedious journey. I’m very happy to be back, but I’m also looking forward to a next project like this. There truly is nothing better than travelling and working at the same time! I wish I could do this all the time. Let’s see what the Universe will bring around in the next few weeks. I’d love to continue this experience and turn it into a lifestyle. Travelling, working on a film project and writing a blog about it.

We left Gulu at around 1pm on Sunday and drove to Kampala. We got there at 7pm and met up with Nelson again. He took us to a very nice Indian restaurant, where we spent the last Ugandan Shillings we had left. After that, a driver came to the restaurant and drove us to Entebbe, another 30 km. He took the car back to Kampala.

We waited the whole night in the airport. It’s always interesting how many different people can fit in one airplane. There were some European tourists (Danish people seem to be everywhere), but there was also a family of presumably Afghani men with long beards and white turbans. While we were waiting at the gate I heard one of these men making strange noises in the ladies’ room. Shortly after that I saw an airport official explaining that he was in the wrong washing room. I imagined how he must have seen the picture of the ladies’ room, looked down at his own skirt and thought: it’s a little shorter to the knees, but this must be it.

The plane left an hour later than planned, causing us to panic slightly upon arrival in Caïro that we missed our connection, but that wasn’t so. There’s an hour difference with Uganda, so we were perfectly on time at the gate. We were already imagening an extra night in Caïro, which is not the best time right now.

All in all a safe and smooth trip back! Despite the hundreds of returning belgian touists at the airport, we got our luggage off the belt very fast and we were out of there!

Very glad to sleep in my own bed again like I said, but I hope I can get going again very soon. It was an absolute blast! I’m very grateful to Jan and Hilde to take me on this trip and I’m very curious to see how the documentary will turn out…

 

The last day in Gulu

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doing translations with Kenneth

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Moris having fun with fluffy

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Onesmus and the professor/director

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All of a sudden we’re at the end of our stay. The last day was still pretty full, and very productive. We filmed a nice chat between Moris and Onesmus. They gave us a peek into their perceptions and observations of the last month and everybody involved. It was quite interesting to say the least.

In the afternoon Hilde, Jan and I walked to the town center to do some final tourist shopping. I was able to buy some nice things for my family, that I don’t think one can buy anywhere else. After that I walked home alone via a detour to record some ambient traffic sounds. By now I’m used to the staring eyes of people when I’m walking with ‘fluffy’ down the street. People must think I’m a total freak: a muzungu with this weird looking fluffy thing that has a cable sticking out of it… I wouldn’t trust me either. However I’ll be glad to ride my bike in Ghent again, anonymously.

When I got back, Jan suggested I take a boda boda with fluffy to make sure we have sound that matches the boda boda shots. I’m glad I did that, because I would have left Uganda not having been on one. It sounds impossible. I think there are more boda bodas in Uganda then there are drivers to ride them.

Then at night we went to Charles and Rose’s place with Moris, to film a host family post-muzungu. Rose had arranged a group of traditional dancers to come and perform in her garden. We had see a similar thing in the TAKS centre, which is like a cultural centre. But this group was far more authentic and energetic. Of course we recorded them singing and dancing.

After that we took Moris to our hotel for a final dinner. We showed him some pictures of Ghent and Los Angeles. I prayed a Holy Mary in Dutch before eating, which he appreciated very much. Afterwards we said our goodbyes. I’m sure I’ll meet him again sometime. There’s a chance he will join us on our trip to Kampala tomorrow. I hope he can arrange that, so we have one more day together.

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Last thing on the shotlist: Sunday mass. Which means we pack in the morning after breakfast, then we go to Church at 11am, get back to the hotel, load the car and leave for Kampala by 12.30 the latest…

To Atiak and back (part three)

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Yesterday the truth finally came out. Moris admitted that I really look like a typical ‘Muzungu’ (Swahili for white guy), with my red face, my big nose and my hair that can be modeled in every possible direction. At least he’s honest.

It’s the middle of the last week. On Sunday we’ll drive to Kampala and on Monday (inhumanly early) morning we get on the plane in Entebbe to fly first to Caïro and then to Brussels.

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We’ve used the last few days to tie up some loose ends in the story. On Monday we were in the physiotherapy department (or is it physiotheraphy like it said on the building?) of the hospital.

In the afternoon we took Moris and Nina to Atiak to meet his parents and family in their homes. It was right nearby the place of the second outreach. I thought it was very nice to meet his parents and to see the place were he grew up. On the other hand it was quite shocking to see the reality of these people’s lives. They live in the typical huts that are all over Uganda, have some land they use to grow their own food and have some animals running around.

I think that’s the great thing about traveling to countries that are so radically different than your own. You know everything is different, but only when you’re there do you get to experience it to the fullest. I’ve also noticed that how I dealt with that came in waves. Some days it was very easy to adapt to the rhythm and mentality, other days I felt like running up the walls.

I’m the kind of guy that will always try to figure out why people are the way they are and why they do things they way they do. I believe that everybody acts they way they do for very good reasons. That’s certainly something we all have in common. At the end of this month, I think I have an idea of where the Acholi people come from and why they are the way they are, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see their hurdles and some room for improvement.

I absolutely love the Acholi’s kindness, politeness and regard for respect. I’ve had a great time here. The only times I didn’t feel at ease was during the night, when lightning stroke simultaneously with ear-deafening thunder (like last night). I felt safe everywhere we went. Except maybe in traffice sometimes when big trucks seem to want to drive you off the road.

Four more days. We’re at the end of the shotlist. Only a few more things to scratch off. I’m grateful I could be part of this.

Or to say that in Ugandan English: “He’s saying that he always never felt unsafe during his stay here, and that he’s grateful to have been part of the what? The experience of being here in Uganda”

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Outreach week part two

Yesterday was the last outreach for this month. We got up a little later and went to Patiko Health Center.

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We followed Saliha and Barbara to a primary school. Under a big tree in the backyard of the school they explained the kids about malaria, TB and HIV. How you can get it, if and how you can cure it, and how you can avoid it. They both did great! It’s not an easy thing to just show up at a school and talk to about 150 kids about diseases that are uncommon to us, Europeans.

The rest of the day was a lot of waiting around. I saw a guy kill a little snake and hold it up with a stick, showing it off. I saw a chicken on a bicycle (een kieken op ne velo). I had a long chat with our local producer Kenneth and the owner of the bus of the students about being an entrepreneur and following your passion as a guideline to your life. We also talked about the witch doctors. The guys told me some interesting stories about their own experiences with them. Next week we’ll visit one together with Moris.

After the outreach was finished the entire group went to “Baker’s fort” in Patiko, It was originally built by Arab slave traders. Samuel Baker, a former British explorer, occupied the fort in 1872 and effectively used it in a campaign, ordered by Egypt, to stamp out the trade in humans that was rampant in that area.

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It was the first time we got to see all the students interact in a very loose atmosphere. They were having a lot of fun. The guide was a funny guy too. We all knew he could just say anything, we had to believe him anyway. At a certain point he showed us the exact spot where the Union Jack supposedly was planted on the fort. A hole in the rocks filled with water was “Baker’s bath”.

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Outreach week part 1

Week three in Uganda, quite an intense one with three outreaches in one week. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. However, Saturday’s outreach was moved to Friday just today. So that will give us a fourth week of focussing more on the host families and the Belgian students assisting in Gulu hospital. We’ll be at the end of our month before we know it.

On Tuesday we mainly followed Onesmus, one of the Ugandan students that organizes and manages the outreaches on the spot. He’s a great guy. He clearly loves doing what he does, constantly running around from one building to the next.

We had already covered all of the medical activities at the first two outreaches and we were trying to film different kinds of scenes and moments. In the morning it was still very quiet, so we could grab Barbara and Nathan to sit down and have a conversation with their Ugandan colleagues (I’m sorry I don’t remember their names, we meet so many people in one day, it’s quite impossible).

After that it became extremely busy, so we just had to wait around a lot. Towards the end of the day however, there were some spontaneous conversations that we could capture. I think everybody is getting more used to us film crew being around and loosening up to it a little more. That’s great, because it gives us better footage of course.

On Monday and Wednesday we went to the hospital. The reality of some of the rooms is quite confronting. In moments like that I try to focuss on just doing the work. It’s only later that it dawns on me what I witnessed.

Compared to that, watching a chicken get killed last night, and be there to see it get cooked by Nina, Saliha and Lucy (their Ugandan sister) was like a walk in the park. They wanted to make a typical Belgian dish for their host family and decided to make ‘vol-au-vent’. I must admit we were quite surprised to see and taste how it turned out.

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